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History of Language

History of Language Sumeria Egypt China Mesoamerica Archaeology Linguistics

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#1
caltrek

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I have already started a Future of Language thread in the news and discussion forum, so when I came upon this article a History of Language thread seemed like a good idea.

 

How Humans Invented Writing

 

http://blogs.discove...ins-of-writing/

 

Introduction:

(Discover) About 5,000 years ago, 30 goats changed hands between Sumerians. To record the transaction, a receipt was carved onto a clay tag, about the size of a Post-it. Simple geometric signs represented the livestock and purveyor. The indents of circles and semicircles denoted the quantity exchanged.

 

Imagine how surprised these people would be to learn their receipt is now held in a museum.

 

That’s because the tag is one of the earliest texts from the oldest known writing system, Mesopotamian cuneiform, developed around 3,200 BC in the area of present-day Iraq. Like most surviving records from the time, it’s economic in nature, and about as riveting as a checkbook ledger. But the interesting part is not what these early texts said. It’s how they came to be.

 

These early texts beg the question: How was writing invented?

 

That question has at least four answers because writing was independently invented at least four times in human history: in ancient MesopotamiaEgyptChina and Mesoamerica. The scripts of these civilizations are considered pristine, or developed from scratch by societies with no exposure to other literate cultures. All other writing systems are thought to be modeled after these four, or at least after the idea of them.

Goat-Transfer-Tag-e1545233416622-1024x71

Two sides of a tag from ~3,100 BC Mesopotamia describing the transfer of 25 female and 5 male goats. 

(Credit: Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History; photo by K. Wagensonner)


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#2
caltrek

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Which Country Has The Most Languages

 

https://www.bbc.com/...-most-languages

 

(BBC) Which country ...?

 

Papua New Guinea has about eight million people, but more than 800 languages.

 

The oldest ones, in the Papuan group, date back tens of thousands of years.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#3
caltrek

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Below is a link to a continuation of the article cited in the opening post.

 

http://blogs.discove...iest-texts-say/


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#4
caltrek

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HISTORY OF THE OGHAM LANGUAGE

 

http://www.ireland-i...hamlanguage.htm

 

(Ireland-Information) The ancient Ogham script (pronounced 'oh-am') is most often found on Ogham stones that date back to the third century. Most examples of the writing is found on Ogham stones of which there are over 350 found mostly in southern Ireland as well as in Scotland, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and Wales. 

The transition to the use of the Roman alphabet took place about the sixth century. Most examples of Ogham writing confer the name of person that they represent, thus the stones are often memorial symbols. 

When carved on stones the first letter was at the base and the inscription read from the bottom up. Ogham is occasionally called the 'Celtic Tree alphabet' as many of the letters of Ogham refer to trees. 

The origin of Ogham is unclear with some scholars suggesting that the language was invented to allow the native Irish communicate in code that the Roman Britons would not understand. Other scholars contend that the language is of Christian origin and exists as a means of religious communication. 
 

 

See linked article for an interesting graphic of what is apparently the Ogham alphabet.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#5
caltrek

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Sequoyah

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoyah

 

Introduction:

(Wikipedia) Sequoyah... was an American and Cherokee silversmith. In 1821 he completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible. This was one of the very few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people created an original, effective writing system (another example being Shong Lue Yang). After seeing its worth, the people of the Cherokee Nation rapidly began to use his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825. Their literacy rate quickly surpassed that of surrounding European-American settlers.

 

 

220px-Sequoyah_Arranged_Syllabary.png

 

Sequoyah's syllabary in the order that he originally arranged the characters.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#6
caltrek

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Pop Goes The Weasel

 

https://www.phrases....the-weasel.html

 

Extract:

(The Phrase Finder) There's no real evidence to suggest that 'Pop goes the weasel' was anything other than the nonsense name of a dance or that the meaning of 'pop' and 'weasel' merit any further investigation.

 

People do like to speculate though so here's the most commonly repeated 'explanation' of the meaning of the phrase, that is, that it derives from the meaning of the well-known nursery rhyme.

 

Rhymes of this sort are repeated word of mouth and it's entirely plausible that it existed in oral form as a children's rhyme before 1850. This 'Chinese whispers' repetition is also the reason for the many variations on the rhyme. Whatever version is picked as the original, it isn't easy to determine the meaning of the words. The version most commonly used in England goes like this:

 

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

 

…A penny for a ball of thread
Another for a needle,
That’s the way the money goes,
pop goes the weasel.

weasel.jpg

A weasel

 

220px-Noe_haspel.jpg

A Spinner's weasel


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#7
caltrek

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In 1608, Captain John Smith recorded his siting of a racoon, referring to it by the word “raughroughhouns.” 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#8
caltrek

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I originally posted this in The Future of Language thread.  I think it more properly belongs in this thread:

 

How the Thanksgiving Turkey Was Named After the Country Turkey

 

http://theweek.com/a...-country-turkey

 

Extract:

 

 

The English didn't know they were from the Guinea area of west Africa. The trade that brought them to England came through Turkey. So guinea-fowl were called turkey-cocks. When the American birds were brought over, they were at first thought to be the same thing. When the two species were sorted out, the American ones kept the name turkey. The Latin genus name for turkeys also kept the confusion: It's Meleagris, which was a Greek name for guinea-fowl.

 

That accounts for some but not all of the names. The Spanish word for turkey, pavo, comes from the Latin for "peafowl" (yet another kind of bird). Italian's tacchino supposedly imitates the sound the bird makes (I think the Farsi name, booghalamoon, is a more accurate rendition, but I've never owned a live turkey, so what do I know).

 

 German's Truthuhn also does — it comes from Trut and Huhn (nothing to do with truth!), which means "trut hen," apparently from a "trut-trut" noise it makes. Meanwhile, in many Turkic languages (but not Turkish!) it has names that mean "blue bird"; in Japanese and Korean it is called "seven-faced bird" (shichimencho/chilmyeonjo); and the standard Mandarin Chinese name huoji means "fire chicken," though it has a few other Chinese names, my favorite of which is tushouji, "cough-up-a-ribbon chicken," because of the red wattle hanging from its beak.

 

...Oh, by the way, in Mexico, where the turkey came from originally, it's called guajolote. That comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) name for the bird: huehxolotl. At least someone is giving a geographically appropriate name.

 

So anyway, would you like some cranberry sauce with your huehxolotl?

42-44604707.jpg?itok=bFbAGl9A&resize=126

 

Peter Dawes/Food and Drink Photos/Corbis


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#9
TwinCentaur

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In just 1,000 years I know our language might seem unreal or we may not be able to speak it!

 

 

 

Praying for a working form of stasis though, the future is super cool!

 

 

 

Maybe they can accomplish all these things through natural means?



#10
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jU0FSy1.jpg



#11
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Massacre

 

 

In the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word "massacre" had a special meaning for Protestants, holding the same political potency as "holocaust" would for Jews in the twentieth.  Until the 1560s, it had simply been the French word for a butcher's block. Following the brutal religious wars that broke out in France during that period, it acquired its modern meaning.  It was used to describe the Spanish attack on Huguenots in Florida in 1562, but the crystallizing event was the infamous St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572.  The Catholic French monarchy was accused of conniving with Catholic extremists to slaughter thousands of Huguenots lured to Paris on the pretext of attending the wedding of their leader Henry of Navvare to the King's Catholic sister.

 

 

Source: Savage Kingdom, Benjamin Woolley, page 396.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#12
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Lay Off

 

https://theweek.com/...orality-layoffs

 

Extract:

(L)ayoffs in the sense we mean now — when a business decides to terminate the employment of workers in the name of strategic planning, downsizing, smartsizing, optimizing, leveraging syngergies, and goodness knows what other gibberish — are a relatively recent phenomenon. A century ago there was not even a word for such a practice. A "layoff," according to a glossary of business terms published in 1921, was a "Temporary cessation of employment due ordinarily to lack of orders; a layoff does not constitute permanent discharge." A worker in those days might be "laid off" because there was no work for him to do and the company could not engage him for surplus or speculative production without risking insolvency.

 

In the middle of the 20th century, following the gains made by organized labor, corporations did everything they could to avoid getting rid of workers after hiring them. Unless your business was closing down, there was simply no reason to gut your workforce, even if profits were down a bit. To do so would have been considered not only irresponsible but unethical. It was simply not done, and the response to a company that attempted to increase its earnings for shareholders in such a cutthroat manner would have been comparable to the outrage now generated when a CEO says that he opposes gay marriage.

 

As Louis Uchitelle shows in The Disposable American, his brilliant history of the modern layoff, it was not until the 1970s that corporations routinely began to fire employees en masse simply because it allowed them to save on labor costs.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#13
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Humans couldn't pronounce 'f' and 'v' sounds before farming developed
 
14 March 2019
 
Human speech contains more than 2000 different sounds, from the ubiquitous “m” and “a” to the rare clicks of some southern African languages. But why are certain sounds more common than others? A ground-breaking, five-year investigation shows that diet-related changes in human bite led to new speech sounds that are now found in half the world’s languages.
 
More than 30 years ago, the linguist Charles Hockett noted that speech sounds called labiodentals, such as “f” and “v”, were more common in the languages of societies that ate softer foods. Now a team of researchers led by Damián Blasi at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, has pinpointed how and why this trend arose.
 
They found that the upper and lower incisors of ancient human adults were aligned, making it hard to produce labiodentals, which are formed by touching the lower lip to the upper teeth. Later, our jaws changed to an overbite structure, making it easier to produce such sounds.
 
The team showed that this change in bite correlated with the development of agriculture in the Neolithic period. Food became easier to chew at this point, which led to changes in human jaws and teeth: for instance, because it takes less pressure to chew softer, farmed foods, the jawbone doesn’t have to do as much work and so doesn’t grow to be so large.
 
Analyses of a language database also confirmed that there was a global change in the sound of world languages after the Neolithic era, with the use of “f” and “v” increasing dramatically in recent millennia. These sounds are still not found in the languages of many hunter-gatherer people today.
 


#14
caltrek

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Why are so many languages spoken in some places and so few in others

 

https://theconversat...n-others-116573

 

Introduction:

 

(The Conversation) People across the world describe their thoughts and emotions, share experiences and spread ideas through the use of thousands of distinct languages. These languages form a fundamental part of our humanity. They determine whom we communicate with and how we express ourselves.

 

Despite continually mapping the distribution of languages across the world, scientists have few clear answers about what caused the emergence of thousands of languages. Collectively, human beings speak more than 7,000 distinct languages, and these languages are not uniformly distributed across the planet. For example, far more languages are spoken in tropical regions than in temperate areas.

 

But why are there so many languages spoken in some places and so few in others?

 

Our research team has been tackling this longstanding question by exploring language diversity patterns on the continent of North America.

file-20190812-71917-1flrn2t.png?ixlib=rb

 

A grid map of language ranges in North America prior to European contact.

 Coelho et al. RSPB 2019CC BY


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#15
PhoenixRu

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Why are so many languages spoken in some places and so few in others

 

Terrain is a key factor: mountains = the separate language/dialect in each and every valley, plain = one common language. Your picture shows the highest diversity exactly on the mountain range.

 

The same way, we have one common language on huge Russian plain, but dozens of languages in tiny (but mountainous) Dagestan:

 

Spoiler


#16
caltrek

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Evolution of Pictograms

 

https://en.wikipedia...tory_of_writing

 

800px-Comparative_evolution_of_Cuneiform

 

Comparative evolution from pictograms to abstract shapes, in Mesopotamian cuneiforms, Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese characters.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#17
caltrek

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There are a lot of interesting points made in the article I have linked below.  The introduction from that article that I have put in the quote box barely hints at some of those points, so I would recommend reading the whole article. Using the word count features of Word, I came up with a length of 1,290 words. (That excludes captions under two illustrations and a video).  So it is not all that long an article.

 

Examining how primates make vowel sounds pushes timeline for speech evolution back by 27 million years

 

 

https://theconversat...on-years-128514

 

Introduction:

 

(The Conversation Sound doesn’t fossilize. Language doesn’t either.

 

Even when writing systems have developed, they’ve represented full-fledged and functional languages. Rather than preserving the first baby steps toward language, they’re fully formed, made up of words, sentences and grammar carried from one person to another by speech sounds, like any of the perhaps 6,000 languages spoken today.

 

So if you believe, as we linguists do, that language is the foundational distinction between humans and other intelligent animals, how can we study its emergence in our ancestors?

Happily, researchers do know a lot about language – words, sentences and grammar – and speech – the vocal sounds that carry language to the next person’s ear – in living people.

 

So we should be able to compare language with less complex animal communication.

 

And that’s what we and our colleagues have spent decades investigating: How do apes and monkeys use their mouth and throat to produce the vowel sounds in speech? Spoken language in humans is an intricately woven string of syllables with consonants appended to the syllables’ core vowels, so mastering vowels was a key to speech emergence. We believe that our multidisciplinary findings push back the date for that crucial step in language evolution by as much as 27 million years.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#18
caltrek

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While I am here, I will also include a draft of a timeline I have prepared on the history of language. One way of expanding it would be to include more entries concerning the origins of specific words in the English language.  I think it would be fascinating to have a source that not only gives one information about from where a word derives, but also timeframes for when it was introduced and the evolution of meaning over time. I think one reason we have such a difficulty understanding the Bible is our failure to understand the context in which it was written. So a better understanding of the history of our language would help us understand latent meanings that even those using the words in their modern context may not fully appreciate.

 

Nei Ching by the legendary Chinese emperor Huang Ti is the most ancient of medical texts.[i]  2595 B.C.

The world’s first libraries are being set up at Shuppak and Eresh in Mesopotamia[ii] – circa 2500 B.C.

The Sumerians develop a cuneiform script alphabet of some 600 simplified signs[iii] circa  2500 B.C.

The script “Linear A” originates in Knossos[iv] circa 2500 B.C.

The story of Gilgamesh is written down[v] soon after 2000 B.C.

 

Sanskrit is traceable to the 2nd millennium BCE in a form known as Vedic Sanskrit, with the Rigveda as the earliest-known composition.

 

The Vedic, Hymn to Night, Dawn Has Arisen, and Our Welfare is Assured, are composed[vi] between 1500 to 1200 B.C.

Austronesians speak variations of Malayan, Indonesian, Filipino, Polynesian, and other Oceanic languages[vii] circa 1,100 B.C.

The Book of Isaiah is based on the ministry of Isaiah[viii] 742 B.C. to 687 B.C.

Micah of The Book of Micha was a contemporary of Isaiah.[ix]

The Dhammapada, a collection of the sayings of the Buddha, were probably first gathered in northern India in the third century B.C.

 

Currency of the different states is standardized to the Ban liang coin (半兩, Bàn Liǎng). Perhaps most importantly, the Chinese script is unified. This newly standardized script is then made official throughout all the conquered regions, thus doing away with all the regional scripts to form one language. 220 to 210 B.C.

Sanskrit becomes the mode of written communication in Southeast Asia as rulers begin to lead based on the Indian model[x] circa 50 A.D.

A form of prototype paper is evolved and made known to the Han government by the eunuch Cai Lun (or Tsai Lun).[xi]  105 A.D.

A Parthian monk named An Shigao arrives at Luoyang and begins the first translation of Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese.[xii] 147 A.D.

The English language originates in the dialects spoken by the early Germanic tribes – the Angles, Saxons and Jutes – who began to settle Britain following the departure of the Romans in the fifth century AD.

Printing blocks are invented in China.[xiii] 593 A.D.

 

Japanese scribes apply Chinese characters to write their own language and produce the first written constitution[xiv] circa 600 A.D.

The first canon of the Quran is compiled.[xv] 650s A.D.

 

Copying the Koran results in more artistic forms calligraphy.  Aspiring calligraphers study for years to achieve the perfectly rounded and proportioned letters[xvi] circa 650 A.D.

Ibn al-Muqaffa, a Persian convert to Islam and secretary to early Abbasid rulers, translates much of Sassanian Persian literature into Arabic[xvii] circa 750 A.D.

The Persian Sibawayh compiles the first grammar of written Arabic[xviii] circa 789 A.D.

The first papermaking factory in the Muslim Empire is built in Baghdad.[xix]  792 A.D.

The Judeo-Arabic literary language emerges[xx] circa 800 A.D.

Cyril and Methodius begin translating the Bible into the Slavonic language.[xxi]  863 A.D.

The Cyrillic alphabet is adopted in Eastern Europe.[xxii]  863 A.D.

Sassanids in eastern Iran reintroduce literature to Persia, but with Arabic script and vocabulary.[xxiii]  874 A.D.

A phonetic syllabary is developed to transcribe the Japanese language, allowing for the expression of native culture[xxiv] circa 900 A.D.

 

Printing is used for the first time to reproduce Confucian classics.[xxv]  932 A.D.

Bi Sheng  (also spelled as Pi Sheng) invents movable type in China[xxvi] circa 1000+ A.D.

 

The French words boeuf, mouton, veau, porc, and poularde  introduced as a result of William the Conquerors led invasion of England will be the basis of the English words beef, multon, veal, pork, and poultry. The invasion takes place[xxvii] in 1066 A.D.

Yosuf writes Wisdom of Royal Glory. It is the first major literary work in Turkish.[xxviii] 1069 A.D.

The dialect of the Īle-de-France becomes the dominant idiom there.[xxix] 1100 A.D.

The Black Book of Carmarthem is written. It is now considered the oldest Welsh manuscript.[xxx]  1150 A.D.

A Korean Buddhist text is printed for the first time with movable metal type.[xxxi] 1377 A.D.

Gutenberg prints an edition of the Bible. 1456 A.D.

The Table Alphabeticall  is considered by some to be the first English dictionary and was compiled by Robert Cawdrey. 1604 A.D

Doctor Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language is published.[xxxii] 1755 A.D.

 

The first textbook of Western science is published in Chinese, Introduction to Natural Philosophy (Gewu Rumen).[xxxiii] 1868 A.D. 

The word “empathy” is coined from the German word Einfühlung (literally “in-feeling”). 1908 A.D.

 

Millions watch the televised debate between candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.  It is the first ever televised presidential debate.[xxxiv]  September 26, 1960 A.D.

 

Emoji are developed in Japan for use by teenagers on their pagers; the word emoji derives from the Japanese e “picture” + moji “character, letter.”[xxxv]  1990s


 

Guide to written sources:

 

Bible- The New American Bible - A Catholic version of the Bible in English

DeCamp - The Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague De Camp

Isbouts - The Story of Christianity by Jean-Pierre Isbouts

Kagan - Concise History of the World edited by Neil Kagan

K&K -The Chronicle of World History published by Konecky & Konecky 

NG - Essential Visual History of the World published by National Geographic.

Roberts - A Short History of the World written by J.M. Roberts 

Trager - The People's Chronology by James Trager

World Poetry

 

 


[i] Trager


[ii] K&K


[iii] Trager.  They had earlier developed a written language using thousands of picture-signs, or ideograms, as in the Gilgamesh legend.


[iv] NG


[v] Roberts


[vi] World Poetry. See also Kagan.


[vii] Kagan


[viii] Bible


[ix] Bible


[x] Kagan


[xi] K&K. De Camp. Isbouts dates the oldest known use of paper at 110 A.D. See also Kagan.


[xii] Kagan


[xiii] Kagan


[xiv] Kagan


[xv] Isbouts


[xvi] Kagan


[xvii] Kagan


[xviii] Kagan


[xix] Kagan


[xx] Kagan


[xxi] Isbouts


[xxii] Kagan


[xxiii] Kagan


[xxiv] Kagan. Trager indicates that the Hirgana alphabet was becoming popular with Japanese women in 1860.


[xxv] Trager


[xxvi] De Camp. Kagan indicates Bi Sheng did this circa 1040. Trager indicates Pi Sheng used this method in the eight years starting 1041.


[xxvii] Trager


[xxviii] Kagan


[xxix] Kagan


[xxx] Kagan


[xxxi] Kagan


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#19
caltrek

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...in 1734 George Sale had published his translation of the Koran which gave readers...an accurate English translation for the first time. This translation is one of the finest achievements of the Age of Reason and represented a considerable avance.  It must be said, alas, that Sale was not perfect.

 

 

-Holy War, Karen Armstrong


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#20
caltrek

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Namby-pamby

 

https://en.m.wikiped...ki/Namby-pamby 

 

 

 

Namby Pamby is a term for affected, weak, and maudlin speech/verse. It originates from Namby Pamby (1725) by Henry Carey.

 

 

Edit: I should mention that this was found on the internet by Starspawn. 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: History of Language, Sumeria, Egypt, China, Mesoamerica, Archaeology, Linguistics

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