Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Increasingly Strange Text of the Book of Mormon

Stanford Carmack's series of four articles at the Mormon Interpreter provide a large body of detailed data pointing to something strange, increasingly strange, in the Book of Mormon: the grammatical patterns of the original Book of Mormon firmly rooted in Early Modern English (EmodE), giving it a grammatical signature earlier than the KJV Bible. Explaining the Book of Mormon as a crude imitation of the KJV is now more problematic. But understanding the Book of Mormon is much more interesting now. It may still take much more analysis and study to come up with theories that stick for the origins of the Book of Mormon language. Why EModE? How was it provided? Was there a pre-translation?

In Carmack's latest article, "Why the Oxford English Dictionary (and not Webster’s 1828)," he adds to the data by exploring several additional patterns, the most interesting of which I felt is his examination of "it supposeth me," a rare inverted syntax pattern that occurs four times in the Book of Mormon, each consistent with language much earlier than the KJV in ways that make it highly unlikely for Joseph to have picked this up on his own. Interesting.
Could Joseph Smith have known about this inverted syntax? I suppose he could have seen it, had he spent time reading Middle English poetry. Was it accessible to him? No. This grammatical structure is exceedingly rare, the embodiment of obsolete usage. Had he ever seen it, he hardly would have recognized it and been able to transform it.... Yet the text employs inverted syntax with suppose appropriately and consistently four times. 
Along the way, Carmack points out just how complex and interesting the Book of Mormon text is:
Let me also say at this point that it is wrongheaded to propose Moroni as translator in order to account for “errors” in the text. He may have been involved in the divine translation effort, but to employ him as an explanatory device in order to account for putative errors is misguided. The English-language text is too complex, diverse, and even well-formed to ascribe it to a non-native translation effort. Again, as I have stated in an earlier paper, the BofM is not full of grammatical errors. Rather, it is full of EModE — some of it is typical and pedestrian, some of it is elegant and sophisticated, and some of it is, to our limited or uninformed way of thinking, objectionable and ungrammatical. The BofM also contains touches of modern English and late Middle English. It is not a monolithic text, and we are just beginning to learn about its English language.... I have certainly come to realize that it is not the text of the BofM that is full of errors, but rather our judgments in relation to its grammar.
For those wanting certainty, that's disturbing language. But this smells like an adventure that will lead somewhere. Critics and fans alike should find this challenge worth digging into. Will new insights about Book of Mormon cause it to go down in flames? Critics may hope so. Carmack already offers a strongly worded thesis, feeling that whatever the details are that led to EModE in the Book of Mormon, the complex pre-KJV content of the Book of Mormon implies that the Lord "revealed a concrete form of expression (words) to Joseph Smith" and that the text itself is of divine origin.

I think the devil is not in these details, but something is, and further work is needed.
In the middle of his latest paper, after summarizing some of the many interesting findings so far, Carmack makes an even stronger series of assertions/conclusions that I'm not quite comfortable with, though I think I understand his excitement:
  • The BofM is full of King James English whose meaning obligatorily derives from the 1500s (since much kjb language derives from 16th-century translations, especially Tyndale’s).
  • The BofM has quite a few instances of older, nonbiblical meaning, including:
    counsel = ‘ask counsel of, consult,’ used in Alma 37:37; 39:10; this sense is not in Webster’s 1828, and the last OED quote is dated 1547.
    depart = ‘divide,’ used intransitively in Helaman 8:11; this sense is not in Webster’s 1828, and the last OED quote is dated 1577.
    scatter = ‘separate from the main body (without dispersal),’ as used in the BofM’s title page; this sense is not in Webster’s 1828, and the last OED quote is dated 1661.
    choice = ‘sound judgment’ or ‘discernment,’ used as an abstract noun in 1 Nephi 7:15.
  • Past-tense syntax with did matches only mid to late 1500s usage.
  • Complementation with the verbs command, cause, suffer matches only the late 1400s and the 1500s.
  • Syntax like Nephi’s brethren rebelleth (in the prefaces to 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi) corresponds to 1500s usage; it is not in the kjb and was obsolete in the 1800s.
In view of the foregoing observations and evidence, I assert the following:
  • There is undeniably substantial evidence in the BofM of EModE meaning and syntax that was inaccessible to Smith and scribe.
  • Smith could not have known the obsolete meaning of some of these words except from context because semantic shifts are unpredictable and unknowable to anyone in the absence of specific philological study.
  • The pervasive EModE syntax as well as the existence of obsolete, inaccessible (nonbiblical) meaning in the text mean that Smith must have received specific words from the Lord throughout the translation.
  • Therefore, the wording of the BofM did not come from Smith’s mind; he dictated specific words that were given to him.
  • God was in charge of the translation of the English-language text of the BofM; no mortal translated it.
  • Smith translated the BofM in the sense of being the person on earth integrally involved in conveying Christ’s words from the divine realm to our earthly sphere; Smith was not the translator in the conventional sense of the term.
My discomfort lies in extrapolating the data to determine what did or did not happen in Joseph's mind. Yes, if  EModE points to tight control, then specific words or grammatical patterns would seem to have been provided somehow. But as Carmack has noted, the text of the Book of Mormon is not monolithic, and the way Joseph responded to whatever was provided to him may not have been monolithic for every sentence, verse, and chapter. I believe God was in charge of the whole project, but being in charge did not stop Him from allowing Oliver to hear and write words incorrectly, nor did it stop the printer from introducing errors, nor did it stop Joseph from making corrections and changes, including many fixes of obviously bad grammar (to our ears) that we have just learned was typically good grammar from a much earlier era. If the hands and minds of men could play a role in all those stages, was Joseph left out at the earliest phase when he dictated text to his scribes? Is it not possible that a base translation was available in some way, but it could still be modified at times as it went through Joseph's mind and lips? Was there still some flexibility at play in how Joseph conveyed whatever came to his mind or eyes? I don't know, but think it is possible, and perhaps even needed to deal with instances of apparent loose control in the text (all of which may need to be reconsidered as we move forward with the data from Carmack, Skousen, and hopefully many more contributors in this area).

I don't know what Joseph saw and experienced, but am deeply intrigued by this new mystery of sound Early Modern English infused into the text. To me, it does seem to defy the theories offered so far by those who see Joseph as the author of what is merely a modern text dressed up in KJV language with some embarrassing hick grammar that had to be cleansed. It does seem to support the possibility of divine origins. But I think we need to be cautious of inferring too much.  The implications of EModE content need to be explored patiently and tentatively to see where they lead as the details are more fully fleshed out.

74 comments:

illuminated said...

Help me understand what this means. Is Carmack saying that words like "counsel" with the meaning, "ask counsel of, consult" did not exist in ANY dictionary during 1828? Or is Carmack saying these definitions only in the Oxford English Dictionary?

Either way this is very interesting. It's actually something I've always wondered about these words as used in their unusual context. We never use them naturally in this way today (unless we are saying a prayer and using BoM speak), nor have I seen them used this way in the KJV.

I'd love for someone to dig a little deeper and find out if there are any other works, essays, or letters (other than the dictionary) that Joseph had access to where these words are used like this during his time.

Anonymous said...

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=counsel%2Cconsult&year_start=1700&year_end=1900&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Ccounsel%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cconsult%3B%2Cc0

Orbiting Kolob said...

I hate to keep repeating myself, but I still have the same three questions that I would like to see Carmack address.

(1) Carmack writes, Could Joseph Smith have known about this inverted syntax? I suppose he could have seen it, had he spent time reading Middle English poetry. Was it accessible to him? No.

But even if Smith could not have seen this syntax, that hardly means it was not accessible to him, since after all, in addition to writing there is this thing called speech. Given that nonstandard spoken dialects sometimes lag behind the standard, written language, is it not possible that Smith could have heard this older syntax?

I've asked this question before, and as far as I know, Carmack has ignored it.

(2) Is it possible that what appears to be good EModE is actually an artifact of a methodology that seems to involve something like the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy? There's at least one reason to think so, namely, the fact that we're not seeing passages of text written in prose whose every construction is an EModE construction, but rather isolated instances of a few EModE constructions popping up here and there. Why in the world would we see that? Because God likes to drop in an occasional anachronism just for the heck of it? The lack of any plausible rationale for an actual writer or speaker to produce the things we're seeing would seem to support the idea that those things are just methodological artifacts. (Sorry if this is getting kinda wonky. I'm confident, though, that Carmack understands what I'm getting at.)

And again, I've raised this issue before, and as far as I know, Carmack has not seriously addressed it.

(3) Does Carmack plan to write up his work for peer review and secular publication? If so, when? Why not now?

Again, I've asked this question before, and as far as I know, Carmack has not seriously addressed it.

And a related question for Jeff: Why won't you join me in pressing for outside peer review of this work?

We shouldn't think of peer review as a way for mean old academic party-poopers to play "Gotcha!" Instead we should think of it as the way tentative research is eventually turned into actual knowledge. It's the way knowledge advances.

Avoiding peer review here serves only to advance apologetics.

So, what's the end-game here: true knowledge, or mere apologetics?

Anonymous said...

Hi Orbiting Kolob,

It is my understanding that speech will lag formal grammar if the population is isolated thereby taking on a more conservative approach to their language, for example, Icelandic more resembles Old Norse than modern day Danish or Norwegian. I see that Joseph Smith's time and location to be a bit more dynamic than static so that remnants of a spoken languages 300 years previous would not be the vernacular. However, if the possibility of EmodE being the vernacular of isolated communities near Joseph's home, then the local court records and store logs should be able to show the remnants of EmodE since those are the types of records that would document the vernacular and quite possibly the hymnals that were used would capture not only the grammar but the specific vowel structures that exist for EmodE (which is why some Mormon hymns do not rhyme at all but did back in the day they were written).

Given your enthusiasm for hypothesizing ;) I think you are up for the task in collating the data of the local records at the time of Joseph Smith to see if there is merit to your suggestions.

Steve

Orbiting Kolob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orbiting Kolob said...

Diaries, too, Steve. But with all due respect, the research you suggest sounds like a job for a trained linguist.

Anonymous said...

This is painfully unconvincing and reeks of mental gymnastics.

Anonymous said...

Some problems are hard to solve and require mental gymnastics. I don't see this as a bad thing.

Steve

Jerome said...

What’s bothering Orbiting Kolob and others about the way that evidence for EModE in the Book of Mormon is being used as an apologetic device has something to do with Bayes’ formula, which has something to do with the Texas sharpshooter fallacy mentioned above. Bayes’ formula states that the probability of A given that B is true is proportional to the converse probability of B given that A is true. For example, if A is the proposition that God directed Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon, and B is the proposition that Joseph’s translation contains EModE, then what’s the probability of A if B is true? It equals P(B,A)*P(A)/P(B) where P(B,A) is the probability that if God directed Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon contains EModE.

Whether familiar with Bayes’ formula or not, Orbiting Kolob and others have an intuitive understanding that a conditional probability is proportional to its converse. That’s why we’re all scratching our heads that this argument about EModE has any traction in the apologetic community. There is no a priori reason to think that if God directed the translation of the Book of Mormon, he would direct Joseph Smith to include EModE. It seems just as likely that he would direct Joseph to translate it into Ebonics or a backwoods American form of English. In other words, we have no reason to predict a priori that P(B,A) should be high, and so the posterior probability P(A,B) doesn’t seem high.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Well done, Jerome. Thank you.

Tyrone said...

Gee, Jerome, I really liked your conclusion, so you did a good job . . . even though your a priori reason statement was obvious and your propositions seriously flawed.

Jerome said...

They're not my propositions, Tyrone. They're the propositions of the EModE apologists. If you find them flawed, tell them.

Glenn Thigpen said...

@Jerome and Orbiting Kolob. Whatever questions that arise about the EmodE and what God may or may not have had in mind in doing so are irrelevant to the discussion.

What is relevant is the fact that Stanford has done a lot of research on the subject, including searches of contemporary texts of the day that Joseph may have had access to to see if there were other texts with corresponding levels of EmodE usage. Up to this point, he has found none, if I understand what he has published correctly.

A critic needs to be able to point to some plausible explanation, backed up by evidence to make it plausible, to explain how grammar that seems not to have been used in Joseph's day, and actually predated the KJV wound up in the Book of Mormon.

One does not need to be a linguist to search for the types of grammar that Stanford is talking about. He has helpfully provided the examples and the percentages from a few texts.

All you have to do is search through any digitized texts that you may be able to find here and there.

Maybe it was the product of automatic writing. Maybe you could check the grammar of people like "Patience Worth" to see if they produced grammar with such EmodE constructs.

Hypothesizing about this or that probability without any data to support such a hypothesis adds nothing to (nor subtracts nothing from) the discussion.

Glenn

everythingbeforeus said...

"A critic needs to be able to point to some plausible explanation, backed up by evidence to make it plausible, to explain how grammar that seems not to have been used in Joseph's day, and actually predated the KJV wound up in the Book of Mormon."

Exactly! And Stanford needs to back up his explanation with some plausible evidence. His explanation is that God wanted the EModE there. He thinks that fact that it is there shows the divine origins of the book. So let's see the plausible evidence that would persuade us all of these explanations.

Let's have this data to support this hypothesis!

See, Glenn, Stanford is using science as a tool, but his work is not scientific. It is not fair to demand evidence from we who are critical of Stanford's work when his theories are not provable through the scientific method.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Look, Glenn. Carmack explains the presence of certain observed word strings to divine intervention. I explain them as possibly being either random artifacts of bad methodology or echoes of some spoken dialect.

If you think my disagreement with Carmack can be resolved by a non-linguist, lacking experience in the history of spoken English and in statistics and research methodology, you are mistaken.

Here's an example, from Wikipedia's entry on the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, of how poor methodology an produce misleading results:

A Swedish study in 1992 tried to determine whether or not power lines caused some kind of poor health effects. The researchers surveyed everyone living within 300 meters of high-voltage power lines over a 25-year period and looked for statistically significant increases in rates of over 800 ailments. The study found that the incidence of childhood leukemia was four times higher among those that lived closest to the power lines, and it spurred calls to action by the Swedish government. The problem with the conclusion, however, was that the number of potential ailments, i.e. over 800, was so large that it created a high probability that at least one ailment would exhibit the appearance of a statistically significant difference by chance alone. Subsequent studies failed to show any links between power lines and childhood leukemia, neither in causation nor even in correlation.

Something similar might be happening in Carmack's work. Just as the Swedish researchers went looking for any of 800 ailments, Carmack went looking for any of a certain kind of word string -- any string that matched any kind of grammar unique to pre-KJV English.

How many such constructions are there? Probably a lot -- possibly even 800, possibly enough to render Carmack's study just as hopeless as the Swedish study -- but I really don't know, and you don't either. A linguist might know how many such constructions there are, or at least be able to find out. A statistician might know how many such strings it would take to invalidate Carmack's work. This is just one reason why we do need professionals to check up on that work. It's too complex a matter for amateurs.

And again again again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but until Carmack submits his work for peer review by independent linguists, working outside his cozy little circle of fellow apologists, that work doesn't mean squat.

You know what else? When it comes to the need for peer review, Carmack knows I'm right. Dan Peterson of the Interpreter also knows this, yet is publishing this stuff anyway. It's almost as if their concern is with promoting the faith, not pursuing the truth. That's wrong in itself, and it makes the Church look bad, and they wouldn't be able to get away with it if believers like you and Jeff would hold them to higher standards.

Glenn Thigpen said...

@everythingbeforeus and Orbiting Kolob.

I am not arguing for Stanford's belief that the presence of the EmodE that has been uncovered is evidence for tight control of the Book of Mormon dictation process. That hypothesis is designed for a debate between believers in the divinity of the Book of Mormon, i.e. that it is a divinely inspired translation from the plates that Joseph said he had received from an angel and which were seen by others.

I am focusing only on the parts that can be fairly easily checked by non-linguists with a modicum of computer knowledge and who know how to conduct computer searches. Such as the statement "There is undeniably substantial evidence in the BofM of EModE meaning and syntax that was inaccessible to Smith and scribe.".

Using the examples that Carmack has provided it should be a fairly simple matter to go through texts that Joseph would have had access to, even if the chances were slim, and check for significant usage.

If anyone can find such texts, it would significantly weaken the case that Stanford is building on the EmodE usage.

Now, maybe some of you who know some non-LDS linguists who would like to weigh in on whether the examples that Stanford submitted are indeed EmodE.

Glenn

Orbiting Kolob said...

Glenn writes, I am focusing only on the parts that can be fairly easily checked by non-linguists with a modicum of computer knowledge and who know how to conduct computer searches. Such as the statement "There is undeniably substantial evidence in the BofM of EModE meaning and syntax that was inaccessible to Smith and scribe."

And I'm saying, No, that statement CANNOT "be fairly easily checked by non-linguists."

For one thing, for syntax to be "inaccessible to Smith and scribe," it would have to be absent from both the written AND the spoken language of Smith's environment. And non-linguists cannot explore the latter simply by doing computer searchers. So what would be the point of doing that work? Whatever it turned up would have no bearing on the objection.

For another thing, the onus is on Carmack to submit his work for peer review. Until he does that, I have no reason whatsoever to take his work seriously. The onus is certainly not on me to undertake the labor of peer review myself.

Think about it, Glenn. Carmack does some highly technical linguistics work, and he basically says to us, "I have strong evidence the divinity of the Book of Mormon!"

And I say, "Not so fast. There are several potential problems here that ought to be resolved by expert peer reviewers."

And Glenn says, "Peer review? Nah. Orbiting, YOU should do the work of peer review."

Orbiting says, "But I'm neither a linguist nor a statistics expert. I lack the expertise. Plus, you know, I'm a busy guy. Why is it up to me to vet Carmack's work?"

The next move is not mine. The next move is Carmack's.

Glenn also writes that Carmack's "hypothesis is designed for a debate between believers in the divinity of the Book of Mormon...."

OK, so it's an in-house debate. (This isn't really true, since Carmack, Peterson, et al, are also hoping to persuade non-believers. But let that slide.) Even if this is true, I stand by my statement that even believers should have a problem with Carmack's work thus far. Even believers should take heed of the objections I've raised and ask Carmack to respond to them and to submit his work for peer review. After all, if my objections (or others that might turn up in peer review) turn out to be well grounded, shouldn't believers care?

Peer review is a means of establishing whether claims of this sort are true. Don't believers care about truth? Shouldn't they want to hold work like Carmack's to the highest standard for truth?

I honestly don't get it. It's almost as if apologists care more about whether work is faith-promoting than whether it's true.

Steve said...

Carmack's work could be sound or unsound. Yet peer review cannot reliably tell us that:

Dr. Horton, editor of the Lancet--
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

Peer-reviewed journals only publish Book of Mormon studies with one conclusion: nineteenth-century authorship. Studies that come to a different conclusion are summarily rejected as methodologically flawed. Editors and reviewers cannot risk standing in academics -- shades of Anthon.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Actually, Steve, if Carmack's work is in some fundamental way unsound, peer review might well tell us that. Remember that bit about "falsification" in science? Happens all the time.

You're right that there are terrible problems with the peer-review process (particularly in medical research, which has been significantly corrupted by the pharmaceutical industry). Yet peer review remains a necessary part of a larger system that, despite its shortcomings, continues to advance our knowledge.

One might as well point out the problem of perjured testimony and then argue that jury trials cannot lead to fair verdicts. Whether it's peer review or a jury of one's peers, it's one of those flawed systems that just happens to be less flawed than all the others.

And why in the world would you bring up that nonsensical legend about Charles Anthon? You seem to be parroting the standard apologetics line that Anthon acknowledged the authenticity of the characters on the transcript, then later backed down. But think about that for a minute. Anthon was an ordinary classical scholar, by which I mean he was not privy to any special knowledge not shared by other classical scholars, of either his day or ours.

So tell me: what did Anthon see in the transcript that today's scholars are missing? Even if it's true that Anthon initially acknowledged the characters' authenticity, why is it that no current classical scholar does so today? What is visible on that transcript that Anthon saw that no modern scholar can see? There are a fair number of classical scholars out there who are LDS; why aren't any of them attesting to the authenticity of the characters? The legend simply makes no sense.

Oh, wait, I know. The "Caractors" document we have today is not the same document examined by Anthon.... Just like the gold plates, and the missing fragments of the Book of Abraham, we just never seem to have the document that would vindicate Joseph Smith's prowess as a translator. I mean, we thought we did, but then, when the document turned out not to vindicate Smith, it only meant we didn't have the document after all.

Funny how that works. If nothing else, I hope you can understand why so many of us are so skeptical.

Steve said...

Orbiting Kolob, you are out of control, as usual. It's not a nonsensical legend. I suggest you read the measured analysis found in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism rather than the unreliable nonsense you find in the anti world. The matter is inconclusive on its face. Anthon said one thing, Harris another. Whatever. But we do know what Harris did after -- he invested a significant amount of time and money in the translation project, and the result is a magnificient book, whatever the scornful critics might say. Get a grip.

Orbiting Kolob said...

The legend is that Anthon validated the transcript as authentic, and this validation convinced an otherwise hesitant Harris to finance the BoM's publication. And yes, this is a legend -- a faith-promoting story -- and yes, it is nonsensical.

Why a legend? Because there's no evidence that Anthon honestly validated the transcript, then retracted his support to protect his reputation. How could he have honestly vouched for the authenticity of the transcript when there was nothing on it that a classical scholar could recognize as ancient? There was no "there" there. If there was, then scholars would have no trouble seeing it today. Yet today, no classicist, not even those who are LDS, recognizes any ancient language on the transcript.

Like I said, nonsensical. If it's inauthentic now, it was inauthentic then. (BTW, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism says nothing that contradicts this. Instead, it suggests that the whole episode might be seen as a fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah. In other words, rather like the testimony of the witnesses, what starts as a claim of earthly, material validation winds up as a spiritual matter beyond the reach of mere human reasoning.)

For its part, FAIR shows a picture "of what MAY be the Anthon Transcript," sneaking in the word may and thus leaving open the idea that the transcript contains no recognizably authentic characters because it is not actually the transcript validated by Anthon. This is the same dodge used to get around the fact that the BoA papyri are funerary documents having nothing to do with Abraham.

What questions should you be asking yourself at this point? Not Who is telling the truth, Anthon or Harris? Instead you should be asking, Why would Joseph Smith claim authenticity for a document that has no recognizably ancient characters on it?

Again, why does this whole "Anthon said, Harris said" issue even matter if no other classicist can see in the document the authenticity that Anthon supposedly saw? If there's nothing recognizably authentic in it now, there was nothing recognizably authentic in it then. Ergo, you cannot reasonably do what you did above, which is to allude to Anthon ("Shades of Anthon") as an example of a secular scholar honestly validating the faith, but then retracting his work to guard his reputation.

Glenn Thigpen said...

@Orbitting Kolob,
Okay, how is one going to provide evidence either way that such EmodE grammar did or did not exist in the environs in which the Book of Mormon came forth??? All we have are written records from which to gain our insights into the past.
Are you saying that the written word is not a reflection of the speech patterns of the writers??? Unless a person is consciously trying, I would think that written grammar would pretty closely follow the speech patterns of the writer. I can still recall my own situation where I was producing term papers, etc. at a western university and the English professor was on my case for "writing with a Southern accent".
Do you know of any studies on the subject which would say otherwise? I sincerely would be interested in reading them.
As for your insistence on peer review, I know that a hypothesis that God intentionally sprinkled EmodE liberally into the Book of Mormon to show that it was divinely inspired is not testable. However, the presence of EmodE grammar in the Book of Mormon is verifiable. And the presence or absence of the types of EmodE grammar in texts accessible to Joseph Smith is verifiable. And whether a particular grammatical construct is actually EmodE and not something else is also verifiable.
Stanford has already done a lot of research on those matters. Most of what he has published can be verified, even by a non-linguist, since Stanford has provided his sources and examples.
As for the "peer review" mantra, it is not all that it is cracked up to be. I remember a few years ago the old "Manuscript Found" Solomon Spaulding/Sidney Rigdon theory of Book of Mormon authorship was given a new lease on life when a new word print study using nearest shrunken centroid methodology was published and peer reviewed purporting to show that the Book of Mormon had several authors, among them Sidney Rigdon and Solomon Spaulding.
Of course the TBM's were skeptical. Many (even I) saw what were considered serious flaws with the methodology, the first one being that all of the comparisons were relative to the set of proposed authors. However the proponents triumphantly pointed to the fact that the paper had been peer reviewed and published in the Oxford Journal, no less. That, to them, trumped everything else.
However, a BYU statistics professor reviewed the work and exposed the flaws in the methodology. (Using the original methodology, he was able to ascertain that Sidney Rigdon wrote thirty-four of the Federalist papers.)
The entire thing was written up. per reviewed, and published in the Oxford Journal. So, now we have dueling peer reviews. Whose review are you going to buy???

Now, maybe you are too busy to do any research or homework, but you have provided anyone who might look favorably on Stanford's work with no effective counter except that you don't believe it and will not accept anything less than a peer reviewed article.
And that is okay also. Last time I checked, opinions are still legal.

Glenn

everythingbeforeus said...

"Unless a person is consciously trying, I would think that written grammar would pretty closely follow the speech patterns of the writer."

Joseph Smith was consciously trying. He was trying to mimic an older style of English. We know this. And there are examples of other people in Smith's day who also wrote, purposely mimicking King James English.

Since we know he was trying to mimic Bible English, and since we also know that the KJV does contain some of the EModE English constructions that Carmack is pointing out (although not in as high a concentration) it would be a perfectly reasonable theory that Joseph Smith, trying to mimic an old-style, would see a few EModE constructions, and put them into his book. Which is what Orbiting Kolob has been trying to say for months now. And yet I don't think anyone is really listening to him.

everythingbeforeus said...

I cannot think of any other book out there that begins with a premise (it is from God) and then undergoes so much scrutiny like this in order to make it so. Maybe the Bible. I doubt it though. At least not in the field of linguistics. And you know why? Because for the Bible, we have copies of manuscripts in the original languages. We can actually go back and see the Greek and the Hebrew.

But the Book of Mormon, as if I need to say it again, exists originally in nothing but English, and a stretched, fake kind of English, too. Joseph Smith didn't talk like that. That is all you have. That and the claim that it was originally in a different language, a sample of which does not exist anywhere on this planet.

And now we have people saying there is EModE showing up in the English. An older form of English showing up in an English book. I understand the arguments about the frequency with which it shows up. I get it. That is cool. But it really isn't all that unbelievable. It isn't anything really to be all excited about. The book is supposed to sound like an earlier form of English in the first place.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Hi Glenn (and everyone) -- thanks for your detailed response. To take things one at a time:

[H]ow is one going to provide evidence either way that such EmodE grammar did or did not exist in the environs in which the Book of Mormon came forth??? All we have are written records from which to gain our insights into the past. Are you saying that the written word is not a reflection of the speech patterns of the writers???

Yes, the written record does not necessarily reflect the spoken vernacular -- see more below. And maybe this means that there are certain "insights into the past" that are simply forever unavailable to us. Sad, but likely try.

Unless a person is consciously trying, I would think that written grammar would pretty closely follow the speech patterns of the writer. I can still recall my own situation where I was producing term papers, etc. at a western university and the English professor was on my case for "writing with a Southern accent."

I’d say that your prof was picking up on traces of your spoken vernacular showing up in writing that was supposed to be done in the formal dialect. This is similar to what I'm suggesting happened with Joseph Smith: Carmack sees certain constructions as EModE. I'm suggesting that, if they are actually EmodE at all, they might have been part of Smith's spoken vernacular that inadvertently showed up in his writing, just as certain Southern constructions showed up in your term papers.

Remember that Smith's case was in some ways quite unusual. In his day, as in ours, most published books tend to be written by people with a lot of formal education. Some (not many) of these people might have had humble beginnings, like Smith, but unlike Smith, they probably had gotten a lot more formal education before publishing any books. The BoM appeared when Smith was 25 or so, and while he was certainly intelligent and literate, he had not been to college. The vast majority of American writers, whose work makes up the vast majority of the archive, had a lot more formal education than Smith. They were also older, and thus had more time to learn the finer points of the standard grammar.

You had an English professor who trained you to eliminate the vernacular in your writing; Smith did not. Why is this important? For one thing, it means that there’s a perfectly plausible explanation for the fact certain constructions used by Smith are so rare in the published archive. The vast majority of American authors, whose writing dominates the archive, had far more formal education than Smith.

Do you know of any studies on the subject which would say otherwise? I sincerely would be interested in reading them.

No, I don't know of any studies on this particular question. (A linguist might know of some.) But it's obvious that spoken dialects differ from the formal standard, and I don't think any linguist, not even Carmack, would say otherwise.

There are, of course, plenty of studies about how various nonstandard dialects differ from the standard. (If you’re really interested, you might want to check out the studies listed at the end of the Wikipedia entries on Southern American English, African American Vernacular English, and so on. I remember finding William Labov particularly enlightening on AAVE.)

(Continued below)

Orbiting Kolob said...

(Continued from above)

As for your insistence on peer review, I know that a hypothesis that God intentionally sprinkled EmodE liberally into the Book of Mormon to show that it was divinely inspired is not testable. However, the presence of EmodE grammar in the Book of Mormon is verifiable. And the presence or absence of the types of EmodE grammar in texts accessible to Joseph Smith is verifiable. And whether a particular grammatical construct is actually EmodE and not something else is also verifiable.

Yes. But note that when I stress the need for peer review, I'm not asking for Carmack to write a paper about “evidence for God in the Book of Mormon” or somesuch. That would obviously not fly in a secular professional journal. But I am asking for Carmack to seek peer review for the strictly linguistic part of his work. The question he would address in such a paper would not be "Who or what is responsible for EModE in the BoM?" but rather "Is there EModE in the BoM?"

Most of what he [Carmack] has published can be verified, even by a non-linguist, since Stanford has provided his sources and examples.

I'm saying no, that work can't be verified by a non-linguist. Picking up on possible methodological flaws requires too much expertise.

As for the "peer review" mantra, it is not all that it is cracked up to be....

Here I'll just repeat what I wrote in my reply to Steven above:

You're right that there are terrible problems with the peer-review process (particularly in medical research, which has been significantly corrupted by the pharmaceutical industry). Yet peer review remains a necessary part of a larger system that, despite its shortcomings, continues to advance our knowledge.

One might as well point out the problem of perjured testimony and then argue that jury trials cannot lead to fair verdicts. Whether it's peer review or a jury of one's peers, it's one of those flawed systems that just happens to be less flawed than all the others.

Now, maybe you are too busy to do any research or homework, but you have provided anyone who might look favorably on Stanford's work with no effective counter except that you don't believe it and will not accept anything less than a peer reviewed article. And that is okay also. Last time I checked, opinions are still legal.

Obviously I disagree. Where I come from, we distinguish between a mere opinion and an actual argument, which is to say, a claim backed up by reasons. I’m confident that at least some readers will find my reasoning to be persuasive.

Carmack is basically saying two things:

(1) There's EModE in the BoM, and

(2) There's no way Smith could have produced that EModE, because the archive shows that these constructions were unknown to him.

I'm arguing against both points, as follows:

(1) Maybe there's not EModE in the BoM. Maybe what looks like EModE is really an artifact of bad methodology (much like the apparent, but actually bogus, correlation between power lines and disease in the methodologically flawed Swedish study I mentioned above).

(2) Maybe Smith did know these constructions, since they might have been part of a spoken dialect not recorded in the archive.

In (2), Carmack is giving us a "God of the gaps" argument. That is, he's arguing that because we cannot plausibly imagine any natural way that X could have happened, X must have been done by God. I'm showing that in fact, we can plausibly imagine that "natural way." Until that "natural way" is shown to be implausible, Carmack's argument fails.

I'm not sure whether there's a way for him to address this problem or not. Is there a way to reconstruct the grammar of a 200-year-old spoken dialect? Got me. (Maybe using diaries?) That's a question for a trained professional.

Orbiting Kolob said...

ETBU, your points are well taken. And thanks for reminding everyone about what I've "been trying to say for months now," and that with good reason, you "don't think anyone is really listening."

Actually though, I suspect Carmack has been listening. He's commented here before, and I suspect he drops in now and then, at least when Jeff posts about his work.

Obviously, I'd love for him to respond. But really, rather than respond to people like us, he needs to get out of the apologetics cocoon and have his work scrutinized by disinterested linguists. Perhaps he's already done so, and we'll be hearing about it any day now in the Interpreter.

Steve said...

ETBU says that the Book of Mormon has "a stretched, fake kind of English". What an idiotic statement. Clueless. Take a look at Carmack's March presentation where he shows matching with Caxton, Malory, Spenser, et al. The gift of the internet--ETBU and OK publishing nonsense about stuff they don't even attempt to understand or learn about.

(3 Nephi 1:22)
And it came to pass that from this time forth
there began to be lyings sent forth among the people by Satan,
to harden their hearts,
to the intent that they might not believe
in those signs and wonders which they had seen.
But notwithstanding these lyings and deceivings,
the more part of the people did believe and were converted unto the Lord.

In the Book of Mormon we have a sign and wonder.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Shorter Steve: Critics of the Book of Mormon are wrong because the Book of Mormon says they are. Plus Satan!

What more proof do we need?

Glenn Thigpen said...

@everythingbeforeus: You said "And now we have people saying there is EModE showing up in the English. An older form of English showing up in an English book. I understand the arguments about the frequency with which it shows up. I get it. That is cool. But it really isn't all that unbelievable. It isn't anything really to be all excited about. The book is supposed to sound like an earlier form of English in the first place."

Okay, now you have gone from trying to sound like the KJV to "an earlier form of English". Isn't that moving the goal posts in light of the new information coming in about the EmodE language in the Book of Mormon???

@Orbiting Kolob
Your point about Joseph not being educated and trained to eliminate the vernacular from his writings is well taken, and one which I had entertained. I do not agree that he was very literate, although he evidently could read and write.
It is not in the published works of the day that we would need to look for evidences of EmodE syntax and grammar artifacts lingering in the speech of the common folk of the day and environs in which Joseph was raised. Such as letters, diaries, etc. We should be able to determine if there was such and much of it.
This is something that I think Stanford should look into.

Just for the heck of it, I googled for the "supposeth me" phrase that Stanford had identified from the OED as being EmodE and rare, with only one known instance of such being published. I found four or five quotes from sources as late as 1696. Most of the quotes were from people living in the EmodE era, but one came from a person in the middle of the 1600's. So it would seem that the OED is slightly wrong, but that the phrase becoming obsolete is correct.

All of the texts containing the "supposeth me" phrase were English. Even if some were available in the US it would be hard to imagine Joseph reading them and being struck by that isolated phrase such that he used it four times in the Book of Mormon.

It would be hard, if not impossible, to prove the negative, i.e. that there were not EmodE artifacts in the language of Joseph Smith environment, but is searches of letters and diaries of the time, and earlier fail to unearth such usage, that grammatical artifact theory becomes very implausible. However, if such artifacts are indeed found in diaries, letters, etc of the time, then the EmodE artifacts in the Book of Mormon could be simply a product of Joseph's vocabulary at the time.

Glenn

Now, if we look into the

Carmack said...

This discussion has been brought to my attention.

Glenn, your analysis is off. The OED states that Gower's "him supposeth" is the simple dative, attested once, reprinted quite a few times. Put another way, it is "it supposeth (to) him". The hits you're seeing are of the form "someone supposes me ..." = 's.o. believes me ...' They don't correspond. Eleven hits come up in my EModE corpus (500m words) when I search for "supposeth me". None are like "it supposeth me" (4x). The OED has it right, as far as I have been able to tell, and I have searched for it quite a bit.

The BofM has a large amount of extrabiblical usage from the deep past. The EModE match is excellent. The plagiarism view fails (too many required to make it work), the analogical view fails (ditto). The critics are left with a desperate view of Smith speaking an amazing dialect that none of his contemporaries spoke.

Skousen will be publishing parts 1 and 2 of volume 3 soon. There is plenty of interesting information there, as well as in his 6-volume ATV, freely available to all.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Look for these headlines (and subheads) any day now:

RESEARCHER CONCLUSIVELY PROVES TRUTH OF OWN RELIGION
Opponents left 'desperate,' claims linguist

RESEARCHER MAKES STUNNING LINGUISTIC DISCOVERY
Results have revolutionary consequences for linguistics, published only in obscure non-linguistics journal

FLAWLESS METHODOLOGY PASSES EVERY TEST
'My research is beyond criticism,' says researcher whose research has not been critiqued by peers

LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS PROVES AUTHENTICITY OF BOOK OF MORMON
LDS linguists at prestigious research universities nationwide expected to concur soon, any day now, really


Etc.

C'mon, Carmack. You know exactly what you need to do if you don't want to wind up a laughingstock among linguists. At the very least, run your work past other LDS linguists and share their feedback with us.

Carmack said...

Relax, Orbitational, your desperate view is held by quite a few Mormon scholars. But like you, they haven't studied the matter very carefully.

I advise those who read these words to ignore the misinformation of the various critics who play a toxic game on this blog and elsewhere. Just read the literature and make up your own mind. Skousen's been writing about it for 20 years now in a way the educated can understand. Spend the time studying what he's written, including his ATV, and his forthcoming volume 3 (by year-end?). Take a look at the March symposium. Cheers.

Carmack said...

On peer review: An acquaintance who is a linguistics professor told me emphatically that no peer-reviewed journal would publish a neutral paper on BofM lx. He said that even a data-driven, tabular presentation with no conclusions wouldn't fly. Interesting. Still, I may try it in the future, just to see what happens. A semi-retired British linguist, who was on my PhD committee, declined to read a paper I was working on. A Finnish linguist I cited declined to look at my work. I would have valued their feedback. Why could this be? They are the ones worried about becoming laughing-stocks in their "tolerant" communities.

Orbiting Kolob said...

I think it's great that you would have valued their feedback. But tell us, why would you have valued it? Because it might have revealed possible problems with your methodology or logic or assumptions -- problems that you, working solo, subject like any of us to the subtle forces of confirmation bias, have not thought of on your own, right? The history of science is riddled with such ills, yet you seem so incredibly confident of your immunity to them....

If you truly would value such feedback, perhaps you could convince the Maxwell Institute to pay a team of non-LDS linguists, as consultants, to critique the work? I bet if you just asked him that Geoffrey Pullum would do it on Language Log for free.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Orbiting Kolob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenn Thigpen said...

@Stanford: Thanks for dropping in and adding you comments (and corrections). Checking back on my searches and reading the context, (which I should have done in the first place) was enlightening. Also, I left out the "it" in "it supposeth me". Makes quite a bit of difference.

Do you have any comments on the assertion that the EmodE grammar could have been from artifacts from Joseph's environment? Has any research been done to see if any such artifacts show up in the letters and diaries of Joseph and his contemporaries?

However, this does show that a non-linguist can understand, at least to some degree, the points being made. The information that you presented can be verified, if one takes the time to do so.

It is funny that people can criticize the bad grammar, etc. of the Book of Mormon, but will fail to engage with the scholarship that is being done.

@Orbiting Kolob: What is your actual beef??? Do you disagree that the examples Stanford has presented are actually EmodE? Do you disagree with the numbers, the percentages?? I have not noticed that you are trying to deal with what Stanford is saying, but are resorting to sarcasm and ridicule in your opposition.

Glenn

Orbiting Kolob said...

Glenn, the history of science -- and the current practice of science -- demonstrates time and time again how hard it really is to get at the truth, and how extremely easy it is to turn up false positives. And while peer review has its problems, it's still the best way to ensure the validity of research by catching various kinds of errors.

All I want is for Carmack to have his methodology and results thoroughly reviewed by an independent expert in the field, and to share with us the results of that review.

I don't agree or disagree with his numbers, percentages, etc. I disagree with his publishing his work, and asserting its supposed truth and trumpeting its supposed significance, without ever having it properly vetted.

It's not right to have his work published unvetted in the Interpreter to buttress the faith of readers lacking the expertise to understand just how questionable it really is. There's something dishonest about that. It's a form of "lying for the Lord." One might almost, if one were a Christian, call it a sin.

It's also one of the reasons so many people (including many in the Church!) find LDS apologetics, and Dan Peterson, and the Interpreter to be such a joke.

Glenn Thigpen said...

@Orbiting Kolob: So why is it that Stanford cannot get any of his non-LDS acquaintances to even look at his work??? Why is it that there is a dearth of peer reviewed articles critical of the Book of Mormon? Or of anything that the Maxwell Institute nee F.A.R.M.S. and now the Interpreter has produced???

What do you think of Richard Packham's work on Book of Mormon linguistics?

Do you know of any non-LDS scholars who have actually engaged with the scholarship that has been produced by the LDS scholars on the Book of Mormon???

If the "it doesn't mean squat until it has been peer reviewed" mantra is followed honestly, there would be nothing critical of the Book of Mormon and Book of Mormon scholarship published.

Now, do you know any non-LDS linguists who would like to weigh in on the matter??? It would be interesting to get their input. Maybe you could have better luck than Stanford.

Glenn

Orbiting Kolob said...

Glenn, maybe a better procedure here would be for Carmack himself to give everyone here a lesson on how important it is for experts to dig into each other's methodology. He knows exactly what I'm talking about, and as a linguist he could actually do a better job than I can to describe how this plays out in linguistics particularly.

So maybe he could explain the importance of this kind of vetting in general terms, and then explain why he thinks it doesn't apply to his own work.

Glenn Thigpen said...

@Orbiting Kolob

Stanford has never hinted or intimated, that I am aware of, that the peer review process does not apply to his work. He has explicitly stated that he has asked acquaintances in the linguist field to review his work, all of whom declined.

Your response was more than sarcastic, and repeated your mantra that Stanford thinks that his work in immune to peer review. That position is in direct opposition to Stanford's actual words.

For whatever reason, you do not seem to want to discuss any of the merits of the case. I have pointed out that there are things that can be verified. So far, you have not engaged the actual data and assumptions in any meaningful way.

That may work well with people who already agree with your position, but it will hardly fly with anyone who has a more open mind and is open to being persuaded by rational arguments.

As I have mentioned before, maybe you yourself know some linguists who would be able to point out to us flaws in Stanford's methodology. I doubt that any would be willing to assert that the examples that Stanford has presented are not EmodE. Stanford is using an internationally known and acclaimed source for this information. The Oxford English Dictionary.

Glenn

Orbiting Kolob said...

For whatever reason, you do not seem to want to discuss any of the merits of the case. I have pointed out that there are things that can be verified. So far, you have not engaged the actual data and assumptions in any meaningful way.

Glenn, how can you possibly say that?

When I mentioned the possibility of archaisms in Joseph Smith's spoken dialect, I was engaging one of Carmack's assumptions in a meaningful way.

When I mentioned the possibility of the observed archaisms being artifacts of a flawed methodology, I was discussing the merits of the case.

When I stressed the need for peer review, I did so specifically because peer review is one of the key ways that research is verified. (I'm sorry, but complicated research in linguistics is not verified by amateurs playing around at their keyboards. It really does require expertise.)

Not to brag, but I've been engaging Carmack's research more seriously than anyone else on this blog. You might not like what I've been saying, but you can't deny my seriousness.

And FWIW, I bet that a lot of linguists would deny that Carmack has found EModE in the Book of Mormon. More likely they would agree with me: that Joseph Smith, in his efforts to create an archaic style, made up a few constructions that just happen to match EModE constructions.

Look, Glenn -- before we continue, I would ask you to at least do me the courtesy of reading the Wikipedia entry on the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, especially the example given there about the flawed Swedish research. You seem not to understand it (which is better than Carmack, who understands it but ignores it).

And I'm not buying Carmack's claim about the impossibility of independent review of his work. I'm sure someone qualified would undertake it, even if the work has to be done as paid consulting.

Like I said, where there's a will, there's a way. Where's there's no will, there's ... excuses.

Glenn Thigpen said...

@Orbiting Kolob
I have read the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy thing on the Wikipedia and several other articles to boot. I do not know what Stanford's belief's were concerning the translation method of the Book of Mormon was prior to his EmodE research. His conclusions based on that research is those EmodE artifacts are evidence of a tight translation, i.e. word for word. I am not arguing for or against those conclusions.
But I do not see how the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy applies to the raw data.

I am not denying the seriousness of your position, only that you are not seriously engaging with the elements that can be verified by lay people.
You are arguing against the raw data itself. And you are arguing something that should be testable. You believe that other linguists would agree with you that Joseph just made up stuff as he went along that just happen to sound like EmodE. So, why not check it out? Get a few of them to actually come here and enlighten us.
It does bother me a bit that you are calling into question Stanford's integrity as a scholar and a person when you said "And I'm not buying Carmack's claim about the impossibility of independent review of his work. I'm sure someone qualified would undertake it, even if the work has to be done as paid consulting."
What would you say if Stanford actually paid someone to review his stuff and they agreed with him???
Stanford has gone to great lengths to find examples of EmodE in published works that were accessible to Joseph from which he may have gotten his "inspiration". He reports that he has not been able to find anything. So maybe you can help him out.
Contrary to your assertions, you can do something with your keyboard which does not require a trained linguist. You can use the examples that Stanford has presented and go through Joseph's writings and dictations to see if any of those artifacts show up.
You also research letters and diaries of people of Joseph's environs to see if any EmodE artifacts show up in their writings.
That is what you have not seriously done. You have stated beliefs that you have provided no evidentiary basis basis for. You have provided me with no evidence to support your belief that the artifacts might have been a product of Joseph's dialect. You have provided me with no evidence to support your belief that Joseph could have just made up stuff and that it just somehow mimicked EmodE constructions.
I am willing to be convinced by evidence, not "I don't believe it." At this point, Stanford is the only one who is providing evidence.

As you have so succinctly put it "where there's a will, there's a way. Where's there's no will, there's ... excuses."

Glenn

Orbiting Kolob said...

Glenn, I most certainly am NOT "arguing against the raw data itself." You don't seem to understand the fallacy involved here. I'm perfectly willing to concede that Carmack's data is solid. But that doesn't matter. In the 1992 Swedish study cited in the Wikipedia entry, the researchers' data was also solid. They really DID produce data showing "that the incidence of childhood leukemia was four times higher among those that lived closest to the power lines." The data was good. The problem was that the data didn't mean anything. It was the chance result of the poor design of the study and nothing else.

Basically, the study looked for illnesses in people living near power lines. It looked for illnesses among a fairly small group of people, checking the incidence of 800 different diseases -- enough diseases that something in the way of an unusually high incidence was bound to show up just by chance, and something did show up: a high rate of childhood leukemia.

The problem was that they had a relatively small sample of people and a large number of things they were looking for. This is a statistical fail from the get-go. To avoid this problem, the study needed do the opposite: to check for a small number of illnesses among a very large number of people living near power lines.

A really well designed study would not simply go on a fishing expedition, looking for any and all illnesses; instead, it would be designed to test a hypothesis. That is, if there we some reason to think beforehand that power-line electromagnetic radiation might trigger some particular kind of illness, you would structure the study to look for that kind of illness.

Compare all this to Carmack's study. EModE, like any language, is made up of a very large number of grammatical constructions that might turn up in a linguistic fishing expedition (much as there were 800 diseases for the incompetent Swedish researchers to look for). Did anyone have any reason at all to think that the translated BoM text would include any particular EModE construction? No. Carmack was not testing any such hypothesis; he simply went fishing.

If Carmack wants to do linguistics instead of apologetics, he can propose a reasonable hypothesis and then use his expertise to conduct a study to test it. If the BoM is an ancient text written in the Hebrew language using Egyptian characters, and Smith translated it the way he said, then what might one expect to find in the resulting text? In particular, what features might one expect that text to have that would rule out competing hypotheses (such as "Joseph Smith wrote the text himself and deliberately aimed to produce an archaic-sounding style").

Is there ANY reason to expect to find EModE in an 1820s translation of an ancient Hebrew/Egyptian text? No.

Because of all this, it seems most likely that Carmack's data is the result of faulty methodology. Remember, I'm not disputing "the raw data itself." I'm disputing what that data means.

Here's what Carmack can do that would satisfy me. He can ask a real top-notch linguist -- like, say, Geoffrey Pullum -- to put together a team to review the research. If this has to be paid consulting, then he can ask Dan Peterson to hit up one of his donors for the money. If the study is in fact legit, wouldn't this be worth it? After all, without some kind of outside validation, the word is never going to get out beyond the Church. And as I keep saying, why should Carmack hide his light under a bushel?

If Pullum says the whole thing is legit --if he says there are no methodological problems, no possibility of EModE holdovers in Joseph's spoken dialect, etc., so that there's no other explanation than divine intervention -- then I'll go back to church.

Anonymous said...

"If Pullum says the whole thing is legit --if he says there are no methodological problems, no possibility of EModE holdovers in Joseph's spoken dialect, etc., so that there's no other explanation than divine intervention -- then I'll go back to church."

Yeah, we believe that. Sure.

Jerome said...

Glenn,

You don't understand the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. It means choosing a target afterthe shot has been fired. Nobody would predict a priori that there would be EModE in the Book of Mormon if God directed its translation. But somebody finds EModE constructs in the Book of Mormon and infers a posteriori that God must have directed the translation. The same conclusion could just as easily be drawn if somebody had found Ebonics, or Creole, or anything not readily explainable in the text of the Book of Mormon. That's why, whether there actually is EModE or not, it doesn't count as convincing evidence of divine translation. That's just a god-of-the-gaps argument.

I believe Orbiting alluded to this earlier in another post, but there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for finding EModE in upstate New York in the early 19th century. It's called the "paradox" or "paradigm" of the periphery, and it refers to the persistence of cultural or linguistic traditions at the periphery of a society after they disappear from its center. If the presence of EModE in the Book of Mormon could be adequately demonstrated to qualified scholars, I suspect that they would interpret the evidence from that perspective.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Since the topic is "scientific evidence for the ancient origin of the Book of Mormon," this might not be a bad time to remind everyone how nice it would be to have a set of demonstrably ancient gold plates on hand to examine.

Maybe someone can explain why God would insert EModE into the BoM so that we might scientifically establish its authenticity, when that purpose could have been much better served by leaving the plates in the Church's possession.

Carmack said...

Yes, there was EModE in Smith's language. There is EModE in our language. But not all the EModE in the text was in Smith's dialect. Quite a bit was not. Here is what the overzealous do, from either side. They overstate a position and are not systematic. Take lexis. Skousen has said, from the authority of the OED, that extinct = 'dead' and but if = 'unless' are EModE. The dishonest critic will mention only the weak one, extinct, and find ambiguous cases close to Smith's time, and say that ambiguous evidence entirely invalidates the approach. The reasonable will say extinct is questionable but admit that "but if" is a good example of EModE that almost certainly did not bleed into the modern period and so was almost certainly not part of Smith's language. It's found in Malory (1485, EEBO A21703: "why said syre Tristram wylle ye do bataille with me but yf I telle you my name"), in the 16c, but not much beyond that (based on OED entry for but, def. 10b with last dated ex. 1596, Spenser, who used archaic lg in his poem). So the probability is very high Smith didn't know it, but it's in the text. Another thing dishonest critics will do is ignore that there are dozens of this kind of lexis in the text. They might say from my simple comment here that there are only two such items, so it's just a coincidence. They do the same thing with syntax. You're welcome for the enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

OK. Don't you have anything better to do than to trot out that tired, inconclusive query/musing whose obvious answer will never satisfy you? Please be respectable.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Anon 12:45, the "obvious answer" to my question is that the gold plates never existed. You can't keep what you never had.

Anonymous said...

There are about 20 witnesses of different types to the existence of dense, metal plates. Plus there is substantial circumstantial evidence. Thus we have a dishonest analysis by OK. He isn't always this unreliable, but here he certainly is, so his comments should be disregarded.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome for the enlightenment.

Hehe. I've often observed that the amplitude of an apologist's snark is inversely proportional to the strength of his argument.

Glenn Thigpen said...

Jerome,
I think I understand the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy pretty well. I just do not think that it has been applied to this debate correctly. The presence of extensive EmodE syntax in the Book of Mormon was originally discovered by Royal Skousen during the course of his critical text of the Book of Mormon project, if I understand it correctly.
The awkward syntax has long been a source of criticism of the Book of Mormon. For example, the Methodist Review volume 87 published in 1905 has an extensive critique of that syntax, saying that "In reading the book one constantly meets serious blunders in form, construction, and diction, the mistakes being of such a kind that it seems impossible for them to have resulted naturally from ignorance or habit.They are heavy, labored, artificial. “ They had arriven to the land of Middoni” (Alma 20. 30) has a peculiar sound, and we know what meaning it was intended to convey, but there is no such word in the language as “arriven.” "

So, now, research is uncovering evidence that those extensive blunders are actually grammatical constructs from a bygone era, much of which actually predated the King James translation of the Bible.

Those findings are not the result of looking for something and drawing a bulls-eye around it. It is rather a case of serendipity. Looking at one thing, recovering the original text of the Book of Mormon, and finding another, the presence of extensive EmodE grammar in the Book of Mormon.

I not been arguing any of Stanford's conclusions as to what his research means as to the translation process of the Book of Mormon. I am focusing only on the one conclusion that there was nothing in Joseph's environment to explain the levels of EmodE that are found in the Book of Mormon.

There has been a suggestion by Orbiting Kolob that it could have come from Joseph's lack of education and that his local environment was such that high levels of EmodE had been preserved in the local dialect to account for everything. However, none of those suggesting such a hypothesis has been willing to do a simple search for those examples that Stanford provided in Joseph's known writings and in letters and diaries of the common people of the era.

Unless that is done and positive results are found for heavy EmodE usage in the local dialect in Joseph's environment, the critics are coming to the fray unarmed.

Glenn

Orbiting Kolob said...

Well, Jerome, you can lead 'em to water but you can't make 'em drink.

Glenn Thigpen said...

Orbiting Kolob so wisely said: "Well, Jerome, you can lead 'em to water but you can't make 'em drink."

And the answer is that you have to have arms to give someone a drink. ("That's a joke, son" said Foghorn Leghorn.)

Orbiting Kolob said...

Now that the hot weather is here, I'm just glad to have the right to bare arms.

Jerome said...

Glenn,

If you're not arguing that EModE in the Book of Mormon implies a divine translation process, then the Texas sharpshooter fallacy doesn't apply. Of course, there would have been no need for you to respond to my initial argument, which was targeted to the argument that EModE implies divine origin...

Any natural explanation for the presence of EModE in the Book of Mormon is more likely than the explanation that God put it there, by definition. A miracle, by definition, is an extremely unlikely event. Any non miraculous explanation is therefore more likely, whether the person who advances the non miraculous explanation has done the legwork to dig up evidence for it or not.

Some people seem to be setting the bar higher for Orbiting Kolob and others who proffer natural explanations for the existence of EModE in the Book of Mormon than for those who claim that the only plausible explanation is that God did it. If OK is required to furnish evidence that there was EModE in Joseph's environment that could explain the finding of EModE in the Book of Mormon, why shouldn't apologists be required to furnish evidence that God wanted Joseph Smith to use EModE in the translation? It's fallacious to require apologists for the natural explanations to furnish evidence but not apologists for the supernatural. The explanation "God did it" shouldn't be exempt from the rules of evidence. It doesn't become true just because the natural explanations aren't supported.

Historically, "God" was an explanation for all kinds of phenomena that weren't easily explained. Many of these phenomena were subsequently explained in natural terms. The explanation that "God did it" has never been demonstrated and has a poor track record.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the Texas Sharpshooter thing different? Isn't it looking for illnesses that ANY human (or most) could come down with. But in this case, it's looking for dead language that NO ONE was speaking anymore and that no one knew anymore (talking about nonspecialists). So when language is found that linguists have decided was obsolete, it's interesting. An isolated case? OK, could be a coincidence. But many of them, it's a pattern, and not a sharpshooter pattern.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Anon 9:59, instead of this:

looking for illnesses that ANY human (or most) could come down with

think of this:

looking for elements that ANY language (or any Hebrew, Egyptian, or pre-KJV English) could feature.

In both cases we've got pretty much the same methodological problem.

The Swedes didn't start with a reasonable hypothesis that power lines would contribute to childhood leukemia. That is, they didn't draw a narrow target on the wall beforehand and then aim at it. Instead they shot at the entire wall and drew a circle where the bullet happened to hit.

Carmack didn't start with a theory that predicted an authentic Book of Mormon would contain isolated elements of EModE, and then go looking for EModE in order to test that hypothesis. He went looking for any and all linguistic structures that would have been unknown to Joseph Smith. Then, when he found a few things that matched EModE, he drew a circle around them and said "Bull's-eye!"

That's the Texas sharpshooter in action.

He could have done the same thing if his fishing had turned up some elements of Middle English, or Old English, or Hebrew, or whatever.

Carmack keeps claiming that the pattern he's turned up cannot be attributed to mere chance, and that the data speaks for itself. But remember, the Swedish researchers turned up data that appeared to the untrained eye to be beyond the possibility of mere chance, but actually was just random. To the untrained eye, it seems highly significant that children living near power lines were found to get leukemia four times as often as others. Surely there must be something significant there -- but there wasn't.

The Swedes' data was sound -- it really was true that the children in their study had leukemia at four times the normal rate -- but that data didn't speak for itself. Both the data itself and the method by which it was obtained had to be analyzed by experts in statistics and methodology, in order to see whether the results were significant or merely the by-products of a poor study design. Ditto for Carmack's data.

I'm not saying anything here that would not be covered in an introductory Research Methods course at BYU or any other university. Carmack is an intelligent and highly educated guy, with a Ph.D. and everything. He understands perfectly well what I'm talking about. He knows perfectly well that his data per se does not speak for itself and is not the issue here.

Jerome said...

Isn't the Texas Sharpshooter thing different? Isn't it looking for illnesses that ANY human (or most) could come down with.

Not exactly. It's looking for any illness, common or otherwise, finding an uncommon one, and then retrofitting the implication of having the uncommon illness to support a conclusion that didn't motivate looking for that particular illness in the first place. What's the predicted probability of finding a particular uncommon illness? Low. But what's the probability of finding any uncommon illness? Much higher. Think of like coin flipping. What's the probability of getting a particular sequence of heads and tails by flipping five times in a row? 1/32. What's the probability of getting any sequence of heads and tails by flipping five times in a row? 1/1. The fallacy is in using the lower probability instead of the higher to draw an inference. You didn’t start out looking for that particular uncommon illness; you started looking for any uncommon illness. So it’s proper to use the probability of finding any uncommon illness rather than the probability of finding the particular uncommon illness.

Likewise, what’s the probability of finding EModE in the Book of Mormon? Low (I’m told). What’s the probability of finding it used inconsistently in the Book of Mormon? Higher. What’s the probability of finding any English constructs in the Book of Mormon that aren’t well attested in Joseph Smith’s environment? Certainly higher than the probability of finding a particular English construct not well attested in Joseph Smith’s environment. The fallacy is in using the lower probability to draw conclusions when we didn’t set out to find the particular English constructs in the first place. We set out to find any poorly attested construct, so we should use the probability of finding any poorly attested construct. Instead, people are arguing from the probability of finding particular poorly attested constructs which they had no motivation a priori to search for.

Steve said...

I think the argument is that the Book of Mormon has dozens of obsolete/rare/uncommon items in it: not in the Bible (or rarely in it) and dead before the 1800s. I think it's like finding children who suffer from many rare/uncommon illnesses at the same time.

Glenn Thigpen said...

@ Jerome: You said "Any natural explanation for the presence of EModE in the Book of Mormon is more likely than the explanation that God put it there, by definition. A miracle, by definition, is an extremely unlikely event. Any non miraculous explanation is therefore more likely, whether the person who advances the non miraculous explanation has done the legwork to dig up evidence for it or not."

For that to be true, one must assume that there is no God. You are just playing semantic games here.

And you said "Likewise, what’s the probability of finding EModE in the Book of Mormon? Low (I’m told). What’s the probability of finding it used inconsistently in the Book of Mormon? Higher. What’s the probability of finding any English constructs in the Book of Mormon that aren’t well attested in Joseph Smith’s environment? Certainly higher than the probability of finding a particular English construct not well attested in Joseph Smith’s environment. The fallacy is in using the lower probability to draw conclusions when we didn’t set out to find the particular English constructs in the first place. We set out to find any poorly attested construct, so we should use the probability of finding any poorly attested construct. Instead, people are arguing from the probability of finding particular poorly attested constructs which they had no motivation a priori to search for."

How are you determining your own set of probabilities??? It seems that you are just doing a guessing game. You offer nothing to back up you premises. Stanford, as has been explained earlier, is following up on findings that Royal Skousen had made in his Book of Mormon Critical text project.

I am trying to stay away from any talk of miraculous stuff and keep to a strictly secular, evidence based discussion. I have repeatedly tried to get someone to provide some type of evidence that two of Stanford assertions are faulty.
They are :

1. There is undeniably substantial evidence in the BofM of EModE meaning and syntax that was inaccessible to Smith and scribe.

2. Smith could not have known the obsolete meaning of some of these words except from context because semantic shifts are unpredictable and unknowable to anyone in the absence of specific philological study.

I have even made suggestions for possible places to look.

Jerome said...

For that to be true, one must assume that there is no God. You are just playing semantic games here.

No, one does not need to assume that there is no God. One only needs to assume that an intervention by God is extremely unlikely. That's the assumption made by believers in God. That's how they explain miracles. If walking on water were a likely event, then it wouldn't be a miracle. If coming back from the dead were a likely event, the resurrection wouldn't be miraculous. If translating ancient records by looking at a stone were likely, it wouldn't be miraculous. I don't know how long you've been a theologian, but I suspect it's long enough that you should have known this by now.

How are you determining your own set of probabilities??? It seems that you are just doing a guessing game.

It only seems like a guessing game if you can't follow the argument. I was quite clear.

I am trying to stay away from any talk of miraculous stuff and keep to a strictly secular, evidence based discussion.

Oh? Then you should have no problem with my argument that the presence of EModE is poor evidence for divine intervention.

1. There is undeniably substantial evidence in the BofM of EModE meaning and syntax that was inaccessible to Smith and scribe.

If that were true, the logical implication would be that Smith didn't write it. However, it's obviously false. Writing it means he had access to it. Whether the access came from somewhere in his environment or from a urim and thummim type of source is the question. Which is more likely? I leave it to objective thinkers to answer that question for themselves.

Steve said...

Jerome, it's rather obvious that Carmack left as understood to the educated, reading in context, who didn't want to be difficult, a sense of "naturalistically" inaccessible. Under either reading, however, it still needs to be explained how JS knew about dozens of kinds of obsolete language.

Steve said...

Abstracting away from JS, since Jerome might choose to be difficult about it, how did lots of EModE not found in Bible end up in the text?

Glenn Thigpen said...

Jerome said: "Oh? Then you should have no problem with my argument that the presence of EModE is poor evidence for divine intervention."

I have not been arguing for or against that.

Then he said, in response to :1. There is undeniably substantial evidence in the BofM of EModE meaning and syntax that was inaccessible to Smith and scribe.

"If that were true, the logical implication would be that Smith didn't write it. However, it's obviously false. Writing it means he had access to it. Whether the access came from somewhere in his environment or from a urim and thummim type of source is the question. Which is more likely? I leave it to objective thinkers to answer that question for themselves."

I doubt that you will find objective thinkers responding on this thread and on this subject.
You still are making assertions for which you have no evidence. If that access came from somewhere in his environment, you should be able to find it in texts from his environment. Stanford has asserted after doing his research, that such levels of EmodE were not to be found in documents that Joseph would have had access to. It should be a fairly simple matter to prove him wrong. That would be objective.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Stanford has asserted after doing his research, that such levels of EmodE were not to be found in documents that Joseph would have had access to.

But please remember, Glenn, that much of the language Smith had access to was spoken, not written. Nonstandard spoken dialects tend to retain archaic features longer than the written standard.

Please remember also that the secular theory, or one of them, anyway, is that Smith was deliberately trying to make the BoM sound archaic. He was deliberately trying to mimic the language of the King James Bible, which is itself written in EModE. In the course of doing so he might have unwittingly created some archaisms that match EModE not in the Bible, even without having ever encountered them elsewhere in his linguistic environment.

The odds of creating EModE structures completely by chance, in the course of ordinary creative writing, might well be low, but the odds are probably a lot higher if one is deliberately trying to write creatively in a way that mimics EModE in the first place (that is, the EModE of the King James Bible).

If you look at some of the names in the BoM you can get a sense of how this might have worked. Consider Abish. Deseret News just ran a silly article about her, exploring various implications about what her name means in Hebrew, etc. But it seems far more likely to me that Smith based this woman's character on that of Abishag in the Bible, and simply took the original name and tweaked it by dropping the last syllable. (Note that both Abish and Abishag are servants, etc. Coincidence?)

Smith might similarly have created Carmack's archaisms by taking structures he was familiar with from the Bible and tweaking them slightly. Why not? There's evidence he did so with names.

The real problem here is that Carmack is publishing in the decidedly uncritical atmosphere of the apologetics community. He's not seeking out the kind of critical feedback that could weed out problems in his analysis.

zuort said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerome said...

Glenn,

You don't understand the role of evidence in argumentation. The statement "the probability of exposure to EModE in Joseph Smith's environment is X" requires evidence. The statement "the probability of exposure to EModE in Joseph Smith's environment is greater than the probability of getting it from the Urim and Thummim" does not.

Jerome said...

I think the argument is that the Book of Mormon has dozens of obsolete/rare/uncommon items in it: not in the Bible (or rarely in it) and dead before the 1800s. I think it's like finding children who suffer from many rare/uncommon illnesses at the same time.

The probability of finding a dozen children each with a different illness of the same low prevalence is the same as finding 12 children each with the same illness having the same low prevalence, assuming that in each case you are looking for subjects having one of the dozen illnesses. It changes if you're only looking for a single illness because the probability of not finding one rare illness of prevalence X in a population is higher than the probability of not finding a dozen illnesses each with the same prevalence X in the same sized sample. So, I don't know what point you were attempting to make. What's important is the size of the sample and the number of different variables you're looking for. The lower the sample size relative to the number of variables you're testing, the higher the probability of false discoveries.

Jerome, it's rather obvious that Carmack left as understood to the educated, reading in context, who didn't want to be difficult, a sense of "naturalistically" inaccessible.

Uh, yes, I know. That should also be rather obvious. The problem is an apologist uses methodological naturalism to disprove any possible natural explanation for something. Such a claim invites skepticism.

Glenn Thigpen said...

Jerome Said: "You don't understand the role of evidence in argumentation. The statement "the probability of exposure to EModE in Joseph Smith's environment is X" requires evidence. The statement "the probability of exposure to EModE in Joseph Smith's environment is greater than the probability of getting it from the Urim and Thummim" does not."

I am trying to keep away from anything about the probabilities of anything being of divine origin. I am just trying to get someone to show that the EmodE constructs that Joseph used could be found in written texts contemporaneous to Joseph and his envirions.

@Orbiting Kolob.,
You said "But please remember, Glenn, that much of the language Smith had access to was spoken, not written. Nonstandard spoken dialects tend to retain archaic features longer than the written standard."

No one has demonstrated that Joseph's environment was such that outdated grammatical structures would have been prevalent in the local speech and dialects. In fact, ina an earlier post, you said:"Remember that Smith's case was in some ways quite unusual. In his day, as in ours, most published books tend to be written by people with a lot of formal education. Some (not many) of these people might have had humble beginnings, like Smith, but unlike Smith, they probably had gotten a lot more formal education before publishing any books. The BoM appeared when Smith was 25 or so, and while he was certainly intelligent and literate, he had not been to college. The vast majority of American writers, whose work makes up the vast majority of the archive, had a lot more formal education than Smith. They were also older, and thus had more time to learn the finer points of the standard grammar."

That is why I suggested seeking out letters and other documents written by Joseph or dictated by him to find if there were significant levels of EmodE usage in his earliest writings before he became able to dictate a coherent sentence.
Then, letters and diaries of contemporary common people, of the less educated sort could be consulted to see if they aslo contained significant EmodE expressions.

As for your speculation that Joseph could have just made up a bunch of Biblical sounding stuff and it just happened to fit EmodE grammar that predates the Bible. Well, that sounds pretty fantastic. Almost miraculous. Automatic writing sounds more plausible to me.

Glenn
"

Jerome said...

I am trying to keep away from anything about the probabilities of anything being of divine origin. I am just trying to get someone to show that the EmodE constructs that Joseph used could be found in written texts contemporaneous to Joseph and his envirions.

You mean like Le Mote Darthur and The Canterbury Tales?

Orbiting Kolob said...

Glenn, I'm glad to see that you agree with me about the need to explore the possibility of EModE archaisms in the spoken, rather than written, part of Joseph Smith's linguistic environment. I would ony add that this work (and it would be considerable work) is the apologists' responsibility, not mine. The apologists are the ones making this "God of the gaps" argument, so it's their responsibility to show that the gaps are really gaps.

For the life of me I cannot see what is so "fantastic" about someone "making up a bunch of Biblical sounding stuff." The main reason skeptics cite The Late War is to demonstrate that Americans of Smith's day sometimes did precisely that.

So it's not unreasonable to suggest that Smith was deliberately trying to sound biblical. Whether that would increase the chances of his accidentally producing some bits of unattested EModE is a question for the linguists. Carmack hasn't really addressed this question, since as far as I know he has not explored the possibility of Smith's deliberately, like Gilbert Hunt and others, trying to write archaically.

In any event the parallels between the BoM and The Late War are far more striking than anything Carmack has shown us. Maybe those parallels are due to chance and don't actually mean anything -- but if so, then surely the same must be true of Carmack's EModE.

Jerome, I was also thinking about Morte d'Arthur. I know that in 19th-century frontier America the most popular writers (leaving aside the King James Bible) were Shakespeare and Milton. I wonder if Malory was also widely read.

Stan said...

Mosiah 7:1
they wearied him with their teasings

1731 Jonathan Swift
Sir Robert, weary’d by Will Pulteney’s teazings.