Saturday, March 29, 2014

An Analysis of Joseph Smith's "Grammar": His Definitions of the Usage of the Characters in the Sensen Papyrus, and the Sign of the Degrees or Plurality (Zip-Zi, or "Woman")

In Wikipedia, we read:

In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics . . .

The term "grammar" can also be used to describe the rules that govern the linguistic behaviour of a group of speakers . . . "An English grammar" is a specific description, study or analysis of such rules. A reference book describing the grammar of a language is called a "reference grammar" or simply "a grammar". (

This is the sense that I believe Joseph Smith was using the word grammar, that he was writing a reference that was describing the grammar of something, or the rules for that something.  The characters in his "grammar" are self-evident, and are the identifiers for that which he was describing the grammar or rules of interpretation of.  In other words, he is describing the rules of interpretation for the Sensen Papyrus, because the characters in question are from the Sensen Papyrus.  Since Egyptology has already spoken on the nature of the Sensen Papyrus as the Book of Fellowship (Breathings) from the Egyptological point of view, and Hugh Nibley has identified it as an Endowment, we already know its standard "Egyptological" identification.  Therefore, the grammar or rules of interpretation that Joseph Smith was writing about has to do with the rules of the secondary intent of the papyrus, or the intent that was imposed on it by secondary interpreters in derivative compositions employing its characters in a different way, people that interpreted it differently after the fact, in a fashion that is different than its standard Egyptological usage.  Even if people do not believe in Joseph Smith's identification of this system of usage, it is absolutely clear to all people that it is NOT the Egyptological way.  Therefore, for believers, the only option besides dismissing the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar is to accept that there was secondary intent involved here, a secondary way of using the characters in a novel way.  Secondary intent must be accepted, because multiple primary intent is very unlikely (in other words, it is very unlikely that the original author of the Sensen papyrus wrote it with the intent to use it as a representation of Abrahamic material, and therefore, the usage of it in derived documents or derived compositions in this way is secondary to its original intent).

Now, we will quote some of what Joseph Smith says about the translation or interpretation process of the characters of the papyrus.  We will quote pieces of what he is saying, and then elucidate and expand on its implications.

Joseph Smith says, speaking of the reed character, "In Translating this character, the subject must be continued . . ."

This is the same type of thing as what is says in the Explanation for Facsimile #1, figure 12:  "in this case, in relation to this subject, the Egyptians meant it to signify . . . ."

In other words, in describing the character Za Ki Oan Hiash or Chalsidon Hiash (which we have already identified as the Egyptian Reed character, the uniliteral letter I in Egyptian, he writes about the grammar structure of this secondary intent.  He speaks of a system where each character in the papyrus has a certain "subject" associated with it.  In previous posts, I have used the word "signature" to describe what this subject is.  In other words, the "subject" usually relates to the Egyptological meaning of a certain character.

For example, as we demonstrated in a previous post, the reed character itself can represent the Land of the Chaldees, because the reed symbol, when used as a pictograph, has historically been used in the middle east to signify Sumer or Babylonia, and was translated as "Kiengi" in its Sumerian usage.  Therefore, in the context of the Book of Abraham, it can indeed be used to signify Karduniash, the Land of the Chaldees.  So, the reed is the signature, and the Land of the Chaldees is the subject that is tied symbolically to the signature I was talking about.

Sometimes the component characters that must be "dissected" contain multiple components, each of which have their own meaning which is sometimes identifiable as a meaning that is able to be Egyptologically corroborated on its own.  As an example is the fact that we demonstrated in previous posts that the Hieratic W can be seen to be a component of the Wsir Wr character.  And the Hieratic W is Egyptologically corroboratible.  Next:

" . . . there are connections or connecting points found in the character . . ."

According to this description, it says each character has "connections or connecting points" in it.  He says that:

". . . there are five connecting parts of speech in the above character . . ."

This is because:

". . . there are as many of these connecting parts of speech as there are connections or connecting points found in the character . . ."

It is not clear what is meant by connecting points. whether they are something visual or otherwise.  But it may have to do with how many strokes or points a character has in it when a character is "dissected."  But there is some indication that a character may just have "5 connections" assigned to it by default.  Or in other words, just by being on its own without a line above or below it, the character happens to have five connections in it.

For example, see the following article:

In this case, the hieratic N character is split up in two.  One of these characters is a dot, identified as the "eye" character, meaning to see.  On its own, or when it is "arbitrary" and "independent," according to Joseph Smith, it has five connections.  Since the eye character happens to have a line over it that means that it has five times the number of connections it does normally on its own.

Fortunately, even though that detail about what constitutes a connection isn't really apparent or made clear, it's significance is still something that we can understand.  Because, the important thing to know is that a numerological tie is intended where the amount of text in the English Book of Abraham Manuscript is indicated by these "connections" of an Egyptian character that is lined up next to it.  In other words, the interpreter here has an indication of how much text belongs to a character, even though the character doesn't contain the text.  That is what is called metadata, like in computer science.  It is a description of something without having the actual data.  Or, it is information about information.  A description of information, without the information.

". . . These . . . connecting parts of speech, for verbs, participles, prepositions, conjunctions, and adverbs . . ."

In other words, the parts of speech represented by a character depend on the number of "connections" that exist in a certain character.  If there are five pieces of a character when it is dissected into pieces, then there are five parts of speech represented by the character.  And those parts of speech have to do with the "subject" at hand, that we had already described above.  Therefore, as described above, the number of parts of speech involved, can be all the parts of speech that we use to using in a sentence:

(1) nouns, (2) verbs, (3) adjectives, (4) adverbs, (5) pronouns, (6) prepositions, (7) conjunctions and (8) interjections.

Now for the "jobs" or "functions" of these listed parts of speech (see as an example

Nouns are persons, places or things.  Verbs are actions or states of being.  Adjectives are words that describe a noun.  Adverbs are words that describe a verb, adjective or adverb.  A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun.  A preposition links a noun to another word.  A conjunction links two phrases, clauses or sentences.  An exclamation is a short word or phrase put in a sentence to represent emotion and so forth.

So, what we mean to say here is, there are five connections in the reed character (ChalSidonHiash or reed symbol, or Egyptian I letter), so there are five parts of speech that are represented by this character.  However the content is not "contained" in the character, and cannot be mechanically extracted.  That is the absurdity of the Anti-Mormon critics, that they say, it is absurd to think that Joseph Smith thought that he could extract all this text these characters.  Rather, the whole point was to reconstruct a non-extant derivative composition.  Well, the evidence shows that he never expected that the characters themselves had that information.  The are more similar to what in computer science is called metadata.  They tell you about how much text is meant to be represented.  But it doesn't tell you the content of the text.  This is why Joseph Smith never claimed that these characters did contain all the text, and so, it is absurd to think that he got that text in any other manner than by revelation in the reconstitution of the derivative composition.

Next, in speaking more of the character ChalSidonHiash, he says:

". . . we have the degrees of comparison . . ."

Regarding the character Kli Flos Is Es, he says:

". . . it . . . is increased or lessened according to the sign of the degrees . . ."

In other words, the sign of the degrees has to do with increasing or lessening (decreasing) the degrees of something.  If we speak of degrees that are increased or lessened, we can think of temperature.  If you add heat, you increase the degrees.  If you take away heat, you decrease the degrees.  If someone goes to college, they are initiated into degrees.  The more degrees you have, the higher on the ladder you are in your certifications/rank for that specific domain of expertise.  If you are an apprentice in a trade, you are in a lesser degree of expertness.  If you are a journeyman, you are in a higher degree of expertness in the trade.  If someone is a "master" of his trade, then he is at the highest degree of expertise for it.  The same is so for degrees of black belt in a martial art.  The higher the degree, the higher the expertise.

Joseph Smith described a system of degrees that uses the "sign of the degrees" to represent the degree a certain character is in.  This sign or mark that represents the degrees is:

". . . a straight mark inserted above or below [a character] . . ."

This is the single stroke that is the same as the tick mark or stroke that represents the Egyptian number one in standard hieroglyphic Egyptian.  In standard hieroglyphic Egyptological Egyptian, the mark is used to represent multiplicity or plurality, and is used either horizontally or vertically, and typically in a set of three to denote plurality.  (  However, of course, the usage of the tick marks/plurality marks in Joseph Smith's conception are different, as we have seen.  For Joseph Smith, they represent this system of degrees.  But it is only natural that the symbol that would be selected for the sign of the degrees in Joseph Smith's system would be the same sign as the sign for plurality in hieroglyphic Egyptian.  So, this demonstrates that Joseph Smith was right on the money again.  In another place, he translated the sign of the degrees in another context, where it is specifically used in the context of a "woman," specifically, where in the Book of Abraham, it represents the woman who first discovered the land of Egypt when it was under water.  In that context, he describes the origin of the sign of the degrees thus.  It is defined as having the vocalization of Zip Zi, in the fourth degree:

"Zip Zi:  all women.  It took its origin from the earth yielding its fruit.  And from the first woman who bore children; and men were multiplied upon the earth, and is used in this degree as a numeral.  By being inserted above or below another character.  It increases by  by being drawn above, and signifies above, more, greater [or] more glorious.  And when inserted under, signifies beneath, less, smaller [or] least."

In other words, this is saying that the heiroglyph that this meaning is derived from is the EARTH yielding fruit.  In other words, it is the hieroglyph N16 and N17 from Gardiner's sign list:


It is very significant that Joseph Smith here specifically identified this sign as a numeral.

In the Coptic writing system (more late to modern Egyptian, not ancient Egyptian), the horizontal line (sign of the degrees) is used for many numbers.  When the Coptic alphabetic characters are used as numbers, they usually have the horizontal line over them.  (An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, In Two Volumes, Vol. 1, by E.A. Wallis Budge, p. cxlviii).  On the page referenced here, it shows all the Coptic letters used as numbers, the same as with the Hebrew or Greek alphabets.  But the horizontal line is placed above each one.  Then Budge writes in a footnote:  "When a letter has a double line over it, its numerical value is increased a thousandfold. . . "  In other words, in the Coptic numbering system, they are still using the sign of the degrees to denote an increase in numerical value!  And since the Coptic system is late Egyptian, it is clear that the usage of the Sign of the Degrees in this system in the Kirtland Egyptain Papers seems also to be a late Egyptian Practice, because it is from the Greco-Roman period at the time of the Sensen Papyrus.  Here are the Coptic Majuscules characters from their alphabet:

And here are the Coptic Minuscules from their alphabet:

Most of the Coptic letters are derived from the Greek Alphabet, while others are derived from Demotic Egyptian.  Here is a chart now of the Coptic letters being commonly used as numbers, with the "sign of the degrees":

Now, Joseph Smith was not "learned" in the use of Coptic Numerics, and so, it is unlikely that he would have known that Copts use horizontal lines to denote "signs of degrees" in their numeric.  As you can see, as one gets into the thousands the "sign of the degrees" is used in this manner above, as was described by Budge.  It is my contention that Joseph Smith would not have known this about Coptic.

Now more about the sign of the degrees, or Zip-Zi

  In the fifth degree, this sign means:

"[It] is the same of the fourth, only increases or lessens five degrees."

In the third degree, it means:

"Under or beneath, second in right or authority or government, a fruitful place or fruitful vine."

In the second degree, it means:

"A woman, married or unmarried or a daughter, or mother, or mothers, and sometimes the first woman, who was Eve."

In the first degree, it means:

"A woman, married or unmarried, or daughter.  Signifies all, or any woman."

Next, we go on to discuss characters in general:

".. . . in the fifth degree . . . it stands independent and arbitrary . . . without a straight mark inserted above or below it . . .

By default, or on its own, it seems that a character is in the fifth degree.  So, all Egyptian characters that have no straight mark are automatically in the fifth degree.  In order to either "lessen" or "increase" a degree, one must insert the Zip-Zi mark or "mark of the degrees" either above or below a character.  Joseph Smith says:

". . . by inserting a straight mark over [the character] thus, it increases its signification five degrees.  By inserting two straight lines thus, its signification is increased five times more.  By inserting three straight lines thus, its signification is again increased five times more than the last."

In other words:

 ". . . [if a] character alone has 5 parts of speech, [the number] is increased by one straight line thus:  5 x 5 is 25.  By two horizontal lines thus:  25 x 5 =125; and by 3 horizontal lines thus:  125 x 5 = 625."

Therefore, in the above case where there are 625 parts of speech represented we have one character that has a subject, and that subject, in order to be properly translated for what it represents, "in translating [the] character, the subject must be continued until . . ." there are 625 parts of speech in the translation of the subject of the character, in this case.  The character represents the subject.  The character does not have information packed into it for 625 parts of speech.

A character "independent, and arbitrary" and "alone" by itself, just is in the fifth degree, and does not represent 625 parts of speech in that case, but only as many parts of speech as there are "connections" or "component parts" in the character, which seems to be 5 by default.

Now, as for inserting the horizontal lines below a character:

". . . when [a] character has a horizontal line under it, it reduces it into the fourth degree.  Consequently, it has but four connecting parts of speech.  When it has two horizontal lines, it is reduced into the third degree and has but three connecting parts of speech.  And when it has three horizontal lines, it is reduced into the second degree and has but two connective parts of speech . . ."

As for the character Iota Ni Ta Veh Ah Que it says:

" . . . its signification may be lessened one half by the mark as in the margin . . ."

In this case, the "sign of the degrees" was used diagonally above the character.  And again:

". . . its signification is increased tenfold by the mark as in the margin . . ."

In this case, the "sign of the degrees" was used vertically below the character.

In summary:

Each character cued the interpreter as to the subject that it represents, and if there are "signs of the degrees" inserted above or below, the interpreter is cued as to how much material the subject at hand represents.  Therefore, the grand majority of the material is not represented by any content in the papyrus.  Only the SUBJECT of the material.  The interpreter must get the information elsewhere, namely by revelation.  This is why this is clearly something that is not meant to be text of anything, but rather a cue to receive information from the spirit.  If someone is initiated as to the meaning of the papyrus in ancient times, he already would have known the intent of the papyrus according to the secondary intent of the original ancient Egyptian Interpreter.  If he is a prophet, he is dependent on the Spirit to relay the intent of the ancients about what the papyrus was used to represent.  So, the papyrus in this secondary intent, in the end is a revelatory device giving cues to an interpreter.  It doesn't really have any content in it to speak of, with the exception of a subject.  And even the subject is not necessarily the literal translation of the Egyptian character at hand, but rather, there will be a signature, perhaps something thematic about the character that the character has in common with the intended subject that ties it to it.  So, even the character itself is not very helpful to even know the "subject" that it is intended to represent.  This is why I said in a previous post, this is not something that the casual translator can just "extract" from these characters.  The person doing the translating must know the intent of the person that used the papyrus in this fashion, as a source of characters for a derivative composition.

There is no indication whatsoever from the evidence at hand that Joseph Smith ever intended anyone to believe that whole paragraphs could be "extracted" from one character.  From all indications, he was quite conscious of the fact that only the "subject" was represented by any particular character, and that certain things in a text could cue the interpreter as to how much text ought to be provided in the translation.  But there is no indication that he believed that actual content of the text was ever represented by anything in the papyrus at all.   Therefore, it is more along the lines of acrostics as we had postulated before.  You have something that represents a subject or has a signature that ties it to that subject, and then you provide your own content for what that subject is.  Joseph Smith was quite conscious of the fact that he never had anything in his hands that represented itself as the actual  content of the text of the book of Abraham.  There were only things that represented subjects that are at hand.  And along with those "subjects," there was some information, numerologically, about how much text and what type of words such as adjectives, adverbs, etc. there were in the text.  So, again, its more like metadata.  It does not contain information.  It contains information ABOUT information.  This is why I say, this papyrus requires mappings to information that is external to itself.  Otherwise it is meaningless.  There are external dependencies that give it meaning.