Friday, May 10, 2013

Why the Mulekite Language was Corrupted?

The question often arises, why did the Mulekites lose their language and why was it “corrupted”? As readers often state, it had only been about 400 years since their separation, and it seems that they should still have been able to communicate even if the language had gone through a natural process of change over time.
What modern man often fails to consider when looking at proceedings of antiquity, is that events of the past happened in an entirely different world than incidents of today. As for language, we need to keep in mind that a child learns to speak his language from parents, and depending on the knowledge, teaching, experiences, ability, vocabulary, and understanding of parents, will depend on how the child learns to speak. Then, too, there are regional dialects that vary from nearby regions, sometimes to a great extent.
In addition, each generation of young have a tendency to inject nuances into their words, along with a natural tendency toward laziness in correct pronunciation, and words change over time.
As an example, in England, Shire, the word for county, was once specifically stated, as in Clay Shire, though through laziness of speech, became Clay-sure. James Town in the Carolinas became James-ton. In Utah today, the city of Hurricane is called Hurri-kun; creek is pronounced crick; and in California San Jose is pronounced San Hozay, and La Jolla is La Hoya. There can be no question that words and even phrases have changed over time.
Noah Webster, who lived from 1758 to 1843, was the “man of words” in early 19th-century America. He compiled a dictionary, published in 1828, which became the standard for American English, and also compiled The American Spelling Book, which was the basic textbook for young readers in early 19th-century America. Before publication of this book in 1783, many schools used Thomas Dilworth's A New Guide to the English Tongue. Webster's book, with its polysyllabic words broken into individual syllables and its precepts and fables, became the favorite, and revised several times by Webster as the "blue-back speller," it taught generations of Americans how to read and how to spell.
Before Webster’s time, words were defined from a British point of view. As an example, the word govern related to monarch, king and royalty. But Webster aligned words to an American point of view, with govern relating to government, constitution, republic, democracy. Webster gave us “honor” instead of “honour,” “music” instead of “musick,” “plow” instead of “plough,” and changed “theatre” to “theater,” and “centre” to “center.”
At the time of the birth of our Nation, Benjamin Franklin said, “I have no use for a man with but one spelling for a word,” and at that time, there was no system of either spelling or pronunciation—as an example, there was tung for tongue, swimmen for swimming, or mistuh for mister. And there were numerous accepted spellings for the same word, as in wimmen, wimmyn, wimen, wommen, etc., for woman; dahg, dawg, dogg, etc., for dog; and lite, liht, lyte, etc., for light.
Left: Benjamin Franklin; Right: Noah Webster
It was Noah Webster that gave to America a system of spelling, pronunciation, and grammar. So when a child said, “Me and Tim went to the show,” the parent corrects with “Tim and I went to the show.” The important ingredient in all of this is the fact that this information was written down and, therefore, could be passed on accurately from generation to generation. Without the written confirmation of what was acceptable, over time, words become jumbled, mis-pronounced, and meanings change.
Even with written records, spelling, grammar, and pronunciation principles that have not changed, words can still taken on different meanings. As an example, manufacture originally meant to make by hand; artificial meant full of artistic or technical skill; counterfeit meant a perfect copy; awful meant full of awe; tell meant to count; brave meant cowardly; girl meant a young person of either sex; neck meant a parcel of land; sophisticated meant corrupted. In my lifetime, several words have completely different meanings from when I was young. As an example, gay used to mean happy, full of gaiety; grass was something you mowed, not a drug, bad used to mean something terrible, not good; cool was a temperature; hotline was a hot wire; Loony tunes was a cartoon label; envelope was something you mailed, became upper limit; and many more. There have also been new words and phrases added in my lifetime: software, sit-in, brinkmanship, carpool, biodegradable, Affirmative Action, Credibility Gap, aerobics, bottom line, workaholic, Watergate, sound bite, couch potato, geek, gridlock, wannabe, yuppie, virtual reality, newbie, and numerous others.
The point is, words, phrases, and even entire ideas change over time. When I was growing up, the silence and toughness of John Wayne was the male role model, but that changed in the 1970s-1980s to a more feminine male type, there was no political correctness and people said what they thought, and Americans were known for being able to laugh at themselves. All of this has changed, despite television, movies, books, computers, internet and every other type of written and visual record of the past.
Think what it would have been for the Mulekites who arrived in a New World without any type of records or, evidently, any literacy among them. When we speak of only being separated from Jerusalem for 400 years, keep in mind that the Pilgrims landed in New England 393 years ago! While modern man can generally read the original writing of the King James Version of the Bible and Shakespeare, it is very difficult and takes considerable effort. Anyone who has studied Shakespeare in school knows that to understand spoken English of that period is also quite difficult. Without several interpretations, it can be almost impossible to get the full meaning of his verse.
So consider the Mulekites. Except for a handful of people—the original generation that came from Jerusalem—none had ever heard their Hebrew spoken by a learned Jew. They had never seen it written. They had no idea of its history or meanings. They had no teachers, no educators, no historians, no one with any hereditary knowledge of the Jewish faith. Within fifty years it is unlikely anyone was still alive who had lived in Jerusalem.
For the next 350 years their language fell into disrepute, new words added, old words changed meaning, understanding of what specific words meant, would have all been from what little would have been handed down. Amaleki tells us the language of the People of Zaarahemla had been corrupted, which means their language had lost its purity, had changed from good to bad, was defiled and polluted, debased and rendered impure. In short, it had changed to a worse state, infected with errors and mistakes. It was corrupted—tainted with wickedness: “for they had brought no records with them” (Omni 1:17).

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