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Hardcover In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language Book

ISBN: 0385527888

ISBN13: 9780385527880

In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language

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Book Overview

Just about everyone has heard of Esperanto, which was nothing less than one man's attempt to bring about world peace by means of linguistic solidarity. And every Star Trek fan knows about Klingon,... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

long live the conlangs

I know a lot about languages (I have studied more than 25, including Ido and Volapuk)and am extremely fluent in Esperanto, but, to use the old clise, I can not put this book down. The author's style is most lively, and every page is packed with interesting facts, but that doesn't quite explain why this book captivates me so. Could it be that she succeeds on every page in tranmitting to us the passion of the conlanger? Many "outsiders" have written about Esperanto in at least a somewhat positive vein, but Ms. Okrent clearly writes from the vantage point of one who has experienced living Esperanto, which is a psycological reality usually only available to the "insider". That attests to her keen intelligence and sensibility. It may be that the world of conlangs is truly the last frontier. In the "real world" languages are constantly dying out, and yet in the magical world of conlangs they are constantly being born! Perhaps Noam Chomsky didn't know how right he was when he said that with each child born, there is also a new language. There are no limitations other than time itself: we could all create at least one conlang. Like poetry, conlangs bring us to the vital core of the phenomenon language. All English-speaking Esperantist should read this book. It may help them understand why Harry Harrison once said Esperanto is essentially a science fiction type idea. The commonality between Esperanto and Klingon will become easier to understand once you have read this book. I am not talking about a lexical or morphosytactic similiarity, but more one of vital force. But read this book, and draw your own conclusions.

Informative and entertaining

This may sound strange, speaking about a book detailing the history of artificial languages, but I couldn't put it down. This book was informative and funny all at once. Okrent begins at the end, with Klingon, which seems like a lonely and ecctentric little hobby, but she promises she will get back to it. Then she takes us to the twelfth century and the mysterioius, private language of a German nun. From there, she takes us through various stages and fads of language invention. We meet the eighteenth century men of reason who set out to invent perfect, philosophical languages, but who ended up producing complex languages that were completely unusable. We see the nineteenth century utopian language builders, who only wanted a common language that would heal the divisions among peoples, but who ended up splintering into an array of competing and hostile language camps. We see the science-based languages of the twentieth century, one of which has since proven useful as a tool for teaching handicapped children, and another that has taught computer scientists to be aware of their own thinking. She comes back to Klingon at the end of the book, and we meet the modern conlang enthusiasts, who are an interesting and linguistically well-informed bunch. Anyone with an interest in language - invented or otherwise - will enjoy this book.

What's That You Say?

Everyone knows the Old Testament story of Babel, wherein God got so irritated by the uppity humans he created that he scrambled their languages so that they would be divided evermore and everyone would have trouble understanding each other. He did a good job, but for centuries people have been trying to do the opposite, to make a language that everyone could understand and use. Others have invented languages as part of their artistic endeavors, or as a lark. Some of these inventions have been practical, some have been useful, some have been downright silly. They all get an overview in _In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language_ (Spiegel & Grau) by Arika Okrent. Okrent seems the ideal person to take on such a study; she has a joint doctorate in linguistics and cognition, and has obvious professional interest in the sideline of artificial languages, but this book is an entertaining romp through the land of the title, not an academic treatise. That does not imply that it is not packed with information, or with plenty of things to think about. By looking at the languages people have created for themselves, we get a better idea of what languages, like the natural ones we started picking up when we were infants, do and cannot do. The languages Okrent reviews here "were invented on purpose, cut from whole cloth, set down on paper, start to finish, by one person... They were testaments not to the wonder of nature but to the human impulse to master nature." Perhaps that impulse has been successful in other arenas, but Okrent's book is a history of failures. None of the invented languages has done what the inventor set out to do. This history starts almost four hundred years ago, for "Language invention was something of a seventeenth-century intellectual fad." Okrent reviews as prototype of these attempts, the "Philosophical Language" of the Englishman John Wilkins, who published about it in 1668. He set out a taxonomy of objects and ideas, several hundred pages of tree-like diagrams that started with the very universe and branched down into particulars. Okrent has labored over Wilkins's brainchild and presents us with "as far as I know, the first sentences to be written in Wilkins's language in over three hundred years." Even the little sample she gives is tough to understand. Wilkins had hoped that his logical categorizations would facilitate logical thinking, but the language does no such thing, nor does it facilitate any kind of communication. Naturally Okrent spends some chapters on Esperanto, the nearest to success of all the languages profiled here. Esperanto works. It is used all over the world and can express ideas from many different fields. Esperanto is simple and orderly, and is demonstrably easier to learn than any national language. The Esperantists are doing their part for international understanding by their corres

What a Trip

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.)

Excellent book about constructed languages and their users

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.
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