ユダヤ・キリスト教の聖書の伝統によれば，言語の創成と拡散にまつわる神話は，それぞれアダムとバベルの塔の逸話に集約される．これは，歴史的に語られてきた言語起源説のなかでも群を抜いて広く知られ，古く，長きにわたって信じられてきた言説だろう．その概要を，Mufwene (15--16) によるダイジェスト版で示そう．
Speculations about the origins of language and linguistic diversity date from far back in the history of mankind. Among the most cited cases is the book of Genesis, in the Judeo-Christian Bible. After God created Adam, He reportedly gave him authority to name every being that was in the Garden of Eden. Putatively, God and Adam spoke some language, the original language, which some scholars have claimed to be Hebrew, the original language of Bible. Adam named every entity God wanted him to know; and his wife and descendants accordingly learned the names he had invented.
Although the story suggests the origin of naming conventions, it says nothing about whether Adam named only entities or also actions and states. In any case, it suggests that it was necessary for Adam's wife and descendants to learn the same vocabulary to facilitate successful communication.
Up to the eighteenth century, reflecting the impact of Christianity, pre-modern Western philosophers and philologists typically maintained that language was given to mankind, or that humans were endowed with language upon their creation. Assuming that Eve, who was reportedly created from Adam's rib, was equally endowed with (a capacity for) language, the rest was a simple history of learning the original vocabulary or language. Changes needed historical accounts, grounded in natural disasters, in population dispersals, and in learning with modification . . . .
The book of Genesis also deals with the origin of linguistic diversity, in the myth of the Tower of Babel (11: 5--8), in which the multitude of languages is treated as a form of punishment from God. According to the myth, the human population had already increased substantially, generations after the Great Deluge in the Noah's Ark story. To avoid being scattered around the world, they built a city with a tower tall enough to reach the heavens, the dwelling of God. The tower apparently violated the population structure set up at the creation of Adam and Eve. God brought them down (according to some versions, He also destroyed the tower), dispersed them around the world, and confounded them by making them speak in mutually unintelligible ways. Putatively, this is how linguistic diversity began. The story suggests that sharing the same language fosters collaboration, contrary to some of the modern Darwinian thinking that joint attention and cooperation, rather than competition, facilitated the emergence of language . . . .
最後の部分の批評がおもしろい．バベルの塔の神話では「言語を共有していると協働しやすくなる」ことが示唆されるが，近代の言語起源論ではむしろ「協働こそが言語の発現を容易にした」と説かれる．この辺りの議論は，言語と社会の相関関係や因果関係の問題とも密接に関係し，サピア＝ウォーフの仮説 (sapir-whorf_hypothesis) へも接続するだろう．バベルの塔から言語相対論へとつながる道筋があるとは思っても見なかったので，驚きの発見だった．
バベルの塔については，最近，「#2928. 古英語で「創世記」11:1--9 （「バベルの塔」）を読む」 ([2017-05-03-1]) と「#2938. 「バベルの塔」の言語観」 ([2017-05-13-1]) で話題にしたので，そちらも参照されたい．
・ Mufwene, Salikoko S. "The Origins and the Evolution of Language." Chapter 1 of The Oxford Handbook of the History of Linguistics. Ed. Keith Allan. Oxford: OUP, 2013.
Powered by WinChalow1.0rc4 based on chalow