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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
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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

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,509 Ratings  ·  261 Reviews
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, which was nothing more than a television show’s attempt to create a tough-sounding language befitting a warrior race with ridged foreheads. But few people have heard of Babm, Bli ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2009)
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In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika OkrentBabel No More by Michael ErardSlip of the Tongue by Katie   HaegeleMade in America by Bill BrysonTalking Hands by Margalit Fox
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Community Reviews

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Jun 10, 2009 David rated it really liked it
Initially this book was fairly amusing, but somewhere around the half-way mark its charms began to fade, and by the end it was just plain exhausting. This was certainly not the fault of the author, who was an engaged and enthusiastic tour guide throughout. But ultimately the cumulative craziness of the various language inventors takes its toll.

Okrent's tour of the "land of invented languages" covers a lot of ground, making five major stops, each of which considers a particular example in depth:
Nov 08, 2009 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent is a book ostensibly about invented languages (like Esperanto) that is filled with love for the beauty and inventiveness of natural languages.

Okrent gives us the tour we'd expect of funny invented languages like Esperanto and Klingon (she even attends a Klingon convention). She has sport with many of the creations.
For the childish mind the temptations of Volapük are great. If you think the word pük is funny, then you will love how it figures in
Sep 25, 2011 Jimmy rated it it was amazing
This book was the perfect balance of everything: humor, information, history, thought-provocation, etc. And the exact book I needed to get me out of the rut of non-reading I've been in the last 2 months.

It's a look into the amusing world of invented languages, ones invented by a single person as opposed to a language arising organically through a community of users who create it on the fly, evolving it to their needs. And there have not been a shortage of them: an estimated 900 in the last 900 y
Feb 19, 2011 Julie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: languages, nonfiction
The author looks at the history of invention surrounding well, invented languages.

And if you like languages at all, then it's fascinating. Although I could have wished for a little better organization. The author seems to jump about in time here and there, which can be confusing. And there is some repetition of information, as if she forgot she already told us that.

Oddly, I was at least a third if not halfway through the book before I realized the author was a woman. It was an odd experience ha
Ian Tregillis
Oct 13, 2010 Ian Tregillis rated it it was amazing
Delightful, fascinating, funny. This could have been written for me.

I read this over a year ago and can't stop recommending it to anybody who will listen to me. While writing up my thoughts on something else tonight, I realized that Okrent's book has become the gold standard for a particular strain of my non-fiction reading.

So I thought it only fair that I state in public that I loved this book, and wish it had been twice as long. Even longer. If I could, I would have this book's babies.

I'm not
Dec 04, 2015 Bandit rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. After reading it, almost wish I was able to express my admiration and appreciation in an invented language. Well, I suppose technically I can. I just need to invent one. Apparently it's been done for centuries to varied (albeit mostly low, very low) degrees of success and recognition. I'm not a linguist per se, just someone who holds language structures and words in general in high esteem, fan of crosswords, polysyllabics, word games, etc. If you're like me, if you th ...more
Feb 01, 2011 CarolineFromConcord rated it really liked it
This was a hoot! Even though some parts were penetrable only by a linguist like the author, I really enjoyed it. Okrent is a very good writer and knows how to choose and lead up to the funniest aspect of a constructed language -- or of the inventor. I learned a ton of random facts, and I thought I knew it all, having a decent knowledge of Esperanto. Turns out, there are more than 900 known invented languages. One that was invented to express a woman's perspective is Laadan and has words like thi ...more
Jan 25, 2011 TBML rated it it was amazing
This book is a joy. Okrent offers 26 chapters of insights into some of the world's hundreds of invented languages. She is selective, of course, and organizes the material around a few key themes about language that resonate with any reader: transparency, perspective, accuracy, and invention. And Okrent has a feel not just for the languages but also for the people behind them. She peppers this subject with some of the heroes and villains behind invented languages; enter John Wilkins (who construc ...more
Jul 31, 2010 Erik rated it liked it
You’ve heard of Esperanto and Klingon, but did you know that there have been over five hundred invented languages that have seen some sort of publication or scholarly effort in the past several hundred years? I, too, thought that an astonishingly high number.

Okrent’s narrative takes us from the playful invented languages (like Klingon, which have no “real use” according to hard-core Esperantists), to the pictoral/symbolic used to assist young children with language production disorders, to the
Jun 03, 2009 Julie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: esperanto
This book is excellent! If you're not familiar with the history of invented languages, this an excellent one-stop introduction. But even if you are (like me), you will still enjoy this book. The writing is excellent and engrossing -- I'm a slow reader and I can't stand to read for long periods, but I devoured this book in just two sittings. The material is covered with enough depth and facts to satisfy language nerds, while also being presented with a very personal -- and personable -- style tha ...more
Jul 02, 2010 Res rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Nonfiction: A brief and breezy overview of the history of artificial languages.

I enjoyed this; it's very much like a series of magazine articles in the sort of magazine that only exists in my dreams. It was full of those interesting tidbits that make you annoy the people in the room by interrupting them to say, "Wow, did you know that ..." (the table-form thesaurus seems to have been accidentally created by people who were trying to make a language? As native speakers use Esperanto, it's changin
Sep 02, 2011 Jenn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language, non-fiction
In the Land of Invented Languages was an impulse purchase that came about while I was browsing the heavily discounted “Philosophy and Linguistics” section at the Borders where I’ve worked for six years. I’ve never come across a more readable book written by a linguist in all my time earning an undergraduate and master’s degree in the subject.

And where was this book when I was working on my undergraduate thesis paper on Tolkien’s invented language and the difference between truly natural languag
Bastian Greshake
Jan 06, 2016 Bastian Greshake rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The title of the book pretty much says it all. A great and fun journey into the world of invented languages. Recommended for everyone who's able to speak/read 2+ languages (or want to be able to!). ;)
Jan 25, 2012 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
I truly love a journalistic, popular science-y kind of work, and I've read some great ones. This book ranks up there with the very best, like works by Jared Diamond, Michael Pollan or Mary Roach.

Okrent is a wonderful writer. She has compiled her (very thorough!) research here with an impressively fluid organization such that one concept flows seamlessly into the next.

Her writing has just the right balance of authority and humor. She writes like your smartest, funniest friend explaining somethin
Genia Lukin
Mar 08, 2012 Genia Lukin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I am a semi-professional linguist - that is to say, I am rapidly on my way to becoming one, as degrees go - so one would think I read popular linguistics books all the time. Not so. My linguistics reading is usually limited to things with names like "Government, Binding and Control" (which is not a political treatise) and "Language Typology" or "Universal Constraints". In short, just like physicists don't normally read A Brief History of Time, and mathematicians don't use Fermat's Last Theorem a ...more
Andy Love
Mar 26, 2012 Andy Love rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was a delight. I loved the history of invented languages: the ones that were supposed to make thought more rational (like Loglan (I know someone who speaks it)), the ones that were supposed to categorize the world optimally (which eventually resulted in the thesaurus), the ones that were supposed to end war (like Esperanto, Volapuk, and others), the ones just for fun (like Klingon), the ones that were supposed to help handicapped children communicate, and the one that became the langua ...more
Dec 31, 2012 Frumenty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a Christmas present from my daughter (thank you Morgyn), and after some difficulty with "philosophical languages" I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read.
"Philosophical languages" are a nice but totally impractical idea which had a certain vogue in the 17th century. You tabulate all human knowledge and thought, then speak strings of syllables to represent locations in your tables; with additional tweaks to indicate that an idea is to be used as verb, adjective, etc. the words are
Jan 01, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it
Okrent, a degree-holding linguist, gives us an overview of the long history of constructed languages, giving a fair treatment to some notable failures (including a few conditional successes). She takes a hands-on approach to the languages that still exist in the wild, so in the process of researching the subject, she attends some Esperanto functions, gets a first-level certification in Klingon, and almost forgets how English works thanks to the magic of Lojban.

As someone who's spent the past fe
May 17, 2012 Alana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I didn't find the subject matter so compelling, I probably would have been far more put off by the writing style than I was. The author frequently inserts notes about her own personality quirks into otherwise interesting material. I know this is common (if grating) in popular nonfiction, but Okrent's attempts to distance herself from the nerdiness of attending a Klingon conference make me actively dislike her personality. (She reserves her room on-line, unable to imagine admitting to an actua ...more
Oct 06, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing
Okrent begins with her semi-inculcation into Klingon in New Jersey. I sigh, scratch my head, and flip to the back to revisit her credentials. Then she jumps back a few centuries to some cat named John Wilkins in Black Plague-era London where she attempts something of a deconstruction of his invented “Philosophical Language” – contorted diagrams and all – with the aim of tracking down his reinvention of the word “shit.” Things aren’t necessarily looking up. No way I’m getting through this one.

Jul 29, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it
I'd heard about Esperanto in high school. That it was the language of the future, and I'd wondered over the years, why I didn't hear about it anymore. I found out why in this book. It's still around, barely, though it's done better than hundreds of other invented languages. The reasons for inventing languages cover a broad range, from garnering fame for their authors to improving the "weaknesses" of natural languages. But it turns out there are good reasons for the "inconsistencies" of natural l ...more
Sara Q
Dec 05, 2009 Sara Q rated it really liked it
Shelves: language, non-fiction
Arika Okrent treats what could be a dry subject with a healthy dose of good humor. She takes the reader on a whirlwind tour through a few of the artificial language movements of recent history. But rather than give a textbook chronology of who-wrote-what, she interviewed friends and family of the language inventors to give us more intimate portraits of some fantastic personalities. Best of all, she has listed 500 of the known invented languages with dates in Appendix A and then samples of transl ...more
Oct 02, 2011 amy added it
Shelves: swapped
Fascinating. I was a bit worried to read a book by a linguist after the book just before this one being so dry, but this was a really fun and engaging look at the evolution of invented languages, and the process of inventing languages, with vignettes about the lives of a few of the very eccentric types that dare to create the perfect language.

I also enjoyed the chapter with the gentle suggestion that while perfection of language is a lofty goal, that with the wide variety of people using a langu
Jun 23, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining book that covers the history of invented languages back to medieval times. Okrent covers the fads and fallacies that motivated hundreds of language inventors in the 18th and 19th centuries, the many attempts to create a "universal" language in the 19th and 20th centuries (including, of course, the most famous one, Esperanto), and naturally includes chapters on Elvish and Klingon as well.

This is a book about history and pop culture, not a serious linguistics text. It's pre
Breck Mcgough
May 02, 2015 Breck Mcgough rated it really liked it
A well-researched and humorous stroll through invented languages, from Hildegard von Bingen's Lingua Ignota to the Klingon you're hearing from your neighbors next door.
Feb 08, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language
This book is a gem for linguists - it is a fun, breezy account of invented languages and their place in linguistics. The writer clearly knows her stuff and talks as a linguist to other linguists, discussing how these languages have developed following the patterns of other, existing languages (though I will note that from this standpoint she could have left the lengthy explanation of Whorf out). Her account is humorous and detailed, with the introduction of her own opinions about the subject a w ...more
I LOVED this book. Putting it down was physically painful. But a well-written (and often charmingly cheeky) narrative penned by a professional, curious linguist exploring invented languages is essentially candy for my brain. I drank up every well-researched tidbit, every cleverly made observation, every lovingly crafted account of just how interminably weird Klingon speakers are.

If reading Bukowski poems is a thank-you to myself, getting lost in this book was the literary equivalent of onanasti
Oct 10, 2014 Sonja rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Esperantists interested in the language's history, and other language nerds
This is one of my favorite books. I picked it up when I first started studying Esperanto, but the entire book is an absolute gem. Okrent writes with quick wit and deep affection for everyone in this weird world of constructed languages, even the most bizarre of characters. Not only does she talk about the development of invented languages themselves, but also explores the social and political contexts of those languages, and compares some of them to natural languages. In the Esperanto section, f ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Drew rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up on a whim because deep down, I'm a nerd. I've occasionally thought about following in Tolkien's footsteps by inventing enough chunks of a language to pass off various phrases from strange races in my books. Yeah, I know, he did more than a few "chunks" with his creation of elvish but some of the other languages were pretty rudimentary. So, I thought I'd give this book a quick gander, fully expecting to read half of it and then throw it into a pile of "this looked interestin ...more
Oct 02, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
Mi rekomendas tiun libron por ĉiuj Esperantistoj.

An interesting, though sometimes pedantic look at the world of constructed languages, from the 12th century to today, written by a PhD in linguistics. The book is set against the background of the author's investigations of the communities who have learned both Klingon and Esperanto, with brief forays into some other, less well-known conlang speaking groups.

As some other reviews have stated, a lot of Okrent's personality comes across in her writin
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“The job of the linguist, like that of the biologist or the botanist, is not to tell us how nature should behave, or what its creations should look like, but to describe those creations in all their messy glory and try to figure out what they can teach us about life, the world, and, especially in the case of linguistics, the workings of the human mind.” 16 likes
“Before you judge me as some kind of 'anything goes' language heathen, let me just say that I'm not against usage standards. I don't violate them when I want to sound like an educated person, for the same reason I don't wear a bikini to a funeral when I want to look like a respectful person. There are social conventions for the way we do lots of things, and it is to everyone's benefit to be familiar with them. But logic ain't got nothin' to do with it.” 14 likes
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