Hagoth and his ships

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Language/Names

Old World Languages in the New World

The Book of Mormon testifies that the Nephites were diligent in preserving and teaching Old World languages in the New World, although changes occurred over the years in their spoken and written languages (see 1 Nephi 3:19; Mosiah 1:2; Mormon 9:32-33). Most anthropologists, however, have long held that, except for inconsequential examples, the languages of the Old World never crossed the ocean barriers to the New. Those who have thought otherwise, like the Mormons, have been considered naive. Recent developments in historical and comparative linguistics, though, suggest that the conventional orthodox view has itself been simpleminded, thus holding back serious study of the issue.

Professor Otto Sadovszky of the Department of Anthropology, California State University, Fullerton, has made a revolutionary proposal that two groups of languages separated by over five thousand miles are closely related. The first group is called Penutian, a group of Indian languages of central California that include Miwok and Wintun. The second group is called Ob-Ugrian and includes related languages like Samoyed. These are used around the Ob River of northwest Siberia....

Meanwhile, a study by Dr. Mary Ritchie Key of the University of California at Irvine addresses another interhemispheric linguistic "no-no." She writes, "The languages of Polynesia contain elements found in North and South American Indian languages that suggest distant historical connections," then presents some of the evidence. Key has received a flood of new materials from colleagues stimulated by her publication.

Obviously, if more long-distance linguistic comparisons of any kind were attempted, more such connections in general would be demonstrated and evaluated. Researchers should not be hindered by supposing that the conventional answers are adequate.—(Click here to continue)[1]

"The name Hagoth is attested in the form Hgt on an Ammonite seal"

One Book of Mormon critic argued that Joseph Smith derived the name Hagoth from the name of the biblical prophet Haggai. Indeed, the names may be related, but a closer parallel is the biblical Haggith (see 2 Samuel 3:4; 1 Kings 1:5, etc.), which may have been vocalized Hagoth anciently. All three names derive from a root referring to a pilgrimage to attend religious festivals. The name Hagoth is attested in the form Hgt on an Ammonite seal inscribed sometime in the eighth through the sixth centuries BC36 (The Ammonites, neighbors of the Israelites and descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot, wrote and spoke the same language as the Israelites.)" [2]


  1. John L. Sorenson, Gordon C. Thomasson, and Robert F. Smith, "Old World Languages in the New World," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 8.
  2. John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, Matthew Roper, "Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000): 40–51.