LINGUIST List 6.551

Thu 13 Apr 1995

Disc: Language and Religion

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  1. "P. K. W. Tan", Re: 6.534 Language and Religion
  2. Maik Gibson, Language and Religion

Message 1: Re: 6.534 Language and Religion

Date: Mon, 10 Apr 1995 10:19:39 Re: 6.534 Language and Religion
From: "P. K. W. Tan" <elltankwleonis.nus.sg>
Subject: Re: 6.534 Language and Religion

On Friday, 7 April 95, Benji Wald wrote:
)
) Muslim greetings are general to Muslims regardless of language
) used. Nothing comparable exists in the Christian world -- which suggests
) the latter is not as cohesive (in some sense that I cannot
) fully specify -- something to do with acknowlegment of a
) cultural link/"brotherhood" on the basis of religion across
) what may be otherwise very distinct peoples.) Although there
) have been deep schisms into sects in the history of Islam, I
) wonder if its relative symbolic linguistic cohesion compared
) to Christianity may not be a consequence of the initial split
) among Christians between the Eastern/Byzantine and
) Western/Roman empires, where there was also the initial administrative
) linguistic division between Greek in the East and Latin in the West.)
)
I think the stronger Arabic influence in Muslim greetings
is partly also to do with the Muslim view of scripture, which
is quite different from the Christian one.
 From the Muslim point of view, the Q'uran (or Koran) is
the literal Word of God, revealed verbatim to Muhammad in the
specific language of (classical) Arabic. `Translations' of
the Q'uran are not held to be equally valid, and when quoted,
should be accompanied by the original Arabic version too.
The recitation of the Q'uran in Arabic is held in high esteem
even in non-Arabic-speaking countries like Malaysia and Brunei.
 The Christian view is that Jesus Christ, the `Word of God'
reveals God fully. Scripture is `inspired' or `God-breathed'
rather than revealed verbatim to humankind, and therefore a
knowledge of Hebrew and New Testament Greek is not absolutely
necessary. In the continent of Europe, the language of the
church was Latin, and therefore many of the words pertaining
to Christianity would have come from Latin - e.g. `angel'
or `apostle' in English.
 I think therefore the difference in attitude between
Muslims to the Q'uran and Christians to the Bible explains
the phenomenon described above.

 Peter Tan
 English Language and Literature
 Nat'l University of Singapore
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Message 2: Language and Religion

Date: Thu, 13 Apr 1995 12:58:53 Language and Religion
From: Maik Gibson <llrgbsonreading.ac.uk>
Subject: Language and Religion

On the 7th of April, Benji Wald (IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU) wrote:

)Muslim greetings are general to Muslims regardless of language
)used. Nothing comparable exists in the Christian world -- which suggests
)the latter is not as cohesive (in some sense that I cannot
)fully specify -- something to do with acknowlegment of a
)cultural link/"brotherhood" on the basis of religion across
)what may be otherwise very distinct peoples.) Although there
)have been deep schisms into sects in the history of Islam, I
)wonder if its relative symbolic linguistic cohesion compared
)to Christianity may not be a consequence of the initial split
)among Christians between the Eastern/Byzantine and
)Western/Roman empires, where there was also the initial administrative
)linguistic division between Greek in the East and Latin in the West.)

 Benji Wald's comments on the cohesiveness (at least linguistic)
of the Islamic and Christian worlds made me think of some potential
reasons for this. In Islam the primary revelation is the Qur'an, given in
Arabic, and hence its form and not just its message are considered holy.
Therefore prayers are said in Arabic by Muslims of any nationality or
language.
 However in Christianity, God's primary revelation of Himself is
through Jesus Christ, witnessed to by the Bible. For Christians it is the
message of the Bible which is of primary importance, and this is evident
even from the early history of the Bible, with early translations and
liturgies into (vulgar) Latin, Syriac, Coptic and so on. And it seems to
me that in many of the revivals or reformations of Christianity, an
accompanying phenomenon has been the translation of the Bible into the
vernacular, e.g. Luther's Bible or the King James in English.
 Even the New Testament was written in Greek koine or vernacular,
rather than in something more polished, so that the message would be
maximally understood by all. This may help explain why, apart from a few
words, only used in religious contexts, such as Amen, and Halleluia, the
Christian world does not have a common vocabulary. Hence a definition
such as a "Christian language" may be less useful than, say, an "Islamic
language".

Maik Gibson
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