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What was the Original Language

Updated on April 8, 2019
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Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology

The issue today

There are linguists and others who are searching for the original language that gave birth to all the languages of the world. They spend countless hours comparing technical details of each known language to see how they fit together and if they fit together with neighboring tongues.

Although it is a waste of their time. I say waste because there is a problem that they cannot overcome. I see no problem with grouping languages together in ‘family groups’ as we know certain languages are related to each other but they will not arrive at the supposed ‘mother tongue’ that started it all.

Current linguistic problems

There are actually 2 problems to their quest and we find them in Genesis 11

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech…because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world (vs. 1 & 9 NIV 1984)

The first problem is we are not told what the original language was. Even if the linguists were successful in tracing back to a language that seems to have spawned many daughter tongues, there is no way of knowing if they found the original or not.

The second problem we see is that no process was involved. The confusion of tongues was immediate. The work was stopped on the tower at that moment and the project was abandoned because no one group of people understood another group of people.

Thus even if the linguists were successful in tracing back to a supposed mother tongue, it would not be the original because there were many languages given that day. We do not know if God also removed the original language from existence at that time. We just are not told that detail and it is a possibility for it was the language of the pre-flood world.

Then we are not told how many different languages God brought into existence when he confused the people’s language. There is no possible way of knowing that number so the linguists may be able to group together several or hundreds of languages in one family, they would not be able to determine if that group was the original language of Babel and the pre-flood world.

The assumptions of the linguist

In their research they have found other lesser problems like the Basque language

spoken by close to a million people, most of whom live in NE Spain and some of whom reside in SW France. The language has eight dialects. Speakers of Basque are for the most part bilingual, and there are many Basques who do not speak the language. Basque is definitely not an Indo-European tongue. Some scholars believe it is descended from Aquitanian, which was spoken on the Iberian peninsula and in S Gaul in ancient times. Other linguists think Basque is akin to the Caucasian languages and suggest that its speakers came from Asia Minor to Spain and Gaul c.2000 However, no relationship between Basque and any other language has been established with certainty (http://education.yahoo.com/reference/encyclopedia/entry/Basquela)

For all we know, Basque may be one of the original tongues God gave at Babel. Then if Basque is giving researchers problems what do you think the African continent is doing:

There are literally thousands of indigenous languages spoken in Africa and many more dialects. Every African country you visit will no doubt be home to more than a dozen (if not several hundred) languages, even the smaller countries. But because of the sheer amount of linguistic diversity, every African country has an official language (or 11 in the case of South Africa) which acts as the lingua franca for (at least) a reasonably sized region (http://goafrica.about.com/od/africanlanguages/a/africanlanguage.htm)

Trying to find 1 mother tongue for them all is an almost impossible task given the diversity of native African languages. Even the ‘click’ languages are reportedly unrelated to each other

The Hadza are not closely related to any other people. While traditionally considered an East African branch of the Khoisan peoples, primarily because their language has clicks, modern genetic research suggests that they may be more closely related to the Pygmies. The Hadza language appears to be an isolate, unrelated to any other. (http://www.naipendasafaris.com/hadzabe.htm)

That idea is backed up by other resources as well

Hadza (Hatsa), one of the East African Khoisan languages, is a remarkable exception to this, having retained its vitality through a pattern of stable bilingualism with Swahili, the dominant Bantu language in the area (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/316792/Khoisan-languages#ref605098)

The last link brings up another important point and could well be a third problem linguists must encounter and solve:

The 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, however, have witnessed the death of many of the recorded languages and dialects, and their distribution is now largely confined to Botswana and Namibia.

The fact that many of the surviving languages are endangered and some are even on the point of extinction bears testimony to inexorable social, economic, linguistic, and demographic forces that continue to marginalize and consume indigenous linguistic and cultural minorities. (Ibid)

Linguists may be operating on the assumption that the original mother tongue did NOT go extinct at any time throughout history and is still present in some form today. There is no way to know if the original language at Babel survived the ever-changing language frontier and did not go extinct at some point in time.

The linguist's duty

The first thing linguist would have to do is prove that the original tongue survived at Babel and God simply did not just remove it. The second thing would be for linguist to prove that it did not go extinct but survived in some form today.

A daunting task, but since there was no process linking the one language to the multiple newcomers when it was confused, the trail for the linguist will run cold. The other problem that arises is verification. How will the linguist be able to verify they got the order and relationship correct.

Oldest language may not be the mother tongue, it just means it is the oldest discovered. Extinct languages may be older but we will never know if there are no records to be studied. I would also suggest that borrowed words would help confuse the research.

The “guests from another language,” or borrowed words, permeate the English language. Through linguistic osmosis, these many thousands of words were taken over from one language by another during the course of English history mainly due to the constant uninvited arrival of invaders to the island. (http://www.danshort.com/ie/borrowedwords.htm)

Borrowed or loan words are not unique to the English language as is something done with all languages. Since thousands are used, this does not mean the languages are related but demonstrate a lack of a similar term in one language.

Some final words

There are many, many English loan words in the Korean language but this act does not mean the two languages are related. But I am not a linguistic expert and this problem may be easily overcome.

Suffice it to say, we will never know the original language at Babel nor will we know how many original tongues were introduced at the confusion of that common language. Believers have better things to do than waste their time and money on searching for them.

On a side note,

the show, linked at the beginning of this article, displays a chart with supposed super-families of languages. The interesting thing about that chart is the demonstration of the bias involved in the study highlighted by the documentary. That bias is that they feel that the cradle of civilization is African and that conclusion is based upon evolutionary ideology.

I point this out because we now know that the study or studies are not honest and are influenced by the origins (evolution) bias of the researcher.


© 2019 David Thiessen

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