Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture:

The Implications of Past-Tense Syntax in the Book of Mormon

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Published by:
Interpreter A Journal of Mormon Scripture
Published:
2/27/2015
Specs:
Digest / 5.25" x 8.25"
72 pages Saddle-stitched
Category:
Religion
Tags:
16th century, apologetics, Book of Mormon, lds, mormon, Mormonism, past-tense

In the middle of the 16th century there was a short-lived surge in the use of the auxiliary did to express the affirmative past tense in English, as in Moroni «did arrive» with his army to the land of Bountiful (Alma 52:18). The 1829 Book of Mormon contains nearly 2,000 instances of this particular syntax, using it 27% of the time in past-tense contexts. The 1611 King James Bible — which borrowed heavily from Tyndale’s biblical translations of the 1520s and ’30s — employs this syntax less than 2% of the time. While the Book of Mormon’s rate is significantly higher than the Bible’s, it is close to what is found in other English-language texts written in the middle of the 1500s. However, apparently no text has used this construction with rates exceeding 20% since that era, and the usage died out in the 1700s. So the Book of Mormon is unique for its time — this is especially apparent when features of adjacency, inversion, and intervening adverbial use are considered.

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