- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; 1 edition (May 19, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385527888
- ISBN-13: 978-0385527880
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 78 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Efforts to make language simpler, clearer, less divisive and more truthful have backfired spectacularly, to judge by this delightful tour of linguistic hubris. Linguist Okrent explores some of the themes and shortcomings of 900 years worth of artificial languages. She surveys philosophical languages that order all knowledge into self-evident systems that turn out to be bizarrely idiosyncratic; symbol languages of supposedly crystalline pictographs that are actually bafflingly opaque; basic languages that throw out all the fancy words and complicated idioms; rigorously logical languages so rule-bound that it's impossible to utter a correct sentence; international languages, like Esperanto, that unite different cultures into a single idealistic counterculture; and whimsical constructed languages that assert the unique culture and worldview of women, Klingons or chipmunks. Okrent gamely translates to and from these languages, with unspeakably hilarious results, and riffs on the colorful eccentricities of their megalomaniacal creators. Fortunately, her own prose is a model of clarity and grace; through it, she conveys fascinating insights into why natural language, with its corruptions, ambiguities and arbitrary conventions, trips so fluently off our tongues. (May 19)
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“Hats off to Okrent, who expertly exposes the history, culture, and preoccupations of this insular tribe who live among us. She rescues language inventors, or conlangers, from the oddball bin—utopianists all, they're the first biotechnologists, trying to leapfrog evolution and improve human life. They'll thank her but everyone else will, too, for finally making sense of the conlangers' discontents.” —Michael Erard, author of Um…: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean
“A lively, informative, insightful examination of artificial languages—who invents them, why, and why most of them fail. I loved this book.”—Will Shortz, Crossword Editor, New York Times
“Linguist Okrent explores some of the themes and shortcomings of 900 years worth of artificial languages. …Okrent gamely translates these languages with unspeakably hilarious results, and riffs on the colorful eccentricities of their megalomaniacal creators. Fortunately, her own prose is a model of clarity and grace; through it, she conveys fascinating insights into why natural language, with its corruptions, ambiguities and arbitrary conventions, trips so fluently off our tongues.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Arika Okrent is a linguist whose fascination with the "faded plastic flowers" in the "lush orchid garden of languages" is recounted to delightful, often comic effect in "In the Land of Invented Languages."...Okrent's style is eminently suited to her approach, which is at once serious and playful, exemplified by her marvelous, snappy opening sentence: "Klingon speakers ... inhabit the lowest possible rung on the geek ladder."— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"The author...examines a variety of would-be languages and related philosophical tenets (there are no pure ideas, all signs depend on conventions) in a rigorously linguistical way. And yet her book is a pleasure to read. It shows how language systems connect, or don’t connect, with people."—New York Times
"Anyone who has felt the lure of words, odd grammatical systems or the potential connections between human thought and speech, is likely to enjoy this book just as much as I did."— Locus
"'In the Land of Invented Languages is a delight to read. It's humorous, intelligent, entertaining and highly informative. And it's a great source of knowledge about human languages and why they exasperate some people - because they are not perfect. But neither are we."—San Francisco Chronicle
"Okrent is a professional linguist and relates the place of these artificial languages in the confusion of human languages. She is also a great storyteller, and eccentric characters and dashed dreams are the stuff of this delightful book. "—Denver Post
Top customer reviews
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To be honest, it's the only book I've ever read about invented languages. But that doesn't detract from the book's power. If you're like me and you're fascinated by human languages, don't miss the chance to read this book. If you speak multiple languages, but have never learned a made-up language, you'll be absolutely enthralled by it.
The efforts by humans to create "the perfect language" and to overcome the shortfalls and vices of natural human languages prove to be forever quixotic. As the author discovers, the "flaws" and irregularities in human language actually make them more, rather than less, functional. It's also interesting to see how relative the idea of "the perfect language" has been throughout human history. Can you create an ideal language by inventing a precise classification for everything on earth? By basing it on mathematics? By creating symbols that perfectly represent abstract ideas? Can a language like Esperanto be perfect, even if it is very male-centric?
Okrent delivers a very readable, entertaining venture into the world of "con langs." You won't be disappointed.
Apart from numerous projects of languages for international understanding, some languages were constructed in order to be used in books and films. They must play a credible role as languages of fictitious peoples and civilizations. Klingon is one example of this kind of languages, originating in 1984, but there are both earlier and later examples. Klingon was created for the Star Trek television shows and films. It now has its own community of users. Languages for fiction are not particularly simple. Because they represent civilizations different from human civilizations, the vocabulary and grammar are different from human languages.
The author also devotes some chapters to Loglan and Lojban, languages of logic. These represent an effort to create a nearly perfect language based on logic. Loglan was continued as Lojban because of copyright reasons. Lojban is still developing, but it is very difficult to use. By the way, an author of a language falling out with his followers about his rights to the language is a recurring theme in the book.
This book is a useful update for those familiar with the field of 'interlinguistics' and an entertaining introduction for those new to the subject.
I am both a conlanger and an Esperanto speaker, so seeing her treatment of these two similar but different states was quite amusing.
I loved reading about bliss, and finally finding out what was up with the whole loglan vs lojban thing!
All in all, a fantastic book for anyone interested in the history and social perception of conlangs and those who create and speak them! I absolutely recommend it.