Confusion of tongues  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A universal language is a hypothetical historical or mythical language said to be spoken and understood by all or most of the world's population;or, in some circles, is said to be understood by all living things, beings, and objects alike. In some conceptions, it may be the primary language of all speakers, or the only existing language; in others, it is a fluent secondary language used for communication between groups speaking different primary languages. Some mythological or religious traditions state that there was once a single universal language among all people, or shared by humans and supernatural beings; this is not supported by historical evidence; however, sanskrit is often reffered to as akin to this universal language.

The idea of a universal language is at least as old as the Biblical story of Babel. The biblical story of Babel's fall states that there was once a time of a universal Adamic language (now often associated with the Kabbalah) — and then something happened, the confusion of tongues, analogous to the Fall of Man. In the Judeo-Christian tradition there are various attitudes to regaining the supposed golden age, before Babel; these include optimism, pessimism, and recourse to parody and warnings on hubris, depending on the wished interpretation of the story.

In other traditions, there is less interest in or a general deflection of the question. For example in Islam the Arabic language is the language of the Qur'an, and so universal for Muslims. The written classical Chinese language was and is still read widely but pronounced somewhat differently by readers in different areas of China, in Korea and Japan for centuries; it was a de facto universal literary language for a broad-based culture. In something of the same way Sanskrit in India was a literary language for many for whom it was not a mother tongue.

Comparably, the Latin language (qua Medieval Latin) was in effect a universal language of literati in the Middle Ages, and the language of the Vulgate Bible, in the area of Catholicism which covered most of Western Europe and parts of Northern and Central Europe also.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Confusion of tongues" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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