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Confusion of Tongues

The confusion of tongues (confusio linguarum) is the initial fragmentation of human languages described in the Bible after the collapse of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). Languages have since been thought of as tending toward cultural and geographical localism and divergence.

A dramatic sight on the topic related to the confusion of tongues, as it may have occurred during the attempt to build Babel by Gustave Doré.
The human proto-language spoken before the event was assumed to have split into seventy or seventy-two dialects, depending on tradition. This is in apparent contradiction to Genesis 10:5.

These were the isles of the Gentiles divided into their lands; everyone after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.
They suggested that even before Babel, human languages were separated, at least among the descendants of Japheth.

During the Middle Ages, the Hebrew language was widely considered the language used by God to address Adam in Paradise and by Adam as nomothete (the Adamic language), especially by Christian scholastics.

In the Divina Commedia, Dante implies that the language of Paradise was different from later Hebrew by saying that Adam addressed God as I rather than El.

The argument of Genesis 10:5 played a specific role at the time preceding the discovery of the Indo-European language family, initially considered the “Japhetite” languages by some authors.[citation needed] During the Renaissance, Hebrew had lost its status as the original language of Paradise. Instead, it was considered just one of the seventy languages derived from the confusion of tongues.

Priority was now claimed for the alleged Japhetite languages, which were never corrupted because their speakers had not participated in constructing the Tower of Babel.

Among the candidates for a living descendant of the Adamic language were Gaelic (see Auraicept na n-Éces), Tuscan (Giovanni Battista Gelli, 1542, Piero Francesco Giambullari, 1564), Flemish (Goropius Becanus, 1569, Abraham Mylius, 1612), Swedish (Andreas Kempe, 1688, Olaus Rudbeck, 1675) and German (Georg Philipp Haurdörffer, 1641, Schottel, 1641). However, Anne Catherine Emmerich revealed that the most direct descendants of the Adamic language were the Bactrian, Zend, and Indian languages; thus, the Adamic language would be the same as the Proto-Indo-European language.

The origin of language (glottogony, glossogeny) is a topic written about for centuries. Still, the ephemeral nature of speech means that there is almost no data to base conclusions on the subject. We know that at least once during human evolution, a verbal communication system emerged from proto-linguistic or non-linguistic means of communication. Still, beyond that, little can be said.

No current human group, anywhere, speaks a “primitive” or rudimentary language. While existing languages differ in size and subjects covered in their several lexicons, all human languages possess the grammar and syntax needed and can invent, translate, or borrow the vocabulary needed to express the full range of their speakers’ concepts.


Homo sapiens have an inherent capability for language. Whether other extinct hominid species, such as Neanderthals, possessed such a capacity is unknown. Nevertheless, the use of language is one of the most conspicuous and diagnostic traits distinguishing H. sapiens from many other animals.

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