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:

$34328

Still Needed:

$40672

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: In most cultures, particular words are vested with magic power. Personal names may be kept private. Some words may be disallowed. There may be a belief that you can curse someone, or that particular forms of words can get a god to do something for you.

It's all part of humans wanting to be strong and powerful and have control and make gods in their own image.

John 1.1 is (in part) a reminder of the first creation myth of Genesis, where God creates the world by speaking: "And God said, let there be light, and there was light." The gospel of John is a carefully crafted document that links the life and sayings of Jesus to big religious themes. (PS: readers may be shocked to discover that long long ago I did study some theology.....)

Anthea

Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
 
Date: 14-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    James L Fidelholtz     (12-Nov-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions