Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

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

4.3 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0385527880
ISBN-10: 0385527888
Why is ISBN important?
ISBN
This bar-code number lets you verify that you're getting exactly the right version or edition of a book. The 13-digit and 10-digit formats both work.
Scan an ISBN with your phone
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
More Buying Choices
11 New from $16.90 30 Used from $4.28 1 Collectible from $32.50
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Prime Student Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student


Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“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
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • 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
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gunnar Gãllmo on July 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Linguists have their ideas. Many of them look down at what's often called "artificial languages" (actually all normalized languages are more or less artificial, including the Queen's English, and written languages definitively so - there are no letters in nature).

Arika Okrent doesn't.

She started out with the prejudiced idea that planned languages can't be living tongues, but after some research, including visits to Esperanto congresses and Klingon conventions, she had to admit that yes, they can. At least Esperanto doesn't even behave as a Golem or Frankenstein's monster; just like any language, but easier than most to learn.

She has concentrated at a few high-lights of the more than nine hundred projects she has found: Wilkins' logical language from the 17th century, Esperanto from the 19th but still very much in use, and from the 20th Bliss' symbolical language (with a few details about the character of its creator that made me feel rather bad), Logban and its offshoot Lojban as more a less a return to Wilkins' ideas of a perfectly logical language, and finally Klingon.

She is rather short about languages with similar goals as Esperanto, like Volapük that was defeated by it, or Ido and Interlingua which failed to defeat it. She is also rather short about the languages connected to Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings", allthough at least Sindarin may actually have about as many fans as Klingon. (Unlike Esperanto, neither Sindarin nor Klingon was created to be actually used, but fans have their ideas.)

In the list of 500 "invented languages" at the end of the book she includes Anglic, which actually is just ordinary English with a revised spelling, not a language in its own righ (she might have included Shaw's spelling ideas as well), and Basic English, which also is hardly a language of its own - just plain English with a limited word-stock.

Last not least: she has a sense of humour.
Comment 53 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As someone who is interested in constructed languages (I have a reasonable knowledge of Esperanto, Volapuk, and Ido, and have looked at others such as Lojban and Glosa) I can't overstate how much I enjoyed this book.

Most books on constructed languages just give a historical overview of the subject, mentioning highlights such as Wilkins' Real Character, Volapuk, and Esperanto, and then end with the conclusion (comforting to anglophones) that the global success of English in the 20th century makes the whole issue of international communication moot (I wonder what the anglophones will think when Chinese or whatever displaces English?).

Okrent's book is somewhat different. While she does give the standard historical overview, her focus is on modern conlangs that have user communities and hold conferences. She has apparently learned at least the basics of Esperanto, Lojban, and Klingon and has attended relevant conferences. She dispells the stereotype of conlangers being "weirdos" -- even the Klingon speakers seem less geeky than one would expect.
1 Comment 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
In the Land of Invented Languages is an amazing work of linguistic lore, representing the very best of popular science, packaged as erudite travel writing. True to its title, In the Land takes us around the globe in a quest for the perfect language. Not only is one invited (even if, like me, you are not a linguistics scholar and only speak one language...) to actually participate in the theory, math and utter zaniness of communication, but we're privileged by way of Okrent's deft hand to explore each language land through the eyes of a native. Therein lies the true joy of this journey - Okrent is a great wit and intellect; the very best of travel companions. My bags are packed for the next trip.

(I originally purchased the Kindle edition only to discover that another delight of Okrent's work is the design of the book itself. It offers time-lines, language symbols and even a `tree of the universe' that cannot be fully appreciated with the electronic version. I recommend buying the hardback - which I did half way through.)
2 Comments 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone who studied linguistics in school, I found this book to be pretty interesting. It has always impressed me how serious linguists are able to marshal so many examples and anecdotes when writing a book. This book is no different. It is chock full of interesting examples and stories. The difference here is that the book covers made-up languages. While that may seem like a dry topic, the author does an excellent job of covering it by mixing in a generous amount of quirky and interesting anecdotes about the circumstances of the birth of these languages and the people who try to keep them alive. The number of invented languages is very great and the author does not try to cover all of them. Rather, she focuses on some of the bigger examples while talking about categories and time periods in a more general sense. While the dedication that some people have put into creating artificial languages for various purposes is astounding, their track record for success is not. The author points out the reasons for creating languages, many of which revolved around the desire to create easier to use or more efficient languages. However, in the end, it becomes clear that the success rate of these languages, in the end, has little to do with the quality or ease of use for the languages, but rather the incentive to use them. In addition to covering completely made-up languages like Klingon or Esperanto, she also talks about pidgins and creoles which are sort of naturally-occurring made-up languages. All in all, this book probably will not inspire too many people to run out and learn an invented language, but it will shed some interesting light on the role and life cycle of real languages and why people speak them. In the end, even the most scientific approach to creating an easy or efficient language cannot outperform the incentives created by natural evolution in attracting speakers.
Comment 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews