Exploring Our Matrix
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
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From People in White Coats
I have heard from a creationist the argument that, as seen by the complexity of the ancient languages such as Latin, Greek and Sanskrit as compared to the simplicity of a modern language like English, that languages only devolve, and that the original complex form had to be created/intelligently designed.
TomS is on to something. We may laugh at this cartoon, but creationists would probably embrace this argument..
They do indeed. But I have found that many can see through the problems with the claims in linguistics more readily than in biology.
Actually, thinking about the sad decline from British to American English, creationists may have a point 😉
Contrary to that, English is one of the most complex (and one of the most difficult to learn if you are not raised in it) languages precisely because it evolved recently (some say from Norman soldiers trying to lay Saxon pub wenches) instead of having been created, with relatively minor changes, from a prior, highly structured, language.
It has words that are spelled alike but pronounced differently, depending only on context (read/read); spelled differently but sound alike (knight/night; neigh/nay; read [one form] /red) and many other such examples of its diversity. It’s lack of a formal structure to sentences makes it (again, some say) a great language for literature because it can be played with in so many ways.
The analogy of languages to biological evolution can only go so far, just as Darwin’s analogy of human breeding and natural evolution can only go so far. But the idea that English is a “simple” language is ludicrous. The Romance languages are like a closely related clade, while English is the result of a kind of Cambrian explosion.
And if one studies the history of languages, it becomes clear that the complexities of languages did in fact come about by “mistakes” made by the younger learners. Random variation does not always lead to degeneration. The mistake of the language purists is the
same mistake made by the “intelligent design” advocates – and by the eugenicists, too.
English’s complexity is due to being the only language on the planet formed from two entirely separate language groups (Anglo-Saxon German and Norman-French), which led to the most massive vocabulary on the planet (twice as large as Chinese’s vocabulary). And it led to a lot of oddities such as our language uses the German word for an animal (bird), but the French word for that animal’s meat (poultry).
However, that process stripped much of the complexity out of English. We have neither German, nor French grammatical gender, we have only one remnant of the ancient cases (which would be the -s at the end of third person singular verbs). We actually have very standardized verb tenses (once you get past the hard-soft irregular verbs, of which, granted, there are a lot). And the lack of a formal sentence structure.
This is all to English’s benefit, as it is one of the most adaptable languages to ever exist. Word coinage or transplantation occurs rapidly, and with ease. Laser began as an acronym (“light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”), and then became a simple noun, which in turn became part of a different acronym (“Laser-Assisted in situ Keratomileusis”) which in turn became a different simple noun (“Lasik”) and due to that noun, we had to back develop a verb form in order to describe what happened (lase).
Cambodian must have been God in a bad mood!
Give it up, your desperation is showing. You have lost. Creation isn’t going to change because you have been deceived and prefer the deception over the reality.
How can you spout such nonsense when you haven’t even engaged the substance of the post’s comparison? Do you reject linguistics as many young-earth creationists do? Why won’t you actually talk about the substance of the issue? Are you afraid that the weakness of your position will become obvious quickly? Unfortunately for you, your trolling tactics convey that already. And I think it is time to say goodbye and make clear that this is a place for serious substantice discussion – and lighthearted fun – but not for trolls lobbing insults and then disappearing.
Talking to yourself out loud?
Er, where exactly did this cartoon come from? And why should anyone take it seriously?
It is from the cartoon web site “People in White Coats,” as the post indicates, providing a link.
As for taking it seriously, it is a cartoon and so it should not be taken very seriously, obviously. But it does illustrate in a humorous manner what young earth creationist “logic” looks like if it is applied to the field of linguistics. And, as one might expect in light of Poe’s Law, so,e YECs do actually apply it there.
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