Re: Did man originally speak a single language?

George Murphy (
Wed, 04 Nov 1998 14:57:05 -0500

Karen G. Jensen wrote:
> >At 02:04 PM 11/1/98 -0600, Karen G. Jensen wrote:
> >>>Glenn R. Morton wrote:
> >>>>
> >>>> The Bible says that there was an original language that all men spoke.
> >>
> >>Yes. But I'd expect _today's_ language families to be profoundly different,
> >>in light of Genesis 11:7.
> >>
> >>With some cognates by (post-Babel) contact.
> >
> >But the problem we have is that linguists are on the verge of connecting
> >the world's languages via this type of analysis. Like it or not, we are
> >going to have to deal with the results of research even if we don't like
> >its effect on our theology.
> >
> As I read it, the results of this research are showing similarities in a
> small number of words such as who, what, two, water, digit, arm, knee,
> hair, and a few others including mama which is a natural first sound for an
> infant's mouth.
> These may be interpreted as
> - vestiges of an original language
> - link-words that might be expected in cross-cultural communications
> - a combination of communications, coincidence, natural sounds, etc.
> - evidence that, on the whole, the language families are not related
> - support for one or more other linguistic theories
> This is very interesting research! Right now there is excitement about
> that first option, even though the vast majority of words do not match. We
> will see what future research shows.
> Who knows which interpretation accords with the real truth?

A rough rule is that very common everyday words, such as parts of the body, can
most easily be traced back in a linguistic family tree. E.g., in German you have die
Hand, der Finger, der Arm, die Lippe, die Nase, none of which require any knolwedge of
German for an Enlish speaking person to understand. Link words in cross-cultural
situations depend to some extent on the statuses of the cultures. English words of
Norman-French origin are likely to deal with matters at more powerful levels of society
than those coming from Anglo-Saxon. & the types of words in common between related
languages may tell you something about the culture of their common ancestor. E.g., a
common word for "king" (as with Latin rex, Sanskrit rajah, Irish righ) suggests
something about the political structure of the ancestral culture.

George L. Murphy