Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 35


Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues!

John Chapple believes that he can demonstrate fallacies in historical chronology; for example, he holds that many of the ‘medieval’ roads of England must have been built long before the Roman roads, in pre-historic times. He goes on from ideas of this kind to develop seriously revisionist perspectives on history and historical linguistics. Some of his ideas are reminiscent of those of Mick Harper (The History of Britain Revealed: The Shocking Truth About the English Language, 2nd edn, London, 2007, etc.). For instance, he too (along with Fomenko also; see Hall of Shame 32) accepts as probably reliable the largely fanciful ‘history’ of Britain written by the 12th-Century clergyman-scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth (the source for the stories of Gog & Magog, Old King Cole, King Lear, etc), according to which Britain was settled by the Trojan prince Brutus. Chapple accepts Geoffrey’s undemonstrated claim that his work is based on a supposedly older (7th-Century) Welsh text (which, even if it were genuinely older, might itself be largely fantasy), and suggests that the ‘truth’ of Geoffrey’s narrative has been suppressed by orthodox scholars.

As far as the history of the English language is concerned, Chapple argues that it arose much further east than the Germanic-speaking area of Europe, in Anatolia (modern Asiatic Turkey). Here – misled by naïvely ‘gung-ho’ newspaper headlines written by amateurs – he is grotesquely misunderstanding recent phases of the ongoing debate as to the precise location and date of Proto-Indo-European, the unattested & reconstructed ancestor of the Indo-European language ‘family’ and thus the ULTIMATE ANCESTOR of English!

Chapple also argues (again with Harper) that closer ancestors of English were used in Britain in pre-Roman times, alongside Celtic, and were NOT introduced in late-Roman & post-Roman times as is normally held. A date as early as 4500 BCE for the arrival of pre-English-speakers is proposed. Some of the individual points made in this context by Chapple and his correspondents are not without interest; but overall the level of linguistic sophistication is inadequate, conflicting evidence is soft-pedalled, and the general claim is in no way demonstrated.

Chapple also links the Druids (as described by Geoffrey) with the Phoenicians (in the context of the development of the Greek Alphabet) and makes various other claims which are speculative or worse.

For Chapple’s material, one could start at

More next time! I am very busy at present and may be posting at longer intervals (fortnightly or even monthly) rather than weekly.


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3 Responses to Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 35

  1. Debunker says:

    He doesn’t seem to be alone in this kind of nonsense. There is a strong prejudice against the notion of invasion in British archaeology, which leads many to deny that major population movements which are suggested by language changes happened at all because they don’t show up clearly in the archaeological record. The latest chapter of this immobilist rewriting of prehistory is that there was no Gaelic intrusion into Western Scotland and no Anglo-Saxon-Jute colonisation of England after the fall of the Roman Empire or that the Germanic speakers were already there in large numbers, none of which are in keeping with the known facts from personal names, tribal names, names of gods and goddesses. Mallory is one of the few archaeologists I would trust on issues of language.

  2. Pacal says:

    The Harper you mentioned above used to post at the In the Hall of Maat, website about 10 years ago. He was both hilarious and remarkably thick headed. He just did not get the idea that assuming English was spoken for centuries when there was NO evidence of it was a dubious notion. He also was quite unaware that the Anglo Saxons controlled most of Lothian for several centuries which might account for the large number of “English” names there.

    As for Geoffrey of Monmouth. We are not even sure if could read of word of Welsh much less the so called “Welsh Book” he claimed was his source. Although it is pretty clear that he relied either directly or indirectly on two indisputable old works, both in Latin Gildas’ The Ruin of Britain (from c. 550 C.E.) and Nennius’ British History (from about 830 C.E.). And of course he used Bede, (History of the English People and Church c. 725 C.E.) and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 900 C.E.). The “Welsh book” that Geoffrey mentioned as never been found. It is not impossible that something like that existed. Geoffrey Ashe as in fact suggested that a possible candidate or at least a indication that both may have used the same lost Welsh source may be the fragmentary Life of St. Goeznovius preserved in Chronicle of Saint Brieuc. This chronicle is a Breton one. It has details which mirror certain aspects of Geoffrey’s tale. It refers to a source called Ystoria Britanica.

    As for being adverse to mass population movements. That was in reaction to the familiar 19th century trope that a change in language meant a displacement and replacement of the population. Well that is not necessarily and in fact much of the time is not the case. For example it appears that Hungarian speakers did not displace the inhabitants of the Hungarian plains. They seem to have settled in significant numbers, say 5% or a bit more of the resident population, but the population was not displaced. It is likely the same occurred in England. Certainly the Romans were able to impose Latin on France, Spain without it appears displacing the population. I consider 5% or more a significant population movement. Wholesale displacement is a lot more problematic.

  3. marknewbrook says:

    Thanks to you both! Very erudite & helpful, as ever. Re Geoffrey’s supposed source: claims have been made on behalf of the Welsh Brut Tysilio, which exists in several versions but which is not actually attested before Geoffrey’s own day and may indeed be in part a translation FROM Geoffrey. Of course, the reference may in fact be to BRETON, as Pacal intimates. I have more to say about all this in ‘A tale of two Arthurs’, The Skeptic (Australia) 21:1 (2001), pp. 47-52 (note that all issues of The Skeptic (Australia) from 1991 onwards, except for those published in the twelve months before the time of access, are available online at I will have more to say about Harper later in this series. Mark

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