13.1987, Sum: Babel Theories on Lang Diversity

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LINGUIST List:  Vol-13-1987. Fri Jul 26 2002. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 13.1987, Sum: Babel Theories on Lang Diversity

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Date:  Wed, 24 Jul 2002 17:16:47 +0000
From:  Aaron Koller <akoller at sas.upenn.edu>
Subject:  babel theories

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Wed, 24 Jul 2002 17:16:47 +0000
From:  Aaron Koller <akoller at sas.upenn.edu>
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 über Ursprung und Viefalt der
Sprachen und Völker (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
Römhard (eds.), Mythos im Alten Testament und seiner Umwelt: Festschrift für
Hans-Peter Müller 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

LINGUIST List: Vol-13-1987

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