LINGUIST List 6.693

Mon 15 May 1995

Disc: Language and Religion

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Kirk Belnap, Re: 6.664, Language and Religion

Message 1: Re: 6.664, Language and Religion

Date: Thu, 11 May 1995 16:37:12 Re: 6.664, Language and Religion
From: Kirk Belnap <>
Subject: Re: 6.664, Language and Religion

In reference to David Bellusci's (5 May 1995) comments:

>With regards to Muslim greetings in Arabic or languages influenced by
>Arabic and Islamic culture, "Peace" had already been centuries prior
>to Islam by Jews and Christians, in fact Christ's words: "Peace I
>leave you..." appears in the Scripture. To say "Peace" is a
>Muslim greeting overlooks this fact.
>Both Malaysian and Kenyan friends of mine who are Catholics do not
>feel that Malay or Swahili greetings are necessarily Muslim: Arabic
>does not have a monopoly on "peace"; so languages influenced by Arabic
>are not communicating something limited to Islam.

Ferguson (1977) suggested that many formulaic expressions may actually be
an areal phenomenon, transcending religion and language over time. He
deals specifically with the last two lines of Psalm 129:

 The blessing of the Lord be upon you.
 We bless you in the name of the Lord.

Apparently, this couplet has been something of a challenge for translators
and commentators. He suggests that a 13th century rabbinical commentary
correctly interpreted it as a harvest greeting. Fergie gives good
arguments to suggest that the custom (including the use of the Semitic root
B R K 'bless') "...has persisted for at least two and a half millennia....
It has survived shifts in language from Hebrew to Aramaic to Arabic, and it
has survived shifts in religion from Judaism to Christianity to Islam" (pg.

He concludes by noting "...the special place of formulaic expressions in
cultural change, notably their conservatism and their relative independence
from shifts in language and religion" (pg. 25).

Ferguson, Charles A. 1977. The blessing of the Lord be upon you. LINGUISTIC
 STUDIES OFFERED TO JOSEPH GREENBERG, ed. by Alphonse Juilland, 22-26.
Saratoga, CA: Anma Libri & Co.

 Kirk Belnap
 4062 JKHB
 Brigham Young University
 Provo, Utah 84602
 (801) 378-6531
 FAX: 801-378-5866
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