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Young-Earth Creationists, as far as I understand it, believe that Proto-Indo-European was one of the languages spoken immediately after the Tower of Babel, that is, around 2200 BC. Obviously, you need to reject glottochronology for that, as glottochronology dates Proto-Celtic to 3200 BC, and Proto-Indo-European is therefore dated way earlier, but not every linguist accepts glottochronology (which is based on the assumption that words on the Swadesh List are replaced at a constant rate).

However, as far as I understand it, all historical linguists agree that Proto-Afro-Asiatic was spoken way earlier than Proto-Indo-European. According to mainstream linguistics, Proto-Afro-Asiatic was spoken somewhere between 16'000 BC and 10'000 BC.

The earliest attested Afro-Asiatic languages (Egyptian and Akkadian) were attested very early and they were not closely related. One of the earliest Egyptian writings is the Narmer Palette, dated, by the mainstream history, to around 3'100 BC. And the earliest Akkadian inscriptions are dated to 2'400 BC. And they were not closely related languages. Proto-Afro-Asiatic had to be spoken thousands of years before that.

Now, Young-Earth Creationists dispute such early datings of the inscriptions. Young-Earth Creationists believe that the Narmer Palette dates to around 2'000 BC. I don't know what they think about the earliest Akkadian inscriptions. But, either way, since Akkadian and Egyptian were obviously not closely related languages, Proto-Afro-Asiatic had to be spoken thousands of years before those earliest inscriptions.

So, do the Young-Earth-Creationists believe that Proto-Afro-Asiatic language existed? And if so, when?

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  • YEC think that all dating methods are unreliable.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 13:15
  • @curiousdannii I don't think I am implying that any particular dating method is reliable. It's just that you cannot claim that Akkadian and Egyptian were closely related languages (separated only by a few centuries). Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 14:41
  • @curiousdannii, that's false and borderline offensive. Scripture is reliable, obviously. Much archaeology is actually reliable, at least when it relies on recorded history and not dating methods known to be unreliable such as radiocarbon dating. Although, even radiocarbon dating is useful if properly calibrated.
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 15:12
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    @Matthew Right, I'm not disagreeing. I more meant that from the perspective of someone who isn't a YEC, it looks like they think all dating methods other than scripture are unreliable (and as interpretation is required to date things with scripture even its dates are debated.)
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 22:05

1 Answer 1

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All historical linguists agree that Proto-Afro-Asiatic was spoken way earlier than Proto-Indo-European.

First off, this isn't true, or is at best a) contested, and b) based heavily on dating assertions which YEC doesn't agree with in the first place. Thus, the very premise of the question is already disingenuous. (In fact, a lot of the PAA claims look suspiciously like wishful thinking trying to add credence to the incorrect assertion that humans are hundreds of thousands of years old and originated in Africa.)

The earliest attested Afro-Asiatic languages (Egyptian and Akkadian) were attested very early and they were not closely related. Proto-Afro-Asiatic had to be spoken thousands of years before [the Narmer Palette and the earliest Akkadian inscriptions].

This is completely and utterly false, and it's not even clear which of several possible incorrect assumptions are being made that permit the above conclusion. At Babel, every extant language family came into existence from a single language literally overnight. The idea that language families need thousands of years to diverge denies Babel a priori and is not supported by the inability to reconstruct a single root language. The evidence supports Babel, and Babel clearly attests to a rapid origin of widely divergent languages. The only remaining means of substantiating this claim would be to insist that it took people thousands of years to rediscover writing... and that's just silly. A determined individual, already familiar with the idea of writing (as was the case at Babel), could easily devise a new writing system in a matter of months.

Your link shows you're already at least somewhat familiar with the issues of "mainstream" dating, but on a related note, it's worth pointing out that "mainstream" consistently interprets the available data in a way that maximizes age, since this is consistent with, and nearly required for, making said data fit their overarching chronologies.

Moreover, with respect to languages specifically, there are actually a number of problems with any dating extending back closer to ten thousand years, some of which you can read about here.

Do the Young-Earth-Creationists believe that Proto-Afro-Asiatic language existed?

Frankly, this is unclear. The issue is that such languages are suppositions rather than established entities, and, while it's almost certainly true that some languages are the result of post-Babel divergence, the people that invent these "proto" languages are usually dedicated to linguistic Common Descent. Since their operating premise is false, it's difficult to be certain how far back reconstruction of common root languages can be taken until one hits the 'hard wall' of Babel. The situation is further complicated because God, at Babel, might have Created several languages with enough similarity to appear related.

For further reading, see Making some sense of Babel and afterwards.

To the extent it has been identified as a root of existing languages and/or we have written samples of the language, it is likely that something which might be named "Proto-Afro-Asiatic" existed, yes. Whether it represents a precursor to other language families, or how it fits with other languages chronologically, is very much another question.

If so, when?

Assuming such a language did exist, only two options for 'when?' are possible. Either it represents the pre-Noahic language, or it first appeared at Babel. There are claims that some written records survived the Flood (either carried on the ark, or perhaps recorded by Noah or his family, or both), and this certainly seems plausible. I'm also aware of nothing to contradict the idea that the pre-Flood language remained one of the post-Babel languages. Alternatively, it has its origin at Babel, along with every other language family (with the possible exception of one pre-Flood language).

The pre-Flood world "perished". We have many remnants thereof (fossils), but human remains and artifacts seem notably absent and were likely specifically targeted for destruction. Since this is the case, we can have very high confidence that any human artifacts or remains post-date the Flood. By extension, since dating of Proto-Afro-Asiatic is largely based on other dating claims which must be incorrect if Scripture is true, it follows that those claims are almost certainly wrong, and one of the above-stated chronologies is correct.


Honestly, what this question seems to amount to is yet another attempt to take a poorly-substantiated claim and wave it about as "disproving" Scripture... which, as usual, falls apart on closer inspection.

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  • > The situation is further complicated because God, at Babel, might have Created several languages with enough similarity to appear related. But why would God try to trick us like that? Why would he make regular sound correspondences between languages to make it look like some of those languages (but not all of them, as Sumerian, for example, doesn't seem to be related to any other known language) evolved naturally over thousands of years? Makes no sense. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 18:24
  • @FlatAssembler, that isn't necessarily untrue, but it also makes assumptions about the purpose of languages being created... which was to force humanity to obey the command to spread out, by confusing communication. To accomplish that, it is sufficient if Aaron and Barbara can't understand each other, even if their languages aren't absolutely orthogonal. Mind the "might", however; I'm not claiming God did do this, just that it is difficult to entirely rule out the possibility, and that uncertainty adds difficulty to determining the original Babel languages.
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 20:53
  • Is it necessary to place Babel more recently (~2200 BC) as opposed to deeper into the past. Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 12:22
  • @MikeBorden, yes(ish). The Flood can be dated from a combination of archaeology and Scriptural chronologies (some of them genealogies). Although dates vary, the generally accepted range is about 2300 BC - 2500 BC. Since Babel must post-date this by long enough for a non-trivial population to be established, there is an outside limit on that date of ~2400 BC. That's not precisely ~2200 BC, but it doesn't leave that much wiggle room.
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 17:03
  • This answer has the flood at 1656 years after creation based solely on the genealogy from Adam to Joseph. christianity.stackexchange.com/a/55225/47250 Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 12:41

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