Indigo (a world-wide design network) has put together an online exhibit called "Mother Tongue," exploring culture and language. Here is my submission to the project:
"Iconicity might be the reason for refraining from translating Hallelujah and Amen in so many languages, as if the sounds of such basic religious notions have to do with the referents themselves – as if by losing the sound, one might lose the meaning." - Ghil'ad Zuckermann
What is the relationship between the meaning of a word and its sound? Does that relationship change when a word is transposed into a different language, when it is put next to rhythms and cadences that are different than its original context?
The traveling of letters and words and their inherent meanings, if any, is something I have always found fascinating. Jewish culture seems to hold an interest in this as well, because of the cultural importance of 'the word.' I am not Jewish myself but many of the most interesting thoughts that I have read on the subject have come from Jewish authors.
This quote by Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann (used with the author's permission), was found via Wikipedia ("Iconicity" article). Professor Zuckerman is the author of Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew, among other works.