Monday, January 30, 2017

Words as Weapons: Asymmetry and Advantage in Linguistic Competition

Jews are specialists in words and symbols, with a long history of literacy and matrimonial rewards for good scholars. Unlike the non-Jewish majority, which followed livelihoods at all cognitive levels, Jews were concentrated in professions that demanded literacy or numeracy, whether they earned a living as rabbis or shopkeepers. And Jewish scriptures are not merely complex and voluminous: they are written in Hebrew, whose vocabulary, grammar and alphabet are quite distinct from those of Indo-European languages such as German, French and English. Would intellectual competition, and cognitive evolution, have been as intense among Jews if their religion had used a simpler and more familiar language?
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