Ignatius Donnelly: Trans-Atlantic Languages

Ignatius Donnelly -Trans-Atlantic Languages
Ignatius Donnelly was [amongst other things] a Catastrophist who [like Immanuel Velikovsky 70 years later] wasn’t destined to become an Authorised Academic Oracle.

Ignatius Donnelly

Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (November 3, 1831 – January 1, 1901) was a U.S. Congressman, populist writer, and amateur scientist.

He is known primarily now for his theories concerning Atlantis, Catastrophism (especially the idea of an ancient impact event affecting ancient civilizations), and Shakespearean authorship, which many modern historians consider to be pseudoscience and pseudohistory.

Donnelly’s work corresponds to the writings of late 19th and early 20th century figures such as Helena Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner, and James Churchward, and has more recently influenced writer Graham Hancock.

Donnelly’s writings on Atlantis have been rejected by scholars and scientists.

He has been described as a crank and pseudoscience promoter.

Gordon Stein has noted that “most of what Donnelly said was highly questionable or downright wrong.


His first major work in 1882 was Atlantis: The Antediluvian World which can be read on-line at Archive.org and Wikisource.org.

Atlantis: The Antediluvian World – Ignatius Donnelly – 1882



The topic of Atlantis is very diverting and many readers are sidetracked into researching it’s mythical status and numerous postulated locations.

However, Atlantis: The Antediluvian World is a far broader work that argues there was once an Atlantean Empire which can be traced through linguistics connections.

The first curious trans-Atlantic linguistic connection reported by Ignatius Donnelly is between Welsh and Mandan.


Atlantis: The Antediluvian World – Ignatius Donnelly – 1882

The Mandan are a Native American tribe residing in North Dakota.

The Mandan historically lived along the banks of the Missouri River and two of its tributaries – the Heart and Knife Rivers – in present-day North and South Dakota.

Speakers of Mandan, a Siouan language, developed a settled, agrarian culture.

They established permanent villages featuring large, round, earth lodges, some 40 feet (12 m) in diameter, surrounding a central plaza.

The Mandan and their language received much attention from European Americans, in part because their lighter skin color caused speculation they were of European origin.

In the 1830s, Prince Maximilian of Wied spent more time recording Mandan over all other Siouan languages and additionally prepared a comparison list of Mandan and Welsh words (he thought that the Mandan may have been displaced Welsh).

The theory of the Mandan/Welsh connection, now discounted,[citation needed] was also supported by George Catlin.


Mandan People

The next curious linguistic connection is between Sioux and the Germanic languages.

Dakota or Sioux

Atlantis: The Antediluvian World – Ignatius Donnelly – 1882

The Sioux are a Native American tribe and First Nations band government in North America.

The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation’s many language dialects.

The Sioux comprise three major divisions based on Siouan dialect and subculture: the Santee, the Yankton-Yanktonai, and the Lakota.

The Santee (Isáŋyathi; “Knife”), also called Eastern Dakota, reside in the extreme east of the Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Iowa.

The Yankton and Yanktonai (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ and Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; “Village-at-the-end” and “Little village-at-the-end”), collectively also referred to as the Western Dakota or by the endonym Wičhíyena, reside in the Minnesota River area.

They are considered to be the middle Sioux, and have in the past been erroneously classified as Nakota.

The Lakota, also called Teton (Thítȟuŋwaŋ; possibly “Dwellers on the prairie”), are the westernmost Sioux, known for their hunting and warrior culture.


Sioux People

The trans-Atlantic connections also include a link between Chiapanec and Hebrew.


Atlantis: The Antediluvian World – Ignatius Donnelly – 1882

Chiapanec is an indigenous Mexican language of the Oto-Manguean language family.

The 1990 census reported 17 speakers of the language in southern Chiapas out of an ethnic population of 32, but later investigations failed to find any speakers.


Oto-Manguean languages

Oto-Manguean languages (also Otomanguean) are a large family comprising several subfamilies of Native American languages.

All of the Oto-Manguean languages that are now spoken are indigenous to Mexico, but the Manguean branch of the family, which is now extinct, was spoken as far south as Nicaragua and Costa Rica.


Hebrew is a West Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family.

Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh.

The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE.


The Oto-Manguean languages have puzzled academics because they are “so aberrant”.

Some early classifications such as that by Brinton, considered that Oto-Manguean languages might be related to Chinese, because like Chinese the languages were tonal and mostly monosyllabic.

This idea was quickly abandoned as the fact that tonal languages are common was discovered, and advances in the historical study of Chinese language were made (including the discovery that Old Chinese was non-tonal).

Edward Sapir included Subtiaba–Tlapanec in his Hokan phylum, but didn’t classify the other Oto-Manguean languages in his famous 1929 classification.

In his 1960 classification, Joseph Greenberg considered Oto-Manguean so aberrant from other Native American languages that it was the only accepted family (aside from the Purépecha isolate) which he made a primary branch of his Amerind family.

However, in his 1987 revision he linked it with Aztec-Tanoan in a “Central Amerind” branch, apart from Tlapanec which, although it had by then been unequivocally linked to Oto-Manguean, he continued to classify as Hokan.

No hypotheses including Oto-Manguean in any higher-level unit have been able to withstand scrutiny.


However, the Amerind higher-level language family proposed by Joseph Greenberg in the 1960s provides curious echoes of the Atlantean Empire proposed by Ignatius Donnelly.

Amerind is a hypothetical higher-level language family proposed by Joseph Greenberg in 1960 and elaborated by his student Merritt Ruhlen.

Greenberg proposed that all of the indigenous languages of the Americas belong to one of three language families, the previously established Eskimo–Aleut and Na–Dene, and with everything else – otherwise classified by specialists as belonging to dozens of independent families – as Amerind.

Due to a large number of methodological flaws in the 1987 book Language in the Americas, the relationships he proposed between these languages have been rejected by the majority of historical linguists as spurious.

The idea that all the languages of the Americas are related goes back to the 19th century when early linguists such as Peter Stephen DuPonceau and Wilhelm von Humboldt noticed that the languages of the Americas seemed to be very different from the better known European languages, yet seemingly also quite similar to each other.

When studies of American Indian languages began in earnest in the early 20th century linguists quickly realized that the indigenous languages were in fact not all that similar, but had a diversity much greater than among the languages of Europe.

After a period of uncertainty about whether indigenous languages could be described and investigated by the methods applied to European languages the first linguists began the daunting task of trying to classify the languages of the Americas by using the comparative method.


Amerind language

One of Ignatius Donnelly’s more ambitious ideas was that the Phoenician phonetic alphabet was connected to the of the Mayan alphabet.

Chapter VII – The Origin of Our Alphabet

One of the most marvellous inventions for the advancement of mankind is the phonetic alphabet, or a system of signs representing the sounds of human speech.

Without it our present civilization could scarcely have been possible.

No solution of the origin of our European alphabet has yet been obtained: we can trace it back from nation to nation, and form to form, until we reach the Egyptians, and the archaic forms of the Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Cushites, but beyond this the light fails us.

Is there any other country to which we can turn which possessed a phonetic alphabet in any respect kindred to this Phoenician alphabet ?

It cannot be the Chinese alphabet, which has more signs than words ; it cannot be the cuneiform alphabet of Assyria, with its seven hundred arrow-shaped characters, none of which bear the slightest affinity to the Phoenician letters.

It is a surprising fact that we find in Central America a phonetic alphabet.

This is in the alphabet of the Mayas, the ancient people of the peninsula of Yucatan, who claim that their civilization came to them across the sea in ship from the east, that is, from the direction of Atlantis.

The Mayas succeeded to the Colhuas, whose era terminated one thousand years before the time of Christ ; from them they received their alphabet.

Mayan Alphabet

Atlantis: The Antediluvian World – Ignatius Donnelly – 1882

Culhuacan or Cohuatlichan was one of the Nahuatl-speaking pre-Columbian city-states of the Valley of Mexico.

According to tradition, Culhuacan was founded by the Toltecs under Mixcoatl and was the first Toltec city.

Culhuacan was perhaps the first of the chinampa towns founded on the shores of Lake Xochimilco, with chinampas dating to 1100 C.E.

From written records there is evidence that Culhuacan survived the fall of Tollan and maintained its prestige until the mid-14th century.


The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples, and noted for its hieroglyphic script – the only known fully developed writing system of the pre-Columbian Americas – as well as for its art, architecture, mathematics, and astronomical system.

The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador.

This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain.

The Archaic period, prior to 2000 BC, saw the first developments in agriculture and the earliest villages.

The Preclassic period (c. 2000 BC to 250 AD) saw the establishment of the first complex societies in the Maya region, and the cultivation of the staple crops of the Maya diet, including maize, beans, squashes, and chili peppers.

The first Maya cities developed around 750 BC, and by 500 BC these cities possessed monumental architecture, including large temples with elaborate stucco façades.

Hieroglyphic writing was being used in the Maya region by the 3rd century BC.

In the Late Preclassic a number of large cities developed in the Petén Basin, and Kaminaljuyu rose to prominence in the Guatemalan Highlands. Beginning around 250 AD, the Classic period is largely defined as when the Maya were raising sculpted monuments with Long Count dates.

The Postclassic period saw the rise of Chichen Itza in the north, and the expansion of the aggressive K’iche’ kingdom in the Guatemalan Highlands.

In the 16th century, the Spanish Empire colonised the Mesoamerican region, and a lengthy series of campaigns saw the fall of the last Maya city in 1697.


Ignatius Donnelly developed a “supposed intermediate form” to connect the Phoenician and Mayan alphabets but [arguably] the subsequently discovered Linear B is the missing “intermediate form” sought by Donnelly.

Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek.

The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries.

The oldest Mycenaean writing dates to about 1450 BC.

It is descended from the older Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, as is the later Cypriot syllabary, which also recorded Greek.

Linear B consists of around 87 syllabic signs and over 100 ideographic signs.


Linear A has hundreds of signs.

They are believed to represent syllabic, ideographic, and semantic values in a manner similar to Linear B.

While many of those assumed to be syllabic signs are similar to ones in Linear B, approximately 80% of Linear A’s logograms are unique; the difference in sound values between Linear A and Linear B signs ranges from 9% to 13%.

It primarily appears in the left-to-right direction, but occasionally appears as a right-to-left or boustrophedon script.

An interesting feature is that of how numbers are recorded in the script.

The highest number that has been recorded is 3000, but there are special symbols to indicate fractions and weights.


Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 kilometres (56 miles) southwest of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese.

In the second millennium BC, Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilization, a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece.

The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae.


Mayan Alphabet Compared

Atlantis: The Antediluvian World – Ignatius Donnelly – 1882

These trans-Atlantic linguistic connections reported by Ignatius Donnelly are difficult to explain within the context of the mainstream narrative but what the mainstream does suggest is that if there was an Atlantean Empire then is was probably based upon a confederation of city-states.

A city-state is a sovereign state that consists of a city and its dependent territories.

Historical city-states included the oldest known Sumerian cities of Uruk and Ur; Ancient Egyptian city-states, such as Thebes and Memphis; the Phoenician cities (such as Tyre and Sidon); the Berber city-states of the Garamantes; the city-states of ancient Greece (the poleis such as Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and Corinth); the Roman Republic (which grew from a city-state into a great power); the Mayan and other cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (including cities such as Chichen Itza, Tikal, Copan and Monte Albán); the central Asian cities along the Silk Road; the city-states of the Swahili coast; Venice; Ragusa; states of the medieval Russian lands such as Novgorod and Pskov; and many others.

Scholars [which?] have classed the Viking colonial cities in medieval Ireland, most importantly Dublin, as city-states.

In Cyprus, the Phoenician settlement of Kition (in present-day Larnaca) was a city-state that existed from around 800 BC until the end of the 4th century BC.


To be continued…

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3 Responses to Ignatius Donnelly: Trans-Atlantic Languages

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