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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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  2,372 ratings  ·  368 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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Daniel M. And some insight about Tolkein is also given... in particular, he was a fan of inventing languages, and he talked about writing the Lord of the Ring a…moreAnd some insight about Tolkein is also given... in particular, he was a fan of inventing languages, and he talked about writing the Lord of the Ring as a way to give him a reason to invent those languages. Fascinating. (less)

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David
Jun 09, 2009 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:
...more
Wanda
I think I would really enjoy sitting down for a cup of coffee and a discussion with this author! She is a linguist and linguistics is a favourite subject of mine. She knows a thing or two about the Library of Congress classification schedules too (or at least the P section of them, linguistics & languages), which appeals to my inner cataloguing nerd. Plus, she is just interested in words and their history and in the psychology of people who strive to build better languages.

I was absolutely gobsm
...more
Emily
Nov 08, 2009 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
...more
ALLEN
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whatever happened to Esperanto -- is it still ticking? And Volapük, does anyone still speak it? Here's the low-down on invented languages, starting with the mystical Seventeeth and enlightened Eighteen centuries, when serious attempts were made not only to name BUT TO ORDER every word out there in wholly new languages that would be not only rational but would unpack our (now we know) unpackable universe.

Then came the One Worlders: the rise of nationalism in the Nineteenth Century provoked a rea
...more
Julie
Feb 19, 2011 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
...more
Dani Dányi
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Language nerds are my kind of people.
Arika Okrent too, and this is a really well-writ book, informative, contiguous with stuff familiar to me yet full of new stories and information. Shout-outs to kids' invented languages, to Tolkien's massive works, Esperantist congresses, computer code, Newspeak, among other things, made me feel semi-initiated in this weird and quite wonderful pseudo-culture of obscure, eccentric and often as not misguided concepts, notions, and of course whatever may or may n
...more
Jimmy
Dec 20, 2010 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
...more
AdiTurbo
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book! I have been in love with languages since childhood, and this book fed my obsession fully. It is amazingly well-researched and the writer is clearly knows more about languages than any person should, but the writing feels natural and not academic-dry, is full of humor and keeps you turning the pages to learn what other crazy stuff people have come up with, and what it can teach us about how language and the human mind work. One of the best non-fiction books I've read this year, an ...more
Ian Tregillis
Oct 13, 2010 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
...more
Nicky
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I’m not much of a linguist in the technical sense, though I do enjoy learning languages (and especially doing translation), so I wasn’t sure if reading a book about invented languages might be too technical. Luckily, it isn’t: In the Land of Invented Languages is actually a really easy read, with a more personal than professional analysis of the languages discussed — although it does go into some details about how each one works, why it’s effective or not, how much it’s used, etc.

Better, Okrent
...more
Erik
Jul 31, 2010 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
...more
CarolineFromConcord
Feb 01, 2011 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
Jenn Golden
Aug 29, 2011 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
...more
TBML
Jan 25, 2011 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
Anne
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

Go ahead and consider my mind blown. I had no idea that that many people (going back to the 1600s in Europe!) have taken that much time and energy to create new languages for such a plethora of idealistic, silly, and/or creative reasons. I laugh that so many seem(ed) to think that their precious baby language was going to be The One. The One that solved all our problems, that united all of humanity. LOL. Fail.

The two types of invented languages that caused my head to throb in agony were
...more
Vanessa
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: language, npr
If you've listened to any stories about conlangs (or "constructed languages") on NPR over the past few years, you've almost definitely heard the author, Arika Okrent (her first name is pronounced like "Erica.")

In this fun read, Okrent charts the colorful history of invented languages--from Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century up through Mark Okrand's invention of a full Klingon lexicon for the Star Trek films and TNG. Until several decades into the 20th century, language inventors were Utopi
...more
Bandit
Dec 04, 2015 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
John
Jul 09, 2010 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
Joshua Buhs
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun.

Arika Okrent is intrigued by languages that have been created whole-cloth--like Esperanto or Klingon or the elvish tongues of Tolkien. Ultimately, it is, as she says, a story of failure--depending upon your definition, either very few or no invented languages have really succeeded. And most are forgotten. But it is still worthwhile to explore the various impulses that lead to these attempts, and contemplate the reasons for their failure.

After a couple of introductory chapters, Okrent divides
...more
Julie
Nov 10, 2008 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
Res
Jun 14, 2010 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
...more
Stephen
Jan 26, 2011 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
...more
Bastian Greshake Tzovaras
Jan 04, 2016 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!). ;)
Simon
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very interesting and entertaining book, as much about the people who invent languages as the languages they invent.
Ensiform
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: language, non-fiction
[Random Read. 18, Language.]

The author, a linguist, delves into the history of invented languages, from Lingua Ignota, created by a nun in the 12th century for reasons unknown, and Balaibalan, "an Arabic-Persian-Turkish mix" created sometimes in the Middle Ages possibly for religious purposes; to Francis Lodwick's and George Dalgarno's systems which used picture radicals that fit together like Legos to make words; to modern attempts that had the ambition to promote world peace, such as Esperanto
...more
Jerzy
Jun 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Great story and pretty well told too... The takeaway lesson seems to be that (1) many people have invented a language with the intent of "improving on" natural languages, but they have generally failed to catch on; (2) the few invented languages that do survive at all (even if with only 10-20 semi-fluent speakers) are the ones that appeal to an existing community or somehow manage to create one for themselves.
There are lots of cool linguistic tidbits throughout the book, and interesting thoughts
...more
E
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to enjoy this more than I did. I really liked reading about the ways the different people decided to create their own languages i.e. through taxonomy (creating basically the first thesaurus) or through pictures (Blissymbols). I didn't so much care about the history of the person though, like how Bliss alienated everyone and stole money from disabled children in lieu of the recognition/love he craved. I liked the stories about people using the languages, making friends, and the couch-sur ...more
Hannah Zheng
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Meh. Not as exciting or as easy to read as I expected, although there were some interesting parts (a reward for persevering to the end and reading about Tolkien and Klingon).
I especially liked the Láadan language invented in the 1980s by a women, for all women. There are some great words in there, such a single word to encompass the idea of a festive or holiday period which is intended to be restful but is actually anything but when you are responsible for all the preparations for it, or, a sing
...more
Ashley
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Informative and interesting. I would have given it more stars were it not for the author’s own insecurities and hangups. She’s too easily weirded out and embarrassed for my tastes.
Frumenty
Dec 29, 2012 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
...more
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Arika Okrent is an American linguist, known particularly for her 2009 book In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language, a result of her five years of research into the topic of constructed languages.
Arika Okrent was born in Chicago and became fascinated with languages at an early age. She flitted
...more

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