Adamic Language and Market Prices

July 22, 2005 | 47 comments

Here’s another weird post (making an unbroken string of 50+, for those keeping track at home). What exactly is Adamic, the pure tongue of Heaven?

The short answer is that I don’t know. The long answer is the same, but with style. The long answer is inspired by this post over at the Volokh Conspiracy.

The post refers to Hayek and his view of the free market. He saw it as an information-aggregating mechanism. Language is another. That got me thinking.

The information markets currently aggregate is imperfect. That is, part of the information they aggregate is individual preference, and in this world individual preference is evil and unschooled. We don’t mind, because we’re not using the prices the market generates to tell us the intrinsic value of things, or at least we shouldn’t. But this does suggest that, in a day when everyone’s desires were baptized and sanctified, we could use the market to understand the intrinsic value of things. That would be a perfect market, but not in the sense of of ‘perfect’ that economists usually use. A perfect market in their sense is one in which there is perfect knowledge, no barriers, etc.

In which of these senses would celestial language be perfect? I’m sceptical that a language would be perfect in the first sense, that is, that the sounds and forms in it would intrinsically reflect reality. (Though see the admission in the second paragraph. I just don’t know. It’s possible that there might be at least some non-arbitary intrinsic elements of the perfect language). In the second sense, a language is perfect merely because it is the perfect vehicle for the exchange of information (or, at least, it is as good as possible at exchanging information). But if a language is arbitrary, I don’t see how this criterion could be met unless the participants in the language either had non-language means of conveying information along with what was spoken, or else they had so much knowledge and experience about everything that they were able to give very precise meanings (tentative example: I could say ‘dog’ having acquaintance with all all the billions of examples of beings that, in our language, belonged to that class or, possibly, I could just use the word in our language for the particular dog I had in mind). Now, in a sense this seems silly, because what need would there be for language if there were perfect knowledge of everything? Perhaps there isn’t. Perhaps language in heaven is only used in ritual, in courtesy, and in play. But no matter. The real problem with this second sense is that humans have sometimes been inspired to speak with the tongue of Adam (e.g., Adam), and humans don’t usually have perfect knowledge. Perhaps they were given it temporarily for the duration of their utterance? Or perhaps they only imperfectly understood their utterance, like children who’ve memorized a poem? I don’t know.

I would like to puzzle out something about the ‘perfect’ language of Adam, but I don’t have the wisdom. A scholar I asked once to help ignored me, because he had too much prudence. I hope you will have less prudence than he and more wisdom than me.


47 Responses to Adamic Language and Market Prices

  1. Cracker on July 22, 2005 at 7:24 pm


  2. Steve on July 22, 2005 at 7:25 pm


  3. Ben S. on July 22, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    Though it sounds wacky, I don’t think a perfect language (as I would define it) could exist without some form of telepathy. Words are simply an imperfect medium for conveying thoughts. Weird response for a weird post, I guess…

  4. Jonathan Green on July 22, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Adam, let there be no end of weirdness.

    To me, trying to understand Adamic language by imagining what a perfect language must be like bears an odor similar to that of sophmores discussing existentialism. High school sophmores.

    I think a couple of important early steps for approaching the problem would be to compile and analyze all scriptural references and official commentary on the topic, just to figure out which Adamic language problem we’re trying to solve. Comparing and contrasting with writings on Adamic/celestial language throughout history comes next. I wouldn’t be disturbed or surprised if LDS ideas on a perfect language closely follow other ideas on the topic of the 19th century and earlier.

    My suggestion: languages change to meet the needs of their speakers. Adamic/celestial language is the language(s) spoken by celestial people. It is difficult to predict how such a language would differ from our own.

  5. Don on July 22, 2005 at 8:13 pm

    Where does it say that the Adamic language is the Celestial language. Adam spoke his language, for communication on this earth. At the time he first spoke it the earth and him were immortal. Did the language change when he and the earth fell? It would still be the Adamic language, just different than before the fall.

    Why would the Adamic language be perfect anyway, at least after the fall. The earth wasn’t perfect, Adam wasn’t perfect so why should his language be perfect.

    The language spoken (if it is spoken) in the Celestial kingdom is a whole different thing in my opinion than the Adamic language.

    I really think we are trying to call 2 or maybe three different languages all the Adamic language, I don’t know it that fits.

  6. Steve-o on July 22, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    Well, we do know some words that are presumably from the Adamic tongue (or the language God speaks anyway) and what they mean.

    Ahman = God [probably, since Son Ahman apparently means Son of God] (DC 78:20; 95:17)
    Kokob = star (Abr. 3:13)
    Shinehah = the sun (Abr. 3:13)
    Olea = the moon (Abr. 3:13)
    Kokaubeam = stars (Abr. 3:13)
    Kolob = probably something related to “star,” considering its similarity to Kokob; maybe “governing star” or something like that (Abr. 3:3)
    Adam = man (reference?)
    Eve = something to do with “mother of all living” (may mean simply “mother”)

    Other names that are probably of Adamic tongue origins but we don’t know what they mean:

    Eden (garden?)

  7. Kevin Barney on July 22, 2005 at 11:56 pm

    Some of these words are simply Hebrew. Indeed, there is some thought that the Adamic language is in some sense Semitic and related to Hebrew, if not Hebrew specifically. So if you want to speak the language of heaven, better sign up for Ben’s summer Hebrew class at the Y.

  8. Steve-o on July 23, 2005 at 2:03 am

    Well of course they are “Hebrew”—they are in the Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew, and have hence become incorporated into the Hebrew language. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t ORIGINALLY from the Adamic tongue.

  9. Wilfried on July 23, 2005 at 2:56 am

    “My dear brothers and sisters, I suppose that everybody knows, even if it is not yet Church doctrine, that French is the language of heaven. Yes. And if you didn’t know it, I think there is still time to repent before the next conference.”
    Charles Didier, “My Gratitude,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 57

    Sorry, Adam, I couldn’t resist.

  10. John Bull on July 23, 2005 at 5:19 am

    Yes, but as everyone knows, God is an Englishman!

  11. Wilfried on July 23, 2005 at 6:46 am

    All right, seriously and respectfully now. We know the history of languages is that of a family tree. The diachronic study of languages deals with the phonetic, morphological, syntactic, semantic developments over time. We are able to identify the common ancestors of groups of languages, going back as far as possible, e.g. to Indo-European roots. If we could continue higher up, we’d come, theoretically, to the most original form, which we call Adamic.

    What is fascinating in this process is that languages tend to morphological reduction over time. In other words, the ancestors of our present languages are more complex, with more conjugations, declensions, variables. English, for one, is one of the most “stripped” languages morphologically (only seven forms per verb left, only one form for adjectives), while Old-English had more forms. French (with still some 40 forms per verb and various forms per adjective) has only a limited part left of its Latin ancestor. Some languages, like German or Russian, have retained more verbal and declinational complexity. But over the centuries, the tendency to reduction seems a lingual law.

    That brings us to Adamic. In a “normal” evolutionary perspective, things would evolve from primitive forms to more complex ones. Languages, on the other hand, go from complexity, and their inherent expressive power, to simplicity and thus less malleable syntax. So, theoretically, the Adamic language must have been one of sumptuous expressivity.

  12. Bryce I on July 23, 2005 at 8:00 am

    A couple of other thoughts:

    Adam –

    By definition, don’t you speak Adamic? :)

    I think that the necessary perfect knowledge you describe has something to do with a perfect kind of empathy, one that allows the speaker to know for a certainty how their conversational partner perceives the world. Such empathy must be rooted in perfect, Christ-like love.

    You seem to be resticting the function of celestial language to communication, but I’m sure it serves many more important functions. The scriptures suggest that language can have creative power that is expressed in the physical world. Christ himself is the Word Made Flesh, and I think some understanding of what this might mean can be gained through the endowment. Adam’s role in naming living things on earth also provides a clue. My suspicion is that the naming function of Adamic creates/reflects an actual intrinsic connection to reality that we no longer have access to, except in brief glimpses here and there. Certainly the idea of a “true name” of some kind exists in many religions, and has been well-worn in sci-fi/fantasy writing.


    Given the various accounts in Genesis of language-altering events on a global scale (the flood, Tower of Babel), isn’t it possible that Adamic could be of a different kind altogether from the languages we know of today?

  13. danithew on July 23, 2005 at 8:19 am

    Just responding to comment #4.

    “Kokob” is remarkably similar to the Hebrew or Semitic “kokav” which means star. “Kokaubeam” is remarkably similar to the Hebrew/semitic plural of “kokav” which is simply “kokavim.” I think the name “Adam” comes from the Hebrew/Semitic word “adamah” which means “ground” or “earth” — the material from which Adam was made. It only means man or refers to mankind because human beings are referred to as bene-Adam or “the children of Adam.”

  14. lyle on July 23, 2005 at 8:50 am

    Ben S.: I don’t think that a weird comment; although when I think Adamnic language, I think more of what I’ve seen described in some sci-fi/fantasy books where a statement can’t be made by the individual unless they are true; whether this is because there is limited telepathy which would instantly reveal a lie (i.e. fear of punishment to keep words spoken true) or innate, and a simple inability to use the words to omit and/or hide, conceal and/or deceive.

  15. Wilfried on July 23, 2005 at 9:18 am

    Bryce asked me: “Given the various accounts in Genesis of language-altering events on a global scale (the flood, Tower of Babel), isn’t it possible that Adamic could be of a different kind altogether from the languages we know of today?”

    Yes, could be. The scriptures do not tell us much about this aspect. The Pearl of Great Price is about the most explicit:

    “And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration; And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled.” (Moses 6: 5-6)

    At least there is the indication that that language was passed on after the Fall. One would imagine it was kept with care through the line of those obedient to the Word. But what does the concept of “pure and undefiled”, as applied to language, mean? No ambiguities? A perfect match between word and concept? To refer to Adam’s (our blogger) remark, it seems a formal, systematized language, hence readable and writable by their children, and as Adam said “perfect in the first sense, that is, that the sounds and forms in it would intrinsically reflect reality”.

    Then came change. Was it normal lingual evolution, or abrupt change, or the emergence of different communication skills? The story of the Tower of Babel exemplifies (symbolically – or viewed as over a long period?) the development into different languages.

    Other prophets were aware of changes into language, disturbing their ability to convey with more precision the meaning of their words. E.g. Moroni:

    “And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record” (Mormon 9: 33)

  16. Kevin Barney on July 23, 2005 at 12:23 pm

    Those three words aren’t remarkably similar to Hebrew; they are Hebrew. The word “kokaubeam” for example is simply the plural form of kokob, given in the Sephardic transliteration system that Joseph learned from Joshua Seixas at the Kirtland Hebrew School.

  17. Jonathan Green on July 23, 2005 at 1:10 pm

    Ugh, Wilfried, no. There are no universal tendencies of language evolution. Similar processes can be observed in many languages, but not an overall direction. Some languages add cases and other types of morphological complexity over time. Moribund languages lose their expressivity in many semantic areas, but languages with a thriving community of speakers can gain in expressive power. Historical linguistics won’t get us Adamic, unless you take one of the proto-Everything proposals seriously (I don’t), such that Adam would have spoken ur-proto-Hottentot.

    Frustration with the inadequacies of human language seems to be an occupational hazard of prophets and poets. We can build on their statements in terms of religious understanding, but it’s very difficult to do so with respect to linguistics.

  18. Wilfried on July 23, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    Yes, of course, Jonathan. Always difficult to nuance sufficiently in such short and quick comments, in a domain as broad as the history of languages. Nevertheless, even if there are obvious, complex movements within languages, the evolution of many major and minor languages shows constant morphological reduction over time. Confirmed by multiple studies. I believe that’s a worthwhile observation in the context it was stated. I also only drew attention to morphology, not to semantics: it’s obvious that languages can gain in expressive power. Though would such gain not be by simple extension of the lexicon, by borrowing, by adding new meaning to existing words and structures? Such gain does not imply that older languages had per definition less content and less power. Think e.g. of Sanskrit.

    Anyway, I did not state that historical linguistics will “get us Adamic”, that would indeed be simplistic. I was trying to get across that if we truly believe there was an Adamic language, and if our present languages did evolve from that language, then, as I said, “if we could continue higher up, we’d come, theoretically, to the most original form, which we call Adamic”. These are hypotheses, and moreover, in the realm of religion.

    Thanks for helping me clarify what I said, Jonathan.

  19. Jonathan Green on July 23, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    Wilfried, I don’t think I’m clarifying as much as merely disagreeing (on an admittedly tangential issue). You maintain that languages tend towards morphological simplification, while I maintain that there is no such general tendency. While morphological categories and inflectional markers have become fewer in English and Romance languages, the opposite can and does occur, I suspect with equal frequency. I agree with the rest of your points, though.

  20. Jim F. on July 23, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    Adam: I am sceptical that a language would be perfect in the first sense, that is, that the sounds and forms in it would intrinsically reflect reality.

    Me too–because I don’t know what it means for a language to “reflect reality,” intrinsically or otherwise.

    Like Jonathan Green (#4), I think that our talk of a perfect language is a remnant of 19th century, mistaken views about what language is and does. How to explain Moses 6:6? I don’t know, mostly because I also don’t know what it means to describe a language as “pure and undefiled.”

  21. greenfrog on July 24, 2005 at 12:34 am

    I have a lurking, but ill-defined, sense that LDS conceptions of “Adamic” language are related to Platonic philosophy in some degree. I don’t know enough about Adamic language or Platonic ideas to confirm or reject that hypothesis. Perhaps some better schooled in one or the other can, however.

  22. comet on July 24, 2005 at 3:37 am

    I’m with Adam and Jim F; a little unsure how a pure and undefiled language would work or even be possible, if it meant unambiguous correspondence between word and object (though the funny thing is that the idea does have a strange allure to it and doesn’t seem totally far-fetched intuitively).

    Anyways, the discussion reminds of Japan. The 18th century was the great heydey of Japanese apologists for their pure”adamic language” (an inheritance from the gods to their mortal progeny in the Imperial House; emperors were considered living gods until 1945, the end of WW II). According to these native theorists, pure (pre-literate) Japanese — which had perfectly calibrated phonological-morphological-semantic ratios — was corrupted by the intrusion of Chinese writing in 6th, 7th century AD. As a result, the simple expressive power of Japanese was compromised by an alien language script that introduced unknown rationalistic categories of thought that confounded simple I wouldn’t be surprised if Adam’s earlier descendents, like Nephi son of Helaman nostalgic for the days of Lehi and Nephi (Hel. 7:7), weren’t romanticizing the linguistics of an earlier time.

  23. comet on July 24, 2005 at 3:42 am

    #22 “….confounded simple but divine ratios of unadulterated Japanese. In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised…” Sorry, editing function out to lunch.

  24. alamojag on July 24, 2005 at 9:56 am

    This reminds me of the story Richard Cracroft told of an old woman who was confronted by one of the Red Guard in the square just outside the Kremlin. “Why,” he asked, “are you reading that Bible in Hebrew?” “I am getting old, and will die soon. I want to be prepared with knowing the language when I get to Heaven.”

    “What if you go to the other place?”

    “That’s okay. I already speak Russian.”

  25. Daylan Darby on July 24, 2005 at 8:23 pm

    Are any of you old enough to remember the original Adamic in the endowment ceremony (before it was changed in th 80′s)?

    To me, sign language is nearly the perfect language because a lot of the signs reflect reality.

  26. Clark on July 24, 2005 at 9:18 pm

    Daylan. That was explicitly Hebrew. As I recall it was based on the style of Hebrew Joseph Smith (and presumably Brigham Young) was taught. I don’t recall the connection to Masonry. It’s been a very long time since I last looked into the issue.

  27. GreenEggz on July 24, 2005 at 11:51 pm

    I think the first documented occurance of someone praying in the Adamic language, in the 7 volume History of the church, is Brigham Young, where the event is described in the footnote on page 297 of Volume 1 of the History of the Church, which was a prayer meeting of several brethren and Jospeh Smith.

    However, BY claims that he also prayed in tongues on his trip there, and the footnote also says it occurred first in one of the Pennsylvania branches.

    My guess is that we all knew, or still know, the language, and it is suppressed by the veil of forgetfulness. The “gift of tongues” in that case might be a partial lifting of the veil.

  28. manaen on July 25, 2005 at 3:31 am


    Interesting pun in your #34.

    Strong’s shows Adam “aw-dawm,” 0120 or 0121, which also means “man,” descending from “aw-dam”, 0119 means red. This is echoed in Edom, 0123, which also descends from 0119.

    Alamojag’s comment in an Adamic thread puns all this with his Red Guard talking in (unnamed) Red Square.

  29. Almunecar on July 25, 2005 at 6:15 am

    El paraiso tal vez esté algo mas al sur.

  30. Frank McIntyre on July 25, 2005 at 8:53 am


    It is interesting that you compare prices to language in this way. The market price in the neoclassical model really does contain all the societal information that an individual needs to know about a product– it’s scarcity or difficulty in production and its demand by others is all rolled up into that one number. And yet this seems almost the opposite of what many here propose as the perfect language. If one views a perfect language as something without ambiguity and allowing a huge amount of complexity, well then one is looking for a thing that does not simplify the world for us, but rather unpacks all its complexity. Prices, on the other hand, are wonderful because they reduce all that horrendous complexity down to one actionable thing. Both directions are perfect, I suppose, depending on one’s goal.

  31. Rosalynde Welch on July 25, 2005 at 10:57 am

    Adam, in your comparison of language to markets, you talk about exchanging and circulating information by means of language in the same way that commodities are exchanged and circulated by means of markets. This presupposes that “information” is discrete from “language,” which is merely a neutral vehicle for transporting information, like a train car for coal. But in the social ecology of the fallen world, at least, this isn’t how language works: it produces knowledge as much as it transports it, and its capacity for doing so requires its “imperfect” arbitrariness. It’s hard for me to imagine how language could work otherwise in any social environment that resembles ours even partially.

  32. Wilfried on July 25, 2005 at 11:34 am

    Jonathan (# 19), not to start a deep discussion on the history of languages, and probably not interesting for most readers, but I’d like to point out that the trend towards morphological simplification in languages seems well attested in numerous studies, and not only for West-European languages. When I studied Lingala in Africa years ago, comparative linguistics pointed at the extensive loss or reduction of Bantu morphosyntactic characteristics over time, also in Kikongo-Kituba, Fanakalo, Pidgin Ewondo and others. The phenomenon is also known in contact languages and in immigration island languages. I find references of reduction in Afrikaans, Iowa-Dutch, Pennsylvania-German, or in a moribund language like Nivkh (Gilyak) in Sakhalin. Worldwide pidginization and creolization attest to this movement too.

    The reasons for this trend towards impoverishment seem various. I’ll only refer to the following, ref. P. Rosenberg who said:

    “In times of cultural ‘crisis’ the loss of cultural knowledge or the blurring of group boundaries can affect norm stability. If norm stability is decreasing, linguistic knowledge will not be transmitted in a sufficient way. Then language structures may become obsolescent, learners of the language may feel a ‘learning burden’: Processes of change will be set in motion to simplify uncertain structures by expanding default rules leading to the dissolution or the collapse of the morphological system.”

    Indeed, also Latin evolved into French and Spanish and Romanian, and dozens of other romance varieties, because of those very reasons. Hence my feeling that we can speak of a certain law, of course not inherent to language itself, but tied to inescapable circumstances in the life of a language. Perhaps the scriptural memory of a “pure and undefiled” Adamic language makes some sense in that respect.

    You mentioned that “the opposite can and does occur, I suspect with equal frequency.” I have a hard time believing the equal frequency part. If I remember well, the few, limited cases of morphosyntactic complexification in a language were not sui generis, but dealt with contact languages influenced by more complex languages, e.g. a simpler language in contact with a species of rich Swahili. As if an English immigrant in France would start writing, after years, in English, my olds friends. I am not aware of examples of modern languages which developed from rather primitive structures, a few hundred years ago, or even a millenium, into a more complex system of conjugations and declensions. Which does not mean it would not be possible. But the trend towards reduction seems much more proven and also convincing.

    And so I found this to be, in a religious perspective, on the topic of Adamic, a perhaps worthwhile reflection.

  33. CalZion on July 25, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    Wilfried’s #32 talks of impoverishment rather than increasing complexity. Here’s a short example in spoken English/MAS (Modern American Speech):

    England: “Have you yet eaten?” Answer: “No, have you?”

    East-coast U.S.: “Did you eat yet?” Answer: “No, did you?”

    West-coast U.S.: “Jeet yet?” Answer: “No, djew?”

    Out here, on the beach, we do not feel a “learning burden” because we take “Processes of change will be set in motion to simplify uncertain structures by expanding default rules leading to the dissolution or the collapse of the morphological system” not as a warning but as a plan. We don’t need no stinkin’ morphological system!

  34. Wilfried on July 25, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    CalZion, you wrote what I didn’t dare to write.
    And the MSN generation is taking it to heart.

  35. GreenEggz on July 25, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    “Jeet ?” Answer: “No, djew?”

    Isn’t that a Sienfeld routine?

  36. Wilfried on July 25, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    Seinfeld, GreenEggz, Seinfeld.
    Confirms the law we talked about. : )

  37. CalZion on July 25, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    35. GreenEggz,
    Seinfeld may have used jeet/djew. I first saw it 40 years ago in a language book. It came in handy when students became cocky in our missonary-taught English classes in South America.

  38. A. Greenwood on July 25, 2005 at 7:03 pm

    Against all probability, given the original post, I found these comments to be instructive and suggestive. Thanks to all.

    And a special thanks to Bryce I., whose True Names and Words made Flesh and Words of Power transported me, like the first time I read Lake Isle of Innisfree. I can’t see how it could be true, but its too wonderful not to be.

  39. Jonathan Green on July 25, 2005 at 9:33 pm

    Wilfried, historical linguistics is one of those topics that just doesn’t get enough airplay at T&S. With such an inherently interesting topic, no one should mind a little extra discussion.

    In your discussion of morphological change, you’re only looking at the destructive processes, but you need to consider the role of grammaticalization, the process through which idiomatic constructions become regularized into morphological markers. Thus at the same time Germanic was losing nominal cases, it was inventing a second system of adjectival inflection, innovating a new type of verb morphology, and installing umlaut at the heart of its verbal morphology like no other Indo-European language had done. The complexity of Latin verbal morophology is also the result of morphological innovation–the imperfect and future aren’t continuations of the Indo-European system (quoting Phillip Baldi’s Foundations of Latin from memory here, so refer to him for details).

    Morphological levelling happens constantly and in every language, as in your examples. There’s probably no way to compare simplification and grammaticalization numerically. But they must operate in roughly equal degree, I think, because 1) both are observable in the long-term history of many languages; and 2) otherwise, we would have to assume that all languages in the distant past had an absurdly complex grammatical system.

  40. Wilfried on July 26, 2005 at 11:02 am

    Excellent fine-tuning, Jonathan. That’s the advantage of discussion and I admit my more apologetic line of approach in trying to picture a certain rationale in language evolution. But so much still to be discovered and understood… I enjoyed the exchange of ideas on this topic.

  41. Edward A. Erdtsieck on July 28, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    I have been pre-occuppied with such an idea as “Adamic Language” for a very long time. Having read this posting, I am convinced that there is no such thing and I don’t say that Adam did not speak or wrote in some form or another. He certainly did!

    Language is just much more than a listing in dictionaries or a thesaurus, which I find very helpful. Language is an ancient communication technology to make someone believe, that a thing of substance, such as a tree is actually what it is. In Genesis Adam and Eve had to interprete the purposes of 2 trees in their own lives and in that of their posterity. Unless a meaning is fully understood, a third party will have an influence far beyond his actual authority.

    What gives language its power, especially in our modern world, is not so much the reality of what the truth is, but how many people have the opinion that a thing or idea is true. We have not come very far from the time Cain and Abel were working out their challenges and with the same results.

    However, I belief that there is an Adamic quality to language and it is an individual thing. It is what opens the windows of heavens. After all, it was said, that in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.

    Edward A. Erdtsieck

  42. manaen on July 30, 2005 at 2:42 am

    BTW, a psychology professor told us that in an effort to recover Adam’s language, Kaiser Wilhelm isolated newborns until adolescence. He hoped that, uncorrupted by modern languages, they naturally would speak Adamic. I’ve wondered about that since. Can anyone confirm or refute it?

  43. Jonathan Green on July 30, 2005 at 3:10 am

    Another version of the story has the experiment conducted at the behest of an Egyptian pharaoh. Supposedly, upon reaching adolescence, one of the children uttered a word of Hebrew, and thus the question was answered.

    I see no reason to believe that the story ever had a basis in reality. While it’s hard to separate the effects of impoverished linguistic input from brutal deprivation and abuse, in the few tragic cases where something like the experiment has been perpetrated, the result has been profound mental retardation and failure to develop any kind of normal language ability.

  44. Kaimi on July 30, 2005 at 3:21 am

    Um, Wilfried,

    I’m not a linguist, but let me point out from my own unlearned perspective one apparent logical flaw with your position. You seem to be saying that there’s a general tendency towards simplification over (all?) languages.

    Which leads to the question — where did the original complex languages come from in the first place? If things consistently get more simple over time, across the board, then where did complex Latin come from to begin with? I hope that the answer is not “it sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus.”

    (I suspect that you have an answer to this question, but I haven’t seen one presented thus far.)

  45. Wilfried on July 30, 2005 at 4:30 am

    Kaimi, thanks for reviving the discussion. Yes, this could be a believer’s line of approach: if languages tend to simplify, the original, Adamic language would have been a rich, elaborate, powerful language, “pure and undefiled” as the Scriptures say, which over time got depraved and deluted. Your warning “I hope that the answer is not ‘it sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus’” sounds like a preemptive strike against considering such possibility. I guess we’ll have to leave it in the realm of the (usually unfeasible) discussion opposing creation, evolution or intelligent design.

    But I did not state this was my “position”. My initial comment was an observation and a hypothetical consideration, which said: “If we could continue higher up, we’d come, theoretically, to the most original form, which we call Adamic… So, theoretically, the Adamic language must have been one of sumptuous expressivity.” In his comments Jonathan reminded us it’s not all that simple.

    Still, God and his ontological relation to language remains a Scriptural starting point: “In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum.” Verbum, word, language. And Mormonism is based on the principle of a speaking God.

  46. Wilfried on July 30, 2005 at 10:21 am

    Manaen and Jonathan (# 42 and 43), in connection with isolated newborns until a certain age, and the effect on language, there are of course the dramatic cases of “wild children” or “feral children” like Victor of Aveyron or Oxana Malaya.

    This site on feral children has a section on their language development. The link to the Forbidden Experiment talks about the pharaoh legend (which Jonathan refered to) and about Emperor Frederick II and his alleged experiment in 1211 (which Manaen refered to). You’ll find popular info there. Academic studies on the topic of language stimulation in the critical years are of course plenty.

  47. Edward A. Erdtsieck on July 30, 2005 at 10:54 am

    So, well expressed! “Pure and undefiled . . . Mormonism is based on the principle of a speaking God.” I could not agree more. But that has not been the human condition.

    In the seventh Creative Period God rested. Adam and Eve walked and talked with the living and breathing God; an experience few earthborn couples will personally retrace. The experience for each of us, having a personal experience with a walking and talking God is not a reality any more.

    In worldly matters, because of our corrupt ways, God allowed the voices of self-serving political surrogates to represent our interests. “We believe in being subjects to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying the, honoring and sustaining the Law.” Conjuring up what Adam and Eve’s language is, is pure and undefiled speculation and misses the point.

    This desire to ressurrect an Adamic language is not unlike the effort of King Saul of the ancient Israelites, when he sought assistance from the Witches of Endor, to stem the loss of his power from God, because he wanted to keep his political clout. What passes for language, to day, is proof of the still prevailing corruption, since Eve last spoke with God on earth.

    For the rulers or wannabees, language is a marketing tool, i.e. to keep or gain, something made from the dust of the earth, at all cost. They will tell us a thousand lies, so that one lie might be believed. Do they really want a prophet, when they can make their own profit? Before the world, language as a means to communicate a truth is going the way of the Dodo bird, because it is increasingly connected to things that will die.

    The power of the lie is not, because it is false, but that the wannabees pay for access to the Media and that there are tens of thousands miserly, deceived humans willing to stand with them, to keep what they got and more. Even as their mind’s eye are dimmed, they would kill for their cause; rather than seek the enlightment that comes from truth.

    Eve spoke the TRUTH to the true God and so did Adam. Hence, if I speak TRUTH, I am expressing myself in the language of Adam and Eve.

    Edward A. Erdtsieck


Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.