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From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  155 ratings  ·  24 reviews
From the Elvish language Tolkien invented for denizens of Middle Earth to the science fiction lingo spoken by the Klingons in Star Trek, writers have always endeavored to create new forms of expression, not only in the English language, but in languages that exist only in their own imaginations.
Now, in From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages, a group of leadi
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published October 27th 2011 by Oxford University Press
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Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is along the same lines as Arika Okrent’s In the Land of Invented Languages, but features multiple authors, and a slightly broader interpretation of invented languages, including Joyce’s linguistic games. Most of the essays are reasonably interesting, but the one on Joyce had me totally lost — I haven’t read Joyce, and didn’t know he was considered particularly linguistically inventive. Lacking the context, that particular essay was just… well, rather boring, for me. (In my defence, my ...more
Jul 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: language
A mixed bag of essays on invented languages. Here are brief rundowns on the essays, and a general comment after that:

1. The Spectrum of Invention (Michael Adams). A kind of introduction to some of the conceptual issues that arise in thinking about invented languages. I found this mostly frustrating for its breeziness.

2. Confounding Babel: International Auxiliary Languages (Arden Smith). An excellent, serious account of the attempts to create languages to facilitate communication either worldwide
Chris Fellows
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
The title of this book leads the reader to expect it will be similar to Arika Okrent's "In the Land of Invented Languages", but it covers that particular territory rather more superficially and casts its net a good deal wider. It covers both instances of linguistic invention that fall short of inventing a whole language (such as Newspeak, Nadsat, and various Joycean lexifabricographical framjamkinisations) and the opposite case where linguistic invention is applied to extending an existing natur ...more
Rich Daley
Dec 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Invented languages hold a deep fascination for me, and this book covers every kind: IALs like Volapük and Esperanto, fictional languages like Quenya and Klingon, invented English like Nadsat or the language of Finnegan's Wake, and revitalized ancient languages like Hebrew and Cornish.

There was a lot of stuff in here I didn't know and I feel much more educated about invented languages, especially the political side of revitalizing language and the reasons why people might not want to let English
Dr. Andrew Higgins
May 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a very well written book with a really good survey of the development of constructed and auxiliary languages like Volapuk and Esperanto. There is a big focus on Tolkien's languages (well explained) and Klingon. Adams also includes chapters on James Joyce and revitalized language like Modern Hebrew, Cornish and Irish, His chapter on language developed for computer games (going all the way be to the Gargish of Ultima 6) brings ones back. Good appendices on each language with excellent bibl ...more
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Perhaps the nerdiest book I've read in a long time. Which means of course that I loved it. Also, directly responsible for rekindling the always likely-to-burst-into-open-flame voracious disgusting gluttony of Tolkien book consuming that I'm currently engaged in (there are five books by or about Tolkien on my nightstand presently. And that's counting LOTR as one book.)
Kathryn Lane
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very, very good book. I've been reading many books about Klingon, and this is one of the first ones to approach it from a linguistic / English Language at University level approach, rather than a quick snippet. Well worth a read as the analysis is comprehensive and factually accurate.
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Languages interest me, not just those languages spoken by millions or billions of people, but languages invented for specific purposes, not necessarily spoken by anyone. “From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages,” a 2011 book by Michael Adams, is a fun tour of these invented languages.
The book examines languages like Esperanto, created to be a world language and to promote world peace. Esperanto was invented in 1887 by L.L. Zamenhof, who was fluent in several languages. Although it
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book comprises several essays by different authors, each dealing with "invented languages." The term is used quite broadly, to include not only J.R.R. Tolkien's languages that he devised or the Klingon tongue, but international languages like Volapük and Esperanto, the lingo found in Nineteen Eighty-Four and A Clockwork Orange, gaming languages such as Leet, and even the particular uses of language found in James Joyce and other Irish writers, concluding with "revitalized" languages such as ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
First the good comments: I absolutely love the subject material. Each chapter explores a different category of "invented language," whether it be the aesthetic genius of Elvish or the political ramifications of universalized languages. I come out of this book with a much deeper appreciation for the beauty, potential, and fun of language.

Now the downside: I am a language nerd and I still found a chapter or two a bit tedious. Perhaps this is because every section of the book felt so isolated from
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lots of fun, and not overly technical (if you skip the large paragraphs of examples of phrases in Klingon, Sindarin, or Esperanto). My favorite chapter was the one on gaming languages. As a complete noob, who knew such a thing existed? Again... couldn't all that time spent gaming be spent more productively? As someone who has dabbled with music notation reforms, the practical information about what happens to a language once it's been invented was interesting as well. Interesting format of a col ...more
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The book is ambitious in scope and yet still comprehensive in execution. It does have the tendency to venture away from the strict discussion of artificial languages, but only in order to demonstrate how much the political language revival moments (Hawaiian, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, etc.) have in common with Klingon and Esperanto. Totally worth reading for those who want an academic analysis of constructed languages and the people who speak/use them.
Phil Mc
Feb 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and surprisingly detailed tour through a range of invented languages from Esperanto to Newspeak. The title is perhaps misleading as this has greater academic weight and thoroughness than might be expected; although at times this depth wanted for some graphical representation of complex ideas to allow the discussion to unpick what was interesting free of exhaustive an exhausting lists of features (e.g. The affixes of early IALs).
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is an interesting series of essays on the nature of invented languages and the social and cultural implications of such inventions; it includes chapters on Esperanto, Tolkien's Elvish, the Nadsat of A Clockwork Orange, Klingon, and the inventions of modern Irish and Scottish writers like James Joyce. A good choice for anyone interested in the nature and origins of languages
Jenna (Falling Letters)
I did not read the entire book, but used the essay on Tolkien's invented languages for an undergrad paper I recently wrote. That essay was well-written and informative; it had a scholarly manner that I honestly wasn't expecting in this sort of 'popular' book. If you are a Tolkien fan I recommend the essay included in this anthology!
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent book for those interested in invented languages, whether others' or their own. Some of the essays are more informative than others, but together the book forms an excellent compendium on a range of topics on constructed languages.
Richard Jacobs
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
There's some interesting stuff, but for the most part it's too technical and scholarly to be an enjoyable read.
Sam Fenn
Aug 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Very interesting and in fact helpful.
Aug 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Review to come in Linguistic Typology... :)
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Will by: 166
Great collection of essays on various topics related to "invented" languages... including the issues surrounding "revived" languages like Hebrew and Irish.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Extremely interesting topic. But alas, beware! A deeper truth rises as if it came from the deepest of any & all R'ylehs: that ALL LANGUAGES ARE INVENTIONS.
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Some parts were very interesting, but others were too detailed on the minutia of languages that went over my head.
Barbara Bristow
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: language
A collection of essays, each devoted to a separate language. I thought the chapter on Klingon went on a little too long about Shakespeare in Klingon, but didn't mention the Bible translation(s).
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Michael Adams teaches at North Carolina State University. He is the author of Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon (Oxford University Press, 2003) and co-author of How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction to the English Language (Longman, 2005). From 2000 to 2005, he was editor of Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. In 2006, he will become editor of Am ...more