Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues.
30: SUSAN B. MARTINEZ
Susan B. Martinez is unusual among advocates/users of blatantly non-standard methods in comparative historical linguistics in that she has a semi-relevant PhD (in Anthropology, from Columbia) and indeed a specialisation in ethnolinguistics. Perhaps she has never studied the specifically HISTORICAL aspects of the discipline, but even then her approach (nowadays typical only of untutored amateurs) is surprising. If she IS familiar with historical linguistics but REJECTS mainstream thinking on the methodology of the subject, she should state this openly and should ARGUE for her own position.
Martinez’s shift away from mainstream thought (on linguistic and other issues) seems to be connected with her discovery in 1981 of the ‘Oahspe Bible’ (one could usefully start at http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oahspe:_A_New_Bible), a tome produced in 1882 by John Ballou Newbrough by way of automatic writing. This work represents itself as containing new revelations from ‘the Embassadors of the angel hosts of heaven prepared and revealed unto man in the name of Jehovih’. Much of the Oahspe material involves non-standard accounts of early human history. Martinez embraced these notions and they occupy a central place in her subsequent work, where there are many specific references to the Oahspe text as if it were historically authoritative
Oahspe itself contains some strange linguistic material: it is connected with ‘Mantong’ as promoted by Richard Shaver (see ‘Fringe Historical Linguistics 5’, this blog, 26 March 2012, and pp. 102-103 of my 2013 book Strange Linguistics as advertised below), and the text begins with a three-page glossary of ‘strange words used in this book’; these are a peculiar mixture of known words and phrases from English (such as angel) or other human languages (such as Abracadabra) – many of them re-defined in Oahspian terms – and unfamiliar words.
Martinez’s material can most readily be found in her book Lost History Of The Little People: Their Spiritually Advanced Civilizations around the World (available on Amazon). Here she argues that Homo sapiens originated in ‘pygmy’/’negrito’ form and that this ‘lost race’ was later forced out of its homeland on the continent of Pan (‘lost’ in a major flood in early historic times) and was in due course marginalised by its taller offshoots, who came to misperceive their predecessors as supernatural beings (fairies, leprechauns, etc.).
Martinez supports this position with data drawn from various disciplines (archaeology, ethnology, etc.), but there is an especially heavy focus upon comparative linguistics; she traces many key features of known languages to an ancestral language ‘Panic’ used by the pygmies. Like most amateurs advancing such proposals, Martinez proceeds by equating unsystematically and superficially similar words (often very short words, which makes chance similarity especially likely) and (also very short) word-parts (morphemes or putative morphemes, syllables, etc.) from a wide range of languages which are normally considered not to be ‘genetically’ related (except perhaps in ‘deep’ pre-history) and to have had no influential contact with each other. (See my earlier instalments in ‘Fringe Historical Linguistics’ and Chapter 1 of my book on the objections to such methods.)
Martinez’s academic background (which is ‘upfront’; unlike most legitimate scholars, she advertises her PhD on the cover of her book) may mislead some readers not versed in linguistics into taking her linguistic material seriously. However, whatever may be said for the rest of her material, Martinez’s linguistic equations, specifically, CANNOT be taken seriously. Examples of these equations include: the derivation of very many sequences in many languages including -in- from a Panic word ihin (referring to the pygmies themselves); similar derivations involving ong/ang (‘light from above’), su (‘spirit’), ba (‘small’), etc.; and the proposing of novel Panic-based etymologies for familiar words with very well-established etymologies, such as the Spanish word pan (‘bread’) with its very clear Latin etymology; etc., etc.
For Martinez’s career, see http://www.justenergyradio.com/archive-pages/smartinez.htm.
I propose to review Martinez’s book at greater length in the British skeptical press (I will post a reference as & when).
More next time!
For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.
On Martinez’s academic qualifications being “up front” – I emailed Columbia to verify whether she’d earned her doctorate there. They have no record of a Susan B. Martinez earning a PhD there. Did she go to a different Columbia? Did she go prior to marriage (and so, I’d need her maiden name)? Any ideas? I’m still trying to find a way to email her directly. All I can find is her publisher page.
Thanks very much for this info! If you learn anything, please let me know. I will have a go myself. Mark N
I had no reply from Columbia, and Martinez herself has failed to reply to my query left on her website. So who knows?! Any further info would be very welcome indeed. Mark N
Regarding the Ihans, I know an American Indian who was taught about Ihans by tradition. They pronounce it Ian’s and the h is silent but the description of these peaceful little people is the same as described in Oahspe.
If there is indeed such a Native American tradition (is there any independent evidence? which ethnic group? whence the roman alphabet spelling with a ‘silent’ H?), is it not likely that the Oahspe story derives from the Native American story? Mark N
Sorry about the long gap! Thanks to the diligent Jason Colavito’s researches, I have finally learned that Susan Martinez’s Columbia Uni PhD (1972) was under her old last name, Ehrman; it was titled Wayuunaiki: A Grammar of Guajiro and deals with a Colombian language. Like the archaeologist Barry Brailsford in New Zealand, Ehrman/Martinez started off as a perfectly respectable mainstream scholar but later ‘went feral’, in her case after coming upon the ‘Oahspe’ material proclaimed in 1882 by Newbrough. For Colavito’s latest on Martinez, see http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-the-lost-continent-of-pan-by-susan-b-martinez