Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:

$33618

Still Needed:

$41382

Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington


Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Language and the Divine
Question: I am very interested in the way language has been associated wth
divinities in different cultures (e.g. the Babylonian Nebo/Nabu, the
Egyptian Thoth, the Greek Hermes, the Roman Mercury, the Hindu
Saraswati/Vac, the Japanese Benzaiten, the Celtic Ceridwen and the
Aztec Tezcatlipoca) and the idea of the word as sacred. In this
connection, I have always been puzzled by John 1:1 in the New
Testament ''In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God
and the Word was God''.

I realise it is subject to many interpretations but is there an underlying
attempt to identify and equate God with language or is that a
misunderstanding of the Greek term logos? Is language being seen as a
manifestation of god and the link between god and humanity? (By way
of comparison, for example, the Greek philosopher Proclus described
Hermes as responsible for distinguishing and interpreting things and
Mercury as filling all things with divine reasons and elevating souls to
intellect; Porphyry described Mercury as presiding over rational energy.)

Reply: Hi, Richard,

As Dr. Pyatt mentioned and as you have noticed, many cultures have
such traditions. Indeed, even among linguists, Chomsky is far from
the first to notice and draw conclusions from the fact (and it
really is a fact) that humans are the only animals that talk in
the structured way we do, although we are far from being the only
intelligent animal (using any genus-neutral way of defining
intelligence). It is not much of a leap from this to ascribe
mystical or supernatural powers to the act of speaking itself
and/or to the 'god' that represents this act.

Me, I worship the Pharynx God, but as the girlfriend of the
infamous guy from Byzondom said in the limerick, 'De gustibus non
disputandum [est]'.

Jim

James L. Fidelholtz
Graduate Program in Language Sciences
Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades
Benem'erita Universidad Aut'onoma de Puebla, M'EXICO

Reply From: James L Fidelholtz      click here to access email
 
Date: 12-Nov-2012
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Language and the Divine    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (12-Nov-2012)
  2. Re: Language and the Divine    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (12-Nov-2012)
  3. Re: Language and the Divine    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (14-Nov-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions