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Tower of Babel

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#1    vampiredreamer


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Posted 18 March 2007 - 11:19 PM

According to the narrative in Genesis Chapter 11 of the Bible, the Tower of Babel was a tower built by a united humanity to reach the heavens. God, observing the unity of humanity in the construction, resolves to destroy the tower and confuse the previously uniform language of humanity, thereby preventing any such future efforts. The destruction is not described in Genesis, but is mentioned in the Book of Jubilees, and elsewhere (see 'Destruction', below). An interpretive account of the story explains the tower's destruction in terms of humankind's deficiency in comparison to God: within a Judeo-Christian framework, humankind is considered to be an inherently flawed creation dependent on a perfect being for its existence, and thus the construction of the tower is a potentially hubristic act of defiance towards the God who created them. As a result, this story is sometimes used within a Judeo-Christian context to explain the existence of many different languages and races.

The Greek form of the name, Babylon, is from the native Akkadian Bāb-ilu, which means "Gate of the god". This correctly summarizes the religious purpose of the great temple towers (the ziggurats) of ancient Sumer (which many believe to be Biblical Shinar in modern southern Iraq). These huge, squared-off stepped temples were intended as gateways for the gods to come to earth, literal stairways to heaven. "Reaching heaven" is a common description in temple tower inscriptions. This is the type of structure referred to in the Biblical narrative, though artists and biblical scholars envisaged the tower in many different ways.

There is a Sumerian myth similar to that of the Tower of Babel, called Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, where the two rival gods, Enki and Enlil end up confusing the tongues of all humankind as collateral damage arising from their argument.

In Genesis 10, Babel is said to have formed part of Nimrod's kingdom. Although not specifically mentioned in the Bible that he ordered the tower to be built, Nimrod is often associated with its construction in other sources.

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#2    cheo_vl



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Posted 20 March 2007 - 05:39 PM

there's a theory that says that IF the tower did exist, it was a colossal project, so there would've been many people from many different lands working on it. they wouldn't have been able to communicate because of the previously existing language barrieres between them. so the theory says that the tower was the cause of different tongues colliding on the same place, but not the way the bible says.

#3    Grisly


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Posted 22 March 2007 - 12:56 AM

Noam Chomsky is a believer in a long lost common language that we all shared.  He is trying (probably as a hobby the smart bastard) to figure out how all of our modern languages relate to it.  This idea is in good company.  If you consider MIT to be good company.

#4    MissMelsWell


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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:38 AM

I read a fascinating book last summer called "The Power of Babel: A natural history of language" written by  John McWhorter.

It was a great read, McWhorter, like Noam Chomsky, believes there was an Ur (or single) language at one time. He also talks a lot about how the worlds languages morph and change, he discusses tonal languages, pigeon languages, creoles and click languages and how all these developments may have happened and how they relate to each other. The chapters on Creole languages was really interesting--I am under the impression that Creole's were really one of his strong areas of study and he explains them very well.

Beware, his writing style is super pretentious (a linguists writing style pretention? No can't be! hahaha) but it was still worth every word (pun intended).

Edited by MissMelsWell, 22 March 2007 - 08:41 AM.

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