The following is a response to

Hayes, Suzanne. "The Tower of Babel, Confusion of Tongues: Fact or Parable?". World Mysteries. 2008. <https://www.world-mysteries.com/>

This is designed to clarify the bad linguistics found in the essay, as well as provide answers to many questions it raises.


The bad linguistics found in Hayes' article is not the worst thing I've ever read. It's probably the tenth or eleventh worst article I've ever read. However, while Duursma's article was like bad indigestion, Hayes' piece is positively ulcerative. Sure, it starts out innocently enough. A few misplaced mythologies and a mistake or two... but then she launches into one of the finer tragedies in linguistics. 

The article launches into the usual mythological cherry-picking. That there are myths surrounding floods and towers. Cultures that have floods have flood myths; cultures that have towers have tower myths; oh, and cultures that have volcanoes have volcano myths. It's perfectly natural that a myths includes reflections of their world. If you experience seasonal flooding, your legends will reflect that. "Child, I know hard winters but let me tell you about the "Great Blizzard of ____" that your great-grandfather experienced!" Somehow this fact escapes Hayes.

Hayes then implies that "Mexicans" have a mutually shared lexical item with Akkadians, that they both call a tremendous tower of legend by a similar name: zacualli vs. ziggurat. Nevermind that she confused the Akkadians with Sumerians earlier in the essay when she labeled them both Babylonians, let's jump into the bad linguistics! 

  1. She doesn't tell us which "Mexicans." This conveniently renders her argument immune from fact-checking. Mesoamerica sported an enormous sum of indigenous cultures - no one's really sure how many because the Mayans, Aztecs, and Conquistadors eliminated quite a few.
  2. The word zacualli is supposedly Aztec (Nahuatl), but I have found no scholarly source saying such a word exists. It seems to be repeated several dozen times on apologetics websites. The dictionary entry for tower in Nahuatl was tlapilkoyan.
  3. The word zacualli is deceptively similar. Closest approximate to [z] in Nahuatl was [s]. Glancing at the phonotactical laws governing Nahuatl's phonology, it seems the language would interpret zacualli as [sa.kwa:l.li].
  4. Hayes seems to miss the fact that the name ziggurat (from Akkadian ziqqurat) was not the original name for the great Mesopotamian constructs (!) but probably Sumerian temen

Moving on, Hayes confuses etymology for translation:

The translation of the word “Babel” - means Gate of God

No, the etymology of Babel is "Gate of God". It hardly means that today. The original word was Akkadian bab-ilu which may be transliterated as babel and translated as "Gate of God."

According to the book of Genesis, the Tower was built to reach the heavens, the reason for this is not known, however, if it was a symbolic gesture, it begs the question why did the Babylonians not erect the tower off a mountain to achieve height

The ziggurat was erected as a temple for the priest and to survive the seasonal floods.

The spoken word leaves no trace - it is therefore impossible for language historians to determine at what point in human history, languages were first uttered or how they developed.

I'll try to be polite, but it really seems that Ms Hayes just wrote that out of a gut instinct. There are cognitive scientists and anthropologists that trace the origins of oral communication from a biological and historical perspective. There is the entire field of historical linguistics which studies the development of language, and retraces spoken language to a time depth as deep as 10,000 years ago.

There are around 5000 languages spoken in the world today

~7000 which is a bit more accurate than the old count of 6000. I don't know where she got 5000 except from, perhaps, a very old headcount.

The Candelabra theory cannot fully explain the fact that there remain common or similar words for the same items

What common words? You mean lexical items that are phonologically similar by chance? Every language hosts an enormous number of words/morphemes/etc... and it would be shocking if two randomly selected languages didn't have common sounds for a few of the same items. Consider that Turkish kayik "boat" and Eskimo qayaq "kayak" are, on the surface, extremely similar, but de la Fuente's humorous article on the coincidental similarities thoroughly debunks the connection [PDF warning]. 

The Monogenesis theorists cannot fully explain that following rigorous analysis of language evolution, the length of time it takes for any language to evolve into the forms used in today's societies would have taken a longer time period than modern man has been on the planet.

Citation needed.

Is it feasible therefore to consider that a large scale electro-magnetic emission or blast from the tower of Babel could have affected the speech centre of those around the tower on a permanent basis.

We cannot ascertain however if the tower contained electro magnetic material, however, electromagnetic material could certainly support theories 3, 4 and 5 of the purpose of the tower.

Good to see that she ends her article on a high note.