divina commedia

Adamic language

The Adamic language is, according to Abrahamic traditions, the mythical language spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adamic is typically identified with either the language used by God to address Adam, or the language invented by Adam (Book of Genesis 2:19).

Medieval and early modern discussions

Traditional Jewish exegesis such as Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 38) says that Adam spoke Hebrew because the names he gives Eve - "Isha" (Book of Genesis 2:23) and "Chava" (Genesis 3:20) - only make sense in Hebrew. By contrast, Kabbalism assumed an "eternal Torah" which was not identical to the Torah written in Hebrew. Thus, Abulafia in the 13th century assumed that the language spoken in Paradise had been different from Hebrew, and rejected the claim then current also among Christian authors, that a child left unexposed to linguistic stimulus would automatically begin to speak in Hebrew. Eco (1993) notes that Genesis is ambiguous on whether the language of Adam was preserved by Adam's descendants until the confusion of tongues (Genesis 11:1-9), or if it began to evolve naturally even before Babel (Genesis 10:5).

Dante addresses the topic in his De Vulgari Eloquentia. He argues that the Adamic language is of divine origin and therefore unchangeable. He also notes that according to Genesis, the first speech act is due to Eve, addressing the serpent, and not to Adam.

In his Divina Commedia, however, Dante changes his view to the effect that the Adamic language was the product of Adam. This had the consequence that it could not any longer be regarded immutable, and hence Hebrew could not be regarded as identical with the language of Paradise. Dante concludes (Paradiso XXVI) that Hebrew is a derivative of the language of Adam. In particular, the chief Hebrew name for God in scholastic tradition, El, must be derived of a different Adamic name for God, which Dante reconstructs as I.

One might note with the Hebrew theory that Hebrew is an Afro-Asiatic language, and the source of these is believed to be Ethiopia, where the greatest diversity of these languages can be found. Arabic, which is related to Hebrew, could also lay claim to being the original Adamic language for this reason, which many Muslim scholars do. Those scholars who do not believe the Afro-Asiatic languages were the descendants of the Adamic language trace them to Abraham instead of Noah and Adam.

Some Christian scholars based on Genesis 10:5 have assumed that the Japhetite, or Indo-European, languages are rather the direct descendants of the Adamic language, having separated before the confusion of tongues, by which also Hebrew was affected. For example, a few early Christian fathers claimed that Adam spoke Latin to explain why God would make it the liturgical language of his Church, although "Latin" here would be a loose way of referring to its ancestor, Proto-Indo-European. The same is claimed by Anne Catherine Emmerich (1790), who stated in her private revelations that the most direct descendants of the Adamic language were Bactrian, Zend and Indian languages (i.e., the Indo-Iranian languages), associating the Adamic language with the then-recent concept of the "common source" of these tongues, now known as Proto-Indo-European, that presumably was written in a assumedly sentence-level ideographic script that was more abstract than word-level ideographic script. One interesting fact is that the Behistun Inscription, written in Old Persian, begins with adam, meaning "I am".

According to Ernst Cassirer, "The sixteenth- and seventeenth-century philosophers of language still supposed that phenomena of onomatopoeia offered the key to the basic and original language of mankind, the lingua adamica". The modern concept corresponding to that of the Adamic language is that of the Proto-World language, but rather than positing divine inspiration, linguists also assume that it arose from proto-linguistic forms of communication.

Recent treatments of a "language of Eden", such as the Edenics of Isaac E. Mozeson, suggested in his The Origin of Speeches: Intelligent Design in Language: From the Language of Eden to Our Babble After Babel, are the examples of modern scientific literature based partly on religious beliefs.

In Mormonism

Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, in his version of the Bible, declared the Adamic language to have been "pure and undefiled". Some Latter Day Saints believe it to be the language of God. Though different from Hebrew, the Hebrew language was thought to contain remnants of this ancient language, including the words Elohim and Jehovah.

Some other early Mormon leaders, including Brigham Young, Orson Pratt and Elizabeth Ann Whitney claimed to have received several words in the Adamic language in revelations. Some Latter Day Saints believe that the Adamic language is the "pure language" spoken of by Zephaniah and that it will be restored as the universal language of humankind at the end of the world.

Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt declared that "Ahman", part of the name of the settlement "Adam-ondi-Ahman" in Daviess County, Missouri, was the name of God in the Adamic language.

The Mormon Endowment prayer circle once included use of the words "Pay Lay Ale", which adherents believed were Adamic words meaning "Oh God, hear the words of my mouth". The untranslated words are no longer used in temple ordinances and have been replaced by the English version. Some think that the "Pay Lay Ale" sentence is derived from Hebrew sentence "pe le-El", 'mouth to God'.

Other words thought by some Mormons to derive from the Adamic language include deseret ("honey bee", see Ether 2:3, but some argue "deseret" can be traced to the Egyptian word dsrt, which in fact refers to the honey bee), and Ahman ("God"). Some have also taken the word shelem to mean "height" (see Ether 3:1) though the passage states, "...which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height..." not necessarily implying that the word actually means "height," but more practically that the word has at least something to do with "exceeding height."

In the Pearl of Great Price, a section of Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, it refers to "a Book of Remembrance", written in language of Adam. It is believed that this was the beginning of what is recognized as the Old Testament today.


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