Dreaming in Rapa.

Back in 2015 our beloved Martian, Siganus Sutor, told a story about a boy who dreamed that he was taught an unknown language, which eventually turned out to be spoken on a faraway island of Polynesia; now Y sends me a couple of related links. Gautier Demouveaux writes for Crumpe:

For years, this Frenchman dreamed in a language he did not know. After much research, Marc Liblin will end up finding the origin of this unknown language, spoken by a handful of inhabitants on a small Polynesian island in the Pacific. His story is told in a book by Éric Viennot, published by Michel Lafon, which will be released in bookstores this Thursday, April 6, 2023. […]

Éric Viennot fell in love with this fascinating story and first tried to verify its veracity, by looking for people from his family, via social networks. Marie Liblin never met Marc, but she remembers that, in her childhood, her grandfather spoke to her about him, simply mentioning a rather whimsical cousin, misunderstood by the rest of the family, who had left wife and children to live on the other side of the world. “It was only in 1998, shortly after Marc’s death, that I discovered this incredible story, remembers Marie Liblin, who was then 14 years old. A friend of my father sent us an article published in the magazine Tahiti-Pacific which recounted his life in broad strokes…”

In 1981, Marc Liblin, then 33 years old, lived in Luxeuil-les-Bains, in Haute-Saône. Married with two children, he works in the family foundry. But the man feels bad about himself, the fault of a recurring dream, in which an old character teaches him physics and especially an obscure language, which he gradually learns to speak fluently. These dreams obsess him and, while his marriage is failing, he decides to drop everything to try to find answers on this language that he seems to be the only one to speak.

He eventually meets Meretuini Make, “a woman from Rapa Iti, a very small island in French Polynesia lost in the middle of the Pacific”:

“Marc speaks to her in this language he has dreamed of since childhood and she understands it, says Marie Liblin. It is an endangered language, spoken only on the island of Rapa Iti, which has around 500 inhabitants. And Marc speaks an older version than the one currently spoken. It would be a version of the ancestors of Rapa…”

They get married, and “he never stopped studying the history of the island and researching the origin of its language, but also trying to understand how it was able to learn the latter through his dreams…”

The story is also told in a 2011 post at TYWKIWDBI (“Tai-Wiki-Widbee”), where commenter Abbie expresses my feelings exactly:

I would indeed put it past the human brain. The idea of a language mysteriously finding its way into someone’s brain is pure fantasy. Languages don’t exist as discreet objects floating in the ether; they are learned, word by word, phrase by phrase, and phoneme by phoneme, by individuals. It is absolutely impossible for Marc Liblin to have learned Rapan without deliberate effort on his part. (Dream-learning doesn’t count!)

I buy the gibberish explanation. There’s such thing as auditory pareidolia. More likely, the entire story is exaggerated legend.

And if you want an actual scholarly description of language in Rapa Iti, Mary Walworth’s 2015 dissertation has you covered. Thanks, Y!


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Why have I wasted my life earning an honest living when there are so many pitifully gullible people about?

    I dream in Lemurian*. Rapa, Schmapa.

    * An older version than that currently spoken.

  2. Wikipedia calls this xenoglossy

  3. PlasticPaddy says

    Association Réalités scientifique – experimental researchers (Arsce).
    I truly believe such name is not coincidence, one suspects the involvement of our Britannic neighbours…

  4. Demouveaux’s original French text from Ouest-France if you want to run it though a better machine translator than the one used by Crumpe, which seems to be a fly-by-night content scraper, and an incompetent one: it took this exposé by Gizmodo of CNET and instead of rewriting it into an exposé by Crumpe of CNET, it made it an exposé by Gizmodo of Crumpe

  5. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Easter Island is usually called Isla de Pascua in mainland Chile, but it’s also sometimes called Rapa Nui, which I think is the preferred name on the island itself. Anyway, once I was looking at the books on offer in a small bookshop in Valparaíso and came across one, in a sort of English, that was about a place called Take Nui. It took me a moment to realize that “Take” was the result of using a dictionary to translate “Rapa”.

  6. That’s wonderful!

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