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Confusion of tongues

 

Confusion of tongues

Gustave Doré's interpretation of the confusion of tongues.

The confusion of tongues (confusio linguarum) is the origin myth for the fragmentation of human languages described in the Book of Genesis 11:1–9, as a result of the construction of the Tower of Babel.

Contents

  • Biblical account 1
  • Subsequent interpretation 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Biblical account

It is implied that prior to the event, humanity spoke a single language, either identical to or derived from the "Adamic language" spoken by Adam and Eve in Paradise. In the confusion of tongues, this language was split into seventy or seventy-two dialects, depending on tradition. This has sometimes been interpreted as being in contradiction to Genesis 10:5,

Of these were the isles of the nations divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.

Subsequent interpretation

During the Middle Ages, the Hebrew language was widely considered the language used by God to address Adam in Paradise, and by Adam as lawgiver (the Adamic language) by various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholastics. Dante in the Divina commedia implies however that the language of Paradise was different from later Hebrew by saying that Adam addressed God as I rather than El.[1]

Before the acceptance of the Schottel, 1641) The Swedish physician Andreas Kempe wrote a satirical tract in 1688, where he made fun of the contest between the European nationalists to claim their native tongue as the Adamic language. Caricaturing the attempts by the Swede Olaus Rudbeck to pronounce Swedish the original language of mankind, Kempe wrote a scathing parody where Adam spoke Danish, God spoke Swedish, and the serpent French.[2]

The primacy of Hebrew was still defended by some authors until the emergence of modern linguistics in the second half of the 18th century, e.g. by Pierre Besnier (1648–1705) in A philosophicall essay for the reunion of the languages, or, the art of knowing all by the mastery of one (1675) and by Gottfried Hensel (1687-1767) in his Synopsis Universae Philologiae (1741).

See also

References

  1. ^ Moevs, Christian (21 March 2014). "Dante and Adam in Paradiso of the Divine Comedy The Eucharist and self-knowledge". News.VA. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Olender, Maurice (1992). The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the Nineteenth Century. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-51052-6.
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