[b-hebrew] Language Evolution

Read, James C K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk
Wed Sep 21 11:35:32 EDT 2005


I believe that the americas languages are owed to migraters who parted before the 
orientals. I believe that they crossed over the ice sheets from Russia to Alaska 
and worked their way down into the Americas.

Africa as a basin of life seems credible, although i would disagree with the date.
I come from a highly scientific background (especially chemistry) and remain 
unimpressed by many dating methods which are dependent on variables which we cannot 
claim to have enough knowledge about (e.g. carbon dating is directly proportional 
to the amounts of radiation the substance has been exposed to. as we cannot know 
for sure that past exposure was consistent with present exposure we cannot rely 
completely on such methods).

Genesis describes the garden of Eden in relationship to the Tigris and Euphrates 
rivers. It is possible that after the expulsion from the garden that a large portion 
of the human family migrated to Northern Africa and that this is why physical evidence 
is abundant in this region.

The existence of flood stories throughout the world not only indicates that such 
may be based on real cataclysm but also that all human families are descended from 
the same survivors. It is logical to assume that those survivors spoke the same language. 
Migration from the Ararat mountains to Babel is also a credible feat.

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Kirk [mailto:peterkirk at qaya.org]
Sent: Wed 9/21/2005 1:37 PM
To: Read, James C
Cc: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Language Evolution
On 21/09/2005 08:49, Read, James C wrote:

>Anyway, on with the linguistics! These factors seem to suggest that the idea 
>of a community centered around a citadel with a common language as presented 
>in the account of the tower of Babel seems reasonable from both a faith 
>perspective and from a historical perspective. The bible tells us that Yah 
>himself confused the languages (I believe this to be true). The historians 
>may prefer to believe that the growing populace evolved new languages as 
>they were now more spread out with no unifying linguistic standard.

James, I don't want to belittle your faith position, but the scholarly 
evidence (not so much historical as geological and genetic, with some 
archaeology as well) now seems to point in a rather different direction. 
There is a consensus based on good genetic evidence that modern humans 
first lived in Africa, and that all non-Africans (ignoring racial mixing 
in the last few millennia) descend from a small group which left Africa 
around 80,000 years ago. So your hypothesised flood and probably your 
single world language would have to be relocated to Africa and pushed 
back to something like 100,000 years ago.

An alternative which has been suggested is that the flood stories found 
worldwide relate to a catastrophic flooding at the end of the last Ice 
Age. The sea level is now thought to have risen by as much as 100 metres 
between 14,000 years and 7,000 years ago - although it has been fairly 
stable since then. The rise would generally have been gradual, but there 
may have been catastrophic sudden rises accompanied by huge tsunamis at 
certain times e.g. when major ice sheets collapsed. The last such major 
event was the collapse of the Laurentide ice sheet into what is now 
Hudson Bay, about 8,000 years ago; some geologists have suggested a very 
rapid 25 metre rise in sea level to not far below the modern level, 
followed by a graudal fall of perhaps 6 metres and then another more 
gradual rise. (The exact levels vary from place to place because of 
local geological changes.)

In an era when humans probably almost all lived near the coast, such 
events would have been truly catastrophic for all inhabited areas. In 
the Middle East, the area in question for the Hebrew flood story, the 
Persian Gulf would probably have been largely dry before this event, but 
would have filled rapidly and catastrophically, flooding and drowning a 
huge area. The biblical and other Middle Eastern flood stories may well 
relate to this event - which may correspond archaeologically with the 
start of the 'Ubaid period around 5500 BCE. After this flood Babylon, 
which was not far above the highest flood level, may have become a 
centre of resettlement, until that society disintegrated leading to 
language diversification.

It is interesting that a lot of attention has been given recently to the 
flooding of the Black Sea as a possible candidate for the biblical 
flood, but not so much to the flooding of the Gulf which happened not 
long before, and may have been even more sudden and catastrophic.

>It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that, for whatever reason, the major 
>linguistic families had there beginnings in some common place (e.g. babel and 
>its surroundings) and that through migration these languages spread into the world 
>in their different directions, african languages moving south, Chinese/Japanes family 
>moving East (way East!), Latin/Greek moving west, Norse moving North-West, Syrillic 
>moving North-East and the Semitic languages continuing to dominate the ANE.
>Therefore, what we loosely refer to as 'proto-semitic' must be the original 
>Semitic language that existed in Babel before the mass migrations started.

James, I am surprised that you are not better informed about the details 
here. This kind of picture is very probably true of Semitic languages 
and perhaps the wider Afro-Asiatic group (spoken only in northern parts 
of Africa and the Middle East), and perhaps of other Eurasian languages. 
From the scholarly rather than faith perspective it is very unlikely to 
be true of southern African, Australian and American languages. 
Australia and America were essentially cut off from Eurasia until modern 
times by the rising sea levels after the Ice Age, and southern Africa, 
also fairly well cut off by deserts, would have almost certainly 
retained its original languages. The Austronesian languages of SE Asia 
may well have a similar separate history, but that is a different matter.

For much of this I am dependent on the popular works of Stephen 
Oppenheimer, "Out of Eden" and "Eden in the East". Although some of his 
material is speculative, other parts including the sea level data seem 
to be based on sound scientific evidence.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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