Friday, June 30, 2006

Why Nephi and not Nefi?, Consonant blends in BofM names —ElGuapo

OK, just so we can finally say we've discussed every conceivable aspect of the Book of Mormon, I'm curious about the spelling of Nephi's name. Why Nephi and not Nefi? I am aware that John Gee has traced the current pronunciation of the name among Latter-day Saints as "nee-fi" back to at least 1837, so I don't think we're pronouncing it wrong. (Note, by "wrong" I mean pronouncing it differently from how Joseph and other original LDS members pronounced it, not how Lehi and his family pronounced it. Daniel Ludlow has remarked that we are "ninety-nine percent sure that we do not pronounce such names as Lehi and Nephi correctly.")

So if it's just a romanization of an ancient name, wouldn't a simple phonetic transliteration make more sense? I mean, the name's not Greek, right? I know the name is attested in the apocryphal book of Maccabees, so maybe Joseph had it written to match that spelling? David Whitmer and Emma do mention that proper names were often spelled out in the translation process; or, alternatively, Royal Skousen has found instances in the original manuscript where names are spelled phonetically on first appearance but then crossed out and corrected. So I don't think you'd attribute the name spellings to whoever was acting as scribe.

Any thoughts?

QUOTE (Familyof4 @ Jun 29 2006, 09:34 PM)
Wait, I thought the BoM translation was word for word from God. And that JS could not proceed until the correct word-sentence was written down. This is the first I have heard of this. Nephi must be the correct translation and spelling...otherwise God would have not proceeded.

Familyof4, when I first read this I thought you were just being facetious. Now I'm not sure, but you didn't add a wink at the end, so I take it as a sincere question. No, I don't think every word-sentence had to be correct right down to spelling before Joseph would proceed. If you've never seen one before, you might enjoy reading a first edition copy of the Book of Mormon, available at Deseret Book. Hugh Nibley preferred this edition, feeling most of the later changes were unwarranted. He also liked the folksy way it read, with words like "a-going" and so on. And frankly, perfect spelling would have been an odd requirement anyway at the time the book was written.

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