Talk:Tower of Babel

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Babel
Babel is the sound your tongue makes when it doesn't know what it is trying to say. Many people say speaking in tongues is a form of "babel"-ing, but really you are speaking through the spirit of the Lord.

This section is wrong in so many ways. Would anyone object if it were deleted?--All Fish Welcome 04:25, 21 April 2007 (EDT)

Linguistics

Learn Together, some of the changes you made dramatically change the meaning of what I added (though I fully expected there to be some wording issues in that first draft). I'll get to those in a sec, but what bothered me most was this unreferenced claim:

The Tower of Babel would have predated the earliest known human civilizations as well.

Please find an acceptable reference for this claim. Most attempts at placing the tower in history that I have seen place it in the context of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, or Babylonia.

Other comments:

Some modern linguists now trace a number of language families to languages believed to be reconstructed at the time of the earliest known human civilizations or possibly before.

This sentence gives me the following impressions. First, "some" implies comparatively few modern linguistics accept this when in fact I doubt you could find a book on historical linguistics that doesn't accept the genetic model. Second, "or possibly before" is unnecessarily qualified. Proto-Afro-Asiatic could not have been spoken concurrently with its daughter languages. So at least one reconstructed language necessarily precedes the first great civilizations, as most archeologists/historians define them. The new phrasing reads as if linguists were doing the reconstruction "at the time of the earliest known human civilizations" rather than situating the languages in that time period based on archeological, genetic, and internal evidence.

Linguists today are aware it is difficult to reconstruct the mother language for which there is no direct evidence

While this is true to some degree, it completely changes the meaning from the way it was written before. I meant to state that reconstructing a mother language from reconstructed daughter languages is difficult. That's where the controversy lies, when a linguist makes that leap of faith in the data. Reconstructing one language is the sort of task even students can work on, depending on the amount of evidence.

To support the Biblical account, the Creation Museum in Kentucky reports the following:

I struggled to phrase this sentence correctly, but this won't work at all. It completely eliminates the point of the second paragraph: that some Christian sources are making statements that are opposite of the Christian claims in the first paragraph. (Group 1: because we can reconstruct mother languages, we have proof that Babel existed. Group 2: because we can't reconstruct mother languages, we have proof that Babel existed.) Finally, why was this sentence removed?

Few modern linguists would accept that these families' "recent" origin is evidence that they appeared suddenly or all at once, but that the limit on reconstructions is an inherent failing of the comparative method

I know its not phrased as well as it could be, but as it stands, the claim made by the Creation Museum goes unchallenged when I doubt any linguistic I work with or whose work I'm familiar with would accept it at face value or see it as anything but a severe distortion of current knowledge. I'll await a reply before I continue editing.Mirror 14:01, 11 July 2007 (EDT)


I'm in the middle of a contest, so I can't really give you the time that I should to reply, but I'll try. One of the difficulties that I see is the merging of idea of an evolutionary model of origins versus the taken at face value Biblical account of origins. When you're talking across apples and oranges it's going to be tough to move back and forth. Any edits that you make should be straight forward enough to be followed by kids doing reports in school. In other words don't dumb down the data, but put it in a form where even those who aren't experts on the subject can easily follow the writing. You are correct that when I say the Tower of Babel predates civilizations that I should have said except those found in the Babylonian or Sumerian region. But then again there is more apples and oranges, since with that statement would be the implicit understanding that the Middle Eastern civilizations would have predated all others by at least a few centuries, and that isn't generally acknowledged. If you look at the Global Warming or Creation or Evolution articles, you'll see that words like "most" don't always work when describing viewpoints as there are very strong differences over who are experts in a field. Personally, I consider "some" to be a neutral word.

If I may make a suggestion, as this is obviously an area where you have a great love, why not create a linguistics article or something of that nature where you can expound modern linguistic theories in a more neutral setting? Then, if it is appropriate, we can have a little blurb in this article with a link to that area for those seeking more information in linguistics itself, but that still keeps the focus of the Tower of Babel article on the Biblical story itself. Learn together 14:35, 11 July 2007 (EDT)


If all of the historical and linguistic criticism of the story-as-fact were in separate articles, that would be intellectually dishonest, wouldn't it? No small number of people take the Biblical story as historical fact, not just ancient myth or a children's story, and to leave that unchallenged in the article would be bias by omission. It would be the equivalent of a historian dismissing the story without considering the similar myths from related cultures

As far as I have read, the civilizations of the fertile crescent ARE the first civilizations if you define civilization by complex divisions of labor and intensive agriculture, which appears to be the standard definition. Either Sumer, Ancient Egypt, or the Indus Valley culture being the first (though as evidence pours in, we may eventually recognize earlier cultures as civilizations, as we've come to see some pre-Columbian North American Indian socieites).

I have to disagree with "some" and "most", particularly in this case. To me, "most" means "a majority". The genetic model of languages is the only theory I know of that has support from living professional linguists, though we may debate extreme sub-theories like Proto-World and other single-origin hypotheses. Mirror 17:14, 11 July 2007 (EDT)

No, it would prevent redundancy. That way you don't reinvent the wheel each time a topic is brought up. I would still recommend you create or augment a linguistics article. To the extent that you wish to question articles such as the Tower of Babel, please be specific about why the theory that there was once one language and it was broken off into many languages is believed to be factually shown to be wrong. One of the things that doesn't go very far here is the proverbial "scholars don't believe it". Saying what it is and why means much more. Personally I'm not sure how modern study will show this. If it shows a single language, then isn't that what Babel claims? If it shows multiple languages appearing concurrently, that isn't that the result that Babel claims? This may not be the best battle to pick. Learn together 01:32, 15 July 2007 (EDT)
Three points. 1) If I was concerned about reinventing the wheel, I would just go edit the more popular wiki style encyclopedia. But as an educator, I'm more concerned that useful information is available where the public who needs it can find it. 2) At first you wanted me to tone down the language so that younger users could read it. Which is fine. But now you're asking for the details on investigations that many adults wouldn't follow without effort. I'm fine with adding it, but it would just take time. (I already tried to include references that are available through ordinary publishers and not just academic presses.)
3) Modern linguists are divided over both whether there was a single mother language and if there was, whether we can reconstruct it (though the vast majority would say we shouldn't expect results of those attempts to be a very accurate description of the language). What isn't in dispute (at least since the end of the 19th century) is that concurrent with the earliest civilizations in the fertile crescent, multiple languages were already being spoken. We know this from language-internal evidence (take a look at the Afro-Asiatic languages, which had branched long before the first ziggurat and probably before the first granary) and from archaeological evidence (e.g., by following the spread of domesticated plants and animals or tools, you can demonstrate that there were already people in these other areas independent of carbon-dating, which I would guess is too controversial for this encyclopedia). Whether we can trace all human languages to a single language or not, the necessary time-frame for that language precedes the inventions of agriculture and architecture necessary for a Tower of Babel. Mirror 14:37, 15 July 2007 (EDT)
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