Atlantis and Linguistics
summarize here the linguistic aspects of some general catastrophist
theories involving Atlantis and other 'lost' oceanic
continents/civilizations. (Some theories of this kind, such as the
fairly mainstream theory of Stephen Oppenheimer locating a centre of
cultural and linguistic diffusion in a now-submerged South-East Asian
continent, refer mainly to particular non-oceanic parts of the world
and are covered in other sections of the book.)
'Atland' is a supposed sunken land similar to Atlantis, located in the
North Sea; some regard Heligoland as a surviving remnant1. The history of this 'lost' land is given in the Oera Linda Book1,
a Frisian work which appears to be a nationalistically motivated
late-nineteenth-century forgery. Although the linguistic details are
not an especially important aspect of this case, supportive
commentators on this work identify alleged cognates involving Frisian
and various languages of the ancient world.
Tsarion holds that, after the fall of Atlantis, culture and language
spread through Europe and elsewhere from a base in Ireland, with the
Irish (Gaelic) language as a new 'mother' language2.
cases of channelling involve 'Atlantean' or 'Lemurian' (see below)
languages emanating from spirit realms, etc. One such case involves
some 3,000 'Atlantean' words supposedly channelled to a medium3.
An Australian group called 'Liquid Crystals' claims that it is in touch
with survivors of Atlantis (in space/other 'dimensions') and has access
to '11 [Atlantean] languages spoken and written'4. (etc!)
Jean-Louis Pagé's bilingual book5
links his 'decipherments' of the Phaistos Disk and other mysterious
texts with his own version of the 'Orion' theory of the Giza Pyramids,
etc. He upholds the historical reality of Plato's Atlantis (as his
title suggests), locating it in the Arctic and attributing its
destruction to a sudden polar shift in 9792 BCE; he also posits
extraterrestrial intervention in the origins of human civilization; and
he regards most of the Disk symbols as logographic/ideographic and
pictographic (but it is not even clear which known or reconstructed
language he thinks is represented, and he does not propose any
dos Santos accepts the reality of Atlantis; he places much emphasis on
historical linguistics, arguing that unexpected similarities (at all
the main linguistic levels) exist between languages such as Guanche
(Canary Islands), Etruscan and Dravidian (Tamil etc.), at frequency
levels which exclude chance7. He disputes the mainstream use of
statistics in this area and argues that accidental similarities are
much less likely than has been concluded by mainstream linguists. This
disagreement, it seems, does not involve the mathematics per se but
rather dos Santos' handling of the linguistic data, which, a linguist
might suggest, does not appear to incorporate adequately various key
factors such as the structural differences between the languages in
question. Some of dos Santos' other views – on both linguistic and
non-linguistic matters – also appear strikingly different from
mainstream views (for instance, he rejects conventional ideas about
proto-languages and language 'families').
writers who accept the reality of Atlantis (especially as a genuinely
lost land rather than as a location or culture known later by other
names) include: Viatcheslav Koudriavtsev and his colleagues with their
'Protolanguage' (pan-Slavic) and its 'Protoscript'8; J.M. Allen9 and Rand and Rose Flem-Ath10
with their focus upon South American locations (the Flem-Aths believe
that Atlantis was in Antarctica and that the Atlantean refugees arrived
first in South America; they endorse some extreme and unjustifiable
claims about the structure of the Andean language Aymara which are
associated with the idea that it is of Atlantean origin); Otto Muck
with a fairly 'standard' Atlantic model11; Constantin
Benetatos with the view that all later European languages (especially
those in Northern Europe) are descended from the language of Atlantis12 (compare Tsarion as mentioned above), etc., etc.
also accepts the reality of Atlantis (and links his ideas about
Atlantis as a real entity with arguments in support of the currently
fashionable theory of the universe as pervaded by consciousness). His
work is vitiated by a number of unwelcome features14, including some
relating specifically to his use of linguistic data. For instance: a)
he repeatedly discusses key linguistic matters in an impossibly vague
manner; b) he fatally confuses linguistic levels (pronunciation and
grammar) in using key terms such as agglutinative;
c) he relies upon earlier non-mainstream thinkers and ill-informed and
dated sources; d) he proposes wildly implausible and unsupported
scenarios involving the development of languages and scripts (intended
to replace well-established mainstream ideas about these matters); e)
he largely ignores the two hundred years of scientific historical
linguistic scholarship and thus employs the usual loose, seriously
unreliable non-mainstream philological/etymological methods; etc.
One of the works of Gene Matlock also argues for the reality of Atlantis15.
Matlock's claim to have 'proved' his case is grotesquely exaggerated,
to say the least. As in his other works, he relies repeatedly upon
isolated and unsystematic superficial similarities of vocabulary items
in attempting to establish etymologies which would demonstrate his
diffusionist claims about ancient links between the languages and
cultures of India (and other Old World areas) – all supposedly derived
from Sanskrit, which according to Matlock was the ultimate ancestor
language – and the Americas. And, again as in his other works, his
claims on these fronts also contradict many established etymologies and
vast amounts of well-established information about the relationships
between languages. Matlock ignores the crucial structural aspects of
the languages which he compares; his linguistic terminology is popular
and non-standard; he makes many claims about poorly-documented periods
of early history without presenting any references or worthwhile
evidence; he cites other non-mainstream claims rejected by most
experts; etc., etc.
(ignoring scholarly objections) argues for a historical Atlantis in
Western Atlantic waters, and for a catastrophist and otherwise
revisionist account of early human history; he believes that the cases
for (a) catastrophist interpretations of early history, (b) the early
discovery (and subsequent loss) of advanced technology, and (c)
extraterrestrial intervention in that period are much more persuasive
than they are. His linguistic 'evidence' is of the usual amateur kind;
he also makes various specific errors; and he rejects reconstructed
proto-languages such as Proto-Indo-European, assessing the evidence and
argumentation for such entities in thoroughly confused terms and
grossly undervaluing it – partly because he wishes to propose
alternative genetic and other links between languages, often involving
his native Hungarian. Indeed, he exaggerates the influence of Hungarian
and the Hungarians on linguistic differentiation and world history,
finding pseudo-cognates and grammatical parallels between Hungarian and
English and reading the arguably mysterious runic Yarmouth Rune Stone
(Nova Scotia) as Hungarian.
other non-mainstream authors are interested in the lost lands of
Lemuria and/or Mu (located in the Indian or Pacific Oceans) rather than
(or as well as) Atlantis. One such writer, Frank Joseph17
cites similarities between short words and syllables, with related or
allegedly related meanings, in languages normally regarded as unrelated
and as not having experienced important cultural contact. These include
the words moai as used in Okinawa and Easter Island (where the meanings
are not in fact even close), Japanese torii and German Tor (both meaning 'gate'), various words containing the syllable -mu-,
etc. He believes that these similarities mostly indicate common origin
in Lemuria/Mu. Joseph includes in this discussion a completely mistaken
comment about the pronunciation of the Latin names Romulus and Remus; he believes that both of these words were stressed on the second syllable, which represents the word Mu.
In fact, there is no good linguistic basis for any of these proposals.
This article consists of extracts from my 2013 book Strange Linguistics (Lincom-Europa, Munich).
(Investigator 192, 2020 May)
1 The Oera Linda Book,
available in English version by William R. Sandbach (1876) at
http://www.sacred-texts.com/atl/olb/index.htm (accessed 6 February
2011; placed online by J.B. Hare, 29 January 2009). See also
Adolf Reith, Archaeological Fakes (Diana Imber trans.), (New York and Washington, 1970), pp. 155-9, also Richard Rudgley, Pagan Resurrection (London, 2006), pp.119-20 and other such references in books promoting 'revisionist history', also Robert Scrutton, The Other Atlantis (Jersey, 1977); Secrets of Lost Atland (Jersey, 1978).
2 Michal Tsarion, The Irish Origins of Civilization: An Alternative History of Ireland and The World (two volumes) (2007); available at http://www.irishoriginsofcivilization.com (accessed 26 January 2011).
3 J. Ben Leslie, Atlantis Restored, or Links and Cycles (Rochester, NY, 1911).
4 http://www.theliquidcrystals.com/related_topics.php (accessed 18 February 2011).
5 Jean-Louis Pagé, Atlantis' Messages/Messages de l'Atlantide (Laval, QC, 2002).
6 See Mark Newbrook, Review of Pagé, JL. 2002 Atlantis' Messages/Messages de l'Atlantide, The Skeptic (Australia), XXIII/1 (2003), pp. 46-8.
7 Arysio Nunes dos Santos, Atlantis: The Lost Continent Finally Found: The Definitive Localization of Plato's Lost Civilization (Berkeley, CA, 2005); see also articles on http://atlan.org/ (accessed 2 February 2011).
See Viatcheslav Koudriavtsev, 'Atlantis: New Hypothesis', available at
(accessed 20 February 2011), http://www.imh.ru/main_e.htm (accessed 28
9 J.M. Allen, Atlantis, the Andes Solution (Moreton-in-Marsh (Gloucestershire, UK), 1998).
10 Rand and Rose Flem-Ath, When the Sky Fell: In Search of Atlantis (Don Mills (ONT), 1995).
11 Otto Muck, The Secret of Atlantis (London, 1978).
Constantin Benetatos, 'Descendants of Legendary Atlantis', available at
http://atlantishistory.net/blog/atlantis_history/ (both accessed 20
13 J.S. Gordon, The Rise & Fall of Atlantis and the Mysterious Origins of Human Civilization (London, 2008).
14 For more on Gordon, see Mark Newbrook, Review of Gordon, J.S. (2009) The Rise & Fall of Atlantis and the Mysterious Origins of Human Civilization, Skeptical Adversaria 1 (2010), p. 7.
15 Gene Matlock, The Last Atlantis Book You'll Ever Have to Read!: The Atlantis-Mexico-India Connection (Mesa, AZ, 2002).
16 Zoltán Simon, Atlantis: The Seven Seals (Vancouver, 1984).
17 Frank Joseph, 'Japan's Underwater Ruins', in Forbidden History: Prehistoric Technologies, Extraterrestrial Intervention, and the Suppressed Origins of Civilization (Rochester, VT, 2005), ed. J. Douglas Kenyon, pp. 172-7.