Designed for Communication
- Friday, October 05, 2012
Consider this, too: Adam and Eve, created as adults, had to have full language ability from the first, so as to understand God and each other in that perfect world before sin. None of us pops into the world with that ability; even though we have the mechanisms to learn, even to create language with astonishing ease, we have to absorb word meanings and the rules of grammar from the world around us as we grow up.10 We do this via our designed vocal equipment and brain machinery. But the first couple required more—a “built-in” knowledge of the language rules (grammar) and word meanings (vocabulary).11 Unless they already knew the meaning of each word God spoke to them soon after their creation, they could not have understood Him.12
There is another historical instance recorded in Genesis of God directly programming new language—in fact several languages—into people. That happened at the Tower of Babel, Genesis 10–11.
There are thousands of languages in the world today. In one modest-sized country alone, Papua New Guinea (PNG), there are well over six hundred separate languages. Does that mean that each one of those thousands of languages arose at Babel? Definitely not. For one thing, Genesis implies that the extended family group associated with named individuals stayed together; it makes sense for God to ensure that each such group spoke the same language. Being so soon after the Genesis Flood, this was not a huge population, and it seems there were at most several dozen languages created instantly.
All the other languages arose afterwards, by a simple process for which there is evidence. When groups with the same language then live apart without interaction, their language changes quite rapidly. After only a few hundred years, they may no longer understand each other. A likely reason for PNG’s many languages is its rugged mountain ranges—groups living only a few miles apart “as the crow flies” may have had no interaction for centuries.
Modern Dutch, German, and English (and Scandinavian languages) are very obviously related. This shows they came from a common source; going backward in time, they are closer to each other.13 That’s why, visiting a centuries-old Dutch cemetery in Melaka, Malaysia, my German-English background enabled me to understand almost everything written on the tombstones, whereas I can decipher only a much smaller percentage of modern Dutch text. The changes in these languages were rapid and substantial.
French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian are also an obviously related group that has diverged from a “common ancestor” language. But are they completely separate from the Germanic group discussed earlier? No. The evidence shows that many such groups can in turn be “joined together” going backward, forming one large related “language family” called “Indo-European,” which would have started off as one language.
It would suit evolutionary ideas, of course, if languages could all be traced back to one language. But the evidence supports Genesis, not language evolution. There are in all some twenty or fewer language families such as Indo-European—e.g., the family of Asiatic languages, including Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. None of these shows any sign of being related to any other. In short, there is no “tree of language” with one stem but rather a mini-orchard of language families. The stem of each tree is one of the original totally separate languages created at Babel, so it’s no wonder that the tips of the branches in each “family tree” (today’s languages within any one family) show no connection at all to those of any of the other trees. Once again, we see that relying on Genesis history makes sense of the evidence in the real world.
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