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Benjamin Seeker

An Amicable Brainstorm on the Language and Grammar of the BOM

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Welcome to the BOM Language and Grammar Think Tank. I know we'll have debate, but that's one way the best arguments/hypothesis/theories are formed. Let's just make sure to stay on subject.

I submit that we start by summarizing the major findings about the BOM's language/grammar. I'll start a list, which will need to be added to.

The BOM contains:

- Grammar and syntax from Early Modern English, aka EModE, that predates the KJV (beginning as early as what century?), which language was out of published use before JS' time. (Skousen and Carmack)

- Grammar and syntax that emerged in later time periods, including up to the 19th century. (Skousen and Carmack)

- Misteps that are corrected with "or" followed by the correction. This indicates a verbally constructed text. (Sam Brown)

- Phrases and passages from the KJV edition popular in the early 19th century (correct), including translational errors specific to that edition. Also, departures from KJV language in BOM quotations of the KJV focus on the italicizes words (added clarifications) in the KJV.

- Hebrew word play (Matthew Bowen, right?)

- English word play (this is my personal submission, and my guess is there are others: Ammon's declaration, which occurs twice, "I am a man," which appears to be a wordplay with his name. This wordplay also dovetails perfectly with Abish's Hebrew wordplay (Abish signifies father is the man). Bowen wrote about the Hebrew word play in Abish's name, and pointed out that she is the counterpart to Ammon, for the exact phrase I've pointed out above. I've just taken this a step further to point out that this phrase that links Ammon to Abish also appears to be an English wordplay on his name. (Hebrew and English working together side by side, a little strange, huh?)

Also important to note:

- Carmack had indicated on this forum that early JS revelations do contain similar EModE to what is in the BOM.

- Joseph Smith's 1832 history does contain archaisms, but none of the out of print EModE found in the BOM (Carmack) (and do I have this right?)

What else can we add to this list before we start arguing about what it means and how it may have come about, etc.?

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cdowis    1,599

Isaiah in the BOM is a transmission independent from the masoretic and the septuagent textual traditions, also with a possible targum   ("waters of baptism")

Edited by cdowis
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28 minutes ago, cdowis said:

Isaiah in the BOM is a transmission independent from the masoretic and the septuagent textual traditions, also with a possible targum   ("waters of baptism")

Thanks. Could you point us in the general direction of the source for this one?

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clarkgoble    1,928

Benjamin, I'd add the question of Carmack's grammatical/linguistic points that could be in books available to Joseph.

I'd also add some of the points Brant Gardner has raised in his arguments for a loose translation. My internet is down at home so I'll try and bring them up tomorrow when I have time (if I have time).

Something else I'd add is possible language from esoteric texts. Steve Flemming has done a fair bit of work on that. His thesis on the subject used to be available online but I can't seem to find it. He posted on these linguistic features over at JI over the years as well. Most of them related to texts after the translation of the Book of Mormon. Primarily the period of 1832-1833. He's focused particularly on the translations of philosophical texts by Thomas Taylor, primarily platonic ones. (Plato, Iamblichus, Proculs) That's possibly the source for the word telestial for instance. A case could be made that Mosiah 15 reflects this theurgical element that was common in types of Platonism (particularly Iamblichus' type but also many figures after him into the medieval and renaissance eras) but also gnosticism, Jewish mysticism such as merkebah, heckhalot and later kabbalistic texts, and even Christianity proper along with Greek/Egyptian mystery cults and magic. He's also mentioned texts by Jane Lead from the 17th century as parallels.

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29 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Benjamin, I'd add the question of Carmack's grammatical/linguistic points that could be in books available to Joseph.

I'd also add some of the points Brant Gardner has raised in his arguments for a loose translation. My internet is down at home so I'll try and bring them up tomorrow when I have time (if I have time).

Something else I'd add is possible language from esoteric texts. Steve Flemming has done a fair bit of work on that. His thesis on the subject used to be available online but I can't seem to find it. He posted on these linguistic features over at JI over the years as well. Most of them related to texts after the translation of the Book of Mormon. Primarily the period of 1832-1833. He's focused particularly on the translations of philosophical texts by Thomas Taylor, primarily platonic ones. (Plato, Iamblichus, Proculs) That's possibly the source for the word telestial for instance. A case could be made that Mosiah 15 reflects this theurgical element that was common in types of Platonism (particularly Iamblichus' type but also many figures after him into the medieval and renaissance eras) but also gnosticism, Jewish mysticism such as merkebah, heckhalot and later kabbalistic texts, and even Christianity proper along with Greek/Egyptian mystery cults and magic. He's also mentioned texts by Jane Lead from the 17th century as parallels.

Perfect points.

I also have some suggestions for possible sources of pre-KJV EModE, or at the very least here are some places where EmodE was preserved into the 19th century:

- Psalmody and possibly hymnody with texts dating back to the 1400s

- Grimoires such as Scott Reginald's Discoverie of Witchcraft written pre-KJV and commonly used in 19th century America, along with other varingly old books, for learning folk magic.  

- Oral traditions of Freemasonry

Lastly, I have an inquiry to the hive mind. What was the prayer language of JS' day? Was it archaic to their time period like Mormon prayer language is archaic to ours?

Edited by Benjamin Seeker

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cdowis    1,599
1 hour ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

Thanks. Could you point us in the general direction of the source for this one?

I just remember things that are interesting and I find my memory is reliable about such things.  But you have no need to trust it.

Obviously it was an article on the book of Isaiah from a credible author, and he was opining on the variations found in the BOM Isaiah.  He noted that It included selections from the two major sources, but was also independent of both.  So he concluded that it represented a third independent source.  After all, it comes from the (now missing) record of Joseph.

A rather intriguing observation.

Anyway, it was written awhile back.

Edited by cdowis
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6 minutes ago, cdowis said:

I just remember things that are interesting and I find my memory is reliable about such things.  But you have no need to trust it.

Obviously it was an article on the book of Isaiah from a credible author, and he was opining on the variations found in the BOM Isaiah.  He noted that It included selections from the two major sources, but was also independent of both.  So he concluded that it represented a third independent source.  After all, it comes from the (now missing) record of Joseph.

A rather intriguing observation.

Anyway, it was written awhile back.

Ok, thanks. That should be enough to dig it up.

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cdowis    1,599
1 hour ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

Ok, thanks. That should be enough to dig it up.

If you can't find it, I'll be happy to take credit for it.  Just quote me in your footnotes.

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RevTestament    974
6 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

- Hebrew word play (Matthew Bowen, right?)

What else can we add to this list before we start arguing about what it means and how it may have come about, etc.?

Not just word play but many Hebraic grammatical usages and sentence structures.

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I just stole this bibliography of Carmack's articles from a post from Robert: 

Carmack, Stanford, “A Look at Some ‘Nonstandard’ Book of Mormon Grammar,” Interpreter, 11 (2014): 209-262, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/a-look-at-some-nonstandard-book-of-mormon-grammar/ .

Carmack, Stanford, “What Command Syntax Tells Us About Book of Mormon Authorship,” Interpreter, 13 (2015): 175-217, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/what-command-syntax-tells-us-about-book-of-mormon-authorship/ .

Carmack, Stanford, “The Implications of Past-Tense Syntax in the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter, 14 (2015): 119-186, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-implications-of-past-tense-syntax-in-the-book-of-mormon/ .

Carmack, Stanford, “Why the Oxford English Dictionary (and not Webster’s 1828),” Interpreter, 15 (2015): 65-77, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/why-the-oxford-english-dictionary-and-not-websters-1828/ .

Carmack, Stanford, “Exploding the Myth of Unruly Book of Mormon Grammar,” lecture at BYU English Language of the Book of Mormon Conference, April 9, 2015, video online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHJzY_9RZ4E 

Carmack, Stanford, and Royal Skousen, “Editing Out the ‘Bad Grammar’ in the Book of Mormon,” BYU lecture May 15, 2016, video online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuMOQDJagQ8 

Carmack, Stanford, “The More Part of the Book of Mormon Is Early Modern English,” Interpreter, 18 (2016): 33-40, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-more-part-of-the-book-of-mormon-is-early-modern-english/ .

Carmack, Stanford, “Joseph Smith Read the Words,” Interpreter, 18 (2016): 41-64, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/joseph-smith-read-the-words/ .

Carmack, Stanford, “The Case of the {-th} Plural in the Earliest Text,” Interpreter, 18 (2016):79-108, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-case-of-the-th-plural-in-the-earliest-text/ .

Carmack, Stanford, “The Case of Plural Was in the Earliest Text,” Interpreter, 18 (2016):109-137, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-case-of-plural was-in-the-earliest-text/ .

Carmack, Stanford,  “How Joseph Smith’s Grammar Differed from Book of Mormon Grammar: Evidence from the 1832 History,” Interpreter, 25 (2017): 239-259, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/how-joseph-smiths-grammar-differed-from-book-of-mormon-grammar-evidence-from-the-1832-history/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+mormoninterpreter+(Interpreter%3A+A+Journal+of+Mormon+Scripture+(RSS)) .

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10 hours ago, RevTestament said:

Not just word play but many Hebraic grammatical usages and sentence structures.

That is a possibility. I have heard/read Skousen state that all of the BOM grammatical structures previously identified by scholars/apologists as Hebrew qualify as EmodE grammatical structures.

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I've remembered another important one that we need to see better documentation on (Clark reminded me of this in a recent post he wrote). Bushman mentioned that the BOM contains quotations of 19th century church pamphlets. I also think I read this claim at the very end of a JBMS review of an earlier JBMS article that suggested the BOM was possible an early Christian apocryphal text. I'll try to look that up. 

Edited by Benjamin Seeker
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champatsch    87
5 minutes ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

That is a possibility. I have heard/read Skousen state that all of the BOM grammatical structures previously identified by scholars/apologists as Hebrew qualify as EmodE grammatical structures.

This is isn't accurate.  See page 361 of Skousen, Grammatical Variation (2016):

Quote

In particular, the Hebraistic constructions discussed here are, for the most part, unacceptable in modern English (that is, from Early Modern English to today’s English), which has led to their removal by editors of the text (and occasionally by the manuscript scribes).

In that chapter Skousen goes through several types that have tended to be edited out.

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48 minutes ago, champatsch said:

This is isn't accurate.  See page 361 of Skousen, Grammatical Variation (2016):

In that chapter Skousen goes through several types that have tended to be edited out.

Thanks, champatsch. Would you mind listing a couple examples for our reference?

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champatsch    87
17 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

Carmack had indicated on this forum that early JS revelations do contain similar EModE to what is in the BoM.

Quote

D&C 5 (March 1829): nevertheless I have caused him that he should enter into A covenant with me

I'm looking for original examples of this D&C 5 cause syntax after the year 1700.  I've looked for it several times and have been unable to find an original instance after 1700 (EEBO has one dated 1700). I would appreciate knowing of any such examples of original usage (not reprinted, quoted, etc.).  I've read about 30 examples of this syntax in the EEBO database (from 1473 to 1700).

The syntax is the verb cause followed by two objects.  The first object in the D&C 5 example is a pronoun (him); the general case is a noun phrase.  The second object is a that-clause.  The that-clause has the auxiliary should, but no auxiliary is possible, and different auxiliary verbs as well.

Here's an 18c example from the OED with one object, syntax that is uncommon after the year 1700:

1722 De Foe Plague (1756) 93  This caus'd, that many died frequently‥in the Streets suddenly.

This Defoe syntax, with only one object (the object phrase, the that-clause, no auxiliary), is different from the D&C 5 example in two ways.  D&C 5 style would have been "this caused many that they should die frequently".

The KJB has only 4 examples of the Defoe finite syntax (2 with the auxiliary should, 2 without an auxiliary).  The KJB is 99% infinitival after the verb cause (304 examples).  The BofM is only 45% infinitival (254 examples).

There is probably no book that has as much finite complementation after the verb cause as the BofM (more than 100 cases).  The KJB has no examples like the D&C 5 syntax, which preceded the extant BofM dictation.  The BofM has 12 of these, an extraordinary number.  There is one book (1616, The country farm) that has four of these.  This book has almost twice as many words as the BofM.

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champatsch    87
58 minutes ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

Thanks, champatsch. Would you mind listing a couple examples for our reference?

1 Nephi 4:21–22 (the reading in O and originally in P)
and he supposing me to be his master Laban
—for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins—
and he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews

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32 minutes ago, champatsch said:

1 Nephi 4:21–22 (the reading in O and originally in P)
and he supposing me to be his master Laban
—for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins—
and he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews

I remember this structure actually, and I remember Skousen talking about it in an interview. Was this the only exception in terms of type?

Also, I vaguely remember looking for this structure in JS revelations. I don't remember if I found something or not. Champatsch, do you know of this structure can be found there?

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champatsch    87

Grammatical Variation has nearly 50 pages on Hebraisms. Skousen has written the following there:

Quote

In general, the term Hebraism should be used with caution. Many of the potential Hebraisms discussed
in this section are found in other languages, although not with the consistency that they are found
in the Book of Mormon text. And sometimes the Hebraism may be more appropriately identified as an
Early Modern English expression rather than a Hebraism. And finally, we shall see that the comparison
between the Hebrew construction and the corresponding one in the Book of Mormon is not always fully
parallel; in other words, there are differences in how a given expression is used in the Book of Mormon
when compared to the biblical Hebrew. Sometimes it might be better to refer to these potential Hebraisms
as Hebrew-like constructions.

I see that on WorldCat we currently find GV only at the LoC, where Grant Hardy teaches, and the U of U.  It's at BYU, too.  Maybe one or two others.

http://www.worldcat.org/title/history-of-the-text-of-the-book-of-mormon-part-one-two-grammatical-variation/oclc/935676683&referer=brief_results

Otherwise, you can buy it for $$.

There are dozens of examples in the book of Hebrew-like constructions. As usual, it's a thorough treatment of the subject. Here's one more:

Quote

Ether 15:30 (extra and removed in the 1830 edition, marked by the compositor John Gilbert in P)
and it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword—that he rested a little
& >jg NULL 1|    ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST ] he smote off the head of Shiz

Generally speaking, the and occurs in the BofM at the beginning of main clauses after certain subordinate clauses headed by if, when, etc., when there is an interruptive element, such as the clause set off by dashes above, in italics.  And there is the present-participle clause type -- the first example I gave.  I think the chapter covers six different types.

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Robert F. Smith    10,596
17 hours ago, RevTestament said:

Not just word play but many Hebraic grammatical usages and sentence structures.

 

7 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

That is a possibility. I have heard/read Skousen state that all of the BOM grammatical structures previously identified by scholars/apologists as Hebrew qualify as EmodE grammatical structures.

The problem with all that is that the apparently legitimate Hebraisms are all good Egyptianisms.  The upshot being that the Book of Mormon (and the Brass Plates) was engraved in Egyptian, not Hebrew/  So, although we can expect some Hebrew wordplay based on the underlying vernacular culture, many more examples of Egyptian language and wordplay are evident.

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cdowis    1,599

Please help me.

My memory tells me that there is a phrase to "land in the presence of the Lord" which is used like a boat landing.  But I can't find it.  Am I crazy or senile?

Edited by cdowis

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9 hours ago, champatsch said:

Grammatical Variation has nearly 50 pages on Hebraisms. Skousen has written the following there:

I see that on WorldCat we currently find GV only at the LoC, where Grant Hardy teaches, and the U of U.  It's at BYU, too.  Maybe one or two others.

http://www.worldcat.org/title/history-of-the-text-of-the-book-of-mormon-part-one-two-grammatical-variation/oclc/935676683&referer=brief_results

Otherwise, you can buy it for $$.

There are dozens of examples in the book of Hebrew-like constructions. As usual, it's a thorough treatment of the subject. Here's one more:

Generally speaking, the and occurs in the BofM at the beginning of main clauses after certain subordinate clauses headed by if, when, etc., when there is an interruptive element, such as the clause set off by dashes above, in italics.  And there is the present-participle clause type -- the first example I gave.  I think the chapter covers six different types.

Thanks for all that. That's very helpful. Still curious if you've looked for any of the non-English hebraistic constructions in the early JS revelations.

Edited by Benjamin Seeker

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On 8/12/2017 at 5:28 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

 

The problem with all that is that the apparently legitimate Hebraisms are all good Egyptianisms.  The upshot being that the Book of Mormon (and the Brass Plates) was engraved in Egyptian, not Hebrew/  So, although we can expect some Hebrew wordplay based on the underlying vernacular culture, many more examples of Egyptian language and wordplay are evident.

 

On 8/12/2017 at 3:28 PM, champatsch said:

Grammatical Variation has nearly 50 pages on Hebraisms. Skousen has written the following there:

I see that on WorldCat we currently find GV only at the LoC, where Grant Hardy teaches, and the U of U.  It's at BYU, too.  Maybe one or two others.

http://www.worldcat.org/title/history-of-the-text-of-the-book-of-mormon-part-one-two-grammatical-variation/oclc/935676683&referer=brief_results

Otherwise, you can buy it for $$.

There are dozens of examples in the book of Hebrew-like constructions. As usual, it's a thorough treatment of the subject. Here's one more:

Generally speaking, the and occurs in the BofM at the beginning of main clauses after certain subordinate clauses headed by if, when, etc., when there is an interruptive element, such as the clause set off by dashes above, in italics.  And there is the present-participle clause type -- the first example I gave.  I think the chapter covers six different types.

I wanted to ask you two a few questions, Champatsch as one of the most expert and Robert as a scholar who has given the research serious consideration and done some of his own research on the subject.

First, I should say thanks to Champatsch for really looking into the JS 1832 history and publishing on it. That article answered a number of questions I had on the grammar of the history and its relationship to the BOM, EmodE, etc. In a somewhat related vein, have either of you established a timeline for when EmodE begins to disappear from JS' revelations. I ask the question that way because I know Champatsch has said EmodE is present in early JS revelations in a seemingly impossible way similar to the BOM. That made it sound like that at some point pre-KJV EmodE disappears from the revelations.

I am also wondering if either of you have investigated a number of sources present in the 19th century where pre-KJV possibly survived into the 19th century. The first source is Psalmnody and Hymnody. I'm less certain on the hymn texts, but there are psalm-based texts dating to the 15th and 16th centuries that I believe remained part of the Protestant traditions through the 19th century. The second source is 19th century freemasonry's oral tradition, which preserved archaic grammar, including the "did (insert verb)" structure explored in one of the EmodE interpreter articles I believe. This oral tradition is partially documented in the expositions of masonry published during the American antimasonry movement of the early 19th century. A third source, which I know Champatsch has given some consideration, are older texts present in esoteric circles in the early 19th century, including grimoires and reprinted texts as Clark Goble alluded to in another thread. Which of these sources have either one of you looked into or have you looked at all of them?

Another question -- what was the prayer language of the early 19th century like? Do we have a wide representation of it? Did they have any tendency towards archaic grammar like Mormon prayer language has now?

Lastly, I'm curious if either of you have looked for the grammatical structures that don't qualify as EmodE (that look Hebrew or even Egyptian), such as the unnecessary "and" following an interruptive if or when clause, in JS' revelations?

Edited by Benjamin Seeker

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