Category Archives: Linguistics

Making Sense of Samson

By Joseph Manning

Probably one of the most bizarre stories in the Hebrew Bible is the story of Samson. The story of Samson is generally confused. The narrative is sketchy and full of riddles and often makes allusions the author seems to expect the reader to be able to connect but are meaningless to modern readers. It becomes much more clearer when viewed through the lens of ancient near-eastern mythology. Samson (שמשון) is related to ‘shamash’ (שמש) or “sun,” while his infamous wife’s name, Delilah (דלילה), is related to ‘lilah’ (לילה), the Hebrew word for “night.”  He is a solar mythic hero related to Gilgamesh, the hero of the Babylonian myth, and Hercules, the Greek mythic hero. (Indeed, Gilgamesh’s patron deity is the sun-god Shamash).

A statue of Samson in Ashdod depicting his toppling the pillars of the temple to Dagon in his dying moments.

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Filed under Ancient Egyptian, Biblical Archaeology, Classics, Hebrew Bible, Linguistics

Luvian Linguistic Puzzle

By Joseph Manning

I found a set of linguistics puzzles on the web, which I’ve had a good time working my way through. Some of the later puzzles don’t have any available solutions, so I’m going to reduplicate one puzzle with its solution as well as the way I worked out the solution.

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The Language of Blackbirds — Pig Latin, Korakistika, and Ķus Dili

By Joseph Manning

Turkish and Modern Greek have language games like English’s Pig Latin.  These two languages’ games are syllable based like Pig Latin and show signs of being related to each other.  For example, Modern Greek’s game is called Korakistika, which translates to ‘Language of Blackbirds.’ Likewise, the Turkish game is called Ķus Dili which literally means ‘Bird Language.’ Barıs Kabak, “Hiatus Resolution in Turkish: an Under Specification Account,” Lingua (2006) 15.  Besides the similarities in these two names the game rules are almost exact duplicates. Language games offer some pretty valuable opportunities to explore the grammatical rules languages have.

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