"Atlan" - The Atlantean language
Initial comments by Graham Mabey
As an introduction
to this section on the languages of the Great Continent, I am
intervening, for once, to raise the problem of this whole work being in
English, supposedly translated by my source from the original Atlantean.
This source, in other words, the editor of this work, whoever he or she
may be, is offering readers his or her own compilation of the story of
the Atlantean Empire, along with copious descriptions of the languages
of the area and various original documents, reproduced in the original
Atlantean with an English translation. Now there is no intrinsic problem
about the writer reading through a mass of incomplete, recently
excavated documents from this ancient world, and putting them together
into a history suitable for the general reader. The enigma is: how works
which were written in Atlantean (and other languages) could be read and
understood by a modern person and translated into English.
The writer does hint at an answer in a part of his works which I have not yet reproduced. In this he stated simply that he was given some help with reading the work by an old man who lived in the area where the excavations of Atlantis were taking place. This statement at first seems to make an answer even more unattainable. How could another person, contemporary with our editor, help him with reading a language which presumably became obsolete 15000 years ago, when the whole civilisation in which it was spoken was exterminated? We have to believe that this old man actually knew and could speak Atlantean, and could thereby help our editor understand the whole grammar and vocabulary of the language, and also, incidentally, the sound of it, because this too is described in considerable detail. In my opinion, there is a possible answer to this, which, however improbable, must be the truth, if every other explanation is impossible.
We assume that the fall of Atlantis was indeed about 15000 years ago, as our source says, that is, about 13000 BC (or perhaps more recent, as the whole world our writer describes is different to ours in as much as in it, Atlantis is being excavated in North Africa, whereas that is not the case in our actual contemporary world). Whatever the dates, it is inconceivable that this man himself could have survived from that earlier era, but he may be a descendant of a group of Atlanteans who survived the earthquakes and shifting of the earth's crust, as our source describes it, and ended up in North Africa, along with the ruins of their civilisation. Is it possible that knowledge of the language was passed down generation by generation for millennia till it reached this old man living near the modern excavation site? This could happen if the language became revered in a semi-religious or mystical way or was kept alive as a sort of venerated fossil, rather like Latin in the Middle Ages and after. It seems to have been wholly verbal, however, as I find no mention of any recent writings in Atlantean. My assumption then is that the old man probably spoke a modern-day North African language, which our author also understood, and the two conversed in this. The Atlantean texts, or perhaps just the vocabulary, would have been translated by the old man into his native tongue, and our editor then translated this on into modern English. In fact it seems unlikely that one single person would have been left knowing Atlantean, or that he alone translated thousands of words into his own language for the benefit of our write: more likely there exists there a whole community which still understands Atlantean, for whatever mysterious reasons of their own.
Do we assume that the language currently spoken by the old man was a descendant of Atlantean? Probably it was not: most likely this community, descended from ancient Atlantis, took to speaking whatever was the local African language in the area at some point in its history, whilst still preserving the knowledge of Atlantean itself, preserved like a fossil. Still, Atlantean, and the Juralic languages generally, do seem to have strange resonances, in vocabulary and grammar, with Indo-European languages of the past and present day, but none, so far as I have noticed, with any African language. So possibly the language spoken by our old man was not an African language after all, but a modern Indo-European descendant, and Atlantean is an ancestor of Indo-European itself. In our world, we know of no community of Indo-European speakers in the Saharan area of North Africa, but even now we have not discovered everything there is to discover in Africa, and, as I wrote above, my writer seems to belong in a sort of parallel universe to ours. This theory would assume that the original speakers of Indo-European, who, according to our modern ideas, lived somewhere in eastern Europe, or south Russia, or the northern parts of the Middle East, actually migrated to one of these places from North Africa perhaps some 8 to 12 thousand years ago, leaving behind the community to which the old man belonged.
All of this is admittedly speculation, unless I can discover any more facts in those parts of my writer's works that I have not yet read - and there is indeed much more left. I now leave you entirely in the hands of the Atlanteans and our mysterious editor...
Note by the writer: I have below, as throughout this history, transliterated the Atlantean alphabet into the modern roman one, for obvious reasons. The same applies for the vocabulary of every other language with which I have dealt, including Juralic. In reality, of course, there were several different, though usually related, alphabets or scripts used for different languages on the Great Continent. Juralic and its descendants all used the same one. For more details on alphabets, see the relevant section.
We shall deal chiefly with Atlantean, or "Atlan" as its speakers called it, as it existed in the "Imperial" period, which was about 300 – 600. Subsequent to that, in the "Late Imperial" period, there were a number of important changes in grammar and pronunciation, which were finally recognised in the Spelling Reforms of 760 – 770. These we shall discuss later.
Imperial Atlantean was a quite highly inflected language. Nouns could take up to 11 different endings, depending on case, and another 11 if we take the difference between singular and plural into consideration. Furthermore, nouns could belong to one of five different declensions. These were based on the basic ending on the nominative singular case. Declension 1 covered nouns ending in a consonant, declension 2a in those ending in –a, 2b in –e(i), 3a in –o, and 3b in –u. A paradigm of the endings of a representative noun of each declension is given below.
The abbreviation of the cases, and their meanings are as follows:
NOM=NOMINATIVE= the subject of a sentence
VOC=VOCATIVE = when calling or apostrophising a noun. Endings same as the nom in Atlantean, but different in Juralic and in Helvran and Yalland.
ACC=ACCUSATIVE= the object of a sentence
GENITIVE = possessive case
DATIVE = the indirect object, eg "he gave it TO ME", "he took it FROM ME"
LOCATIVE = for location, i.e. in, on or at somewhere.
INSTRUMENTAL= implied by or with.
ABLATIVE = implies the idea of "away from", eg "she took the apple FROM him".
COMMINATIVE= Used following the prepositions "MEL" (WITH) or "DIMEL" (WITHOUT)
ALLATIVE = implies motion towards.
ELATIVE = implied movement out of or through.
It can be seen from the examples that in many cases, there is little difference between the various declensions, and the plural is the same for every type of noun.
Note the following:
1. The "a" of the accusative singular and dative singular in declension 1 (-an/-ant) vanished if the preceding noun ended in an "r" in the nominative singular.
2. Similarly the "e" in the locative singular ending of declension 1 (-esil) vanished if the preceding noun ended in -l, -r or -n in the nominative singular.
3. The "t" at the end of the dative singular and plural endings in all declensions (-ant, -unt) had become old-fashioned and largely literary by the time of Classical Atlantean. It was in any case never pronounced.
4. The nominative and vocative endings of declension 2b was originally -ei, but -e was increasingly used by the time of Classical Atlantean, especially in the case of nouns with three or more syllables.
5. Similarly, the form of the instrumentative case in declensions 3a and 3b was originally -ue, but the form -u, at first purely colloquial, was becoming common in the literary language after about 400.
There are certain "fossilised" remains of obsolete endings still visible in some nouns. Details of these can be found in: Remains of obsolete endings in Atlantean nouns
Adjectives agreed with the nouns they qualified in declension, to a limited extent, and number. Thus they had endings for the nominative and vocative singular like the noun they were qualifying . All other singular endings, whatever the case, were the same as the accusative case of the noun, while in the plural, the only ending taken by adjectives was –IX.
To form the comparative of an adjective (more...), add -iss to the root. To form the superlative (ie: most...), add -ilc to the root.
Examples are: suals (gentle), sualsiss- (gentler, more gentle), sualsisc- (gentlest, most gentle).
There were a number of irregularities in formations for adjectives and adverbs, as there were with nouns. these are detailed in Irregular Atlantean adjectives and adverbs
Most verbs conjugated absolutely regularly, but they had different endings for person, number and tense, and are divided into two conjugations for the present tense only. The conjugations here depended upon the nature of the last vowel (or first of the two vowels if it was a diphthong) in the root, or basic, case of the verb. If it was a,e,i or y, an "e" was affixed to the root before the endings; if it was o or u, an "o" was added. Note that personal pronouns did not have to be used, as endings alone made the meaning clear. Here are examples of the present tense of the two types of verb.
PRESENT TENSE (Meaning: I take; I sleep, etc)
The other basic tenses were the past and the future.
PAST TENSE (Meaning: I took, etc)
For the past, an "a" was affixed to the root, for ALL verbs. Then the pronominal endings were affixed, similar to the present’ i.e. NU, TU, THE, SE, THE, NS, TES, THEN, SEN, THEN.
FUTURE TENSE (Meaning: I shall take, etc)
For the future, "ea" was added in all cases. Then the pronominal endings were affixed, similar to the present and past’ i.e. NU, TU, THE, SE, THE, NS, TES, THEN, SEN, THEN.
Other tenses were formed with auxiliary verbs and a participle of the verb, rather like English.
Where English uses the past, present or future of "To Have" and the past participle (I have eaten, had eaten, will have eaten), Atlantean uses the equivalent tense of "EI TEH" ="to do", plus past participle.
The past participle of verbs was formed by adding an indeclinable –AXA to the root, eg LEMBAXA, "taken".
So, I have taken = tehenu lembaxa (past perfect)
I had taken = tehanu lembaxa (pluperfect)
I shall have taken = teheanu lembaxa (future perfect).
Continuous forms of the simple present, past and future tenses (i.e. I am, was, will be taking") are formed by interpolating syllables to the root of the verb, followed by abbreviated versions of the pronominal endings. The interpolated forms were EHUASE for the present, AHUASE for the past, and EHUANE for the future. T
The abbreviated pronomial endings were used in all cases when they followed multi-syllabic affixes to the root of the verb. They were: N, -, TH, S, TH, NS, TES, THEN, SEN, THEN. These were in fact used for all moods and tenses except the present, past and future indicative and subjunctive.
I am taking = lembehuasen (present continuos)
I was taking = lembahuasen (imperfect [past continuous])
I shall be taking = lembehuanen (future continous)
Continuous perfect forms of tenses could be made using the relevant tense of "EI TEH" plus the present participle of the verb, formed by affixing ONDUR to the root.
I have been taking = tehenu lembondur (past perfect continuos)
I had been taking = tehanu lembondur (Pluperfect continuous)
I shall have been taking = teheanu lembondur (Future perfect continuous)
For further details on the verb, including additional moods and the passive voice, click here Details of the Atlantean verb
There were a number of irregular verb conjugations. These are dealt with in Irregular Atlantean verbs
To make a verb negative, prefix DE(H)- to the verb, whatever its
tense. (Add the "H" if the verb begins with a vowel.
A more colloquial use, and originally a stronger form, was to use a separate word after the verb, like English "not" = DEHLES (basic meaning was "never"), eg:
I should not take - lembehen dehles
To emphasise the negative, DEN (originally DEH EN = not a ) was put before any noun (declined as an adjective), and DEHLES was omitted in this case.
To turn a statement into a question, CIR (what?) was placed before the verb (and pronoun, if there was one). It could be combined with DE(H) / DEHLES / DEN. EG:
Will he take? = cir lembeathe?
For a close linguistic analysis of an original Atlantean text, go to: Creation of the world - analysis
CHANGES TO THE LANGUAGE IN LATE IMPERIAL ATLANTEAN
Changes occurred to the language both in pronunciation and morphology, including the decay of grammatical endings throughout Atlantean history, and these were finally reflected in the new spelling rules of the 760s. So far as grammar is concerned, the complicated array of noun declension tabulated above gradually died out, as all the oblique cases were formed in the spoken language by means of prepositions and the accusative case. Already by 600, when the first (abortive) Republican spelling reforms took place, all three declensions had virtually been combined into one. By the time of the Fifth Empire reforms, the only remaining endings were as follows:
nominative/vocative singular: - or –a
all other cases: -(a)n
all plural cases: -ix’
A similar situation arose with verbs. Just as prepositions were increasingly used with nouns in oblique cases after 500, so personal pronouns were used more with verbs in the various persons. This led to the decay or amalgamation of endings in both cases, and also forced a more analytical and rigid word-order on to sentences. With verbs, the "short" personal endings too over from the longer endings in spoken use by 550. By the 700s, all present singular cases ended in –e, while the present plural ran: -en, -e, -ethen. The past endings were as above, except that "-a" replaced the "-e" there. Elsewhere, tense endings vanished in favour of the use of auxiliary verbs and participles or infinitive. So the former past perfect (using TEH plus past participle) took over the above-mentioned inflectional past tense in everyday use, and a new future using the future of TEH and the infinitive superseded the old inflected future tense. The conditional and subjunctive both died out as well, except in purely literary conditions.
Pronunciation changed over the centuries as well, and this was reflected in a number of major spelling changes after 760.
1. M,N,L,S,+ voiced consonant > MM,NN,LY,SS
2. ZU,PU,BU+vowel> Z,F,V. (Note that these letters were originally pronounced ZH, F and V even in Imperial Atlantean).
3. S between vowels>Z
4. –NC- >-NG-.
5. –PH->-F-. (Note that PH was always pronounced F in any case).
6. Final consonants of roots, following a short vowel, are doubled in writing when suffixes are added (as in declensions and conjugations).
7. Diphthongs changed to single vowels in all positions (including finally), i.e. OU>U, EI>E.
8. In triphthongs, such as AUE, EUA, the last vowel vanished. The surviving diphthong was also usually simplified, especially if final, eg AUE>AU>AO>A.
9. Most final short vowels became –e.
Examples of these changes are most easily seen in personal names of the period subsequent to 760.
So the Emperor Louron Iustacin (762-768) wrote his first name as LURON (see sound-change 7 above). The Chief Minister of the 790s spelt his name MESTENSOS instead of MEISTENSOS. (Change number 7).
The Chief Minister of the 770s spelt his name VENTEL, rather than BUENTEL. (Change number 2).
The Emperors Sualopho Thildoyon and Pareon wrote their first names SUALOFO , and the Empress Lirinda Siphone as Lirinne Sifone (see changes nos. 1, 5 and 9 above).
APPENDIX: THE STRANGE CASE OF THE FIRST AND THIRD PERSONS.
One of the most unusual features of Classical Atlantean was its usage, or non-usage, of the first person singular with verbs ("I"). The way in which this was avoided, how it crept back in gradually to general use, and how it was treated in religious language links in to the whole Atlantean way of looking at the world. Moreover it can also be studied from the point of view of Atlantean philosophy, and ultimately Atlantean attitudes to life before birth and after death.
From earliest times, the Official Religion had deliberately used the third person, rather than the first, when addressing the gods, whether in speech or in writing. This was because the emotions and feelings of every individual were supposed to be entirely under the control of the different gods, and hence one should try to remain "neutral" in addressing one or more of them, or, more generally, when talking about oneself. This could be achieved by referring to oneself by name only, in the third person. Due to the influence of the Church, this practice of using the third person was taken up by the Emperors in written documents after the time of Carel I, around 220. It then spread more generally to Court use. Some more liberal Emperors, such as Siphirixo, objected to this usage, and reverted to the first person, but by the end of the Family Wars, and the accession of the conservative Ruthoyon I, the practice became permanently enshrined in Imperial and Court practice.
The practice continued to spread later in the century, as it became adopted into the canons of "classical" literary usage and taste after the 340s. By the time Atlaniphon I came to the throne in 361, he was unable to avoid the third person practice. He persisted with it throughout his Court because of its general adoption as part of the classical canon of good taste. This happened to coincide with the Church’s practice as well, but this was really only coincidental for him. Throughout the 400s and also most of the 500s, all "cultivated" and higher Class people invariably used the third person instead of the first in all their writings; it was used as well by the Church, the Court, and in local government. It was not, of course, used in normal, informal conversation, but as soon as spoken language became "formalised", for example in prayers, in drama, or in set speeches, it would be generally adopted.
As part of their revolt against the Classical canon, Romantic artists deliberately reverted back to normal first person usage in the 500s, and of course the revolutionaries after 585 would have no truck with it. It lingered on amongst the Imperialists in the Church and in Court use, but had withered away elsewhere by the early 600s. It was resurrected deliberately by Ruthopheax I for formal Court use in the Third Empire, and also reappeared in very formal literature. In all cases, this was only in written language. The Church (State Theism) did not use it, adopting instead the first person plural ("We") in all cases when it would have been natural to use the first person singular ("I"); this was to indicate the people were part of a whole community praying together. Somewhat similarly, God was addressed in the second person plural ("You"), not singular ("Thou"), which was perhaps felt to be too familiar, and also too close to the usage of the Naturists. The latter had always used both the first person and the second person singular.
The practice of using the third person instead of the first died off completely with the fall of the Third Empire, having become moribund some decades earlier. For novelists of the Fourth Empire, indeed, the difference between the two persons was crucial, as many of them were involved in the study of the differences between the experiences and emotions of the "self", or first person, and the actions and outer appearance of people, viewed from the point of view of the third person. Philosophy of course took up the investigation of the self, its world, its role on earth, and possible life beyond the death of its body (often seen from the third person point of view). Finally, poetry also studied and wrote about the dichotomy between the two viewpoints after the 870s.
But there was a further twist to the story of the first person in this period. It was said above that the Naturists always used the first person singular within their religious ceremonies. But after about 760, they abandoned this in favour of a completely new formation, which they called the "eternal I". This was intended to remind users that they had been reincarnated many times before, and would again in the future. A similar usage had first been used by the South Numedeans in the time of their Empire, centuries earlier, and had been carried on by their descendants, who became subject to, or lived next to, the Yallands. In their language this "eternal I" usage involved a special form of the first person, with a particular ending (now lost to us). The Yallands, many of whom were much attracted to these beliefs, could not easily follow this practice, as there is no obviously equivalent usage in the Yalland language, and anyway probably did not understand it. However Gestil, who founded Naturism around 200, did understand the significance of the Numedean practice, and deliberately followed it in Yalland, by using the form of the old Juralic pluperfect case. This involved adding –evino on to the root of the verb. This formation was completely moribund in the Yalland of the third century, its meaning having been taken over by the use of the past tense of "to have" plus the past participle (as in English). Nevertheless Gestil succeeded in taking it over for his religion, with the meaning of an eternal, or ever-repeating I from the past to the present. Naturists who spoke Atlantean in subsequent years were not able to copy this form, and so used the ordinary first person singular, which was anyway very distinctive from the practice of the established Church, which used the third person only.
However, after 760, Naturism emphasised the importance of the doctrine of reincarnation by inventing an equivalent in Atlantean of the Yalland "eternal I" formation. This was done by changing the normal Late Atlantean form (post-Spelling Reform) of the first person singular verb suffix, -a to –an. This was taken from the earlier, classical form of this ending,–anu, which was still used in the literary language of the fourth Empire in the 750s, until the Spelling Reform. This form would later be taken over by the unified Church of Natural Theism in the 850s.
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