Language too modern?

The origins are unknown for many words in our modern languages. Socrates, for example, speculated about etymology as far back as the fifth century BCE in Plato’s “Cratylus”, passages 409c to 410a (translation Fowler 1921):

Hermogenes: “And what of πῦρ (fire) […]?”
Socrates: “Πῦρ is too much for me. It must be that either the muse of Euthyphro has deserted me or this is a very difficult word. […] I know that many Greeks, especially those who are subject to the barbarians, have adopted many foreign words. […] If we should try to demonstrate the fitness of those words in accordance with the Greek language, and not in accordance with the language from which they are derived, you know we should get into trouble. […] Well, this word πῦρ is probably foreign; for it is difficult to connect it with the Greek language, and besides, the Phrygians have the same word, only slightly altered.”

The Fryas word for ‘fire’ is almost the same as that for ‘four’.1 In Plato’s dialogue between Socrates and Timaeus (53d), the latter relates the element fire with the tetrahedron: a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces. In Codex Oera Linda (ch. 2f. Frya’s Tex, [012/10]), it is mentioned as the fourth element, after LÒFT. WÉTER. LÁND (air, water, land/earth).

Despite all the models, theories, and speculations, we simply do not know how old our languages are and how they developed. But as we discover more about civilizations that were likely lost as a result of cataclysms, we should be able to imagine that spoken and written languages once may have existed which were more advanced than their later remnants. When critics of Codex Oera Linda suggest that its syntax or vocabulary appear ‘too modern’ to be authentic, they usually refer back to the oldest available, accepted sources of Dutch, and Frisian. These number few and were written by scribes who had learned to read and write in the classical languages of Greek and Latin.

Indeed, Latin and Greek as we know them may have been languages used primarily for the transmission of information, rather than representing languages spoken in normal interaction between people. Everyday speech may have been quite similar to dialects that still exist today. So, what if a text emerged that was written or copied by someone who had actually learned to read and write the spoken language of his pre-Christian ancestors? Would this text not seem modern and strange — too easily accessible in the eyes of someone biased to expect older texts to be less readable than those set down by medieval monks?

There are numerous examples of words that would-be ‘debunkers’ of Codex Oera Linda consider to be modern — or that they assert must have been meant as a hidden pun. Other words are assumed to be intentionally ambiguous. All such examples, however, are speculative at best and may be classed as arguments from incredulity (a logical fallacy). It makes perfect sense that old languages will seem ambiguous because the usage and meanings of words have changed over time, not to mention regional differences. Even within and between the various texts of the Oera Linda manuscript, there are examples of differing and changing meanings.

No Old Frisian specialist has ever published a study of the language used in Codex Oera Linda. Is there a reason that the 1876 pamphlet by J. Vinckers, commonly referred to by those who claim that Oera Linda’s falseness is a long established fact, has never been translated, summarized or reviewed in English?2

  1. ‘Fire’ is spelled FJVR or FJUR, ‘four’ FJUWER or FJVWER, and once ‘fourth’ is spelled FJURDE.
  2. Interestingly, one of Vinckers’ grandsons was named Friso Adeling (which must have been inspired by Oera Linda) and a great-granddaughter distanced herself from his claims in a letter, published in 2013. See blog post “Jan Vinckers and the illusion of authority”, 15 September 2018.
see blog posts BIDOBBA ~ dobbe, tobbe, doop (2014) and BIDOBBA, as a matter of speaking (2017)
see future blog post about the likely relationship between ‘tie’, ‘tow’, ‘tense’, ‘technic’, textile’ and ‘text’
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