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Book of Mormon Language


SeattleGhostWriter

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I posted this question - albeit in a different format - over at another board. The response I have received is a dismissal of particular evidence that proves how a language could be classified as "Reformed Egyptian". This is based on an undechiphered language known as Meroitic Writing and Language. Much of my research into this has shown that this language evolved from Egyptian demotic/hieroglyphs.

As I followed through on some preliminary research, the discovery led me to find that the current known written language is that of Sumarian and Akkadian. This being in cueiniform. Egyptian Hieroglyphs are directly descended from this. Even more interesting is that Hebrew is a combination of Canaanite/Phoenician and Egyptian Hieroglyphs prior to the Exodus, and then later changed to a more script form of writing derived from Aramaic.

Essentially, the discovery follows that Sumarain and Akkadian was considered Lingua Franca, followed by Egyptian, then Aramaic.

In light of this, the discussion has relegated to an essential of poor critical thinking skills from some of the other responders who, instead of actually engaging in discussing this, subjugate the conversation to diversion and refusal to verify and provide intellectual perceptions into this.

So, I post this here. The premise of conversation is how the Book of Mormon Language is referred to Reformed Egyptian as being a Family of languages, rather than a specific language. In this sense, 1 Nephi 1:2 gives us the clue that this type of language is from the "learning of the Jews" and the Language of the Egyptians.

I postulate that Joseph Smith could not have known any language history based on limited knowledge in linguistics and historical nature as to the relationships languages have had in his time frame. This leads me to believe that the phrase, "learning of the Jews" is a reference to the relationship between the Canaanite language and its direct relationship to the Ancient Hebraic language. In fact, it was not until the discovery of the texts at Ugarit did Linguists and Scholars have verified that Hebrew borrowed from the Phoenician Alphabet. (Canaanite and Phoenician are one and the same from my research and understanding. The Greeks referred to the people as Phoenicians and the Egyptians and other Ancient Near Eastern Cultures refer to the people as the Canaanites).

In his book, Letter Perfect, David Sacks says this: The 22 Hebrew letters were born by being copied from the 22 Phoenician Alphabet - pg 21, Broadway Books, 2003

Thus, the Hebrew language is not an "original Tongue" that was developed outside of any other cultural influence, but a product of three specific Lingua Franca languages of that time - Sumarian/Akkadian, the Egyptian, down to Canaanite/Phoenician.

To further prove this possibility in our modern times is a concept of what is called the Lingua Franca Nova, which takes is basis on the Romantic Languages - France, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan.

What is even more interesting is that of Mosiah 1:4.

So, the question is open for any thoughts on this.

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Or there is the simple alternative that Lehi used an Epytian alphabet to write Hebrew in, or vice-versa or even a sort of Jewish Egyptian.

The Arad ostracii and other discoveries from Israel support this idea. Reformed Egyptian should NOT be capitalised. reformed means modified, and there are plenty of cases of that, not to mention that the term isn't used until Moroni.

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Unfortunately, there isn't enough internal information in the Book of Mormon to be able to declare that we know what it meant in Mosiah 1:4 when the language of the Egyptians was required, or what it meant some 600 years later when we have the label "reformed Egyptian," which suggests that there was an understanding that whatever they thought was Egyptian in Mosiah's day (some 400 years after their arrival in the New World), they also understood what they were doing to be different from that.

Because the text specifically says that it was written in reformed Egyptian, it may mean a script rather than a language--or it could be a language. There simply isn't enough information to be sure. This is particularly true since some of the uses of "language" early in the text appear to include concepts we would usually describe with "culture" rather than "language."

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This isnâ??t exactly on topic but you got me thinking.

Do you think that the spoken and written language of the Book of Mormon people remained unchanged over the time frame covered by the book? Considering how quickly languages change, Iâ??ve often wondered how the writers and abridgers of the various chapters in the book maintained fluency in the language the Book of Mormon was written in. Is there any evidence that the language of the Book of Mormon people changed over time? Was the language and writings of the Jaredites significantly different than that of Moroni?

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This isnâ??t exactly on topic but you got me thinking.

Do you think that the spoken and written language of the Book of Mormon people remained unchanged over the time frame covered by the book? Considering how quickly languages change, Iâ??ve often wondered how the writers and abridgers of the various chapters in the book maintained fluency in the language the Book of Mormon was written in. Is there any evidence that the language of the Book of Mormon people changed over time? Was the language and writings of the Jaredites significantly different than that of Moroni?

Those are all questions that are not clearly answerable based solely on the text. Answers are plausible if you fill in the gaps with basic human history (such as the propensity of language to change over time, as you mention), or even better if you accept a certain geography and read the text against that area.

As one proposing the latter, I see several language changes. Even in purely Middle Eastern terms, the language of the Jaredites should have differed in some respect from that of the Lehites. However, I expect that when they arrived in the New World that they adopted the language/languages of the people among whom they lived (which is a fairly common occurrence in world history).

For the Lehites and Mulekites, I also see them adopting the local languages, but that the places where they arrived dictated that they would have been different languages--and accounting for the language issues when the Nephites move to Zarahemla.

In all of that, it is possible/plausible that some aspect of the ancestral Old World language was retained as a sacred language, much as scriptural Hebrew was used in Qumran scrolls even though Aramaic was the more common language.

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It is interesting to note that understanding of Biblical Hebrew was fairly common in the 2nd Temple and Mishnaic periods.

I thought I read somewhere that biblical Hebrew was largely forgotten by the masses, and that specially trained individuals translated from the text in the temples out loud so everyone else could understand. Isn't that the origin of the Targum?

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The premise of conversation is how the Book of Mormon Language is referred to Reformed Egyptian as being a Family of languages, rather than a specific language.

We probably ought to start by recognizing that at no time does the Book of Mormon refer to any language as "reformed Egyptian." The phrase "reformed Egyptian" appears once in the Book of Mormon and is there used to describe the "characters" used in writing the language, not the language itself.

And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.
(Mormon 9:32)

Just as we today write the English, Italian and German languages (for example) using the Roman alphabet (with a few alterations of our own), so the Nephites wrote their language (whatever they called it) with characters they called "the reformed Egyptian." Therefore, anyone speaking of "reformed Egyptian" as a language may want to show where the Book of Mormon ever refers to any language as "reformed Egyptian." If they cannot do so, then they might want to reconsider what they think they know about "reformed Egyptian."

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Those are all questions that are not clearly answerable based solely on the text. Answers are plausible if you fill in the gaps with basic human history (such as the propensity of language to change over time, as you mention), or even better if you accept a certain geography and read the text against that area.

As one proposing the latter, I see several language changes. Even in purely Middle Eastern terms, the language of the Jaredites should have differed in some respect from that of the Lehites. However, I expect that when they arrived in the New World that they adopted the language/languages of the people among whom they lived (which is a fairly common occurrence in world history).

For the Lehites and Mulekites, I also see them adopting the local languages, but that the places where they arrived dictated that they would have been different languages--and accounting for the language issues when the Nephites move to Zarahemla.

In all of that, it is possible/plausible that some aspect of the ancestral Old World language was retained as a sacred language, much as scriptural Hebrew was used in Qumran scrolls even though Aramaic was the more common language.

Brant,

As you elucidated, the vast time frames included in the BoM and the likelihood of adopting languages would suggest that the primary languages of the BoM people must have changed over time. As you suggested, for the written records to be of value to the people, they must have known and preserved a single sacred language. What I find interesting is that in discussions of BoM language issues that this distinction is not usually made. It would be important to know, when discussing BoM language questions, if the spoken language evolved over time and if the language on the various sacred plates remained unchanged from the time of the Jaredites to Moroniâ??s final words.

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It would be important to know, when discussing BoM language questions, if the spoken language evolved over time and if the language on the various sacred plates remained unchanged from the time of the Jaredites to Moroniâ??s final words.
The only thing we know absolutely from the text itself is that the Jaredite writing was different, because we know that Mosiah had to translate it with the interpreters.
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I thought I read somewhere that biblical Hebrew was largely forgotten by the masses, and that specially trained individuals translated from the text in the temples out loud so everyone else could understand. Isn't that the origin of the Targum?

Actually, the translations used for those who could not understand was Greek. Targums were something else entirely. Meant to enhance the reading of scripture. A verse in Hebrew was read by the professional reader and then a lay member of the congregation would render it into Aramaic by ear.

Perhaps this had something to do with the law of witnesses and Aramaic had a near-sacred status, but the rabbinic traditions compared it to both the Lord and Moses addressing the people at Sinai. One was exalted, the other lesser, and both worked in unison.

Aramaic also provided additional insights to a bilingual audience. Kind of why I like to have scriptures in all the languages I speak when at at church.

There is also evidence, such as statements that if one found a lost scroll one shouldn't translate from it, that show that the ability to translate was fairly common.

Written targums were used as exegetical devices.

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The only thing we know absolutely from the text itself is that the Jaredite writing was different, because we know that Mosiah had to translate it with the interpreters.

I think we also know or at least infer that the Jaredite text was unaltered, making it the same language spoken by Adam.

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I think we also know or at least infer that the Jaredite text was unaltered, making it the same language spoken by Adam.
That idea is based on a particular reading of the Tower of Babel story. I read the text differently and would not suggest that the Jaredites spoke the language Adam spoke. I realize that I am in a minority of LDS in that opinion, however.
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That idea is based on a particular reading of the Tower of Babel story. I read the text differently and would not suggest that the Jaredites spoke the language Adam spoke. I realize that I am in a minority of LDS in that opinion, however.

I don't think it's just the reading of the Babel text, it's also other statements made both in scripture and by JS.

I realize I am in the majority of LDS in that opinion, however. cool.gif

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Thank you all for your thoughts on this.

I agree reformed Egyptian is not a specific language, but a classification. There are many varieties of this class. One of them happens to be Canaanite/Phoenician. Hebrew having borrowed 22 letters directly from the Phoenician alphabet. Hence, the reason why Ancient Hebrew is similar to Phoenician. Later on having adapted the Aramaic script.

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Do you think that the spoken and written language of the Book of Mormon people remained unchanged over the time frame covered by the book?

Absolutely. Consider how English has changed. What was it like 100 years ago? Two hundred years ago? Four hundred and before? It's fascinating to think that Nephi, son of Lehi, almost certainly would not have been able to have a conversation with Moroni, son of Mormon, if a time machine got the two together. For a vivid example of this, listen or try to read Old English. You may recognize some words here and there, but for the most part, it will be unintelligible.

In some situations, degradation of language happens at various rates. I have some Greek friends who can read some ancient Greek, and can get a gist of it on ancient records, but it's still very far removed.

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Absolutely. Consider how English has changed. What was it like 100 years ago? Two hundred years ago? Four hundred and before? It's fascinating to think that Nephi, son of Lehi, almost certainly would not have been able to have a conversation with Moroni, son of Mormon, if a time machine got the two together. For a vivid example of this, listen or try to read Old English. You may recognize some words here and there, but for the most part, it will be unintelligible.

In some situations, degradation of language happens at various rates. I have some Greek friends who can read some ancient Greek, and can get a gist of it on ancient records, but it's still very far removed.

There's a new and really interesting article on the Cherokee language, adapted from a spoken only form into writing by one of their tribe members. I think some of you might enjoy it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/science/...i=&partner=

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I posted this question - albeit in a different format - over at another board. The response I have received is a dismissal of particular evidence that proves how a language could be classified as "Reformed Egyptian". This is based on an undechiphered language known as Meroitic Writing and Language. Much of my research into this has shown that this language evolved from Egyptian demotic/hieroglyphs.

As I followed through on some preliminary research, the discovery led me to find that the current known written language is that of Sumarian and Akkadian. This being in cueiniform. Egyptian Hieroglyphs are directly descended from this.

Even more interesting is that Hebrew is a combination of Canaanite/Phoenician and Egyptian Hieroglyphs prior to the Exodus, and then later changed to a more script form of writing derived from Aramaic.

I wouldn't say it was a combination of Canaanite/Phoenician and Egyptian hieroglyphs. There is evidence of an alphabetic precursor to proto-Semitic from Egypt dating to around 2000-1800 BCE that seems based on hieroglyphic, but Phoenician is thought to have later developed from that, and then to have been disseminated into Semitic languages through their trade. Because Semitic languages aren't the same as Egyptian, it is thought that Semitic foreigners are responsible for developing this script while in Egypt. Turquoise mines in the Sinai have a later form of this script written by Semitic workers. Hebrew is simply an application of the Phoenician alphabet to another language within the same family. The Aramaic script became common around the exile because of the universality of Aramaic during this time period, although an adapted "Paleo-Hebrew" was preserved to some degree in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Essentially, the discovery follows that Sumarain and Akkadian was considered Lingua Franca, followed by Egyptian, then Aramaic.

Sumerian was the lingua franca in Sumer. Akkadian is a different language entirely (although based on the same script), and by the time Mesopotamia became relevant outside of Mesopotamia Akkadian had taken over. Akkadian ruled the Near East until the alphabetic scripts took over (the Amarna Letters, between Egyptian kings and Syrio-Palestinian vassals, were all written in Akkadian). Once the alphabet was disseminated the older cuneiform became obsolete except for in formal religious circles.

In light of this, the discussion has relegated to an essential of poor critical thinking skills from some of the other responders who, instead of actually engaging in discussing this, subjugate the conversation to diversion and refusal to verify and provide intellectual perceptions into this.

So, I post this here. The premise of conversation is how the Book of Mormon Language is referred to Reformed Egyptian as being a Family of languages, rather than a specific language. In this sense, 1 Nephi 1:2 gives us the clue that this type of language is from the "learning of the Jews" and the Language of the Egyptians.

I postulate that Joseph Smith could not have known any language history based on limited knowledge in linguistics and historical nature as to the relationships languages have had in his time frame. This leads me to believe that the phrase, "learning of the Jews" is a reference to the relationship between the Canaanite language and its direct relationship to the Ancient Hebraic language.

This is a sticky area. Technically speaking, there's no such thing as a "Canaanite" language. Canaanite is kind of an artificial designation. In the Bible it refers simply to people living in Canaan, which could mean Ugaritic, Phoenician, Philistine, or Amorite people. Scholars speak today of the "Canaanites" with the understanding that this isn't a legitimate ethnic or national designation, but rather a broad regional designation that is non-specific. The difference between certain "Canaanite" languages and Hebrew is slight enough that many scholars argue about whether specific texts should be considered Hebrew, Moadbite, Phoenician, or something else. The Gezer Calendar, for example, isn't universally considered Hebrew.

In fact, it was not until the discovery of the texts at Ugarit did Linguists and Scholars have verified that Hebrew borrowed from the Phoenician Alphabet.

This is not accurate. Linguists have known Hebrew borrowed from Phoenician since the late 19th century. Ugaritic actually doesn't use the Phoenician alphabet or script.

(Canaanite and Phoenician are one and the same from my research and understanding. The Greeks referred to the people as Phoenicians and the Egyptians and other Ancient Near Eastern Cultures refer to the people as the Canaanites).

Not exactly. Phoenician and Canaanite would be more like Machigengan and Amazonian.

In his book, Letter Perfect, David Sacks says this: The 22 Hebrew letters were born by being copied from the 22 Phoenician Alphabet - pg 21, Broadway Books, 2003

I wouldn't say they were simply "copied." This seems like kind of an amateur perspective on the subject.

Thus, the Hebrew language is not an "original Tongue" that was developed outside of any other cultural influence, but a product of three specific Lingua Franca languages of that time - Sumarian/Akkadian, the Egyptian, down to Canaanite/Phoenician.

Sumerian only passed on the script, and Akkadian, an East Semitic language, is different enough from West Semitic languages to be cognate rather than linearly prioritized. Egyptian is from a different language family, although they share many cognates and are linked further into the past than we can confidently perceive. Canaanite/Phoenician are really just sister languages to Hebrew, which was probably a spoken language for some time before being written down. Incidentally, last year a potsherd was discovered from the 10th century that appears to have Hebrew writing on it (one of the verbs in the text is exclusively Hebrew). This puts it within a century or so of the development of the Phoenician alphabetic script.

To further prove this possibility in our modern times is a concept of what is called the Lingua Franca Nova, which takes is basis on the Romantic Languages - France, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan.

What is even more interesting is that of Mosiah 1:4.

So, the question is open for any thoughts on this.

For anyone to deny that "Reformed Egyptian" is a legitimate ad hoc designation for a script is simply ignorant. A number of texts could be categorized as being written in a reformed Egyptian script, and there was no Oxford English Dictionary around in the seventh century to standardize the categorization or use of languages.

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