LINGUIST List 13.1987

Fri Jul 26 2002

Sum: Babel Theories on Lang Diversity

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Aaron Koller, babel theories

Message 1: babel theories

Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2002 17:16:47 +0000
From: Aaron Koller <>
Subject: babel theories

I would like to thank those subscribers who shared their knowledge with me and 
pointed me to sources on Babel-like myths. Since I received a few requests to 
share the answers I received, let me mention a few. Clearly, the most thorough 
treatment in theories to explain the present-day linguistic babble is Arno Borst, 
Der Turnbau von Babel: Geschichte der Meinungen �ber Ursprung und Viefalt der 
Sprachen und V�lker (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1957-1963), 6 volumes. Joshua 
Gutman has a good article (in Hebrew) on the Greek texts that touch on the issues 
in Oz Le-David (FS Ben-Gurion; Jerusalem, 1964), 585-594. Pierre Swiggers, "Babel 
and the Confusion of Tongues," in Armin Lange, Hermann Lichtenberg, and Diethard 
R�mhard (eds.), Mythos im Alten Testament und seiner Umwelt: Festschrift f�r 
Hans-Peter M�ller zum 65 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1999), 182-195, provides good 
bibliography of later interpretations of the Babel story. Umberto Eco, The Search 
for the Perfect Language (Eng. tr. Fentress; Blackwell, 1995), and George Steiner, 
After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (NY: OUP, 1975), both provide 
fascinating tours of the myth of the primordial language in later (European) 
cultures. For the early Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sources, the best study I 
have found is Milka Rubin, "The Language of Creation or the Primordial Language: 
A Case of Cultural Polemics in Antiquity," JJS 49 (1998), 306-333, with references 
to some earlier studies. Maurice Olender, "From the Langue of Adam to the Pluralism 
of Babel," MHR 12 (1997), 51-59, is short and provocative, but leaves a lot open.

My thanks again to those who helped me, and I hope this in turn helps others.

Aaron Koller 
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