Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type



Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Ron Stottlemyer

Second Advisor

Loren Graham

Third Advisor

Joan Stottlemyer


The study of both mythology and language has become increasingly critical in a multicultural, globalized world. Mythology embodies the worldview of its culture of origin and language communicates that worldview to others. Consequently, much has been written on the origin of both language and myth and on the linguistic style of certain myths. However, in cultures around the world, language is used not only to communicate myths, but is often a key player within them. Examining the treatment of language as a separate, unique entity in myths, and especially in creation myths, can reveal much about how ancient mythmakers viewed language. Where creation myth specifically gives language an identity, gods or creative spirits are either identified as Language, e.g., the Word, or use the powers of language as a medium oftheir creation. The ability of humans to speak, and thus create, is also given special importance. This role of language in creation myth can be explained by examining the connections between language and myth and language and creation. Both language and myth are dependent on the use of symbol, and the development of culture is inherently connected to this dependence. Language and creation are both relational in nature, and both involve a movement from chaos to order. The “breath of life” is a useful metaphor to conceptualize this movement. The examination of language in creation myth can shed new light on the understanding of cultures both ancient and modem as well as on the importance of language to humanity.