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I bought this book because I want to make distinctive names in a variety of made-up languages for my Pathfinder (like D&D 3.5) game. The author's website (zompist) appears to have been around for quite a while, and seems well connected and well respected, but for some reason I had never come across it. I found it at a good time though; just days before his book was released. The website has a lot of good information, but the book is better because it is more of everything on the website. The website is more like an overview, but this goes into detail, and I got a lot more out of the book form of the material than I did his website. The information on how humans make sounds is quite possibly the missing link I needed to go from the ideas I have in my head into actual written examples of a made up language.
In addition to being a very practical guide to help me create interesting sounding names, the book is just fun to read overall. The author seems to know a little bit about a whole lot of languages, and it's fun to read about the subtle little nuances that exist that I've never noticed.
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The Language Construction Kit, online, is THE resource for "conlangers" (people who make up languages for fun and profit - but you knew that already). I personally can remember printing it out at least twice in my teens. (And holy HECK that was a lot of paper!) Every example mentioned for building your language (firmly based upon actual linguistic concepts - and yes, I think this is a good companion book for an intro to linguistics class) is given with examples from either real-world languages or from some of the author's own conlangs.
So why buy the book when you can get the kit for free?
Well, first off, if you've ever visited the LCK online, you should support the guy who created it. How? By buying the book.
Secondly - and somewhat more importantly - this isn't just a reprint of the online version. It's expanded (there's a whole new FASCINATING section on semantics, for example) and it's convenient to have on your desk.
So why only four stars?
No fault of the author's, but the formatting was a bit odd. Sometimes a section header would appear as the last line on a page, or a line would be spaced v e r y s t r a n g e l y, and that made it hard to read. The formatting issues are *not* his fault, but they *did* require me to re-read more often than I'd like because they made it hard to understand some things wherever they occurred.
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Mark Rosenfelder gives very good advice in this book - it covers everything a language constructer needs. I mostly bought the book not only for that purpose but also to learn more about the linguistic concepts the book covered. It is extremely useful in this purpose - it explains very complex concepts VERY well, at least to an amateur linguist like myself.
Rosenfelder makes good use of examples, which is key in his explanations. However, I think some of it still could have been done in a bit more detail - some of the more complex grammatical concepts lack examples or examples from real languages. The author should also add more detail into the diversity of the concepts - for instance, with verbs or nouns, he lists an interesting array of possibilities for inflections, but the list is not very extensive. This is especially true of the concepts he explored in less detail. One point in particular I thought would have been well-suited to an expansion was a bit in the section on pragmatics. He mentions by way of an example the extreme difference in the way the Apache language made its speakers think. It was a very good example of just how diverse human language can be from the languages we in the West are used to. More examples of this would help conlangers to open their minds and their ability to see all the possibilities. Another favourite was a point about a language he appears to have invented just for the book, called Eteodäole. His single example had me thinking for days.
He gives a reasonable explanation of phonetics, brilliant sections on grammar, semantics and pragmatics, and his section on his own conlang Kebreni, while somewhat confusing and long, was interesting and helpful.Read more ›
It's not very often that somebody comes up with a completely original idea for a book, but in this case it has happened. Mr Rosenfelder has published the first ever off-line how-to manual for inventing a completely new language.
Intended for sci-fi and fantasy writers who want to create their own languages, the Language Construction Kit is also an entertaining and original introduction to linguistics.
Invented languages are nothing new. Zamenhof created Esperanto in the late 1800s, hoping it would become a universal second language and foster international peace. Other people have made up their own languages purely for pleasure. Tolkien's Elvish languages, Quenya and Sindarin, have become famous thanks to his masterpiece Lord of the Rings. Star Trek's huge fanbase has ensured the spread of Klingon. However, until the development of the internet, most conlangs remained in their inventors' exercise books.
Mr Rosenfelder is a programmer who does linguistics as a hobby. His website [...] includes a bulletin board for language inventors, several linguistics essays and other resources, including the original version of the Language Construction Kit, which consisted of two main sections, phonology (or sounds) and grammar. For the book version, the LCK has been revised and considerably expanded, with additional chapters on Semantics, Pragmatics, Language Families and Writing Systems. The author has published no less than fourteen of his own languages on the web, including several members of a language family, one with an absolute-ergative case system, and a non-human language which uses vowel continua to indicate degree (and violates several other universals). An upcoming colang, Lé, will feature tones.Read more ›
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