[b-hebrew] BO and BO)

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 21:00:42 EDT 2007


James:

On 8/20/07, JAMES CHRISTIAN READ <JCR128 at student.anglia.ac.uk> wrote:
>...
>
> 3) There are still many surviving languages that have
> their root system in tact. Can you provide any parallel
> examples from living languages. I would start your
> search in a place like this
> http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/04/16/070416fa_fact_colapinto?currentPage=all
> An excellent example of what languages probably used to
> be like.
>
> ...
> James Christian Read
> BSc Computer Science (thesis: concept driven machine translation using the Aleppo codex)
> http://www.lamie.org/hebrew
>
Fascinating article.

But is this an example of where languages came from, or where they are
heading if societies continue on the path where they are going down?

I was given an introduction to the role of culture in linguistics
when, as a child, I read a news report about Nassar returning from a
trip to the Soviet Union and when asked to give a quick response to
the value of his trip, answered in English "It's no use." Nassar had
been a leading advocate of using Arabic as a vital, modern language,
so his answer surprised his hearers, who then asked him why he
answered in English and not Arabic, to which he replied "How do you
say that in Arabic?" None of them had an answer.

This article gives the most extreme example of historical solipsism I
have ever heard of. The reason the missionaries have been so
singularly ineffective in that society is because the whole culture
will have to be changed in order for the message of the Gospel to have
any traction. Neologisms will have to be introduced along with the
concepts they represent, before the people will understand the Gospel.
The people aren't dumb, nor subhuman, just culturally constrained.

The reason I question if this is where society, and with it language,
is headed that way is because of the increasing historical solipsism
in our Western society. One of society's primary myths is based on
such historical solipsism, namely that of evolution. The teaching of
history in U.S. schools is so degraded that most don't even know what
happened a century ago, let alone as to why so many Muslims are still
somewhat ticked off about Charles Martel and his Germans at the Battle
of Tours/Poitiér 732 or pine for the waters of Andalusia.

Getting back to Hebrew, while it structurally is neutral as Barr
correctly notes, its cultural use in Tanakh gives rise to the misnamed
"Hebrew thought" (sorry, Peter Kirk, I know you don't like that term)
that is based on history and function, rather than the present and
form. It is that cultural use that defines "Hebrew thought", not the
linguistic (even though the term is named after the language), the
linguistic has been modified to support the cultural understanding, in
the same way as the language of the Pirahã supports their cultural
understanding.

That is why so many of our discussions wander off into areas of
culture and theology, because a proper understanding of a language
requires an understanding of the language's milieu.

Thanks again, James, for an interesting link.

Karl W. Randolph.


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