Linguistics and Pop-Culture: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Hello LINGUIST List readers and subscribers!

Following this year’s Fund Drive theme we’re going to take a look at the movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire, an animated Disney movie from 2001. This movie was one of my all time favorites as a child, I even had a Barbie of the main character. In this movie Milo James Thatch, voiced by Micheal J. Fox, is a linguist and cartographer at the Smithsonian Institute. He believes that he can find The Shepherd’s Journal, which is an ancient manuscript that contains directions to Atlantis. It is safe to say that this movie is likely the first time I ever heard of linguistics and maybe watching this movie as much as I did primed me to be a linguist. Atlantis: The Lost Empire was briefly mentioned by our editor Sarah Robinson in her awesome ConLangs series here on our blog because this movie contains a ConLang: Atlantean.

This movie starts out with Atlantean dialogue with English subtitles, the scene is the destruction of the city and what the citizens do to preserve what they can of Atlantis resulting in it being hidden from the rest of the world. After the opening scene we see Milo, who while at work dwells in the boiler room (I feel like this is par for the course for a linguist, yeah?), describing a translation error of an Old Norse text. Milo is criticized for his research on Atlantean and is not taken seriously, which leads to him being hired to go on an expedition to find the city of Atlantis. The person who hires Milo exclaims that the crew is complete except that they need an expert in gibberish, aka Atlantean. Does this feel familiar anyone?

Here we see Milo, in his boiler room office, correcting his translation error about where The Shepherd’s Journal is located from ‘Ireland’ to ‘Iceland’. It turns out that it was located in Iceland.

Atlantean script is prevalent throughout the movie. Until the expedition crew gets to Atlantis, the script is mainly seen in The Shepherd’s Journal, which was found by the expedition crew on a previous expedition. Upon arriving in Atlantis, Milo discovers that Atlanteans can speak multiple languages and he hypothesizes that Atlantean must be based on a root dialect like The Tower of Babel. Milo explains the grammatical system of Atlantean by saying:

…if you deconstruct Latin, you overlaid it with some Sumerian, throw in a dash of Thessalonian you’d be getting close to their grammatical structure.”

Here is Milo Thatch studiously looking over The Shepherd’s Journal.


It turns out that Milo is the only one who can read Atlantean because the knowledge of how to read Atlantean was lost in The Great Flood that ruined city. Milo helps the main Atlantean character Kida, voiced by Cree Summer, translate ancient Atlantean murals throughout the city to help return Atlantis to its former glory. Not only can Milo read and translate Atlantean, on the fly I might add, but he can also speak it. When speaking with Kida in Atlantean he asks how is accent is, which I’m sure every linguist reading this has done with a native speaker. The addition of this small detail was very much appreciated. For those interested, she said Milo’s accent was “boorish, provincial, and you speak it through your nose”.

The Atlantean language developed for this movie was created by Marc Okrand, who is also responsible for the creation of Klingon. Okrand created Atlantean by including a large inventory of Indo-European words and Atlantean can be described as being highly agglutinative. Inspiration for Atlantean was drwn from Sumerian and North American languages. Atlantean is based on historical reconstructions and is inspired by the fantasy of Atlantis: The Lost Empire. There are two main fictional principles surrounding the creation of the Atlantean language: Atlantean is intended to be a “Tower of Babel language”/”root dialect” of all languages, and Atlantean has existed without change since before 100,000 B.C., which is the First or Second age of Atlantis.

The writing system for Atlantean was created by John Emerson with the help of Marc Okrand and draws its inspiration from ancient alphabetical scripts, Semitic being the main inspiration. There is no capitalization or punctuation in Atlantean, and the character for ‘a’ was created with the intention of being a map of the city. Atlantean is also written using the boustrophedon writing system, so lines are written and read left to right for the first line, and then right to left for the following line, and then back to left to right, etc.

Here is the Atlantean alphabet with some IPA and their numerals.

Since Milo, mentioned the grammatical system of Atlantean I will also mention it briefly. The word order in Atlantean is strictly SOV. Adjectives and nouns that are of genitive case follow the nouns that they modify. Postpositions are the only type of adpositions present in Atlantean. Modal verbs follow the verbs they modify and also take on all personal and aspectual suffixes. In contrast, adverbs come before the verbs they modify. An interrogative particle is also utilized in Atlantean; however, the formation of questions does not affect the word order.

All-in-all, Milo can be chalked up to being considered one of the movie linguist archetypes. He seemed to be more of a translator than a linguist, but the film is still delightful and there were some additions, like the question of the accent that were appreciated as a linguist. Some of the things about Atlantean mentioned in this movie, like that the language has existed without change since 100,000 B.C. is very unrealistic even if this society has existed in isolation since 100,000 B.C. If you haven’t seen Atlantis: The Lost Empire I highly recommend it.

Here at The LINGUIST List we are dedicated to providing you, our readers and subscribers, with knowledge of all things linguistic. This year’s fund drive theme is geared towards discussing how our field is portrayed in media and pop-culture. Thanks to our donors and users we are able to continue to providing you all with information on all things linguistic. Please consider donating here to ensure that we can continue to provide this service to all of you. Thank you!


– The LL Team


Last Chance for LINGUIST List Fund Drive Premiums!


Have you got your custom LINGUIST List memorabilia?

Women’s Map T-shirt, available at the $150 tier

Did you know that the LINGUIST List offers custom items ranging from stickers to laptop cases? These items are special and limited time tokens of appreciation we offer as a “thank you” to our donors! Depending on donation amount, different tiers of premium are available. Donate $20, and you can snag yourself a stack of sweet LL Logo stickers for your personal items. Readers and Linguists who donate $100 or more can choose a t-shirt or a mousepad, with even cooler shirts and tote bags available to those who donate greater amounts—the solid white LL logo laptop case is available at the $250 tier.

tote bag, available at the $120 tier

These premiums are optional “thank you” tokens from us, not items for sale. It’s our way of letting you know how much we appreciate your support!

So that we can start packing up and sending out premiums to those who have donated so far, we’ve decided to close down premium options this Saturday, August 11. Now’s your last chance to get in on that sweet LL memorabilia—donate here, and select a premium from the dropdown list, if you want to express your love of the global linguistics community with stickers, t-shirts, tote bags, or any of our other sharp-looking options!

White LL Logo Laptop Sleeve, available at the $250 tier

Thanks for all the years of support!

All the best,

–The LL Team

Kraina Lingwistyki

Drodzy lingwiści!

Polska jest bez wątpienia krajem językoznawców. Nieco ponad 150 osób w naszej bazie danych zarejestrowało swój profil, używając adresu w Polsce. Na naszej liście znajduje się 16 programów studiów językoznawczych i 35 instytucji zajmujących się w Polsce językiem i językoznawstwem, które przynajmniej raz umieściły ogłoszenie na LINGUIST List. LINGUIST List opublikowała od swojego początku 618 ogłoszeń o konferencjach językoznawczych w Polsce, w samym roku 2018 –  już 63. Łódź, Kołobrzeg, Kraków, Szklarska Poręba, Białystok, Szczyrk, Poznań, Katowice, Krosno, Krotoszyn, Warszawa, Lublin, Zielona Góra, Konin, Rzeszów, Wrocław, Piła, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Bielsko-Biała gościły w zeszłym roku językoznawców, niektóre z tych miast – wielokrotnie. Z radością informujemy o tej ożywionej działalności.

Czytelnicy w Polsce stanowią poważny procent wszystkich naszych użytkowników, więc zwracam się o pomoc po polsku. LINGUIST List w dużej mierze musi się sama utrzymywać – tylko dwóch z siedmiu (w tej chwili) redaktorów otrzymuje wynagrodzenie z funduszy naszego uniwersytetu, moderatorzy to wolontariusze, natomiast reszta działalności utrzymywana jest z darowizn i z tego, co wypracujemy. Dochód uzyskujemy z ogłoszeń o pracy i od wydawców, którzy poprzez LINGUIST List informują nas o nowych publikacjach w językoznawstwie, oraz z reklam. Jeśli chcemy jednak utrzymać kontrolę nad treściami, które publikujemy, nie możemy polegać wyłącznie na dochodzie z płatnych ogłoszeń. Z drugiej strony nie chcemy pobierać opłat za dostęp od czytelników, bo uważamy, że każdy ma prawo do informacji potrzebnej do rozwoju zawodowego i brak zasobów finansowych nie powinien być powodem wykluczenia ze wspólnoty akademickiej. Co nam pozostaje, to prosić o wsparcie tych, którzy mogą sobie na to pozwolić. Mamy rocznie prawie 3 miliony wizyt na naszej stronie internetowej (  (ponad  1,5 miliona indywidualnych czytelników). Prawie 75,000 ludzi śledzi LINGUIST List na Facebooku, Twitterze, Google+ i LinkedIn. Jeśli każdy użytkownik LINGUIST List, który może sobie na to pozwolić, wsparłby nas pięcioma dolarami,  szybko zebralibyśmy sumę potrzebną na to, żeby funkcjonować do następnej wiosny bez groźby, że w międzyczasie staniemy się niewypłacalni. Jeśli zależy Wam na tym, żeby LINGUIST List kontynuowała swoja działalność, bardzo prosimy o pomoc.

Z wyrazami szacunku i serdecznymi pozdrowieniami z upalnego Bloomington (IN)

– Małgosia Cavar

Checkpoint Complete!

Hello Linguist Listers,

Happy Tuesday and thank you for helping us get past the 80% checkpoint!

We’re currently sitting at 80.49% of our total goal and are hoping to make it to the next checkpoint: 90%. In total we still need $7804.63 but only $3804.63 to reach the next checkpoint. These numbers may seem a bit hefty but donations as small $3 and 5$ help move us closer to our goal and, in turn, closer to some new updates we have in the pipeline for all of you in the linguistics community. If you haven’t already, you should go back and check out our linguistics and pop culture posts as well. We have some good reads!

As usual, thanks for taking the time to keep up with all of us here at The LINGUIST List!

The LINGUIST List Team

Letters from Lwin

Dear LINGUIST List subscribers,

Min Ga La Ba! I am Lwin Moe, a former programmer at LINGUIST List. I am currently writing this letter from my hometown in Burma (also known as Myanmar) with some limited Internet access to humbly ask for your continued support of LINGUIST List:

As some of you might have noticed, I am no longer working for LINGUIST List even though I am sometimes helping Peace (our student programmer) remotely (with not-so-great Internet access in my hometown). I just want to let you know that I miss working for LL.

During the past 5 years or so, Damir and I migrated and upgraded our old server technology to current and more up-to-date setup with a limited personnel (mostly the two of us flexing our muscles). It was a lot of work since our crew was a lot smaller than a decade or so ago. But we did it.

I would like to plead with you to continue the support so that the new crew can continue upgrading the outdated web interface with the new one, and more user-friendly submission form.

In the next few weeks, I will be moving to Canada for a new chapter of my life. I wish the readers and LINGUIST List all the best in the coming years!

And please do not forget to support!

Thank you,
Lwin Moe

New Look, Same Great Content

Hello LINGUIST Listers!

As you may have noticed, our issues now have a new look and feel! The web development team has been hard at work these past few months converting all of our issues from the old, vintage style to a much cleaner and modern layout, and yesterday we finally rolled out the new issue generator to ensure all future postings use this new layout! You can check these out for yourselves by clicking on any of our issues here. The new layout style also means that issues are mobile-friendly and easier to read!

For our more tech-minded readers, you may also be interested to hear that our new layout also incorporates the latest standards for html tagging. This means that in the future, cataloguing and organizing issues will be much easier to automate. In other words, searching our site will be that much easier!

As always, we at the LINGUIST List are committed to serving and distributing high quality, relevant linguistic knowledge from around the world. All our issues are still being edited and posted by the same great team of LINGUIST List student editors.


Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Team

The 80% Checkpoint

Hello again Linguist List Subscribers!

Thanks for stopping in to check out our blog. We’re still hovering around the 80% mark but we need your help to get over this bit of a hump. Our exact completion percentage is 79.26%. To reach 80% we only need $297.17. Please help us out by donating what you can (kudos to anyone who donates that exact amount). We are still working hard on improving the website for all of you so you can look forward to some cool new features in the near future!

If you can’t donate directly then consider using Amazon Smile. When you use Amazon Smile to shop online, Amazon donates a portion of your purchase to the eLinguistics Foundation, the non-profit behind the LINGUIST List. This helps us out and doesn’t cost you a thing. You can check out Amazon Smile here.


The LINGUIST List Team

Fund Drive Donations at Work

Hello LINGUIST Listers!

Thanks again for checking out our blog! We’re coming up on 80% of our goal and we still need your help. We have over 30,000 subscribers and we have less than $10,000 left to finish the fund drive. If each of you donated as little as a dollar we would more than surpass our goal. All of these donations contribute to helping us make the website even more awesome for all of you. If you haven’t already, check out our new conference pages. We’ve updated them! This is just one example of your donations at work and we’ll be updating other parts of the website as time goes on as well.

If you’re short on funds and you still want to help us out here at the LINGUIST List then check out Amazon Smile. When you use Amazon Smile to shop online, Amazon donates a portion of your purchase to the eLinguistics Foundation, the non-profit behind the LINGUIST List. Of course, this doesn’t cost you a penny and every bit of help counts. You can check out the website here.

Thanks for taking the time to keep up with our day-to-day happenings and we will be sure to keep assisting the Linguistics community as best as we can.


The LINGUIST List Team

Fun Fact: Books Edition

Hey everyone,

Ken here with some fun facts for all of you. Well more precisely, some fun visualizations.

The LINGUIST List announces books on all manner of linguistic subjects. These are sent out over the listserv and featured on our website. Visit this site to see a word cloud generated from the titles of books submitted for each year. You can slide the slider to see what the word cloud for that year looks like. What sort of patterns do you see?

If you appreciate services provided by the LINGUIST List like book announcements, please consider donating to our annual fund drive campaign. The funddrive is still running but we’re quite close to our goal now.

If you’ve already donated or just donated, thank you, we appreciate it.

Featured Staff: Meet Jeremy Coburn

Dear LINGUIST Listers,

My name is Jeremy Coburn and I am a GA editor for The LINGUIST List working on book announcements and review issues. I have the pleasure of working with some of the most prominent publishers in the world, e.g. Cambridge and Oxford University Presses, etc., to deliver publications on cutting-edge developments within the field of linguistics to you, our readers. My job is to ensure that the books we announce on LINGUIST List are current and relevant to you and your interests as a linguist by
vetting the hundreds of publications which are submitted to us each month for announcement. This means that when you receive a book announcement from The LINGUIST List, you know that what is being advertised is hand-selected for our linguistic audience.

On the reviews end of my work, I have the opportunity to work for and with many of you in connecting you with publishers to review their publications, thus further ensuring that the publications which pass through our site are of the highest quality we can offer. This gives LINGUIST List the unique opportunity to connect and unite linguists from across the globe in an open forum of peer review and collaboration to shape the field of linguistics, effectively creating a global community of cooperation which is largely absent from many other fields of scientific inquiry. And in that, the field of linguistics and speakers of language (humankind) benefits immensely. I am honored to assist, in my small way, in facilitating such intradisciplinary coordination.
Beyond my work at LINGUIST List, I am a second-year doctoral student at Indiana University pursuing a PhD in Linguistics with a concentration in African languages and linguistics. Having lived in East Africa for several years, I have developed a love for the linguistic diversity present in Africa and consequently focus my research on the description of underdocumented and/or underresourced languages, particularly in Tanzania. My current research is with the Hadzabe people of north-central Tanzania and I will be heading to the field in mid-July. I am a serious language enthusiast (my wife would say obsessive) and I
particularly enjoy phonology and morphology. It is not uncommon to often hear or see me making strange sounds to myself throughout the day as I think through some phonological issues in Hadza. It was really weird to my wife at first but I think she has gotten used to it at this point!

Speaking of my family, I have been married for four years now to my beautiful wife Lynzie and have two fantastic children. Our oldest, Ryker, is 2 1⁄2 years old and he recently got a little sister, Maiya, who is now just over a month old. My kids are the best and it is so much fun to get to see Ryker as he is acquiring language. There are many linguistic geek-out moments each day listening to him speak.

I would like to thank you, our readers, for all that you do for me and my family. You don’t know it but YOU are the reason why my kids are able to have a roof overhead and food in their stomachs. Many of you regularly donate to the LINGUIST List, which is wholly funded by your contributions, and thus are the reason why I have a Graduate Assistantship. When Lynzie and I began this crazy journey of graduate school, we had little more than the ambition to pursue a dream of studying the beautiful languages of Africa and trying to help the world in some small way. We moved to Bloomington, Indiana from Utah without any job or source of funding to pay from my studies. We didn’t know how we would pay for anything. But now, because of your support and contributions, I have a GA-ship with the LINGUIST List which covers my tuition costs and gives me enough money to feed my growing family. Please continue to support LINGUIST List as much as you are able because it does make a significant difference in the life of us, your fellow linguists. You can do that by donating to our fund drive.

Thank you again from Jeremy, Lynzie, Ryker and Maiya!