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About Stanford Carmack

Stanford Carmack has a linguistics and a law degree from Stanford University, as well as a doctorate in Hispanic Languages and Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, specializing in historical syntax. In the past he has had articles published on Georgian verb morphology and object–participle agreement in Old Spanish and Old Catalan. He currently researches Book of Mormon syntax as it relates to Early Modern English and contributes, by means of textual analysis, to volume 3 of Royal Skousen’s Book of Mormon critical text project.

How Joseph Smith’s Grammar Differed from Book of Mormon Grammar: Evidence from the 1832 History

Abstract: Some of the grammar of Joseph Smith’s 1832 History is examined. Three archaic, extra-biblical features that occur quite frequently in the Book of Mormon are not present in the history, even though there was ample opportunity for use. Relevant usage in the 1832 History is typical of modern English, in line with independent linguistic studies. This leads to the conclusion that Joseph’s grammar was not archaizing in these three types of morphosyntax which are prominent in the earliest text of the Book of Mormon. This corroborating evidence also indicates that English words were transmitted to Joseph throughout the dictation of the Book of Mormon. Continue reading

Editing Out the “Bad Grammar” in the Book of Mormon

On 6 April 2016, at BYU in Provo, Utah, Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack presented a lecture on “Editing Out the ‘Bad Grammar’ in the Book of Mormon.” This lecture is already available in video format, and is now available in written form. This is an introduction to parts 1 and 2 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text of the Book of Mormon: Grammatical Variation, which are now available from BYU Studies (call 801-422-6691).

Click the link below for a PDF of the lecture:
“Editing Out the ‘Bad Grammar’ in the Book of Mormon” PDF file

The Case of Plural Was in the Earliest Text

Abstract: Because it is primarily an Early Modern English text (in terms of its English language), the earliest text of the Book of Mormon understandably employs plural was — for example, “the words which was delivered” (Alma 5:11). It does so in a way that is substantially similar to what is found in many writings of the Early Modern period ­— that is, it manifests the syntactic usage, variation, and differential rates typical of that era. Continue reading

The Case of the {-th} Plural in the Earliest Text

Abstract: The earliest text of the Book of Mormon employs the {-th} plural — for example, “Nephi’s brethren rebelleth” — in a way that is substantially similar to what is found in many writings of the Early Modern period. The earliest text neither underuses nor overuses the construction, and it manifests inflectional variation and differential usage rates typical of Early Modern English. The totality of the evidence tells us that the Book of Mormon is most reasonably classified as a 16th- or 17th-century text, not as a 19th-century text full of biblical hypercorrections. Continue reading

Joseph Smith Read the Words

2 Nephi 27:20, 22, 24

wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.. . .Wherefore when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee . . .the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him:

This study examines the assertions of two investigators who have discussed the nature of the translation of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s role in it: Brant Gardner and Orson Scott Card. Their writings on the subject have declared that Smith’s own language frequently made its way into the wording of the Book of Mormon. However, a comparison of the earliest text with the textual record tells us that this is an incorrect view of the translation. The linguistic fingerprint of the Book of Mormon, in hundreds of different ways, is Early Modern English. Smith himself — out of a presumed idiosyncratic, quasi-biblical style — would not have translated and could not have translated the text into the form of the earliest text. Had his own language often found its way into the wording of the earliest text, its form would be very different from what we encounter. It is still appropriate to call Joseph Smith the translator of the Book of Mormon, but he wasn’t a translator in the usual sense of the term. He was a translator in the sense of being the human involved in transferring or re-transmitting a concrete form of expression (mostly English words) received from the Lord. The above language of 2 Nephi 27 indicates such a state of affairs as well. And so I have undertaken to critique some of the observations that have been made with respect to Book of Mormon translation, and to lay out an entirely different view of the text, which has been argued for by Royal Skousen for quite a while now. Continue reading