There are 7 thoughts on “Pitfalls of the Ngram Viewer”.

  1. Once again Stan Carmack has produced a document that is not only interesting, legible and informative, but answers questions which serious students of the Book of Mormon want to know.

    Having learned from several of Stan’s Interpreter articles about the occurence of Early Modern English in the Book of Mormon, I have sensed an outpouring of timely assistance to him that –may I say it?– appears to be tantamount to divine intervention. The fact that Stan and Royal Skousen should both appear on the scene at the exact same time seems slightly more than circumstantial. In addition, the fact that the Critical text of the Book of Mormon should appear (before some of the original source material might potentially disappear forever (we’re lucky we have what we do currently have…)) makes their teamwork uncannily beyond circumstantial and in the realms of prescience manipulation.

    Now leaving this topic for another. At one point in the beginning of Stan’s introduction of Early Modern English in the Book of Mormon I was personally leaning towards some type of ethereal, heavenly council of translators from Tyndale’s period (like a group of King James’ translators) helping to promulgate Book of Mormon translation from its original text down into Joseph Smith’s English. The young man, Joseph, would have been receiving their translation effort directly into his now famous “stone in the hat,” from which he would have read vocally to his scribe.

    Recently, though, I personally have been led to believe something entirely different. After careful review and much consideration of Moroni’s last few verses of his last chapter, I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that I should take what he says literally. The conclusion I’ve reached is that the Savior, himself, was the person directly giving Joseph Smith the words as directed to and then received via his “stone in the hat.”

    I know the next few thoughts I share can be understood in several different ways, but for me it’s awful hard not to take Moroni’s words literally wherein he says, “and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man,” and “And behold, they (these words) shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the everlasting God…” (Moroni 10:27, 28)

    Who says that Jesus Christ couldn’t be the ultimate translator of the Book of Mormon? It would certainly lend a certain aspect of authority to Moroni and all the other prophets of the Book of Mormon when they state that they speak words as authorized by the Savior. And it would help explain why He would throw a little monkey-wrench into the translation that we wouldn’t even be able to discover until today’s technology made it possible to research and analyze. It could be that He helped in more ways than one in today’s invaluable efforts of understanding Book of Mormon literature by ensuring that people couldn’t just say that “The Book of Mormon is just the language of the Bible plagiarized.”

    Obviously, all of this is conjecture on my part, but it makes more sense to me that a Testament of Jesus Christ should come directly from Him, than from a tribunal of seventeeth century translators sending their “best translation efforts” down to the nineteenth century boy-prophet named Joseph Smith…

    • I prefer to think that there was a translation committee composed of Tyndale era Englishmen who played a role in giving us the Bible and people like Nephi, Alma, and Mormon who produced the text that had to be translated. In this life, God involves us in his saving work, to our great benefit, even though we do the work imperfectly. It is comforting to me to think that He will continue to involve us in the next life. And this theory melds Royal Skousen’s tight control and Brant Gardner’s loose control theories, each of which has considerable explanatory power. Skousen’s account best fits with what we have been told by those who were there about the translation process and with the pervasive Hebraisms and Hebrew wordplay we find in the text. Gardner’s account best addresses apparent anachronisms and convergences with the KJV. A committee of Englishmen and Lehites giving us their best translation incorporates all the virtues of both theories. And it gives us scholars something to look forward to in the next life.

      • That’s not a bad theory, and like I say, I was leaning towards some type of linguistic committee theory prior to my recent determination as explained above.

        The more that I think about Jesus Christ, Himself, as the revelator (my word… “revealer/translator”) of the Book of Mormon directly to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the more that theory answers so many other questions. Like: How could Joseph Smith call the Book of Mormon, “The most correct book of any book on earth…” I submit that it is true that if Jesus were indeed the revelator behind it, then there is little reason to doubt that it is accurately described as the most correct book on the planet today. Or, when you have Nephite Prophets speaking in the Lord’s voice all throughout the Book of Mormon, then it’s not too far a stretch to realize that if Jesus were the ultimate translator, then it actually was His voice and His thoughts coming through to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

        You don’t need to have a bunch of Nephite prophets learning Early Modern English in order to translate the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith, if the Lord, Himself, is doing the translating. Being Lord over the whole earth, I don’t suppose it is hard for Him to know every dialect, tongue and language ever spoken on the earth, let alone Early Modern English.

  2. This study is well done and nicely presented with the graphs. I have noticed some of the same deficiency in Ngram Viewer. The visual interface makes it fun to use, but it can be quite misleading. Thanks for this much-needed information and admonition.

  3. Thanks for the very healthy reminder that Google is not nearly as omniscient as many think. And especially thank you for reminding us that in understanding the Book of Mormon, the actual data really does matter and has a story to tell, even when it challenges our preconceived notions. The data regarding the origins and translation of the Book of Mormon simply cannot fit the lazy assumptions of arising from Joseph’s mind and environment. Thank you for your work in bringing so much additional data to our view

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