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Friday, February 27, 2015

How Did Joseph Do What He Did in Translating the Book of Mormon? Further Evidence for Early Modern English Influence

The mystery of Early Modern English (EModE) grammar in the original text of the Book of Mormon just became more interesting with Stanford Carmack's latest in-depth analysis, "The Implications of Past-Tense Syntax in the Book of Mormon" at MormonInterpreter.com.

Here Stanford explores the pervasive and archaic use of "did" in the Book of Mormon, particularly the "affirmative declarative periphrastic" did, or ADP did. Brace yourselves for some intense grammar and loads of intriguing data showing that the unusual usage of this grammatical form in the Book of Mormon strongly differs from the King James Bible and other books available to Joseph Smith, and differs strongly from the English of Joseph Smith's day, but is consistent with EModE patterns a few decades before the KJV was produced. There is a remarkable fingerprint in the Book of Mormon that defies common efforts to ascribe the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith's authorship.

Here is Stanford's abstract:
Abstract: In the middle of the 16th century there was a short-lived surge in the use of the auxiliary did to express the affirmative past tense in English, as in Moroni «did arrive» with his army to the land of Bountiful (Alma 52:18). The 1829 Book of Mormon contains nearly 2,000 instances of this particular syntax, using it 27% of the time in past-tense contexts. The 1611 King James Bible — which borrowed heavily from Tyndale’s biblical translations of the 1520s and ’30s — employs this syntax less than 2% of the time. While the Book of Mormon’s rate is significantly higher than the Bible’s, it is close to what is found in other English-language texts written mainly in the mid- to late 1500s. And the usage died out in the 1700s. So the Book of Mormon is unique for its time — this is especially apparent when features of adjacency, inversion, and intervening adverbial use are considered. Textual evidence and syntactic analysis argue strongly against both 19th-century composition and an imitative effort based on King James English. Book of Mormon past-tense syntax could have been achieved only by following the use of largely inaccessible 16th-century writings. But mimicry of lost syntax is difficult if not impossible, and so later writers who consciously sought to imitate biblical style failed to match its did-usage at a deep, systematic level. This includes Ethan Smith who in 1823 wrote View of the Hebrews, a text very different from both the Bible and the Book of Mormon in this respect. The same may be said about Hunt’s The Late War and Snowden’s The American Revolution.
The fingerprint of EModE in the original text is fascinating and ably documented in this and Carmack's other works, and yet there are times when the translation may have been loose. See Brant Gardner’s 2011 book, The Gift and the Power. Gardner’s work on this topic has some weaknesses, as David Bokovoy has pointed out, but one example I find especially interesting is the reference to the “five Books of Moses” in the BOM text, which most likely were not a set of five books in Nephi’s day. I think the original text may have made a reference to the Torah or the books of Moses, and Joseph modified it in the translation process to refer to the five books of Moses as we know them. That’s a moment of loose translation.

I think the debate over tight and loose translation is a bit like the tension between the wave and particle properties of matter. Perhaps the translation process involves both to varying degrees, with the delivery of information to Joseph being provided with initial tight control that he then sometimes adjusted in his role as translator, resulting at times in loose control. When I see translations of Chinese, there are often parts where I feel there is "tight control" and parts where things are rather loose. I can imagine both occurring for a variety of reasons in a divinely inspired Book of Mormon with a tightly controlled pre-translation being available for Joseph to access and apply. But that's just my speculation.

I’d love to have a day-long panel discussion with Stanford Carmack, Brant Gardner, Royal Skousen, David Bokovoy, and maybe someone like Daniel Peterson, John Tvedtnes, and Bill Hamblin, etc., to discuss the ins and outs of tight vs. loose control and the implications of EModE. Who else would you like to see on such a panel?


PP said...

That would be an epic panel. Even more epic would be including Brent Metcalfe in the mix for a critical viewpoint, but I'm afraid the room might explode with such a mix.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Better yet would be for Carmack to submit his work to a respected linguistics journal to be peer-reviewed by non-LDS linguists.

Jeff, why won't you join me in asking for this? How can you possibly object?

Orbiting Kolob said...

Can anyone tell me how this statement by Carmack makes sense? --

...mimicry of lost syntax is difficult if not impossible, and so later writers who consciously sought to imitate biblical style failed to match its did-usage at a deep, systematic level. This includes Ethan Smith who in 1823 wrote View of the Hebrews, a text very different from both the Bible and the Book of Mormon in this respect.

If I'm reading this right, Carmack is saying that Ethan Smith, in writing View of the Hebrews, "consciously sought to imitate biblical style."

But Ethan Smith clearly did no such thing. He wasn't trying to mimic the KJV; he was laying out an expository argument using the American English of his own day. (To see what I mean, see here.)

Carmack repeats this strange mistake when he writes in The Interpreter that "We have seen that some who intentionally tried to follow King James English in their writings did not match 16c adp did usage. Their efforts do not positively correlate with that stage of English: Snowden’s The American Revolution, Hunt’s The Late War, and Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews ended up well off the mark."

Since View of the Hebrews does not try to "follow King James English," for Carmack to say that it "ended up well off the mark" is just wrong.

everythingbeforeus said...

But the Bible does use this syntax. Maybe only 2% of the time as cited in the abstract, but that is enough to at least bring it to Joseph's attention. And if it sounded old-timey, maybe he liked it enough to use it more often. It shows up early in Genesis: (the serpent tempted me and I "did eat.") So if he only lazily read his Bible, he definitely would've seen it. It isn't hidden away in Habbakuk, you know.

So, it is probably more reasonable to suspect that Joseph Smith saw this construction and just overused it to sound like the Bible.

Otherwise, Carmack needs to explain why and how it got in the Book of Mormon. It seems the only conclusion he can draw is that it proves Smith didn't write it. Not only does it NOT do that, but it also raises the question how exactly it got in there then.

Some people in the comments section at the Interpreter are suggesting that Tyndale must have been somehow involved in the translation process.

See how it goes! It isn't possible that Smith liked the way "did" sounded in the few instances it shows up in the Bible. The conclusion is that Tyndale got involved on the other side of the veil to bring the BoM into being.

What is it that Peter says in the Bible about not following cunningly-devised fables?

James Anglin said...

I happened to hear a lot of the King James Bible during the year I went to one particular school.
I haven't actually read very much of the Book of Mormon, but my immediate and strong reaction to what I did read was that it sounded like a way-overdone imitation of King James English. I noticed right away that it seemed to pile on the most King-James-y turns of phrase far more thickly than the actual King James Bible did.

As far as I'm concerned, what this analysis shows is that what I perceive as 'most King-James-y' in a turn of phrase is in fact archaism: the features that stand out as most different from modern English, because they are the most old-fashioned parts of the King James style. The hypothesis that Joseph Smith just made up the Book of Mormon seems to me to be strengthened, not weakened.

I never understood why God should choose to make a new revelation in an archaic dialect of English. It's even harder to understand why God would make a new revelation in an anachronistic mixture of archaic dialects. But it's quite easy to see how an unlettered man trying to sound like revelation would aim for King James English, but overdo the archaisms.

Jules said...

Once again, I must point out that this undermines the "loose" translation model favored by most apologists. It's inconsistent to claim that God caused Joseph to use the word "did" a certain way but not the words for horse, cow, ox, goat, steel, etc. Either you have anachronisms and providential EmodE, or you don't.

Also, anyone who claims that the Book of Mormon is written in EmodE needs to explain why the many passages that are copied directly from the King James Bible weren't rephrased into EmodE.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Orbiting, Stanford made a mistake when he included Ethan Smith in the list of those consciously trying to imitate KJV language. I think that was a slip of the pen. But he did analyze several books that are in KJV style and have been proposed as sources--even smoking guns--for the Book of Mormon. His point is important: those seeking to imitate the Bible tend to use syntax that is modern or that reflects KJV style, but not EModE. This was also the case in his analysis of command syntax.

Thanks for pointing out a slip in his text. That's the kind of thing peer review does well, too. I think peer review would be valuable and think some aspects of his work should be and probably will be submitted for such review, BUT I think your stance of "I'll consider the evidence once it passes peer review" is more of a copout than a reasonable approach to religious issues. This inability of the world's "peers" to take evidence for the divine seriously will be a huge barrier to getting this work peer reviewed and published in the kind of journal you might demand. Even if Carmack is 100% correct (99% now that you've pointed out a slip of the pen) and if linguistics with solid statistical analysis do provide shocking evidence for strange origins of the Book of Mormon that rule out a 19th-century author, I think that most relevant journals would balk at the paper before ever giving it a serious look. I think most of the world's esteemed "peers" would be like you, refusing to even read the evidence seriously.

Have you read Thomas Kuhn's book on science and revolution? Peer review often fails in dealing with paradigm breaking research. It's great for advances within the context of established paradigms and standard methods, but when it deals with more wild or unfamiliar territory, the esteemed peers are going to be uncomfortable or antagonistic. Papers touching upon matters of faith are going to create extreme discomfort and an inability to approach the subject matter without bias. That's human nature. But sometimes shocking work does get fairly reviewed and published. So let's give it a try, but it's not fair to demand that and close your mind until it happens.

Seriously, if a year from now there is a peer reviewed publication from Carmack, would that really change anything for you? Or would you say, "Well, not that journal. Not those reviewers. I want to see it peer reviewed by Nobel Laureates and published in Acta Supercalifragilistica. Then I'll read it. Then I'll give it a chance. Not a moment before."

Is peer review really what we need to fairly evaluate evidences for the divine? Or even just the revolutionary, paradigm-busting breakthrough?

The miracles and teachings of Christ were subjected to peer review. The result is known as the Crucifixion. But I'm sticking with Christ nonetheless.

everythingbeforeus said...

Not a slip of the pen. A slip of the pen would've been to say Ethan Smith when he meant someone else. Carmack writes, "This includes Ethan Smith..." So, he really went out of his way to make sure Ethan Smith was included in the group. So this was a slip of something else.

Jules said...


The value of peer review would be for qualified people to examine Carmack’s natural claims. Is the Book of Mormon written in a style that never otherwise occurs in Joseph Smith’s environment? Is the evidence statistically significant? Are the proper statistical tests performed and interpreted correctly? A group of peers can answer these questions without agreeing with the conclusion that therefore Joseph Smith was a prophet, a conclusion that doesn’t necessarily follow anyway.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Jeff, if Carmack's reference to View of the Hebrews is a slip of the pen, it's one mighty big slip. How does one's pen slip in a way that produces entire sentences? And if a slip was all this was, and Carmack didn't really mean to include VotH in the class of Bible imitations, then why did he go on to analyze the book's use of "did" syntax? He might as well have analyzed the use of "did" in the Federalist Papers.

Maybe Carmack has good reasons for treating VotH as he did, but if so I'd like him to explain them.

As for peer review and paradigm shifts, your reading of Kuhn is basically right. But it's wrong to say that secular science always and automatically rejects findings with spiritual implications. To give just one example, secular archaeology has accepted the authenticity of the House of David inscription on the Tel Dan Stele, even though it advanced the believers' cause and demolished the skeptics' claims that King David was legendary rather than historical. The evidence was there, and the skeptics conceded.

Also, of course, the whole point of apologetics is to work within the existing paradigm; that's what distinguishes it from faith. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that Carmack submit an article that explicitly proclaims itself to be proof of the Book of Mormon, merely as an interesting and as-yet unexplained fact about a 19th-Century American text. Job One is to establish the technical validity of the findings; after that we can all discuss their spiritual significance, just has everyone did in the wake of Tel Dan.

So, again, why is Carmack hiding his light under a bushel? My own suspicion is that he knows on some level that his methodology is shaky. (At the very least he should be sending his work to other LDS linguists. Since his Interpreter articles lack any acknowledgements, I'm guessing he hasn't done this.)

Let me now turn up the heat a bit. Let me now argue for peer review as a moral imperative. The argument runs like this:

Peer review reduces the risk of misleading people.

To mislead people is morally wrong.

To run the risk of misleading people by consciously dodging an established procedure for reducing that risk is also wrong (in much the same way that releasing a drug without properly testing it is wrong -- even if the drug ultimately proves perfectly safe and effective).

Ergo, Carmack's strategy of publishing only in LDS venues and avoiding peer review is immoral.

Here's another moral argument: The bios for Carmack's Interpreter articles mention his academic credentials and publications. It's fair to say that those credentials increase his persuasive authority: they help him to convince his readers. But the way he gained that authority in the first place was by submitting his work for rigorous expert review, first by a dissertation committee and then by peer reviewers. Peer review is how academic authority is earned, and also how it is kept. I would suggest that for Carmack to invoke that authority for work that is not peer reviewed is also immoral. It's a subtle way of misleading the unsophisticated reader.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Or, in other words, what ETBU and Jules said, far more concisely than I.

James Anglin said...

If Carmack actually tries to argue in his paper that the Book of Mormon is divine in origin, then that part won't get into any linguistics journal, because it's not linguistics. But if he just sticks to grammar analysis, then linguistic peer reviewers might approve or disapprove of Carmack's analysis, but no-one is going to reject his work just because of its conclusions about Book of Mormon grammar. No-one who is skeptical about the Book of Mormon is even going to want to object, because these results fit so well with the fraud theory.

If other people who imitated King James style came out sounding different from the Book of Mormon, this says very little. Imitation is not a dialect in its own right, with rules that everyone follows. Maybe Smith was simply unusually clumsy in his imitation, and slathered on the archaisms, while others were really only aiming at a bit of King James flavor, and relaxed into more modern English more often.

Anonymous said...

View of the Hebrews does quote a lot of scripture and is in a heavy, formal style, but not KJV English. I'm willing to forgive Carmack's mistake in classifying it as a KJV-imitator, but I am grateful that he considered it. Motivated me to look at View of the Hebrews again. For me, it's very hard to see how people would think this was a major source for the Book of Mormon.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Anonymous, B. H. Roberts (an LDS General Authority) studied View of the Hebrews closely and came to a quite different conclusion. I find Roberts' work far more convincing than that of any of the apologists.

Jeff Lindsay said...

You're right, "slip of the pen" is the wrong way to describe whatever happened in misclassifying View of the Hebrews. Plain ol' "mistake" is better. I think it was important to include that text in the analysis since it used to be one of the most popular attempts to show Book of Mormon plagiarism, and the findings are relevant, but not as an example of someone trying to imitate KJV language.

In addition to texts already considered such as the Late War, I'd recommend the 1822 Quran translation for that purpose and also the First Book of Napoleon.

I also suspect that this and other aspects of Carmack's work will be submitted for peer review, and look forward to seeing the secular aspects of the work be refined through that process. But that may take a few years, depending on the journal.

Jeff Lindsay said...

You realize, of course, that Roberts was deliberately playing devil's advocate to explore possible attacks that could be made on the Book of Mormon, but he personally remained a faithful believer. His parallels are not of much concern and easily dealt with, especially when we abandon his assumption of a hemispheric scope for the Book of Mormon and replace it with a more reasonable limited geography model.

Resources: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Authorship_theories/View_of_the_Hebrews and http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1110&index=22.

View of the Hebrews was not viewed as a possible source for the Book of Mormon in the 19th century, as far as I know, but only after the Spaulding theory failed miserably did 20th century critics in their ever-broadening search for other sources propose View as the new smoking gun. Now other smoking guns are being sought.

champatsch said...

OK: Welch briefly examined the issue of borrowing from VH years ago. There is meager evidence for a link, both from thematic and linguistic elements. You do know that B.H. Roberts rejected the notion that the Book of Mormon was not divine and that he was simply objectively analyzing possible parallels. There is no need to be misleading with your reference to Roberts.

As you know, there are many unparallels between the two books. It is flimsy evidence. Even if Roberts had not been merely offering possible parallels, he was misled at the time by a generally prevailing hemispheric view and wrong about the BofM being full of "errors in diction". And he would be glad to admit it according to the truth.

While it may have been inaccurate to lump VH in with The Late War, I note that the text does show conscious archaizing, under biblical influence, in its lexis, morphology, and syntax. Briefly, one example of each. E. Smith used "slew" 10 times instead of "killed" when the latter was certainly the prevailing form in the 1820s (there are nearly 200 instances of "slew" in the KJB; VH has "slain" 16 times and "killed" three times instead of "slain"; the KJB has 67 instances of "killed"). E. Smith used "rebuilded" instead of "rebuilt". The former was much less common than the latter, in the 17c! But E. Smith used it because "builded" is found 50 times in the KJB. And the first awkward did construction — "Long did the church, while they walked with God, there see and enjoy peace" — can be argued to be structured that way under biblical influence (similar to Acts 2:31). So VH shows biblical influence to a small degree, LW to a large degree.

Ellegard's breakdown of did use, applied to VH, presents a picture very different from that of the BofM. Had J. Smith carefully read and absorbed E. Smith's work in order to construct his BofM narrative, then there would be a closer match in pervasive past-tense syntax. That is a strong viewpoint because E. Smith's patterns must be close to J. Smith's own patterns, since the linguistic heritage of both of them was New England. The view of the critics is strained and unlikely. (I may make at some point an exhaustive comparison of both did and do in VH, LW, and the BofM and obtain 12-item correlations that are very reliable.)

The Late War is of course interesting because it shows how unlikely it was for J. Smith to match 16c patterns if he had been trying to be biblical.

everythingbeforeus said...

champmatsch, I think I agree with you that VH is a weak criticism. I read a bit of it and saw a real disparity between it and the Book of Mormon in terms of tone, content, etc.

However, while I think VH wasn't used to "cut and paste" passages into the Book of Mormon, I think it would be wrong to say it had nothing to do with the Book of Mormon. It at least shows that in the 19th Century in northeast USA amongst the people whom Joseph Smith knew, there was already interest about where the native Americans came from. And there was enough interest that someone would write about it. And not only that, but draw a link between the "Indians" and the Hebrews.

Why do so many Medieval stories share similar motifs and themes? Why do so many Victorian era stories share similar motifs and themes? Why is there a common link between vampire novels today?

Stuff gets itself into the bloodstream of culture, and then crops up over and over again. Will we ever get enough of the zombie stories? This has been going on for years now! Each new zombie movie is derivative of all the other zombie movies, even if they are completely different in terms of tone, content, etc.

So, dismissing VH is foolish. A link between the Hebrews and the Native Americans was already in the ether when Joseph Smith sat down to write or translate the Book of Mormon. This at the very least takes off some of the glorious veneer of the "Prophet of the Restoration" narrative. At least.

champatsch said...

ETBU: I think you are right in much of what you say, although the link is tenuous. Having a deep syntactic match between VH and the BofM would help make the case, and it's not there. Also, why would a fraudster mention VH, as Smith did in the 1840s, if he had used it to commit his fraud? I suppose one could say that he was being tricky, attempting to throw people off by pre-emptive strike.

Well, I dismiss VH confidently on other grounds. One is that the BofM stands firmly on its own as a text that has dozens of highly improbable matches with Early Modern English (some of them involving language that Smith could not have known). I am working on the matching now, and when viewed in its entirety it is remarkable. And the beautiful thing is that many of the grammatical criticisms leveled at the BofM through the decades point directly to matches with nonbiblical EModE, which was full of interesting variation, some of which is in the BofM.

Anonymous said...

This upcoming conference is not exactly the panel discussion you crave, but it's on the way there!


Orbiting Kolob said...

ETBU is exactly right.

Jeff and Champ are grossly misconstruing the evidentiary significance of View of the Hebrews.

The argument apologists need to engage is NOT that Joseph Smith plagiarized VotH, nor that he imitated it (its style or theme), nor some other straw man.

The argument, rather, is that VotH proves that in Smith's time and place there was (as ETBU wrote) a keen "interest about where the native Americans came from." VotH injected "into the bloodstream of culture" the possibility that Native Americans were of Israelite origin; that the expatriate Israelites split into two groups, one good and one bad, and fought tremendous wars; that they left behind the ruins and burial mounds that excited so much interest and speculation; and much more that we see in the Book of Mormon. He did all this using copious quotations from Isaiah, just like Smith. He did all this just a few years before Smith wrote the BoM, and he published his book a stone's throw from Smith's home.*

It is ludicrous to dismiss all this because Smith didn't copy VotH slavishly, or that he didn't imitate Ethan Smith's style, or that some elements of the BoM are not present in VotH. It is ludicrous because it is such a silly misconstrual of what the words "source" and "influence" mean in the first place.

One could use the exact same misconstrual to argue that Holinshed's Chronicles was not a source for Shakespeare (if, that is, one wanted to become a laughingstock).

Two comments on B. H. Roberts:

(1) The question of his belief is an open one. In an essay in Dialogue, Brigham Madsen (who edited the Illinois University Press edition of Studies of the Book of Mormon) wrote the following:

"Wesley P. Lloyd only six weeks before the death of Roberts reported him saying 'that the plates were not objective but subjective with Joseph Smith, that his exceptional imagination qualified him psychologically for the experience which he had in presenting to the world the Book of Mormon and that the plates with the Urim and Thummim were not objective.' In other words, and in the plain kind of language that Roberts liked to employ, there were no gold plates, there was only Joseph Smith drawing upon his creative imagination to formulate and write a work of fiction called the Book of Mormon. This preeminent Mormon intellectual and church authority was a conscientious scholar who was willing to follow wherever the evidence led him."

It is perfectly reasonable to suppose that Roberts disbelieved in the historicity of the BoM but nonetheless remained in the Church because he loved it as an institution. Many testimony-less members have done so and continue to do so.

(2) Madsen also reports that the Church-commissioned biography of Roberts makes no mention of Studies of the Book of Mormon -- if true, an astonishing act of intellectual cowardice.

* Of course, the Israelite theory of Native Americans was already part of Smith's culture and had been for a long time. Ethan Smith seems to have provided particulars that go beyond the general idea. Also prevalent in Smith's milieu was the Hamitic theory of the origin of (and cursing of) black people, which regrettably found its way into the Book of Abraham -- I say "regrettably" because what had been only a matter of folk belief was elevated by Smith into a matter of canon. Anyway, for disinterested scholars it is simply indisputable that Joseph Smith drew upon 19th-century culture in writing his texts.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Having a deep syntactic match between VH and the BofM would help make the case.

Actually, there's no need at all for a "deep syntactic match" to make this case.

When we're talking about one text being a source of or an influence on another, there is absolutely no need for such a match. Do we need a "deep syntactic match" to claim Holinshed as a source for Shakespeare, or (what the heck) The Honeymooners as a source for The Flintstones?

Why do you insist on this idea? Are you trying to frame the argument in such a way that it hinges wholly on your expertise? What's your game?

everythingbeforeus said...

Romeo and Juliet vs West Side Story
Taming of the Shrew vs Kiss Me, Kate
The Odyssey vs O Brother Where Art Thou

No "syntactical match" but you don't get the latter without the former.

everythingbeforeus said...

I accidentally posted this on the wrong thread. Oops. But I repost it here where it belongs.

How much "did" is too much "did?" Because I have been doing a very brief and amateurish analysis of the writings of Samuel Hopkins and Moses Stuart, late 18th, early 19th Century theologians. Alexander Campbell apparently often quoted Stuart. And Stuart's writings are apparently full of quotes by Hopkins. And I am finding this EmodE did syntax quite a bit.

...did entertain...did become...did contribute...did send...did sin...did connect...did carry...did bring...did die...did suffer...did much abate...did hate...did permit...did say...did acquiesce...did harden...

I am by no means a linguist. What do I know? Seriously.

I should also point out that in Stuart's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans published in 1832, we find these teachings:

1. The fall of Adam brought us into a probationary state.

2. We are in a better situation to secure final happiness now in mortality than Adam was in the Garden.

3. All men are punished for their own sins. Not for Adam's sin.

Sure, this commentary's publication date post-dates the Book of Mormon, but still...And considering this guy's influence on Alexander Campbell, and thus Ridgon...

Like I said I am not a linguist, nor a historian. I teach art at the college level. I'm a painter. But I have a decent head on my shoulders. And when I start seeing this kind of stuff, it makes me wonder.

Also, I found a book called The Gospel Standard, Or Feeble Christian's Support Vol. VI, published in the British Isles in 1840 that includes this teaching:"punishment as eternal as the life of the soul."

Sounds a lot like this: "Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul." Alma 42:16.

Again, it postdates the Book of Mormon. But LDS missionary work didn't begin in the British Isles until 1837. This was published in 1840.

So, either the British theologians who published this were quite fast to incorporate BoM doctrines into their framework,...or these ideas were percolating throughout Christianity in the 19th Century, being preached in sermons long before they started getting published. And it was through this preaching that it made its way into Joseph's consciousness.

champatsch said...

There is no hard evidence that Smith read VH before the publication of the BofM. There is third-party evidence pointing against that view, making it highly unlikely. That's why one needs something solid to make the case. There is nothing solid, just speculation.

everythingbeforeus said...

There doesn't need to be hard evidence that he read View of the Hebrews to say that he was influenced by the speculations and (mis)understandings of his cultural milieu.

You don't need to read fashion magazines in order to wear the latest fashions. We pick up on these things in ways very hard to detect.

champatsch said...

The article lays out how to arrive at an Ellegard profile.

Yes, there was interest in the themes addressed in VH. But that has no bearing on the question of the authorship of the BofM since the book could not have resulted from an attempt by Joseph Smith to engage those themes. It was beyond his ability, or anyone else's, technically speaking.

B.H. Roberts was wrong about the language of the BofM. And most people have been too. If Roberts actually determined that the BofM was a human product of 19c America then he was wrong about that too.

The one who knows the text best is Skousen, and he has experienced some pushback for his views over the last 15+ years because it's a paradigm shift, but it is the correct one. And it points directly to historicity.

everythingbeforeus said...

Champatsch, you've got to be very careful making statements like this, "Yes, there was interest in the themes addressed in VH. But that has no bearing on the question of the authorship of the BofM since the book could not have resulted from an attempt by Joseph Smith to engage those themes. It was beyond his ability, or anyone else's, technically speaking."

When the cave paintings were first discovered, the leading minds could not accept them because they believed that the skill required to make such work was beyond the means of Paleolithic human beings.

You should never underestimate the power of human talent. It emerges from strange and unexpected places.

Anyway, let's assume it was beyond Smith's ability. It does not therefore follow that it is a divine work.

Maybe you didn't see it, but I'd be interested if you would respond to the information I posted regarding Hopkins and Stuart, the 19th Century theologians who influenced Alexander Campbell, and in whose writings we find the "did" syntax you talk about.

Like I said in that post, I am not a linguist. And if I am way off base in my analysis, I would like to be set aright.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Well, Champ, which is more likely?

(1) That Joseph Smith read (or at least heard discussed) a book published in 1823 in a nearby town, or

(2) That Joseph incorporated so many of Ethan's ideas by chance (or, if you prefer, that Ethan anticipated so much of the Book of Mormon by chance)?

Again, which is more likely?

(1) That for some unfathomable reason a divine being intervened in the translation of the Book of Mormon in order to sprinkle it with Early Modern English, or

(2) Those archaic structures were known to Joseph from the KJV (and possibly also in his spoken dialect, a possibility you seem to be ignoring) and he used them with unusual frequency in his effort to effect an archaic tone?

I very much look forward to reading your work when it clears peer review and gets published in a legit linguistics journal.

champatsch said...

ETBU: I'll take a look at Hopkins and Stuart if you can point me to where I may access the texts you have mentioned.

everythingbeforeus said...


Above is the address for Stuart's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans


Hopkins above.

Jeff Lindsay said...

The Wesley Lloyd Journal entry appears to be summarizing what Roberts wrote in his early study, while also importing the subjective theory to describe the way critics might attack the book, but Roberts had expressly rejected the subjective theory before. If Roberts actually mentioned it in that conversation, it would have been in the context of restating the challenges yet to be faced in defending the Book of Mormon -- and his position was clearly that of one that believed in Joseph Smith as a prophet. Roberts, like many of us apologists, recognize that there are weaknesses and points of attack THAT NEED TO BE DEFENDED, and that may need further research, revelation, analysis, etc. He did not abandon the Book of Mormon.

For one take on the Wesley Lloyd journal, and detailed info on where Roberts actually stood, see Evasive Ignorance: Anti-Mormon Claims that B.H. Roberts Lost His Testimony by McKay V. Jones. Also consider the important information from Truman Madsen here:http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=929&index=1

champatsch said...

ETBU: I have quickly analyzed Stuart. Somewhere north of 300,000 words, 56 instances of ADP did. In the Ellegard profile there must be an associated infinitive. Questions, negation, exclamations, and pro-verb contexts are not counted. I did not try to guess whether something was emphatic; I just counted it. But from what I remember, I did not count a second example twice when there was an immediate repeat in the exegesis. But I did count what may have been biblical paraphrases.

I can send you a link to what I did if you would like.

The breakdown I calculated is: adjacency 45% (did+INF), adverbial 37% (did+ADV+INF), inversion 11% (did+SUBJ+INF), both 3.5% (did+SUBJ+ADV+INF), ellipsis 3.5% (did+INF+CONJ+INF).

I don't know how often the past tense occurs in Stuart's text so I don't know what the overall rate is. If it is 2% or 3%, then the correlation is 64% for Stuart and the BofM. The BofM and the KJB are 77%.

The BofM has 270,000 words and 1,800 instances of ADP did. The BofM has about 90% adjacency. The 16c is when there was 90% adjacency. (See p. 169 for 16c correlations.)

everythingbeforeus said...

Thanks,can you explain this part further to me. I am not following what you mean here.
"I don't know how often the past tense occurs in Stuart's text so I don't know what the overall rate is. If it is 2% or 3%, then the correlation is 64% for Stuart and the BofM. The BofM and the KJB are 77%."

So, would you say that the Book of Mormon is written in Early Modern English, or that it has aspects of EModE in it? Or does this questions oversimplify the situation?

You know what I mean? Beowulf is Old English. It doesn't just have aspects of Old English in it. What about the Book of Mormon? Apart from the KJB passages, how would you describe the language?

champatsch said...

Yeah, I wasn't clear. By 3% I meant what percentage of the active voice past tense was expressed using did and an infinitive, like "they did go". As indicated, I didn't count how many times Stuart employed "they went", "he made", etc. in the text (see below).

We ignore the perfect tenses (have/had/was/were gone, etc.), and any passive uses ("was/is taken", etc.; past participles), and the verb "be". I have begun to ignore the verb "have", as well, since there is very little usage of "did have" in EModE, although it does occur rarely. The same with the verb "do". I ignore "did", but count "did do" and "did have" when they occasionally occur, but only when "did do" is not the old causative meaning of the 15c and the 16c ("did do make" used to mean "caused to be made"). And I also ignore unstressed (said/quoth/saith the Apostle, etc.) in parentheticals.

We obtain an Ellegard past-tense percentage by taking the type "they did go" and dividing it by the sum of the type "they did go" and "they went", for most verbs and all subjects (with the verb exclusions noted above). Ellegard sampled texts when counting the "they went" type, and we could do that with Stuart, looking at 5% or 10% of the text and counting simple past tense forms on 5% or 10% of the pages, considering just the 10th or the 20th page throughout the book. If I have time in the next few days I'll do that with Stuart's book.

James Anglin said...

I've skimmed through Carmack's article from Jeff's link. There's a linguistics professor in my family and Carmack's paper looks pretty much like linguistics papers I've seen, so to me it seems fair to assume that its analysis as such is competent. On reflection, though, I really don't see that any normal linguistics journal would publish this work, because it's just not about language.

Language as studied by linguists is something used by many people. The point of Carmack's article seems to be that the dialect of the Book of Mormon is one in which no other text was ever written. And I think Carmack makes a good case for this. The point means, however, that the style of the Book of Mormon is not a dialect at all, and hence not something about which professional linguists want to read.

Carmack's article makes quite clear something that may have gotten a bit lost in these comments: the Book of Mormon is not written in Early Modern English. The many EModE sentences quoted by Carmack read like gobbledegook, with many long-lost words and barely recognizable spelling. The Book of Mormon sounds funny to modern ears but is easily readable. Its English is an English that never was, with the lexicon of early 19th century America, grammar that apparently often dips back as far as the 16th century, and a rhetorical style that packs two scoops of King James Bible raisins in every box. That may be interesting, but it's not linguistics.

I'd say this article probably belongs right where it is, in a journal of Book of Mormon studies. In fact it's probably an excellent contribution in that field, and there's nothing academically wrong with having a dedicated journal for a specialized field. If a bunch of scholars happen to be interested in the Book of Mormon, they can run a journal. That's academic freedom.

Insofar as Carmack's paper is a work of Mormon apologetics, it seems to me to be a statue mostly made of fine marble, but its feet of clay are the apparently unsupported assumption that anachronistic grammar is impossible to generate by imitation. Just because grammatical knowledge is mostly tacit doesn't mean that people can't produce divergent grammar when they speak differently on purpose. I don't see any solid argument in Carmack's paper to show that Book of Mormon grammar could not be produced by a clumsy imitation of King James grammar that simply over-did things like 'did'.

Anonymous said...

This is simply another example of spin to fit the need. Whenever anything resembles evidence it's "tight control", and when mistakes are revealed, "loose control"
This blog has become laughably predictable

Musicnut said...

Jeff, I would love nothing more than to have a panel hash out how much tight and loose translation is in the BoM. Based on Dr. Carmack's work, I'd say the tight translation model has a distinct advantage.

Regarding the comments that suggest this paper simply confirms a connection between the Bible and he BoM, please recall that this analysis deals with more than just how much the ADP did occurs. Dr. Carmack also shows that the style of usage varies, particularly with which verb it is associated with.

For instance, "did eat" is the most common instance in the Bible, but the BoM only uses it once. The BoM uses "did go" 57 times, and the Bible never uses it. The evidence shows that both the Bible and BoM use use ADP in a disciplined way and yet very distinct from each other.

The argument to explain the increased use of ADP did in the BoM that JS simply went overboard in implementing a usage he found in the Bible can't explain the fact that he used it with entirely different verbs and in different ways than the Bible.