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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)

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