Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

I’m having great success using Teach Yourself to Read Hebrew, by Ethelyn Simon and Joseph Anderson. The book provides an easy step-by-step process for learning to read and write the Hebrew alphabet. Highly recommended. I’m using it in conjunction with my first reading of the Hebrew scriptures in the original language.

ARK — 29 Oct. 2009


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An article in NewScientist Thursday alerted me to a recent controversy over the Indus script, a set of symbols associated with the Indus Valley civilization of eastern Pakistan and western India. The Indus valley civilization is dated in the timeframe of 2500 to 1900 BCE, according to writer Ewen Callaway (see “Scholars at odds over mysterious Indus script.”)

The basic controversy is over whether the Indus script really represents a language or is merely a set of religious or political symbols. Advocates on both sides have used computational analysis to support their conclusions.

The viewpoint that Indus script is not a language in part rests on the observation that “most of the inscriptions contain fewer than five characters, few of the characters repeat, and many of the symbols occur very infrequently,” writes Callaway.

This viewpoint is put forward in a 2004 article for the Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies by Steve Farmer and colleagues — see “The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization.”

Farmer notes that there were other “nonlinguistic symbol systems in the Near East that served key religious, political, and social functions without encoding speech or serving as formal memory aids.” His paper points to evidence “that the Harappans’ lack of a true script may have been tied to the role played by their symbols in controlling large multilinguistic populations.” (The Indus civilization is sometimes called Harappan, referring to one of the key archaeological sites associated with the culture.)

However, the cocksureness of Farmer’s tone (just consider the title of his article, referring to the “collapse” of the opposite viewpoint and his calling it a “myth”) sets off my “expertitis” meter. The readings are high in this case, so I am interested to find recent research that argues in favor of the Indus-Script thesis that in fact “Indus inscriptions were tightly bound to language,” in Farmer’s words.

Finnish professor of Indology Asko Parpola of the University of Helsinki analyzes and critiques Farmer’s work in “Study of the Indus Script.” It’s worth noting what he has to say, as his work is a key target of Farmer.

Rajesh Rao, a University of Washington computer scientist, has more recently published research based on use of artificial-intelligence pattern-analysis software to study the Indus script.

A writeup in Wired describes Rao’s findings (see “Artificial Intelligence Cracks 4,000-Year-Old Mystery“):

[Rao’s team] fed the program sequences of four spoken languages: ancient Sumerian, Sanskrit and Old Tamil, as well as modern English. Then they gave it samples of four non-spoken communication systems: human DNA, Fortran, bacterial protein sequences and an artificial language.

The program calculated the level of order present in each language. Non-spoken languages were either highly ordered, with symbols and structures following each other in unvarying ways, or utterly chaotic. Spoken languages fell in the middle.

When they seeded the program with fragments of Indus script, it returned with grammatical rules based on patterns of symbol arrangement. These proved to be moderately ordered, just like spoken languages.

Wikipedia offers some useful articles related to this question of the Indus script — see “Indus script,” “Undeciphered writing systems,” and “Decipherment.”

A refreshingly readable discussion of why decipherment is so hard is available from Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope — see his article “How come we can’t decipher the Indus script?” This is the first time I have encountered Cecil Adams, and I am pleased to be able to start following the work of a fellow know-it-all.

AB — 25 April 2009

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Is it reasonable to think that the global flood described in the Bible could have made the extensive coal beds found on the earth today? Geologist Andrew Snelling thinks so — see this article: “Coal beds and Noah’s Flood.”

Snelling’s bio page here contains links to other articles about geology and the Deluge.

ARK — 19 March 2009

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For my own purposes, I’ve calculated (very roughly) that the population of the earth before the Biblical Deluge could easily have reached a billion by 2370 BCE, the year of the flood. But that’s a low estimate. I also calculated that a high growth rate could have put the population at 12 billion by about 3,000 BCE.

However, Tom Pickett takes a more thorough approach at this page: Population of the PreFlood World.

Lambert Dolphin also includes the pre-flood world at World Population Since Creation.

ARK — 19 March 2009

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Spading Up Ancient Words, a book written in 1984 by Dr. Erich A. von Fange is available in its entirety at this web location.

Von Fange was a professor of psychology and statistics at Concordia University, in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 1962 to 1987. He studied archaeology, ancient history, geology, and paleontology from a Biblical framework, and apparently Spading Up Ancient Words is based on some of his research.

Von Fange’s book appears to be related to Edenics (see “Does all language have a common origin?”), which makes it interesting as a resource for our purposes.

Chapter 2 contains an interesting analysis of the names used in the pre-flood world.

ARK — 19 March 2009

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A friend just pointed me to the Ultimate Bible Reference Library, which offers a number of free downloads, including two classic Bible reference works now in the public domain.

The site also makes available a DVD-ROM collection called The Ultimate Bible Research Library for $12.00, as well as other useful resources.

ARK — 1 March 2009

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AncientScripts.com is more or less a hobby site by a non-linguist, but useful as an introduction to ancient writing systems.

ARK — 26 February 2009

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Word2Word is a great online language resource. It provides links to language resources in many interesting topics, including:

  • Online dictionaries and translators
  • Language learning on YouTube
  • Machine translation software
  • Alphabets of the world
  • Typing foreign characters
  • English as a second language
  • Educational language software
  • Tools for translators
  • Foreign language newspapers
  • Ancient language resources
  • And much more

ARK — 26 February 2009

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Here is a set of beginning Hebrew lessons on video from B’nai Or in Pueblo, Colorado.

ARK — 26 February 2009

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Here is another useful resource for online texts:

Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Has good resources on the “church fathers,” as well as Bible commentaries.

ARK — 18 January 2009

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