“All we need now is an expert in gibberish.” – Preston Whitmore

“…and what’s really amazing is that if you deconstructed Latin, overlaid it with a little Sumerian, throw in a dash of Thessalanoian, you’d be getting close to their basic grammatical structure. Or at least in the same ballpark. Which is almost exactly like certain obscure offshoots of Chocktaw! Well, obviously using Creek pronunciation, but you get the point, proving once and for all, that Atlantean trade routes accessed the new world centuries before the Bronze Age!” – Milo Thatch

Atlantean is a constructed language by Marc Okrand (inventor of Klingon), created for the Disney movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Intended to be the mother language of many of our languages today, Atlantean is heavily inspired by Proto-Indo-European.

Atlantean Metahistory

“Everyone from flying elephants to lonely hunchbacks has had a chance to be a Disney animated hero. But never a linguist. Until now. In the cartoon adventure Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the main man of action is a man of words.” – USA Today, “New movie trek for wordsmith”, 5/24/2001 (B)

Don Hahn, the producer of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, wanted to make sure to create a consistent, believable world (A), not based on any particular culture but as a possible mother culture:

“What the directors and I wanted to do with the movie was create an Atlantis that was a mother civilization both in terms of its language and its architecture. We wanted to create a civilization that really felt like it was the wellspring of all other civilizations and that’s how it’s described in a lot of mythology. So, we went around for architecture, for example, and looked at Cambodian ruins and Tibetan, Balinese, Nepalese, Indian architecture and tried to mould that all together into one common language where you could believe Atlantis was a mother civilization because you can see elements of other civilizations in the architecture on the screen. The same is true of the language we created for the screen. Marc Okrand who did the Klingon language for Star Trek came in and helped us develop a spoken dialect for the Atlanteans that was the same thing, kind of a primitive dialect that you could imagine was like the dialects people spoke before the Tower of Babel – a ‘root’ dialect. I think that was kind of fascinating trying to recreate those core traits of what a civilization might have been.” (D)

Okrand invented the language to resemble Indo-European in word stock, but with its own grammar. (A)

While Leonard Nimoy had been hired earlier as the Atlantean King, Nimoy didn’t suggest hiring Marc Okrand.  According to Hahn, “It was honestly by chance. We hired Leonard Nimoy first. Marc came in and they knew each other from the Star Trek series, obviously, but we had found Marc’s name much earlier and had toyed around with developing a language, and it just seemed to make sense.” (D)

Reported Xpress Online, “This new linguistic element is just another way of staying ahead of the game.” Quoting Walt Disney Feature Animation President Thomas Schumacher, “Every successful movement in feature animation really began with Disney.  For me it’s been a goal to have them stylistically different.”  (G)


The Atlantean alphabet was meant to be evocative of many different alphabets.  Hahn said:

“We looked at a lot of early typefaces, Phoenician, Greek, a lot of different cultures even Asian typefaces and then just tried to come up with something you couldn’t quite put your finger on.  It wasn’t Arabic, it wasn’t Chinese, it wasn’t Phoenician or Sanskrit or something, it was just something that was uniquely ‘Atlantean,’ but again was reminiscent of all of those cultures.” (D)

The actual 29-letter alphabet was a collaboration of Disney animators and Okrand, who suggested that the alphabet be boustrophedon, with the direction of letters changing with each line, first from right to left, then from left to right, and so on. Okrand said, “It’s a back-and-forth movement like water, so that worked.” (B)

One of the directors, Kirk Wise, elaborated on how the first letter of the alphabet was developed: “The Atlantean A is a shape developed by John Emerson. It is a miniature map of the city of Atlantis (i.e., the outside of the swirl is the cave, the inside shape is the silhouette of the city, and the dot is the location of the crystal).  It’s a treasure map.” – Kirk Wise (E)

There’s some debate on how to transliterate Atlantean words into the alphabet. The language was written in a “Reader’s Script” to clearly indicate how it was to be pronounced; for example, “GWEES DOH-sep-tem SOH-bin kwahm AH-lih-teh-kem.” (“We do not need their help.”) (E)  Whether this should be transliterated gwes doseptem sobin quam alitekem or some other way is open to debate.  Okrand’s only public comment so far is:

“Yes is ‘tig,’ no is ‘kwam,’ and hello is ‘supak.'” (B)

Learning Atlantean

The ugly DOH-sep-tem style of writing the language was done on purpose to make it as simple as possible for the actors, who didn’t have to learn anything special in order to read their lines in Atlantean.  Hahn said, “Some of our actors took to it better than others. Nimoy could like sight-read the stuff and was immediately there and knew exactly how to pronounce it. It was just a happy circumstance that Nimoy was in the cast, because he could just nail the Atlantean language as though he’d spoke it since birth.” (D)

Ironically, the star who played the linguist hero had a tough time with the language, according to Hahn. “Michael J. Fox hated the language and really had to labor over it and in the end did a great job in delivering it.” (D)

Okrand worked hard to make sure the actors could learn the language.  He even created a video called “How to speak Atlantean,” which Movie Headlines called a “fun feature” and “absolutely hilarious.”  It is a 1950s style training video explaining how to say useful phrases in Atlantean, such as “Where is the bathroom?” (A)  

Cree Summer, who was the voice of Princess Kida, described Okrand’s course as “Atlantean 101.”  Atlantean is not her first constructed language.  She also knows Ewokian from her work on George Lucas’ Ewoks cartoon. (F)

Okrand’s passion for getting the details of imaginary languages right led Nimoy to ask, “Did anyone ever tell you you’re insane?” (B)

Model Linguist

Okrand, with a doctorate in linguistics from the University of California, has developed three model languages for movies, including Vulcan, Klingon and now Atlantean. (C) His first work was with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982. Since the actors had already been filmed talking in English, Okrand had to come up with sounds for the actors to lip-sync. For Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, he elaborated on Klingon, which had some words that were invented by James Doohan (Scotty) for one of the opening scenes of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  (B)  He has worked on later Trek movies as well as later series. (C)  Okrand enjoys the success of Klingon, “I get letters written in Klingon, and people have performed marriage ceremonies in the language.” (B)

Not only did Okrand invent the Atlantean language, but he was the model for the linguist hero. Okrand said, “When I first met animator John Pomeroy, he said, ‘I hope it doesn’t bother you, but I’m going to be drawing sketches when I talk to you. You’re the only linguist I’ve ever met, so I don’t know what they look like or how they behave.’ ” (B)

You can make your own comparisons between Milo and Marc here (B) and here.


(A) “Atlantean Language Created by Star Trek Expert”, MovieHeadlines.net, 5/14/2001.

(B) “New movie trek for wordsmith”USA Today, 5/24/2001 

(C) “Klingon Linguist Immortalised On Film”,  5/29/01

(D) “Interview of Don Hahn on Atlantis!”, 3/26/01

(E) Atlantis: The Lost Empire – The Illustrated Script (Abridged), p. 82

(F) “The Lost Empire” (7/8/01)

(G) “Atlantis Rises Again” (7/8/01)

 Official Corpus

What follows are all the excerpts from the published screenplay that are written in Atlantean.  Unfortunately, the screenplay is abridged.

I call this the canonical corpus because it is part of the movie and formally set.

Sequence 1.5: Atlantis Destroyed

Atlantean Pilot #1: NEE-puk! GWEE-sit TEE-rid MEH-gid-lih-men!  (You fool! You’ve destroyed us all!)

Atlantean Pilot #2: Shoam KOO-leh-beh-toat!  LOO-den-tem WEE-luhg KAH-behr-seh-kem!  (It’s gaining! We have to warn the city!)  

Atlantean Pilot #2 (cont’d): Nahl YOH-deh-neh-toat!  (Too late!  AAAAAAAGHHH!)

Additional Pilots:  GWEE-sit khoab-DEH-sheh-toat! SOH-lesh-tem MOO-tih-lihm-kem!  (We’re doomed! All is lost!)

Atlantean Lookout:  TEH-wuhn-toap!  TEH-gu-len-tem goam NOO-roash-yoakh!  (Everyone to the shelters!)

Atlantean Cop #1: WEH-shek-mohl!  dihn-NOAKH!  (Don’t panic!  One at a time!)

Atlantean Retainer:  OAT, TAH-nehb-taot.  KEE-yihsh!  (This way, Your Highness. Quickly!)

Queen:  KEE-duh-toap MAH-sihk!  (Kida, come on!)

Queen (cont’d): KEE-duh-toap!  TOH-kiht sehr KOO-pehg! NAHL-tem WAH-nuh-teh-kem!  (Kida! Just leave it! There’s no time!)

Kida: MAH-tihm!  (Mother!)

Kida (cont’d): MAH-tihm!  (Mother!)

King: OH-kweh-pen-tem MOH-khihn DEH-rem, KEE-duh-toap!  (Close your eyes, Kida!)

Sequence 5: Leviathan Attack

Milo (reading from the journal): PREH-desh-tem LOH-tuh-nug/ NAHbuddha-geb.  (“Enter the lair of the Leviathan, last of the mighty war gods. There you will find the path to the gateway.”)

Sequence 8.5: First Encounter

Atlantean #1: TOOG poh YOO-geh-bin KHAH-beh-deh-toat.  (He’s dressed so strangely.)

Atlantean #2: Luht suhl-DOO-peh-toat duhp?  (Where did he come from?)

Kida: Toog KOO-net Suhl-DOOP KHOH-peh-toat. (He must be from the surface.)

Atlantean #3: Uhd LOOD WOAN kweh-TEE-pih-moat duhp? (But how did he get here?)

Atlantean #1: TOO-git GWEH-noag TOO-seh-kem doo?  (Should we kill him?)

Kida:  Kwahm.  (No, he doesn’t appear to be hostile.)

Kida:  NEH-shin-gen-tem Gehb-Rihn Deh pen-yoakh. Leb EH-seh-nekh dupp DOO-weh-ren-toap? Luht sull-

DOO-peh-nekh dupp?  (Who are you strangers and where are you from?)

Kida (cont’d):  Leb EH-seh-nekh dupp DOO-weh-ren-toap? Luht sull-DOO-peh-nekh dupp?  (Who are you strangers and where are you from?)

Milo: Leb EH-seh-nekh dupp DOO-weh-ren-toap. Luht sull-DOO-peh-nekh dupp.  (Who are you strangers and where are you from?)

Kida: PRAH-wiht-tem duhn-GU-nuhg MOH-khihn YOO-gehb-leh-toat bet KAH-peh-reh-kihk.  (Your manner of speech is strange to me.)

Milo: Kahg…weh-geh-neh…preed.  (I travel friend.)

Kida: KAHG WEH-geh-nohs PREE-duss-ess EH-seh-nen. (You are friendly traveler.)

Sequence 9: Audience With The King

Kida:  Deh-GEEM, TAH-neb-toap. Way-DAH-go-sen NEH-bet behr-NOH-tib-mick.  (Greetings, your highness. I have brought the visitors.)

King: MOAKH TAH-mar GWEE-sin puhn-NEB-leh-nen KEE-duh-toap.  WEEL-tem neb GAH-moh-seh-toat deg DOO-weh-ren TEE-rid.  (You know the law, Kida. No outsiders may see the city and live.)

Kida: TAHB-toap LOO-den NEH-bet kwahm GEH-soo BOH-geh-kem deg YAH-seh-ken GEH-soo-goan-tokh.  (Father, these people may be able to help us.)

King: GWEES DOH-sep-tem SOH-bin kwahm AH-lih-teh-kem.  (We do not need their help.)

Kida: Uhd TAHB-toap… (But father…)

King: Puh-SEEL-leh-toat. TAH-ges DOH-tesh-tem neb YOO-teh-poan-kem. (That is enough. We will discuss this later.)

Sequence 10: Confronting Kida

Kida: MEH-behl-moak (the Great Flood)

Milo: LEH-weg-tem SHEE-buhn puhk BEN-tem DEE-gen-mil SAH-tib. Yoos KEH-ruhn-tem SHAHD-luhg KOAM-tib-loh-nen.  (Follow the passage for another league. There, you will find the fifth marker.)

Kida: YAHD-lu-goh-nikh!  (Atlantean exclamation like “Good heavens!”)

Sequence 13: Raiding the Palace

King: Koab-DEH-nen TOO-KHIN EPP-kell-yoakh. (Do as she says.)

Kida: MOH-khit GWEH-noag-loh-nick! (I will kill you for that!)

Kida: NEE-shen-toap AHD-luhn-tih-suhg KEH-loab-tem GAHB-rihn KAH-roak-lih-mihk bet gihm DEH-moat-tem net GEH-tuh-noh-sen-tem behr-NOAT-lih-mihk bet KAH-gihb LEH-wihd-yoakh.  (Spirits of Atlantis, forgive me for defiling your chambers and bringing intruders into the land.)

Kida: SOH-lesh MAH-toh-noat MY-loh THATCH-toap. Kwahm TEH-red-seh-nen. (All will be well, Milo Thatch. Be not afraid.)

(Copyright 2001 by Disney Enterprises, Inc.  Cited here as part of research into Atlantean.)



1 = dihn
2 = doot
3 = say
4 = kut
5 = shah
6 = luk
7 = tohs
8 = yah
9 = niht
10 = EH-khep

Essential Words

SOO-puhk (Hello)
deh-GIHM (Greetings [more formal])
toakh (Hi!)
GAH-moak (Good-bye)
teeg (Yes)
kwahm (No)
BEH-ket (Please [to one])
BEH-ket-yoakh (Please [to group])
PAH-geh-sheh-nen (Thank you [to one])
PAH-geh-sheh-nekh (Thank you [to group])
PAH-gen (Thanks [to one])
PAH-gekh (Thanks [to group])
AH-nik KAH-gihn … EH seh-toat.  (My name is…)
(kahg) kwahm DOH-yih-neh-kik.  (I don’t understand.)

Useful Phrases

(moakh) DEEG-tem EHN-luh-nuhg BAH-sheh-beh-nen doo.  (Do you speak English?)
(kahg) DEEG-tem AHD-luhn-tih-suhg kwahm BAH-sheh-beh-kik.  (I don’t speak Atlantean.)
(kahg) DEEG-tem AHD-luhn-tih-suhg TEE-pihm-mil ser BAH-sheh-beh-kik.  (I only speak a little Atlantean.)
DEE-gesh AHD-luhn-tih-sugh, mehk LEH-guhp EE-muhg neb EH-seh-toat duhp.  (What is this called in Atlantean?)


More information on the Atlantean alphabet is at Omniglot.


Paul Sherrill has provided a good overview of the grammar:  “Atlantean’s basic word order is SOV, with postpositions and adjectives that follow their heads, although it appears that adverbs precede theirs.  Nouns have at least three cases: the nominative (the root alone), the accusative (root + tem) and the vocative (root + top, like you mentioned).  Plurals are formed by adding -en.  Verbs add a suffix to indicate tense/aspect and another to indicate person and number.  So far I have examples of three ‘tenses’: the present perfect, present, and future.  Most of the time, the two suffixes are easily identifiable, but in a few combinations the tense marker drops or changes a letter or two.”

Wikipedia now has a detailed discussion of the grammar.

Originally published September, 2001, on Langmaker as “Atlantean: Language of the Lost Empire”.