Sunday, July 7, 2013

An Odd Use of Language

Alma begins his talk to the people of Gideon saying something that seems, at first, rather strange:
Behold my beloved brethren, seeing that I have been permitted to come unto you, therefore I attempt to address you in my language (Alma 7:1)
Why does Alma use this expression? A little background makes some things a bit clearer. The people of Gideon were those who dwelt in the valley of Gideon:
the valley being called after that Gideon who was slain by the hand of Nehor with the sword (Alma 2:20).
and it was he who was an instrument in the hands of God in delivering the people of Limhi out of bondage. (Alma 1:8).
Alma himself, was the son of Alma who had been a priest of Noah, Limhi's father. So Alma and the people of Gideon had the same origin, but were only a generation later. So they would have spoken the same language. Alma, however, is attempting to address them in his language. It appears to have been rusty. So the people in Zarahemla, where Alma had previously been, must have spoken a different language and Alma must have grown accustomed to speaking in the language of Zarahemla, or whatever official language held the Nephite territories together.

This brings a different understanding to the original description of Alma as "a man of many words" (Mosiah 27:8).

It also brings up the possibility that if we had the originals of Alma 5 and 7 that they might not even be in the same language.