Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Origins of the Specious: Edenics

Ooops, I meant …

The Origin of Speeches:
Intelligent Design In Language
From The Language Of Eden To Our Babble After Babel

It's the most recent book on Edenics. It's been out for a while (and was dealt with in some detail in the blogosphere, including on the Log, like here), but a reader reminded one of our contributors about this project.

It turns out Edenics is now on twitter and on there's an introduction on YouTube (= extended advertisement for the book), among various other videos:


I was surprised to hear (around 1:33) that "today's linguists finally accept the fact that the whole planet spoke one language; they call it Proto-Earth." Really?

Going back to the website, in the FAQ, we can read that "The Origin of Speeches is an anti-Evolutionary answer to Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species." But check out the introduction to Edenics (a downloadable pdf at edenics.org, I've left out the eight or so different font colors and font changes and such):
EDENIC (Proto-Semitic, best documented in Biblical Hebrew) was HARD-WIRED in the brains of Modern Men (since Eden). Its software design matches the hardware ANATOMY of Lips, Throat, Tooth Ridge, Nose, Tongue, and Whistling Air (to pronounce the letters/sounds). Then, in Shinar (Sumer, referenced as the later Babel) a neuro-linguistic disturbance was the Big Bang of language dispersion.
Wow. And then this:
Hebrew, with its right brain/left brain neurological keyboard demonstrates that Greek and Latin are merely grandparents, while Hebrew is the common ancestor, the original computing language of our biological random access memory, which was scrambled during the output stage by the Master Programmer (Tower of Babel story in Genesis).
Double wow. And I never knew this:
The Continental Congress nearly made Hebrew the language of the new republic, as much to break away from England as to reaffirm America's status as the new Promised Land.
I'm all wowed out. The game of identifying the 'original language' of humankind is remarkably old. Campbell & Poser write in their book Language Classification (pp. 13-14) note that after Johannes Reuchlin's 1506 grammar of Hebrew, it was a major strand of historical work, with Hebrew often the original language:
Historical linguistic interests of the time had as their background the Greek tradition … and the biblically based interpretation of Hebrew as the original language (Lingua Adamica, Lingua Paradisiaca) before the confounding of tongues at Babel. It was common to attempt to fit the European languages into the biblical tradition.
That is, these guys are carrying on a long tradition here, all dressed up in current terminology. It's not merely that languages got changed, but our hardwiring — the 'neuro-linguistic disturbance'. The site hasn't been updated much lately, but even so, this year is a big anniversary of the Origin of Species, of course, so it's worth a quick note.

The material at edenics.org speaks for itself, and loudly, but it's worth one quick point. As Mark Liberman wrote about Isaac Mozeson, the man behind Edenics, in the above-cited post on the Log:
His theory seems to be that God was a sort of weak cryptographer, who didn't actually create any new languages after Babel, but simply mixed up the old ones ("letters that shift in sound and location, and letters that drop in and out") in ways that Mozeson has figured out how to decrypt.
I guess if the purpose was to disrupt communication, the cryptography was good enough. I've been talking to comparative and historical linguists some lately, including about the issue of systematic sound correspondences — the way we can best tell that English and Spanish are genetically related is that sounds differ systematically but consistently. A challenge for long range comparison and especially Proto-World is how to get such matches at this vast time depth. Edenics may be an ingenious attempt to sidestep that: the Intelligent Designer (their term) deliberately shuffled sounds around:
Genesis 11 does not reveal the mechanics of the TOWER OF BABEL’s “confounding,” but global Edenicists are making great strides.
Any labial is interchangeable with any other and likewise any fricative with any other. Plus the Designer metathesized alot. Here are examples of how these three processes give English forms from the Hebrew (from the pdf):
BILABIAL SHIFT aBBa to PAPA אבא
FRICATIVE SHIFT SHaQeL to SCALE שקל
BEAUTY M213 from TZiBHeeY (beautiful) צבי
This purposeful irregularization vitiates any appeal to systematic sound correspondence. All you need is some word in any language that shares some sound with some kind of phonetic similarity to some Hebrew word, place or manner of articulation of a consonant, for instance.

No more wowing for today.

Image from here – one of the claimed samples of earliest human writing.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm normally pretty cynical, but I'll add another wow to this.

By the way, the Hebrew as almost official language of the US thing was debunked by Cecil Adams' Straight Dope, here.

Mr. Happy said...

So, is this the craziest single language-related deal out there?

Anonymous said...

At some level, this has got to be a joke, right? Cannot possibly be serious.

Jonathon said...

It sounds like someone got all their linguistic facts from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

Mr. Verb said...

Didn't know the Straight Dope thing, thanks, Anon.

The craziest language-related deal? Very high bar. But they seem to be snowboarding into the final round.

Ahhhh, Snow Crash. Haven't thought about that in a long time.

B H said...

Along with all the other hallmarks of a classic cargo-cult science, Edenics seems to include a persecution element, focusing the blame on none other than Chomsky. When asked for references, Mozeson's first reaction is to assume the questioner must be Chomsky or one of his students.

Due to its coherence, Edenics presents a fascinating case for those of us interested in pseudoscience, but like the rest, it's ultimately too sad to dwell on long. I picked Mozeson's earlier book apart myself here a few years ago.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks, I didn't know your stuff on Edenics. The whole deal is sad, and gets sad fast when you start to ponder it.

goofy said...

This is pretty weird, but I think Edo Nyland's attempt to show how all languages are corruptions of Basque is weirder:
http://web.archive.org/web/20061118064929/www.islandnet.com/~nyland/linguist.htm

Mr. Verb said...

Good point -- that is at least as weird and maybe weirder. Really shares a lot with Edenics, in some sense.

Thanks!

goofy said...

I had a specific reason for thinking Nyland's work was weirder, which I forgot to mention. He thinks that all modern languages (except Basque) were created by Benedictine monks using Basque as a base, as part of a huge conspiracy.

Mr. Verb said...

Oh yeah, the Name of the Rose deal. It's clear, game over.

Hebrew Scholar said...

This is a brilliantly fascinating post about the origins of Hebrew. There is lots of evidence that Hebrew is ultimately what other languages derive from, such as Mozenson's book, "The Word: The Dictionary That Reveals the Hebrew Sources of English". Also children naturally read from right to left, and have to be trained to go the other way. That's why they make so many mistakes when learning to read such as back to front letters, reversing words, etc.

Unknown said...

@Hebrew Scholar, can you support that statement about children naturally reading right to left? In 1997, the Center for Development and Learning published an article stated that reading is not natural at all, much less a particular direction of reading. http://www.cdl.org/resource-library/articles/why_reading.php?type=recent&id=Yes

The reasons are for particular languages being written (and consequently read) from right to left or left to right or top to bottom or bottom to top. For example, Ancient Greek was written (and read!) all four directions depending on who was doing the writing, although a R-to-L convention was adopted as a standard. Japanese can be written both top to bottom and left to right, depending on the medium and preference of the author. There's even a slight trend to write right-to-left in Japanese due to a Western influence.

Unless you can back up your claim, I see it as having no basis.