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Jennifer Ball

Professor of English "Speaking and Listening", Soochow University, Suzhou, China

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Females mammals are the underpinning of written language. Sex & sexism exists in every literate culture, so why wouldn't it be in language?

姦 (three females) has meant "adultery, wicked" for 4,000 years in China. What else has this kind of track record? But China isn't the only sexist culture. The characters "B" and "V" swap sounds in seven different languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Russian, and English), most likely because females produce milk and offspring after being impregnated. Using a Darwinian lens to look at all scripts, one sees a pattern of female mammals being at the root of written language. Keith Chen examines language for its ability to predict economic behavior. He also wrote a paper on monkeys paying for sex after having the concept of money introduced to them. Prostitution is an ancient concept. If there is sex everywhere, why wouldn't it be in language? The fact that we live in euphemism is evident in the insistence that the name of Hooter's "breastaurants" is a reference to owls' eyes, not big-breasted women. When one examines all scripts, a pattern based on fertility, dominance, and sex appears. If this topic pisses you off, keep in mind that psychiatrists tell us that the thing that rankles us the most is typically the thing that is the most accurate, and this is why it gets under our skin. We like to believe we are above animals. We like to believe that Chinese is pictures and the alphabet is not. We alphabet-users are elitist. The alphabet has just simplified faster. Humans have the same drivers. Consider that Noah's Ark is the world's first sex education (the animals went two by two) and was first recorded 5,500 years ago in Sumerian cuneiform in "Gilgamesh," the world's first story. Early Christians plagiarized this tale, not knowing we would eventually be able to decode Sumerian. I have read over 100 books, I have had 30,000 readers on my website, and I am now in China teaching English at Soochow University to 102 nanotechnology students. I have studied Mandarin for three years, and I just gave a talk at Roche Pharmaceuticals Shanghai. OriginofAlphabet.com

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Closing Statement from Jennifer Ball

It is not my intention to offend with my assertion that the images of female mammals are visible in all written languages. I suspect that the strong feelings shown here are indicative of why we don't know more about the roots of language. I was hoping for an enlightened discussion on the TED site, and I am saddened that so many comments degenerated into character attacks. The fact this idea could provoke so much vehemence tells me I'm on the right track, but it is a lonely pursuit. I'm reminded of why I moved to China because here the role of females in language is recognized. The woman radical is all over Hanzi, so it is an undeniable fact that females are key to Chinese script. The elitism of Western culture makes many say, "Well, Chinese is pictures, but the alphabet is not." However, the alphabet is pictures too. (For example, "G" is recognized as a throwing stick.) Comparing all early scripts for their similarities seems like an obvious idea, but I have not yet found a university where this is possible. The Linguistics department is usually quite far from the East Asian Languages on most campuses. If anyone knows where I can pursue this research, please inform me. I would love to talk to well-educated, open-minded individuals. Where are the kind intellectuals who love unique ideas rather than hackneyed pablum? I would love to meet you. Please feel free to contact me through this site or my website, www.OriginofAlphabet.com. I have had a total of 35,000 readers on my site (which includes my two Scribd accounts). I am searchable on Scribd, Facebook, Quora, Linked In, Researchgate, and YouTube. As I am data driven, I welcome any coherent suggestions that would enable me to find others who really want to know how language evolved by using structural analyses coupled with dictionaries and lexicons. Thank you TED talks for fostering an environment where these ideas can even be discussed.

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    Apr 10 2013: Hi all,

    This topic is being closed early.

    Sincerely,

    Aja Bogdanoff | TED.com
    Online Community Manager
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      Apr 10 2013: The Sumerians loved donkeys. One of the popular words for donkeys (there were many words for donkeys; when something is popular, there isn't just one word for it; we have many words for "prostitute" in all languages) was "emegala": the same word meant "wet nurse." "Gala" was the Greek word for "milk" and from this we have "galaxy" because early humans associated the sky with milk. And so do we: hence "the Milky Way." The word in Chinese for "mother" and for "horse" is "ma": the only difference is one of tone. Mothers were and are beasts of burden. I'm guessing you haven't been a mother, otherwise the value of milk to the young wouldn't be so questionable. Before milk supplements, the ability to lactate would have been a matter of life and death. This is why one's father's mother is called "奶奶/nai nai" in Mandarin, which means "milk milk," because she is acknowledged for having nourished two generations. My students think it's funny that my ideas have caused so much uproar with Caucasians ( notice the word "Asian" hidden in that word). This theory makes sense to them because the woman radical is all over written Chinese. They have out-educated us for at least a generation. And statistically they are happier than people in the US. They are in "learning mode" and their work ethic is impressive. My husband says they are a tsunami waiting to happen, and we Westerners don't even know it. Why? Because we have stopped taking input. It could be our downfall.
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    Apr 7 2013: Citations needed.

    You make many assertions that are vague, far-fetched and have no real substance as far as English (etc.) is concerned. You refer to language in terms of symbols eg B abd V as if what's on the typewriter keyboard defines a language.

    If you're a professor then I've won the Nobel prize for literature half a dozen times.
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      Apr 8 2013: I am a professor, and I sense you are threatened. New ideas are scary. Typically they take 25 years to be accepted: the approximate length of a generation. Yuri Knorosov figured out the Maya alphabet, but the "experts" said, (paraphrasing), You're Russian; what would you know about the Mayans? Turns out he did. I have read over 100 books. My bibliography is online at www.OriginofAlphabet.com. So is all my data. Chinese Hanzi is a typeface, which will print here. Sumerian cuneiform (the world's oldest language at 5,500 years) won't, nor will Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs (5,000 years old), nor Maya (2,500 years old) because no one uses them anymore. But Chinese (which is 4,000) years old, is still used and spoken. That's why I'm in China and just gave a talk to Chinese scientists. Scientists are data driven. If you want to see my data, go to my website. Catherine S. Farris wrote "Gender and Grammar in Chinese with Implications for Language Universals" in 1988. According to Jstor, her paper has been cited 20 times. Why only 20? Because we marginalize people we don't want to recognize or believe. Just like the Mayanists did with Yuri Knorosov. In Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything," he gives many such examples, one being Frank Asaro, Walter Alvarez, and Luis Alvarez, who figured out that the dinosaurs died because of an asteroid hitting the earth. This was based on their discovering a layer of iridium covering the earth. It took a long time for other scientists to accept this because, as Luis Alvarez joked, "We were caught practicing geology without a license." Eugene Shoemaker explains that this explanation for the dinosaur's demise was "against their [everyone else's] scientific religion" (page 128).
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        Apr 8 2013: (Yet more wizard powers! How can you see me quaking at the awesomeness of your thesis. ) I'm not threatened just appalled by your feeble reasoning masquerading as academic research of a 'professor'.

        Your argument is tissue-thin and you try to justify it by the syllogism:-
        Some theories took a long time to gain acceptance.
        My theory doesn't have scientific credibility.
        Therefore my theory must be right all along.

        Bill Bryson is an amusing and accessible journalist but hardly a scientific authority. Much of his etymology in Mother Tongue is tosh.

        I should stick to reading books - Gosh 100! - and learning about scientific rigour. Perhaps you should make your thesis a real thesis submitted to a real professor and see just how far it falls short.)
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          Apr 8 2013: I've clearly touched something deep in you because your response is very mean-spirited. We are mammals. That means we drink milk. Milk doesn't happen unless you have sex. All of us resulted from two people who had sex. But we insist sex is not in language. I give all this specific data, but you just want to insult me. My husband read there are two kinds of people who respond to blogs: angry people and angry religious people. I expected a higher class of response on TED. Two people wrote very interesting comments. The rest just want to pile on vindictives like this is some kind of witch burning. Do you even know Mandarin? Do you know any other languages? In China people are much more open-minded, which is why I'm here. They are not as angry and jaded as people in the U.S. They are in learning mode, and they have out-educated the US by at least one generation. China is a tsunami waiting to happen.

          Food for thought: the word for pregnant in Spanish is "embarazada." Why would it be so close to "embarrass"? Also to "embargo"? A bar is a long projection that keeps alcoholics from the alcohol. And that bar also keeps men from women because they want virgins. They want their sperm to be the only sperm they gets inside. And an obstetrician removes that obstruction. Amazing that these ideas provoke so much vitriol. I'm looking at patterns in language. You are looking for a fight. I'm not interested in fighting. I don't have enough testosterone for that.
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      Apr 8 2013: One of the people who has cited Catherine S. Farris is David Moser in a paper entitled, "Covert Sexism in Mandarin Chinese," in 1997 in Sino-Platonic Papers #74. I think not many papers have followed because China is powerful, and picking on Chinese seems racist. In fact it is, because this covert sexism is in all written scripts. The word for "nipple" in Hebrew is listed in Strong's Concordance as entry 1717 "דַּד"—it looks like "TT" and is pronounced "dad." It comes from entry 1730, which means "uncle, beloved" and is "דּוֹד"—which looks like "TIT." I'm sure this will be tossed off as coincidental because it is too painful to recognize how simple we are, but we are mammals. We are named for our mammaries. "Mamma" is hidden inside the word "mammal." One doesn't become a mamma unless one has sex. Bill Bryson said incest occurred in our past—"actually quite a lot of incest" (page 249). "Plagiarize" in Chinese also includes the meaning of "niece." Older men have take advantage of younger women for millennium. I'm still witnessing this in China on a daily basis. We keep younger women uneducated because it's easier to prey upon them. In order to see the pattern of human behavior, one must look across all written scripts because language is both communication and code: communication to your tribe, code to your adversaries. Women are adversaries when one wants to use their bodies to produce against their will. Why are women statistically smaller than men? Because if they could figure out the relationship between sex and birth (which was often synonymous with death), they would have fought or run away, and their genes are no longer in the gene pool. This is my husband's theory. He is Michael Varney, senior V.P. at Genentech. He has a Ph.D. from Caltech in Chemistry and was the 13th employee at Agouron Pharmaceuticals, which invented Viracept, the first anti-HIV compound licensed for children and adults (1997).
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      Apr 8 2013: I have many scientists who think I am onto something, and many of them also read Chinese. If we don't enlarge our sphere of knowledge we are destined to have tunnel vision, like the famous frog in the Chengyu: 井底之蛙
      jǐngdǐ zhī wā
      a frog in a well—a person with a very limited outlook.
      I prefer to think out of the well...
  • Apr 7 2013: First, let me comment on the "gender correctness" of current trend. I agree that the language use of "man" as a generic term for both sexes were perfectly acceptable without further modification. Then suddenly, the "political correctness becomes the thing to do". But really what are the problems cause by the old ways? Strictly speaking, it's really nothing. People are still perfectly aware of the gender difference, and many are still exploit or feed on the difference from one sex against the other. What we need is that we should change the basic attitude from one gender to another, instead or just change the wording in writing or speaking. One can say all the nice words on women, but the same people are actually the ones who also discriminated against, or even frequently assaulted, women. In other word, it is not the words are needed, but the deeds are more important and ESSENTIAL. So the efforts spend on the "correctness" in language do not worth a penny, if our behavior hasn't changed. In Chinese saying, this could be characterized as 庸人自扰. The first character in this phrase means "not very smart", the whole expression means that their efforts are simply wasted for nothing, if our behavior haven't changed by this "correction in language". I also have an additional comment on the Chinese character 汝, which is more or less corresponding to the word; ye, in old English. Even though it contain the female character, but it applies to a little bit closer to an intimate or inferior person of either sex.
    I have a different thought on the word 妈 (= ma or mother), according to my observation, when an infant starts to mumble his first word it is most convenient to come out with the sound "ma". That is why in most languages, the sound "ma" always kind of coming first, such as; ma, mama, maman, mater, madre, etc.
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      Apr 8 2013: Words are deeds. It is offensive that "man" is at the root of so many professions and descriptions ("woman" is really "womb-man"), but no one considers that "ma" is at the root of "man." The female radical is in many offensive words in Hanzi, but also in "peace": 安, because woman under a roof is where ancient man thought women should be, similar to "house": 家, which is pig under a roof. Here we have two mammals in the same dominated position, both considered positive.

      " But really what are the problems cause by the old ways? Strictly speaking, it's really nothing."

      I think it's something. Look at how much dander I have raised!
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    Apr 7 2013: I'm sorry Professor Ball, I don't understand your point - your 'idea' - '...so why wouldn't it (sex) be in language?'. What are you getting at? As far as I can see, sex is all over our language. It's a major part of human discussion. I don't understand what your idea is. Please explain if you have the time. Thnx.
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      Apr 8 2013: I am a professor, and I sense you are threatened. New ideas are scary. Typically they take 25 years to be accepted: the approximate length of a generation. Yuri Knorosov figured out the Maya alphabet, but the "experts" said, (paraphrasing), You're Russian; what would you know about the Mayans? Turns out he did. I have read over 100 books. My bibliography is online at www.OriginofAlphabet.com. So is all my data. Chinese Hanzi is a typeface, which will print here. Sumerian cuneiform (the world's oldest language at 5,500 years) won't, nor will Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs (5,000 years old), nor Maya (2,500 years old) because no one uses them anymore. But Chinese (which is 4,000) years old, is still used and spoken. That's why I'm in China and just gave a talk to Chinese scientists. Scientists are data driven. If you want to see my data, go to my website. Catherine S. Farris wrote "Gender and Grammar in Chinese with Implications for Language Universals" in 1988. According to Jstor, her paper has been cited 20 times. Why only 20? Because we marginalize people we don't want to recognize or believe. Just like the Mayanists did with Yuri Knorosov. In Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything," he gives many such examples, one being Frank Asaro, Walter Alvarez, and Luis Alvarez, who figured out that the dinosaurs died because of an asteroid hitting the earth. This was based on their discovering a layer of iridium covering the earth. It took a long time for other scientists to accept this because, as Luis Alvarez joked, "We were caught practicing geology without a license." Eugene Shoemaker explains that this explanation for the dinosaur's demise was "against their [everyone else's] scientific religion" (page 128).
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      Apr 8 2013: One of the people who has cited Catherine S. Farris is David Moser in a paper entitled, "Covert Sexism in Mandarin Chinese," in 1997 in Sino-Platonic Papers #74. I think not many papers have followed because China is powerful, and picking on Chinese seems racist. In fact it is, because this covert sexism is in all written scripts. The word for "nipple" in Hebrew is listed in Strong's Concordance as entry 1717 "דַּד"—it looks like "TT" and is pronounced "dad." It comes from entry 1730, which means "uncle, beloved" and is "דּוֹד"—which looks like "TIT." I'm sure this will be tossed off as coincidental because it is too painful to recognize how simple we are, but we are mammals. We are named for our mammaries. "Mamma" is hidden inside the word "mammal." One doesn't become a mamma unless one has sex. Bill Bryson said incest occurred in our past—"actually quite a lot of incest" (page 249). "Plagiarize" in Chinese also includes the meaning of "niece." Older men have take advantage of younger women for millennium. I'm still witnessing this in China on a daily basis. We keep younger women uneducated because it's easier to prey upon them. In order to see the pattern of human behavior, one must look across all written scripts because language is both communication and code: communication to your tribe, code to your adversaries. Women are adversaries when one wants to use their bodies to produce against their will. Why are women statistically smaller than men? Because if they could figure out the relationship between sex and birth (which was often synonymous with death), they would have fought or run away, and their genes are no longer in the gene pool. This is my husband's theory. He is Michael Varney, senior V.P. at Genentech. He has a Ph.D. from Caltech in Chemistry and was the 13th employee at Agouron Pharmaceuticals, which invented Viracept, the first anti-HIV compound licensed for children and adults (1997).
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      Apr 8 2013: I have many scientists who think I am onto something, and many of them also read Chinese. If we don't enlarge our sphere of knowledge we are destined to have tunnel vision, like the famous frog in the Chengyu: 井底之蛙
      jǐngdǐ zhī wā
      a frog in a well—a person with a very limited outlook.
      I prefer to think out of the well...
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      Apr 8 2013: By the way, Charles Darwin's theory was actually his grandfather Erasmus' theory, and we still, as a society, have trouble accepting that we evolved from apes when it seems pretty clear, by similar behavior and features, that we did. Keith Chen (who has a TED talk on language and a culture's ability to save) introduced the concept of money to monkeys, and the males quickly figured out that it was useful for buying sex. (How Basic Are Behavioral Biases? Evidence from Capuchin Monkey Trading Behavior; Journal of Political Economy, 2006, vol. 114, no. 3; The University of Chicago.) We are animals, but we are practiced at denying this because denial is part of self-preservation.
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      Apr 8 2013: Sorry, you are not the person who seems threatened. I am learning to reply to the correct people in TED. It's a new forum for me.
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        Apr 8 2013: My sincere apologies. I did not see this last post where you realized it was not me who was 'threatened', so I removed my comment in response to your, now mistaken, accusation. Thank you. But I would still like to verify what the point is of your 'idea'. Is it that there is 'sexism' built-in in languages? I would have no problem with that. In my view, language is a reflection of the essence of the culture. The words created in a language fulfill the need to communicate essential themes, and those themes are developed by the common denominator experiences, beliefs, and values of the particular culture en masse. The 'idea' you propose that sexism is revealed in the structure of language is therefore reasonable to me, as that language would only reflect the historical cultural tendencies. The problem (I believe you're referring to) is that the language perpetuates and supports those themes fruition in the present and into the future. Hence the built-in bias towards sexism. Am I close?
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    Apr 10 2013: You seem really angry. Retching (that would be "呕吐/ou3 tu4"in Mandarin; do you know any other languages by the way?) is to touch someone deep inside. I've given all sorts of data. I've provided you with my website, where there is much more data than can be presented here, but you choose to ignore it because the thought that female mammals could be the roots of language is such an anathema to you that you prefer to display the violence that is so common to testosterone-infused animals. We are named "mammals" because of the milk we drink. If one searches "milk" in all languages, a patten of bilateral symmetry can be seen because, as Steven Pinker (cognitive linguist at Harvard) says, "Symmetry is sexy." It shows that the animal is healthy by being able to produce two identical copies of itself. A sign of health is attractive to the opposite sex because it suggests reproductive success. Jared Diamond (UCLA geographer) says that female humans have the largest breast size of any primate. Sexual selection has promoted the size of women's breasts to being larger and higher than other mammals. Considering that we have restaurants devoted to large-breasted women proliferating across several continents, this strikes me as significant. Malcolm Potts (Berkeley obstetrician and reproductive scientist) says that breasts are targets. So are eyes. Both show up extensively in the written record. They are circles with dots in them. It makes them easier to find. I've quoted from many of the books I have read. You provide nonsense. You should ask yourself why does the idea of female mammals being the underpinning of language provoke such a visceral response. The Ancient Egyptians deified the cow, and called her Hathor. A new king would prove that he was chosen by the gods to rule by depicting a picture of himself sucking from the teats of Hathor.
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    Apr 9 2013: Interesting that someone just gave me a thumbs up. Dislike me all you want. You will not silence me. It's 12:30 a.m. in China, where I live. I have to go to sleep now. I will play with you guys tomorrow. It's clear that I have touched a chord deep inside some of you. You might want to identify what that is and why you project so much anger onto me. Where is the guy who wrote the great info about the insect character in Russian? That's the kind of input I was hoping for. Real data. Also the guy who said he read language was driven by pre-teen girls. I have copied both of these for later analysis. The rest of this is just rantings. Colleen: have you ever helped refugees understand English for no salary? Taken them presents and food and been kind to the most disenfranchised? Have you ever been on welfare? That's how I finished my degree at UCLA. Have you taken Mandarin? Do you know any other languages? Do you play an instrument? I have played the French horn for 45 years. I've owned a pig that lived in my kitchen (admittedly not the best place for a pig, unless you're considering it from the pig's perspective). Have you ever been on game shows? I've been on six. I've worked for the BBC. I was a music editor for the San Diego Reader for almost eight years. The father of the birth control pill taught my second novel Catalyst at Stanford in a class called "Science in Fiction, not Science Fiction." I've written a musical that had six different productions by the time I was 21. I have over 100 Youtube videos on my Fingerpuppetsrock channel. I've loaded 10,000 pictures to Facebook. I am a ceramicist. I play the trumpet too and sing. I've been in a rock band with my husband for 28 years. I've co-written a book on digital typography. My point with all this is that I've lived a life. I don't need to be petty and figuratively roll my eyes. I have an idea you've never heard before, and that is scary to people who like their ideas pre-packaged and palatable. I like to think unique thoughts. Deal with it.
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      Apr 9 2013: Jennifer,
      No one is trying to silence you. What is your goal here?
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        Apr 9 2013: Interesting that someone just gave me a thumbs up. Dislike me all you want. You will not silence me. It's 12:30 a.m. in China, where I live. I have to go to sleep now. I will play with you guys tomorrow. It's clear that I have touched a chord deep inside some of you. You might want to identify what that is and why you project so much anger onto me. Where is the guy who wrote the great info about the insect character in Russian? That's the kind of input I was hoping for. Real data. Also the guy who said he read language was driven by pre-teen girls. I have copied both of these for later analysis. The rest of this is just rantings. Colleen: have you ever helped refugees understand English for no salary? Taken them presents and food and been kind to the most disenfranchised? Have you ever been on welfare? That's how I finished my degree at UCLA. Have you taken Mandarin? Do you know any other languages? Do you play an instrument? I have played the French horn for 45 years. I've owned a pig that lived in my kitchen (admittedly not the best place for a pig, unless you're considering it from the pig's perspective). Have you ever been on game shows? I've been on six. I've worked for the BBC. I was a music editor for the San Diego Reader for almost eight years. The father of the birth control pill taught my second novel Catalyst at Stanford in a class called "Science in Fiction, not Science Fiction." I've written a musical that had six different productions by the time I was 21. I have over 100 Youtube videos on my Fingerpuppetsrock channel. I've loaded 10,000 pictures to Facebook. I am a ceramicist. I play the trumpet too and sing. I've been in a rock band with my husband for 28 years. I've co-written a book on digital typography. My point with all this is that I've lived a life. I don't need to be petty and figuratively roll my eyes. I have an idea you've never heard before, and that is scary to people who like their ideas pre-packaged and palatable. I like to think unique thoughts. Deal with it.
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          Apr 9 2013: Jennifer,
          No one is trying to silence you. What is your goal here?
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    Apr 9 2013: I have to admit, the anger shown on this site is quite astounding. Do you see how many people I have responded to in a very short time? I count 16 in two days. And no one has yet pointed out a typo that I have written (and you know they would if they could). I have written a lot of words, posted a lot of data, and you want to insult me simply because you don't like my theory? It's a THEORY! Thank god the internet didn't exist when Darwin took his grandfather's theory and presented it to the world. No wonder he waited 15 years, and even then his friends had to present it for him. You must hate women with opinions. What is making you so mad? Do you hate your life? Perhaps you should see someone professionally instead of chastising people for being human enough to admit that they sometimes make mistakes. You can't refute what I'm saying, so you write snide comments. My husband told me there are only two types of people who write on websites like this: angry people, and angry religious people. Roll your eyes until you're dizzy. You don't scare me. I did stand-up comedy. I've been up in a hot air balloon. I've scuba dived. I'm in China for a year, and I don't hang out with people who speak my language because I want to learn Mandarin. I have taught refugees English in Oakland for no money. I play in a rock band that throws finger puppets at people. What do you do to help the world? Grow up and model the behavior you want to see because you appear to be extremely unhappy. Perhaps if you helped others you might feel better about yourself. I love the TED videos. I show them to my 102 students who think I'm the best English teacher they've ever had, and they've had English instruction for 11 years. I think you're jealous that someone has an original idea and you can't stop me from presenting it to the world. Go do something positive; take your hands off the keyboard for a moment to realize that you are going to end up a very sad individual if this is how you spend your time.
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      Apr 9 2013: Jennifer,
      I agree with you...."the anger shown on this site is quite astounding", and it appears to be coming mostly from you. Take a look at your comments. Re-read your comment above. By my count, 10 people have responded to you on this site, and the rest are all your posts, filled with inaccurate information, accusations and anger. You have indeed written "a lot of words", as you say. I personally, still cannot figure out what you are trying to express, and what topic you are honestly trying to discuss, even though I've read all your comments.
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    Apr 9 2013: According to Wikipedia, "B" and "V" can be represented by the same character in Arabic:
    "^b /p/ and /v/ can be represented by پ‎ and ڤ‎‎/ڥ‎ or if unavailable, ب‎ and ف‎‎/ڢ‎ are used, respectively."

    My daughter has studied Arabic for more than two years, and she also told me that occasionally the sounds swap. When she wakes up (we are in a different time zone) I will ask her about this again. I have been studying Mandarin mostly, but also Greek, Latin, Spanish, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sumerian cuneiform, Mayan, and I have studied French and Italian in the past, so to take on Arabic right now is a little much. Mandarin (Hanyu and Hanzi) are enough on my plate.

    Language has to do with milk because we are mammals and we drink milk. All of us. "Umm" is "ma" backwards. Sometimes "ba" signifies for men because they make the milk come out of women. "Baba" is father in Mandarin.

    Knotted thread is beyond my scope. Did you not read my previous entry that in Hebrew "nipple" is pronounced "dad" and represented by two dalets, which look like "TT"? Perhaps you, and all of my readers who seem to be annoyed by theories, should read my theory in its entirety at www.OriginofAlphabet.com rather than misunderstand what I have written.

    There is only one alphabet. This is not my theory. David Diringer wrote this in 1948, and Jared Diamond repeats it in "Guns, Germs, and Steel" without attributing Diringer. Plagiarizing ideas is a fairly common practice. The alphabet is reputed to have come from Proto-Caananite about 1,700 B.C., but it is clear that the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs also influenced the alphabet. The alphabet is simpler.

    Religion is a vehicle for controlling females. The word "holy" probably comes from the fact that the sacrum has many holes in it. All of language is metaphorical. "Sacred" comes from "sacrum." The current Arabic culture is extremely sexist in its control of women's clothing, marital status, inability to drive. Sexism is in all literate cultures.
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    Apr 9 2013: My daughter is studying Arabic, so we think a lot about Arabic countries in our family. I told her she cannot go anywhere that hates independent women in order to study abroad. I see Arabic countries as controlling women to a high degree. I am sorry that you are defensive. Therapy can help with that. I have seen a marriage counselor for 24 of the nearly 28 years that I have been married. It's why I have such a great relationship with my husband.

    The alphabet is a much simpler form than Hanzi (Chinese). In Chinese, there is simplified and traditional. I'm pointing out that the alphabet is simpler than, say, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, which had the beginnings of an alphabet and no doubt influenced the alphabet's creation and organization.

    I have researched this for four years. You have not looked at my research. I am in China teaching because of my research. I'm sorry if theory upsets you. I'm not theorizing to upset people. I am trying to find the roots of language, and it's clear we don't want to know that we are animals.
  • Apr 9 2013: And when you say "the alphabet has just simplified faster.", I will disagree. It is neither simpler nor more complicated. Its simplicity is relative to the cultural context.
    If I am in America, it is "simple" to introduce someone indifferently as one of my aunts. However, in Arabic speaking contexts, that would not be the case. That option, like Keith Chen said, does not exist. It is simply (simply!) not there, and to do or say otherwise is impossible-and therefor a complication. So in Arabic it would be simple to say "mart 3ami", or "ukht umi", or "khalti" which means, simply, in one word, my mother's sister who is my aunt, and which also carries a degree of respect based on family relations. Catch my drift?
    Basically, and I am sorry if this bothers, I am refuting your claims which are presented without much substance. I am defensive because I always see people including Arabic or what is Arab or Middle Eastern blindly into conversations, as if Arabs and Middle Easterners don't read commentaries. or do not comment.
    And it is not easy enough, or simple enough, to draw in different languages which have a more sophisticated (instead of complicated vs. simple) structure than English (since this is the language you are commenting in and comparing "sounds" and "B"'s and "V"'s to) into such a broad hypothesis which obviously did not have much researched input.
  • Apr 9 2013: Well, "B" and "V" do not swap sounds in Arabic, and as a matter of fact, Arabic does not have the "v" sound at all. Also, considering the script of Arabic, even Persian (which does have "V" but I doubt they are used interchangeably since I have never heard my friend using them that way) how do you suggest they infer inherent sexism in language? The Arabic word for mother is "umm", father: "abb" (the b for "ba'" pronounced for father, note).
    how does this have anything to do with milk? Frankly, I am confused by you.
    Also, there has to be taken into consideration that the term "Arab" was origianlly used for nomadic tribes, later evolved (mostly due to politicaly reasons from what I have read) into a homogenized term for anyone speaking A specific language (Arabic) and stretches all the way to North Africa (Morocco-although their Arabic is wildly different from Arabic of the Mediterranean region in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation). Which means there is a broad cultural and geographic landscape that had been long been addressed to establish this kind of "sameness".

    Then, what about languages with no specific script? such as the natives of the Incan time/region who used knotted thread?
    I clearly remember hearing about this when I was younger.

    And then, the early followers of Christianity, was not their language Hebrew or a root language of Hebrew? If what you say is true then how is it that these "stories" have remained unaltered by changing language? And a religion that has traversed various cultures?

    Also, it is important to take into consideration the religion, since Judaism, Christianity, Islam, even Hinduism and Zoroastrianism, play off of the same core religious beliefs, and are often viewed as a continuation of one another, so saying "plagiarized" is kind of jumping to conclusions here. However, plagiarized is an interesting word to consider since it denotes writing something a certain way, and the writing of holy books was always a process.
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    Apr 8 2013: Thank you for understanding that the organization of this site is a bit confusing. Language is a reflection of culture: all of us got here via sex, all of us have been milk drinkers. The Swadesh list is a collection of words linguists use to be compared in all cultures. The original list did not have "milk" on it, but it did have "louse." These kinds of omissions tell me that we are refusing to see that we are mammals. A mammal is not defined by it not laying eggs. A platypus and an echidna are both egg-laying mammals. A mammal means a mama nursed you. That is the underpinning of culture. And in Chinese, the woman radical is all over the script, so they understand what I am saying because it is right in front of their eyes. We have buried this fact deeper in our script. We think the alphabet is above Hanzi. I am saying that they both demonstrate the importance of mammals who produce offspring and milk, something that would have been very useful to societies that started with very little. I am proposing that there is the evidence of sex in language. The word "sexism" is a hot button. In credit to men, our species would not exist if it wasn't for men's drive to have sex and attempt to know their own offspring by limiting women's movements in a variety of ways. Chinese foot-binding is merely one method. The roots of "dwell" include "deadly nightshade," also known as "belladonna": beautiful woman. I think drugging women, impregnating them, keeping them ignorant were simply ways of restricting their movement. We can view it in modern terms as "sexist," or we can see the bigger picture which is that this ensured the propagation of our species. You can take or leave the sexism. I am saying that there is a similar pattern in all scripts based upon the fact that we are milk-drinkers. We are all driven by the same needs, and these needs show up in all scripts and could be exploited to learn languages faster.
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    Apr 8 2013: Why do you think "B" and "V" swap sounds in seven languages? What do you think I'm promoting? I'm glad you are not threatened, and that you have alignment with others. I am looking for answers to language, not friends. I prefer to question. I think it's interesting how quickly people have gotten mad at an idea that is based upon the fact we are milk drinkers. Milk only comes out of one place.
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    Apr 8 2013: You seem mad. I am not interested in arguing with angry people. That won't produce a useful discussion.
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    Apr 8 2013: Jennifer,
    I agree with commenters on this site that your "idea", as you identify this discussion, is very unclear. I agree with R H, that sex and sexism are apparent in languages. In your introduction, you suggest this yourself.

    You write..."The characters "B" and "V" swap sounds in seven different languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Russian, and English), most likely because females produce milk and offspring after being impregnated".

    What? The characters in languages "swap sounds" because females produce milk and offspring after being impregnated???

    Honestly, this is looking like a "promote Jennifer Ball" site, and if that is your goal, it might be helpful to provide some accurate information that is understandable. No, I am not threatened by you:>)
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    Apr 8 2013: Christians did not decode Sumerian. We have now. You can search Sumerian dictionaries online. Christians plagiarized not knowing we would discover they stole this idea from previous cultures. There are few new ideas. Most are recycled. Utnapishtim is the name for the "Noah" character in Stephen Mitchell's translation of "Gilgamesh." Enkidu is the wild man the gods created to civilize Gilgamesh because the first thing we are told is that Gilgamesh has sex with a new bride before her husband does. Typical conquerer behavior to get his genetic code (in the form of sperm) into a woman before her husband. The recent movie "Ted" with Mark Wahlberg is a remake of Gilgamesh, with Ted as Enkidu and Wahlberg as Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is really a story about what happens when we die. It is a homo-erotic tale where the prostitute who civilizes Enkidu over a seven-day period, is not even thanked, and the highest status woman, the goddess Ishtar is called many names that mean "prostitute" and a bull's hind leg is thrown at her in derision. This is the beginning of male projection. Ishtar is in control of her own sexuality, and this offended men. This is the world's first story. It's only gone downhill for women until recently.
    Your quote:
    You're saying that because (or most likely because) females produce milk and offspring after being impregnated, seven languages "swap sounds" between the letters "B" and "V"?
    Yes.
    Controlling female mammals has been very important to men. This is evident from Genesis story and the Odyssey. The best thing a woman can do in Genesis is die in childbirth. The Odyssey is a warning to women that even if their husbands leave for 20 years, those husbands will come back and kill every man who looked at you, and the sons of those husbands will kill any of your maids who allegedly had sex with the potential suitors, and the sons will kill those maids in a porn-sort-of way. Odysseus can spend seven years with Circe because she beguiled him. Give me a break.
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    Apr 8 2013: I know how you feel. Hooter's pisses me off, but there's not a lot I can do about it. So I learn to think about what is the significance of a restaurant that claims it is about owls' eyes when it's really about large-breasted women, and what this means to our society. We live in euphemism. Bathing is not the significant thing we do in a bathroom. Xishoujian 洗手间 is more than a place to wash our hands. You are troubled that I am teaching 102 students a new way of thinking about language, and that they are learning in a positive environment the relationship of (for example) hydrogen to water (which has two H atoms to every one of oxygen) and how this relates to the words "hydration," "dehydration," "fire hydrant," and even "hydrangea," a flower that needs a lot of water. I don't see the inaccuracies that you have pointed out. I see male projection in the use of a character composed of three women to mean "adultery" for 4,000 years. I know about "er nai/二奶," which means "second breast" and is a euphemism for one's sexual partner who is not one's wife. Men are much more likely to be adulterous than women, yet three women is the representation of this concept for four millennium because men wrote language. You do seem annoyed. Ever been to a Hooter's? I'm not saying it's wrong to like large-breasted women. Large breasts are attractive to all of us because they suggest capacity. I'm just saying it's 2013—time we recognized our cognitive dissonance. Why is "milking" something bad? Because men only think of this in the context of women (and inferior beings like babies) or some other body part that men like to milk? Why is to "disseminate information" considered a positive? Why is "seminal" so good and not "ovumal"? There is male projection all over language, and men—and some women—are annoyed that I am forcing them to confront our vulgar and bloody past. "Sacred" comes from "sacrum," and "bless" comes from "blood." Did you ever stop to think why? I have. We are animals.
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    Apr 8 2013: Words are deeds. It is offensive that "man" is at the root of so many professions and descriptions ("woman" is really "womb-man"), but no one considers that "ma" is at the root of "man." The female radical is in many offensive words in Hanzi, but also in "peace": 安, because woman under a roof is where ancient man thought women should be, similar to "house": 家, which is pig under a roof. Here we have two mammals in the same dominated position, both considered positive terms. I would write more, but I have to go teach.
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    Apr 8 2013: I think your humble opinion is a thoughtful one that considers the power of nubiles. Hooters' girls don't make a lot of money, but they have spawned a "breastaurant" industry. There is a Hooters Shanghai and Beijing. Young women are ignorant of their power and are routinely underpaid. By the time they understand their power, they are often pregnant and no longer "miao tiao," a term that means "attractive" in Mandarin and is a measure of thinness. Why is thin attractive? Because it means that no man has gotten there first and impregnated the female, hence men's historical love of virgins. A sequestered virgin was the only way to ensure paternity before DNA testing.
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    Apr 8 2013: By the way, Charles Darwin's theory was actually his grandfather Erasmus' theory, and we still, as a society, have trouble accepting that we evolved from apes when it seems pretty clear, by similar behavior and features, that we did. Keith Chen (who has a TED talk on language and a culture's ability to save) introduced the concept of money to monkeys, and the males quickly figured out that it was useful for buying sex. (How Basic Are Behavioral Biases? Evidence from Capuchin Monkey Trading Behavior; Journal of Political Economy, 2006, vol. 114, no. 3; The University of Chicago.) We are animals, but we are practiced at denying this because denial is part of self-preservation.
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    Apr 8 2013: I have read that languge change is driven by preteen and teen girls more than any other group or force. As far as I know Sex and Sexism does exist in every known form of language and literature. The world revolves aroud the 3 F's in my humble opinion. Feeding Fighting and Fucking. These are the topics of most stories.
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      Apr 8 2013: I think your humble opinion is a thoughtful one that considers the power of nubiles. Hooters' girls don't make a lot of money, but they have spawned a "breastaurant" industry. There is a Hooters Shanghai and Beijing. Young women are ignorant of their power and are routinely underpaid. By the time they understand their power, they are often pregnant and no longer "miao tiao," a term that means "attractive" in Mandarin and is a measure of thinness. Why is thin attractive? Because it means that no man has gotten there first and impregnated the female, hence men's historical love of virgins. A sequestered virgin was the only way to ensure paternity before DNA testing.
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    Apr 8 2013: Why are women statistically smaller than men? Because if they could figure out the relationship between sex and birth (which was often synonymous with death), they would have fought or run away, and their genes are no longer in the gene pool. This is my husband's theory. He is Michael Varney, senior V.P. at Genentech. He has a Ph.D. from Caltech in Chemistry and was the 13th employee at Agouron Pharmaceuticals, which invented Viracept, the first anti-HIV compound licensed for children and adults (1997). I have many scientists who think I am onto something, and many of them also read Chinese. If we don't enlarge our sphere of knowledge we are destined to have tunnel vision, like the famous frog in the Chengyu: 井底之蛙
    jǐngdǐ zhī wā
    a frog in a well—a person with a very limited outlook.
    I prefer to think outside the well...
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      Apr 8 2013: Although the theory seems valid, is it the most likely possibility?

      Most women (generalizing) suggest that they prefer men that are larger than themselves and most men prefer women that are smaller than them. Might this positive sexual selection on taller men and shorter women create the observed phenotypic differences? Rather than a negative selection on tall women?
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        Apr 8 2013: My research shows that women have not had a lot of choice in partners for the last 5,500 years. Women were kept in harems in many societies and had to procreate with the highest status male. In China women's feet were bound for an estimated 1,300 years, making it very difficult to leave, which is why "woman" and "house" are often synonymous. Wartime rape is a common tactic of soldiers, which is their strategy to force women to bear their children (and genetic code), and we see this in volatile countries even now. Only since the 1960s have women had a relatively safe method of preventing pregnancy; terminating a pregnancy is still not viewed as a woman's right in many religiously dominated societies, including the US. If women choose partners now (which is questionable when so often parents and others get involved), they have been indoctrinated by Hollywood and society as to what a "quality" male looks like. The human animal hasn't just evolved. Sexual selection has promoted a violent male and a docile female as the archetypes for future humans. Some of us are trying to enlarge our range of choices because these archetypes will not sustain our species. They contribute to the overpopulation of the world and disputes over resources.
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    Apr 8 2013: One of the people who has cited Catherine S. Farris is David Moser in a paper entitled, "Covert Sexism in Mandarin Chinese," in 1997 in Sino-Platonic Papers #74. I think not many papers have followed because China is powerful, and picking on Chinese seems racist. In fact it is, because this covert sexism is in all written scripts. The word for "nipple" in Hebrew is listed in Strong's Concordance as entry 1717 "דַּד"—it looks like "TT" and is pronounced "dad." It comes from entry 1730, which means "uncle, beloved" and is "דּוֹד"—which looks like "TIT." I'm sure this will be tossed off as coincidental because it is too painful to recognize how simple we are, but we are mammals. We are named for our mammaries. "Mamma" is hidden inside the word "mammal." One doesn't become a mamma unless one has sex. Bill Bryson said incest occurred in our past—"actually quite a lot of incest" (page 249). "Plagiarize" in Chinese also includes the meaning of "niece." Older men have taken advantage of younger women for millennium. I'm still witnessing this in China on a daily basis. We keep younger women uneducated because it's easier to prey upon them. In order to see the pattern of human behavior, one must look across all written scripts because language is both communication and code: communication to your tribe, code to your adversaries. Women are adversaries when one wants to use their bodies to produce against their will.
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    Apr 8 2013: I am a professor, and I sense you are threatened. New ideas are scary. Typically they take 25 years to be accepted: the approximate length of a generation. Yuri Knorosov figured out the Maya alphabet, but the "experts" said, (paraphrasing), You're Russian; what would you know about the Mayans? Turns out he did. I have read over 100 books. My bibliography is online at www.OriginofAlphabet.com. So is all my data. Chinese Hanzi is a typeface, which will print here. Sumerian cuneiform (the world's oldest language at 5,500 years) won't, nor will Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs (5,000 years old), nor Maya (2,500 years old) because no one uses them anymore. But Chinese (which is 4,000) years old, is still used and spoken. That's why I'm in China and just gave a talk to Chinese scientists. Scientists are data driven. If you want to see my data, go to my website. Catherine S. Farris wrote "Gender and Grammar in Chinese with Implications for Language Universals" in 1988. According to Jstor, her paper has been cited 20 times. Why only 20? Because we marginalize people we don't want to recognize or believe. Just like the Mayanists did with Yuri Knorosov. In Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything," he gives many such examples, one being Frank Asaro, Walter Alvarez, and Luis Alvarez, who figured out that the dinosaurs died because of an asteroid hitting the earth. This was based on their discovering a layer of iridium covering the earth. It took a long time for other scientists to accept this because, as Luis Alvarez joked, "We were caught practicing geology without a license." Eugene Shoemaker explains that this explanation for the dinosaur's demise was "against their [everyone else's] scientific religion" (page 128).