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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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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, Blissymbolics, and the nearly nine hundred other invented languages that represent the hard work, high hopes, and full-blown delusions of so many misguided souls over the centuries.

In In The Land of Invented Languages, author Arika Okrent tells the fascinating and highly entertaining history of man's enduring quest to build a better language. Peopled with charming eccentrics and exasperating megalomaniacs, the land of invented languages is a place where you can recite the Lord's Prayer in John Wilkins's Philosophical Language, say your wedding vows in Loglan, and read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in Lojban.

A truly original new addition to the booming category of language books, In The Land of Invented Languages will be a must-have on the shelves of all word freaks, grammar geeks, and plain old language lovers.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published May 19, 2009

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About the author

Arika Okrent

5 books85 followers
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 from language to language in school, wondering why she couldn't just settle down and commit to one, until she finally discovered a field that would support and encourage her scandalous behavior: Linguistics. After some lengthy affairs with Hungarian (she taught in Hungary after college) and American Sign Language (she earned an M.A. in Linguistics from Gallaudet, the world's only university for the deaf), she began a Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago, where she fell hard for Psycholinguistics. She first worked in a gesture research lab, and later took up with a brain research lab, where she conducted the experiments that would earn her a degree in 2004. By that time she had begun to spend long afternoons with the languages that even linguists think they're too good for -- the artificial languages, losers like Esperanto and Klingon. Initial feelings of pity and revulsion gave way to fascination and affection, and she embarked on a whirlwind romance with the history of invented languages. The love child of this passion is her book In the Land of Invented Languages.

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Profile Image for Petra on hiatus, really unwell.
2,457 reviews34.4k followers
December 21, 2020
It's a kind of grand, philosophical undertaking to invent a universal language. A generic language. And that's the problem not one of them has overcome. We learn languages from babyhood, everyone's mother tongue is easy to them. It expresses shared experiences, the way we do things, our culture that makes us different from everyone else.

The main reason all invented languages and almost all revived ones fail is that the acquistion of language comes naturally from the cradle and after that most of us find it really hard to learn another one. This is a point the author doesn't make. As a linguist who finds learning a new language about as hard as a non-cook would to learn a cake recipe (ie minor effort) she doesn't seem to have an appreciation of the difficulty most people have in learning one they didn't grow up speaking.

Languages are invented for various reasons, simplification and universality are the most common. The ones more 'out there' are Klingon and Laadan, a language meant to convey a women's perspective (rather the opposite of Klingon). There is also Charles Bliss's Semantography which is a pictorial language of symbols.

This was used (but not in the US or UK) to teach non-verbal children who had cerebral palsy to express themselves. Previously (and in the US and UK still) they had picture boards and could only point or nod towards a picture or indicate a yes/no to an answer. Bliss's symbols could be combined and allowed children to express themselves. Once they were fluent in this, which apparently wasn't hard, the word could be written underneath the symbol and the child transitioned to English. This saved many children who had been thought to be brain damaged because of their disability with communication.

Bliss was an interesting character. He was in Buchenwald and Dachau camps but his wife, a German Catholic 20 years older than him, got him out and he went to Shanghai - where there were 20,000 Jews who couldn't get visas for anywhere else. .

Buss was fascinated by the Chinese written language and invented a 'logical writing for an illogical world'. Such a language, he thought, would not just enable people of different nations to communicate easily but would also free their minds from the power of words. He had seen how Hitler's slogans made people believe that his propaganda lies were true and thought that a system of symbols would not be susceptible to the 'malicious manipulation' of the truth. It did work to enable children with cerebral palsy to express themselves and learn language, but it went no further than that.

Various nations try and revive languages by teaching them in schools and having road signs and public documents in the language. Ireland does this but it is a minority language that is spoken as a first language only by those whose families had always spoken it. Those who learned it, do not speak it as a first language if they speak it at all. Neither did it work with Maori or Hawaiian. It is the same situation in South Wales. In North Wales it has always been the first language and remains so, but in South Wales it is a different situation.

The 'iron masters', the Englishmen, like the Heseltines, owned the Welsh coalmines where the miners were treated very badly and worked in unsafe conditions, one step up from slavery paid (little) and free but to do what - there was nothing else. In order to suppress the constant fear of rebellion they forbade the speaking of Welsh which they did not understand

In schools there was the infamous 'Welsh Not'. The first child of the day caught speaking Welsh would have a board with WN on it hung around their neck. This would be passed to the next child and so on. The last child of the day wearing it, would be severely beaten. Welsh is taught in all schools, there is a tv station in Welsh, many street names and directions are in Welsh and all documents are bilingual but for all that Welsh was never revived as a spoken language in South Wales. I'm from South Wales, so I now how it is. (But it remains the first language of North Wales where there were no mineral deposits for the English to exploit).

Hebrew is the only successfully revived language. It was a written-only language for a thousand or more years. By the time the refugees from the terrible pogroms in Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe got to Palestine in the last years of the 19th and first years of the 20thC there were very long established communities of North African Arabic speaking Jews, Palestinian Arabic speaking Jews and Judeo-Spanish speaking Jews as well as other smaller groups of Jews with different languages. By the efforts of Ben-Yehuda, Hebrew became the language of schools and newspapers, replacing the various Arabics, French and German (which the 'educated' classes liked).

It took years for the language to standardise, but because the children were exposed to the language in day care and kindergarten, they spoke it to each other in a natural way. However, Biblical Hebrew and modern day Hebrew, Ivrit, are not the same, there are many concepts and items that needed to have invented words. I kind of got into trouble with this.

1. Stupid misinterpretation because of ancient Hebrew

2. Really stupid and potentially dangerous use of ancient Hebrew

3. Phenomenal embarrassment due to using biblical Hebrew causing me to leave college and embark on a restaurant career

There are several invented languages that have tried, as did Bliss with his written one, to get rid of all influence of other languages so that a word would not carry the shades of meaning that it might in English, it would be totally neutral. These languages are doomed to failure by their objective as they are forever in a state of revision. It's just an intellectual exercise.

Trying to get rid of all nuances from the language the inventor/team speak as their first language is nigh on impossible, but also although it might be a great altruistic aim, it is an unwanted one. It is by shades of meaning, by emotional resonances and the evolving of a language in response to cultural change that language is useful for expressing oneself. Where would authors, especially poets, be with a language where each word referred only to that item, that description, that action, and could not conjure up pictures and emotions full of meaning in the reader's head?

It's a kind of grand, philosophical undertaking to invent a universal language. A generic language. And that's the problem not one of them has overcome. We learn languages from babyhood, everyone's mother tongue is easy to them. It expresses shared experiences, the way we do things, our culture that makes us different from everyone else.

Esperanto is the most successful of invented languages. It was a soulless universal tool that had no history attached to it. No strange and weird words that derive from ancient times, no slang that has meaning only to those who are from that culture. No thousand words and phrases meaning "I love you", almost computerese as it might have been imagined (but never came to pass). But it is still the most successful of invented languages. And that's because it changed from being just a tool of communication between nations into a giant social club.

One Esperantist will offer - a sort of linguistic-based couch surfing - hospitality for another Esperantist tourist, meetings are perhaps more a chance to get together than to practice the language, there are summer camps, all kind of interesting social occasions. And thereby the language acquired a soul, a slang, words that had meaning and nuances, something people could feel affection for and express themselves in well. We might think of them as anoraks, trainspotters, but they think of themselves almost a tribe united by an exclusive language. The only similar language is Klingon, and calling them anoraks doesn't go half way to describing their nuttiness!

Schools still go on teaching English, French and Spanish and soon Chinese. But never any invented language. Air travel has got us into our present Plague state. Air travel is how people and goods move around the world quickly, and the language of the air, pilots, air traffic controllers etc is English. The Chinese may well become the next dominant nation, but they will continue to learn English. We will not speak Mandarin.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,603 followers
January 23, 2021
Absolutely terrific read on the history of invented languages, which is weirder, sadder, funnier and more heartwarming than you might think. Great stories here about some really, uh, unique people, as well as a lot of interesting stuff on the nature of language and our relationship to it. Well written, funny and extremely involving. I wolfed it down with great enjoyment and have a newfound and unexpected respect for people who speak Klingon (not to mention the guy who invented it, who is clearly a genius living his best life).
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,338 followers
June 10, 2009
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:

John Wilkins's "philosophical language" (1668)
Ludwik Zamenhof's Esperanto (1887)
Charles Bliss's symbolic language, "Semantography" (1949)
James Cooke Brown's language of logic, "Loglan" (1960)
Marc Okrand's Klingon (1985)

A major strength of the book is Okrent's ability to place each of these particular invented languages within its historical context. She also manages to convey the essential flavor of each language in a style which is not overburdened with linguistic technicalities, and with a refreshing sense of humor throughout.

Her tolerance for the sheer weirdness that permeates the various personalities she encounters along the way ultimately exceeds mine. I had a certain grudging admiration for John Wilkins's noble attempt to categorize everything in the universe, as well as for the idealism displayed by proponents of Esperanto. But the monomania of Bliss and Brown, their protracted legal wranglings in defence of their weirdly idosyncratic creations made for depressing reading. And, though I share a certain geekiness where language is concerned, it doesn't really extend far enough to make me find the development of Klingon and the antics of those who "speak" it anything other than tedious.

So, I think this book would have 5-star appeal only to someone far geekier than I. Nonetheless, it is an impressive and entertaining accomplishment. The author is to be congratulated.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,921 reviews386 followers
January 16, 2018
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 gobsmacked at how many artificial languages are lurking out there and how often that particular bee seems to get into someone’s bonnet! Mostly, the creators seems to be altruists—Esperanto was going to be the language that allowed us all to understand one another and prevent future wars. Many of these language developers were hoping to express “pure” concepts and keep prejudice and politics out of things. Unfortunately for them, language just doesn’t work that way! One of the best uses of language is politicking! Also unfortunate is the tendency of these men (and I think we can say that it’s mostly men who attempt this) to be unable to let go and let their languages run free, to change during regular use. Their rigid attempts to control the people using their languages seemed to negate any positive uses for their creations.

I was amused as the author’s type-A, gung-ho attempt to learn Klingon. If I had been at that particular conference, I would have been right at her side competing to my heart’s content! I loved that in her author note at the end of the volume, she listed both PhDs and her Klingon 1st level pin as her accomplishments.

What I found a bit freaky: I returned to work on Monday (having read the book on the weekend) and the very first volume that I picked up to catalogue was written in Esperanto! (I’ve been working on a big collection of materials by and about H.G. Wells and am busy with translations right now.) That little piece of synchronicity was amusing.
Profile Image for Emily.
687 reviews631 followers
November 9, 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 into all kind of other words related to the concept of language [like püked, "sentence"]. ... I can't help throwing in another example here. "To succeed"? Plöpön.
But the book is much smarter than this. It gives a history of invented languages in a historical context, showing how the form and function of the languages fit in with the scientific or linguistic fads of the time. In the 17th century, scholars were just discovering the power of mathematical notations to reveal concrete truths and permit international debate. Many became convinced that nonmathematical concepts could be expressed in similar ways, resulting in a language where every concept had to be looked up and its meaning made precise, through a table, and then all the concepts jammed together into an unreadable "sentence." The language failed, but the table gave us Roget's Thesaurus. In the late 19th century, scholars were mesmerized by the idea of Proto-Indo-European as an ancestor of most European languages and wanted to create easy-to-learn languages that drew on those commonalities--of which Esperanto was the most successful among hundreds of attempts. In the 1960s, some people wanted to have a human language with precision and unambiguity of computer languages, which led to Loglan.

As Okrent goes through these examples, she is really giving us a history of what people think their languages should be. The attempts at invented languages could be roughly said to progress from systems that are very unnatural (unspeakable assemblages of numbers or letters) to systems that seek to combine all of the inventor's favorite aspects of natural languages. For example, one language created by a feminist fantasy author includes words like "radiidin: non-holiday, a time allegedly a holiday but actually so much a burden because of work and preparations that it is a dreaded occasion" and requires a syntactic structure "indicating the speech act being performed (statement, question, command, request, promise, warning)." Both Klingon and Lobjan (a fork of Loglan) are essentially composed of elements from obscure natural languages that some linguistics nerds found interesting and wanted to play with.

This is simultaneously a quirky book about silly languages, a respectful book about language communities, and an informative book about linguistics--much more than I expected it to be.
Profile Image for ALLEN.
553 reviews121 followers
September 3, 2018
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 reaction in Esperanto, Ido, Volapük and other invented languages that were meant to cross national boundaries, be easy to learn, simplify grammar, and generally pull humankind together.

Those movements generally went into decline after the Second World War. However, don't accept the blithe assumptions that English has become the world's *lingua franca* and that's that. A lot more is going on and new invented languages are popping up all the time, though often, as with the "Blissymbol" system, they find uses other than pure communication. (Blessedly, author Akira Okrent knows just when to stop shy of entering the realm of computer languages, so if you're looking for a taste of Fortran, Cobal or Linux, go elsewhere.)

A recurring theme in this insightful work is that no perfect language can be obtained because by the time one can be compiled, the social uses of it change and prompt either schisms or evolutions in the invented language. **SPOILERS**: An example of breach is Loglan, whose adherents so strongly rebelled against its conservative founder that they came up with Lojban, originally meant to incorporate changes the master would not permit. (For the record, these are both difficult and complicated languages and would probably have any old-school Esperantist shaking his *kapo* (or her *kapa*) in dismay.)

Esperanto itself is an example of a created language refusing to remain static, as younger speakers casually drop the "n" accusative ending of nouns much as English-speakers commonly dismiss with terminal "g" from our words, and slang expressions and colorful idioms continue to bloom and grow.

You can probably see that I enjoyed Akira Okrent's book very much. If you like books about language, you probably will too.
Profile Image for Jimmy.
512 reviews737 followers
September 25, 2011
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 years. Almost all of these are complete failures, if you define a failure of a language as one that isn't used by anyone. But what drives these people to create them in the first place, against all odds of mass adaption?

Well, first of all, it takes a hell of an eccentric to come up with a language and have the guns to stick with the laborious task of creating a full vocabulary, rules, syntax, etc. These folks are usually dreamers. They were unsatisfied with natural languages for various reasons: inconsistencies, illogicality, difficulty, imprecision, etc. so they set out to create a language of their own that would be free from these flaws.

This book follows five main invented languages as well as covering many other competing ones in lesser detail: Wilkin's Philosophical Language, Esperanto, Blissymbolics, Loglan, and Klingon. Each one had a different history, a different ideal that the inventor wanted to achieve, and a different outcome in terms of real world use.

But what makes this book head and shoulders above most other books that cover a fascinating subject is…


Unlike some books written by a journalist who has dabbled in a weird subculture, Arika Okrent is herself a linguist that just happens to be a really good writer, and so she is more than equipped to bring out subtle insights (without getting too technical for the layman)... things like what made this language unique, and why did it succeed/fail? I particularly enjoyed the section on why the many flaws and imperfections in natural languages are actually necessary and/or good for certain things (usability for example). And she's more than just a distant academic voice, throughout the book she makes a good effort to learn each language that she talks about, and when available, immerses herself in the subculture of its speakers (Esperanto, Klingon). Even though she is an academic, there is no sober stuffiness here, her enthusiasm for her subject is evident on every page.


The book is hilarious! I laughed through many parts of it, especially the part where she described going out to a restaurant with a bunch of Klingon speakers who have sworn to speak only Klingon that day, and how she died of shame as they started to order in their made-up language, pointing and grunting at the menu despite the poor waiter's confusion.

But the humor isn't a cheap one. It would be easy to just poke fun all day at this cast of characters (they definitely give her plenty of material). But because she relates to them (to a degree), she sees through to what drives them, what makes them devote so much time to such a futile enterprise. And so the humor is very good natured, very balanced and genuine, and in a way, it's as if she's having a good chuckle at herself at times.


She doesn't just highlight these languages and the people behind them, providing factoids and interesting tidbits good for dinner-party conversations. No, at the beginning of each chapter she gives a timeline of the key events before and after. This allows you to see that these languages weren't invented in a vacuum, but that they represented a real continuity sprung from a certain context. These inventors were idealists, but idealists within their time, and so the languages they invented reflected these dreams: the need for an ultimate order to the world for example (Wilkins), or the need to circumvent the duplicity of words (Blissymbolics). She's somehow able to tell very human stories through the medium of linguistics.
Profile Image for Julie.
449 reviews20 followers
February 19, 2011
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 having to make that shift in my head. What finally clued me in? Her reference to her husband. But of course then I had to stop and reread that, and realize.. no, she still didn't say she wasn't a man who happened to have a husband. But of course flipping to the author bio and author picture on the back dust flap.. well, that was pretty definitive. And you might think 'Arika' would've made me think it was most likely a woman. And yet..

No, somehow I didn't really notice the author's name. Did not read her bio before reading the book. Did not see her picture before starting to read the book.

And yes, even though I know linguistics is one science where there are a lot of women.. somehow I still thought it was a man writing it for a good way into the book.

End tangent.

So the author starts out learning about Klingon and going to a Klingon convention (excuse me, conference). And that part was interesting, and then she leaves us there to backtrack and talk about all these other languages that were invented before Klingon. Which is kind of shame, because I found the discussion of Klingon culture (that is, the culture of human Klingon speakers, not actual Klingons) and the discussion of Esperanto culture to be, actually, more interesting than the history of the people who invented the languages in the first place.

But that was interesting too. A lot of men with ideas that natural languages just weren't doing it for them, and thought they could do better.

And not too far into it, I started to think.. you know, these languages probably have a huge male bias to them. Like, there's one chart of bodily functions and I did not see menstruation on there. I bet he left that concept out of his language.

Or there'd be languages where the default is 'male' and to make 'female' or 'woman', you had to add something. As in English.

So I was thinking that would be a really interesting study to do and wondering if I was capable of doing it without a linguistics or women's studies degree.

And then somewhere after the point where I realized the author was a woman, she starts talking about Laadan. And of course I knew about that language already, because I loved Suzette Haden Elgin's book (before I knew it was a series). And of course the first words she uses in discussing her female-oriented language is.. menstruation. And to form the male version of like man and boy, you first start with the default of female and turn it male.

So yea, female linguists noticed that male-ness before I ever conceived of it. And it's nice to know not all invented languages are male in origin. Even though I sort of already knew that.

And, in the end, I got more interested in Esperanto, Laadan, and Klingon. As the three languages that I consider most useful to know more about. Considering two of them are alive and well, and the other is gendered differently.

I downloaded an Esperanto learning app on my iPhone. I did not do a Klingon one, because that COSTS MONEY STUPID PARAMOUNT GREEDMONSTERS GRR.

I did not look for a Laadan app. I kind of assumed there wasn't one. (Searched. Does not appear to be one.)

Profile Image for AdiTurbo.
720 reviews79 followers
June 8, 2016
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, and I enjoyed every minute reading it.
Profile Image for Dani Dányi.
459 reviews57 followers
January 8, 2020
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 not pass as an invented language.
To counter this gushing of enthusiasma, I was put off by the depth of wallowing in some of the more noxious language crafters out there, especially this Charles K. Bliss guy, yuk.
Even so. Fascinating.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,672 reviews302 followers
September 29, 2020
Despite the many obstacles, individuals and groups continue to be inspired to invent a language. Arika Okrent is a linguist who has studied these languages and tried to learn a few of them. She reports on them and brings to life their colorful developers. The result a handy guide to this unusual world.

The developers have had different goals and approaches. Some developers, such as John Wilkins in the 1660’s had the goal of making language more rational. To do this he created philosophical groupings of vocabulary words. Other styles, such the one used by Cave Beck, tried numbering words that are grouped by type. Modern day Loglan and Lojban similarly try to be rational using grammar and to refine meaning (such as eliminating words with double meanings and adding ways to add clarity to action).

Once vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation systems are developed, the challenge becomes getting people to learn and use the new language.

Invented languages seem to attract speakers when they fill a need. A good example is American Sign Language. A little known language based on symbols (Blisssymbolic) is a success for helping a small number or severely disabled people communicate. Hebrew, like Latin waned in use to mostly serve academic and religious purposes, was revived to unite a new nation of immigrants.

Okrent brings to life other invented language attempts. Some have have been to blend regional languages into one or to facilitate world peace by communication in a language free of colonial connotations. One developer, noting the male bias in language, developed a new system with vocabulary to reflect a woman’s point of view. Some languages have roots in popular culture such and Klingon from StarTrek and languages in the Lord of the Rings books.

With Esperanto being the highest name recognition language of all but ASL, I was glad for Okrent’s discussion of it. She writes of its idealistic origins and how today speakers are spread around the world, welcoming each other to their homes. The annual convention sounds like a fun event. The speakers of Klingon have fun too at the Star Trek conventions. They can join in the cosplay, but have to pass a vocabulary test to be officially in the Klingon language group.

Appendix A is a chronological list of 500 languages which Okrent winnowed from a list of over 900 such languages. Throughout the book there are samples sentences with English translations; Appendix B has more good examples. The notes list sources, some academic and some general but the most interesting parts of the book are the interviews and the author’s personal experiences.

This is an engaging informative work. For the lay person it is a handy guide to languages with a light does of linguistics. For those language professionals it can provide a welcome break from academic papers.
Profile Image for Ian Tregillis.
Author 73 books1,073 followers
October 14, 2010
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 a linguist; I don't even have a knack for languages. But I am fascinated by linguistics, and I've always been fascinated by conlangs like Esperanto and the even more exotic Volapuk. And I've long been really, really fascinated with the various medieval efforts to reconstruct the "perfect" language of creation. All of which feature prominently in this book.

The author's scholarly training shines in the way she cleverly organizes the discussion into distinct eras, each distinguished by the prevailing motivations for the men and women behind the constructed languages of that time. It's quite effective. But while the organization is clear and methodical, the tone and delivery are never dry or high or academic. At times funny, at times poignant, the book never loses sight of the fact that a book about language is a book about people who love language. Some of the major players in this book are, or were, well, odd ducks. But the author never descends into elbow-ribbing ridicule.

She veers close to it in the opening chapter when she describes her first interactions with Klingon speakers, but when the book returns to Klingon much later, we see (and share) a fondness for the Klingon enthusiasts thanks to a journey through centuries of (mostly) failed attempts to change the way we communicate with one another.

Which is really the ancient story of people seeking connection with one another. And I think the author's approach brings that to the fore.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
December 1, 2016
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 actually participates or participated in some events based around these languages, like Klingon and Esperanto, so she has an insider view (to some extent, anyway). It’s kind of fun reading about how she got hooked on learning Klingon, and her mixed feelings about hanging round with the other Klingon speakers. While she mostly talks about why these invented languages aren’t really successful, she does so with sympathy and an eye to how they create communities and cultures, and also a deep appreciation for the coolness of conlangs and the communities around them. (Even if that coolness is a very geeky, linguistic coolness, obviously.)

It’s an absorbing and entertaining read, which is also pretty informative, and I found myself wanting to share it immediately. For those with a bit more knowledge, I think you might want more detail about the technical workings of some languages, but as a survey of invented languages and their communities, I think it’s pretty awesome.

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for saïd.
6,316 reviews965 followers
December 15, 2021
Personally I think the ideal "global" language would be Korean. I have logical reasoning to back me up (spelling is regular, the writing system is super easy, the conjugation makes sense, it's comparatively simple in pronunciation, once you get the hang of reading then it's also super easy, etc.) but really, I don't think I've ever seen Korean mentioned as a contender for a hypothetical universal language. Mostly I see people talking about Mandarin Chinese or Standard English (i.e., American and/or British, not AAVE or other dialects), because those are two of the "biggest" languages—Chinese has the most speakers, and English is the de facto language of the Internet—and then maybe throwing in languages like Esperanto just for kicks. Now, I personally hate Esperanto; it's a stupid language with all the flaws of its parents and none of the linguistic idiosyncrasies that make languages unique and beautiful, and it's so Eurocentric it's honestly painful. After all, it's in the Latin alphabet; never mind that the majority of languages in the world do not use the Latin alphabet. I'd love to see an Eastern equivalent to Esperanto, which would be—oh wait, it would be Korean, wouldn't it? Hmm. Funny, that.
Profile Image for Iona Sharma.
Author 9 books117 followers
December 22, 2021
I've read this before but enjoyed it just as much on the reread! It's a whistle-stop tour around several constructed languages, beginning with Klingon and Esperanto and then a lot you haven't heard of. It's fascinating and very funny and suffused with wonder at what these people have managed to do, despite widespread ridicule. In particular, Okrent is charmed by the Esperantists and expresses it so well that the reader is also extremely charmed by the Esperantists! I had hoped for a chapter on languages that are not wholly invented but resurrected from the dead, and there is actually a section on modern Hebrew but not on, say, Cornish or Manx, but that isn't a criticism of this really wonderful book.
443 reviews18 followers
July 31, 2010
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 universal philosophical ones (like John Wilkins’ efforts), to the highly logical ones (like Loglan and its offspring) that their creators hope will cure all social ills and create everlasting peace on Earth. (Esperantists also hope for that last bit, too.)

One delight was learning that Roget’s Theasaurus – which I discovered when I was the ripe age of twelve, and which I devoured throughout my teenage years (it came in mighty handy whenever I was writing my own comic book stories, or for those tough high school writing assignments) – was directly inspired by the universal philosophical language efforts of Wilkins. Sure, his language is undoubtedly cumbersome. But its schematic organization had a direct influence on Roget’s work, as well as the classification systems used in many of the sciences (particularly biology).

Of course, the claim that a pure logical, universal language can “bring about peace, dissolve selfishness, and align the conscious and subconscious mind” (Weilgart) is an illusion, the efforts of the die-hard linguists is nothing short of admirable. In fact, one could argue that these efforts – although they often ended up fruitless as actual spoken languages – have had a major influence on modern logic, law, and mathematics – if not the computer sciences.

For a delightfully wondrous and equally bizarre journey into the extreme fringe of the field of linguistics, Okrent’s book can’t be beat. And if that isn’t recommendation enough, consider that she learnt Klingon and passed a proficiency exam at an annual Klingon qep’a’ when writing her book. You can’t slight someone who practices what they preach.
Profile Image for CarolineFromConcord.
421 reviews19 followers
February 1, 2011
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 this: "radiidin, non-holiday, a time allegedly a holiday but actually so much a burden because of work and preparations that it is a dreaded occasion; esp'ly when there are too many guests and none of them help."
Okrent gets into the wildly varied reasons people invent a language and why natural languages are more flexible. She covers some languages (like Klingon, invented only for artistic fun) in depth. I loved the part about the U.S. Office of Nuclear Waste Isolation asking "semiotician" Thomas Sebeok in the 1980s how to post warnings that would last 10,000 years on waste-storage sites. He recommended all known languages, pictures, icons, all sorts of symbols, and having the keepers every 250 years rethink the warnings based on current messaging. He also recommended creating a spooky mythology around the site that would be passed on from "priest' to "priest" beyond the time they could be expected to know the reason for it. All they would know is the "curse."
Too many great tidbits to describe here. I laughed all the way through.
Profile Image for Jenn Golden.
294 reviews14 followers
September 2, 2011
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 language and logic games?

I absolutely loved this book. It was a fun look through the history of invented languages and what drives men to yearn for a more perfect language. Okrent identifies different eras of language development, including: philosophical languages intended to correlate sound with meaning, pictographic representations and easily learned languages to facilitate cooperation among different nationalities.

Although there is some technical discussion about the different languages, the jargon is kept to a minimum (I think. I meant to monitor this better, but I got so caught up in the overall discussion that I forgot to keep tabs on the jargon.)

If you have any interest in invented language at all, pick up this book. It’s worth it.

Favorite quote: on picking a language to learn by impact-to-proficiency ratio: “Pretty good Hungarian gets you a lot more love in Budapest than perfect French buys you in Paris…”
Profile Image for TBML.
121 reviews2 followers
January 25, 2011
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 constructed a philosophical language), Ludwig Zamenhof (whose Esperanto sought world peace), Charles Bliss (whose Blissymbolics helped children with cerebral palsy), and John Cook Brown (who devised the logical language Loglan). One also meets linguists Mark Okrand, inventor of Klingon, and Suzette Haden Elgin, who created Ladaan, a language encoding women's experiences, and who wonders why a language for women has languished while one for alien warriors thrives. Quirky characters and topic make this a success! Annalyn

Profile Image for Anne.
974 reviews10 followers
January 31, 2018
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 philosophical and logical (for a lack of a better term) because they just couldn't resist mathing it all up. Reducing every word to its essential concepts (philosophical languages) or structuring a language into mathematical formulas via functions and arguments seem to be the two best bet ways to create amazingly unwieldy languages (plus, I was extremely skeptical of the "universality" of both types of systems). But, um, A for effort. I'm going to go watch an episode of Star Trek to ease the (delightful) pain in my brain.
Profile Image for Lianna.
40 reviews
February 5, 2018
Alternative title: One Woman's Informed Opinion on a Subject She Doesn't Like


Given the title, I expected this book to be about invented languages, not the politics around them, or long and detailed biographies of their inventors. At best, linguistic detais are about 30% of the text. I loved those bits; the languages vary dramatically, some created to be rigidly logical, categorising every detail of the universe, some created to try to unify the human race, and some created purely for fun. Some, like Lojban, with a 600 page grammar guide not including its dictionary, are a headache. Another, a pictoral language called Blissymbolics, didn't work out too well on its own but was adopted by carers of children with cerebral palsy to help them communicate, and that worked wonderfully- but that was drowned in the story of its inventor, Bliss, and his desperate need for recognition. This might have been an interesting side note, a bit of useful context, but instead it took over completely.

I can't remember the names of most of the languages discussed. The book was poorly strucured; content spilled from one chapter into another, and within a chapter topics could slide between the life histories of three different language inventors, back and forth through time, with no subheadings or even paragraph breaks to indicate a change of topic. It's so confusing. There's no index, and the chapter titles are whatever clever phrase the author remembered best after writing, not anything that really describes content. I couldn't find back most of the interesting tidbits without leafing through all the pages.

But the thing that killed this book, more than all the rest combined, was its tone. Ms Okrent writes like someone who, in fear of being mocked for their interest by their friends, instead mocks their interest to said friends. She tells us about the ideas for languages with an air of "look what these people tried, lol" and seems incredulous that the people who learn to speak them could possibly be anything but lonely, nerdy, and uncool. Given that the most likely audience for a book on invented languages is people who actually, um, LIKE them, exactly what was she thinking? An impartial academic text would have gone over better.

I wanted to like this book. I was disappointed by the third line. By the halfway point I was hate-reading to have an informed opinion and in the hopes of a plot twist. There wasn't any. I wish I hadn't bothered finishing.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
662 reviews96 followers
December 12, 2017
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 Utopians who dreamed of fixing the flaws of natural languages and/or bringing about world peace. Alas, many of them were also cranks who were legendarily difficult to get along with, their death grip on their inventions and general litigiousness dooming their projects virtually out of the gate--see the chapters on the inventors of Blissymbolics and Loglan.

With Tolkien, a new type of conlanger came about: creators of fiction who developed languages to enrich and deepen their world-building (see any number of Middle Earth languages, Klingon, Dothraki, or Láadan, for example.) My favorite of all of these now is Láadan, a language created by feminist scifi writer Suzette Haden Elgin. If you want a language that distinguishes ways to menstruate (for the first time, late, “joyfully”), here is your solution.

(“I menstruated with great joy and felicity,” said no woman ever.)

Okrent also takes a brief detour into the resurrection of Hebrew from a strictly liturgical language into a daily form of communication after an almost 2000 year hiatus (I could have read a lot more about Hebrew than the few pages here. That story is fascinating.)

One of the first things you learn in linguistics is that living languages change, so any language that is used-really used-is inevitably going to evolve in meaning, in grammatical standards, in spelling. So any "perfect" language is destined to deviate from perfection as soon as it becomes a spoken thing. This is virtually a moot point though as the most arguably successful conlangs, Esperanto and Klingon, are still relegated to a small community of speakers globally.

The chapters on Klingon were the most entertaining (tugh qoH nachDaj je chevlu'ta', am I right?), but the whole book is worthwhile. Being a language nerd helps, but I think any non-fiction reader or even a scifi/fantasy fan would enjoy this.
Profile Image for Zoubir.
66 reviews22 followers
February 3, 2019
يتكلم كتاب "في بلاد اللغات المُختَرَعة" كما يصف في عنوانه عن اللغات المخترعة و المصطنعة و تصنّف الكاتبة هذه اللغات التي تحصى بالآلاف إلى ثلاثة انواع.
1- اللغات القَبْلِية او التي هي من وحي خيال مخترعيها و لا صلة بينها و بين اي لغة طبيعية، مثل لغة Wilkings أو Loglan .
2 - اللغات البَعدِية و هي استعارت معظم بنيتها من لغات طبيعية، مثل الاسبيرانتو.
2- اللغات الهجينة و هي خليط بين اللغات الطبيعية و الخيالية،مثل لغة Volapük.

معظم اللغات المصطنعة اندثرت و لكن هناك بعض الاستثناءات التي يمكنت من البقاء و تحصى على اليد. لكل منها قصتها و الظروف التي مكنتها من الاستمرار. و كانت هذه اللغات هي محور الكتاب.
الاسبيرانتو: بدأت الكاتبة بأكثر لغة مصطنعة استعمالا و اشهرها و هي الاسبيرانتو Esperanto, و التي يتكلمها الآلاف، و هناك تقريبا 2000 شخص يكلمونها كلغة أم. من أسباب نجاح هذه اللغة هو حرص و تواضع مخترعها Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof ،الذي كان هدفه منها توحيد الناس و اختراع لغة عالمية للسلم، و حظه في جمع الكثير من الأنصار الذين عملوا معه على تطويرها و استعمالها إلى يومنا هذا.
لغة رموز بليس blissymbols: و هي لغة رموز تعتمد على تركيب رموز بسيطة لتكوين مفاهيم معقدة، و هي جد فعالة لمن يعانون اعاقات جسدية او نطقية، فعوض استعمال الرقبة او العينين لكتابة كلمات طويلة لشرح مفهوم بسيط، بضعة رموز كافية، تشبه قليلا للSmileys.
لغة المنطق Loglan : و هي لغة ألفها James Cooke brown لكي تكون دقيقة من غير غبش، مثل لغات البرمجة. أي أن النص لا يحتمل سوى معنى واحد. بالرغم من صعوبتها الكبيرة الا انها تعتبر هواية لدي الكثير من الناس، و خاصة من المبرمجين.
الكلينغون Klingon لغة مسلسل StarTrek: الأمر الفريد في سر نجاح هذه اللغة هو انها لم تكن لديها اي فائدة، عكس اللغات الأخرى التي كانت محاولات إيجاد حل لمشكل ما في اللغات الطبيعية، كالغموض او غياب المشاعر، الخ. قام Marc Okrand باختراع هذه اللغة في إطار عمله على مسلسل StarTrek, حيث اوكلت له مهمة إيجاد لغة محاربين لفضائيين. وقام الكثير من معجبي المسلسل بالمساهمة في تطويرها. و عكس معظم اللغات الأخرى، متعلمو هذه اللغة يفعلونه فقط من أجل المتعة، لا من أجل اي غرض نافع.
الكتاب يستحق 5 نجوم
489 reviews57 followers
July 3, 2010
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 changing, and one of the ways it's changing is by becoming irregular?) I imagine real linguists would consider it unbearably reductive.

I don't know much about created languages, but I know enough about American Sign Language to feel that it should have had its own chapter.

The author is fond of putting herself into the story, often to confess, with an air of humble full disclosure, that she only did this or that or the other because she wanted people to admire her. This charmed me the first time; the next dozen times, not so much.

(The 11-year-old read two chapters and went off to create her own language. After reading about the usual fate of language-creators, I was relieved when she got bored and abandoned the project in favor of recording and defining all the sounds the cats make.)
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,604 reviews463 followers
December 4, 2015
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 think being able to instantly look words up is the best feature of digital reading...then you'll probably really enjoy this book too. Okrent, erudite and very funny, assembled a real cast of characters, who, often armed with nothing more than good intentions and some scientific/linguistic skills, have tried to do the (pretty much) impossible, unite all mankind in a pre Babel sort of way. English is sort of taken that gig now, Esperanto might be the most famous attempt, Klingon the most entertaining. The sheer fact that so many have tried, to such mixed results, is mind boggling. And what an entertaining bunch too, from language creators to its users. Really fun read, very well and accessibly written, informative, educating and humorous. Qatlho to author, that's thank you in Klingon. Awesome, right. I think it is, geeky in the greatest possible way. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for John.
94 reviews24 followers
February 9, 2016
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 welcome addition to what could otherwise have been a very detached view of the subject. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in linguistics or languages.
Profile Image for David H..
2,065 reviews19 followers
July 12, 2023
This book is roughly focused on the invented languages of John Wilkins's Philosophical Language, Esperanto, Blissymbols, Loglan/Lojban, and Klingon, but each section that focuses on the above languages also has plenty of discussion around both the time period and many other languages of that rough similarity. (There's even some nice discussion of non-invented languages like sign languages for the deaf and the revival of Hebrew as a daily language.) I thought this was a great overview and Okrent has a good bibliography at the end if you want to explore more on this topic. I really enjoyed learning about not only these languages, but the environment that led to them being developed in the first place. She's also not wrong in how many of the language developers are kinda weirdo cranks, haha.

What fascinates me about the book is that the only the final section (on Klingon) touches on what I used to think was the primary purpose of conlangs... Art and fun! The release of this book came at an interesting time though (2009) which was just as or before Avatar (Na'vi) and the Game of Thrones TV show (Dothraki) came out. I think this book would pair well with David Peterson's The Art of Language Invention, which follows in greater linguistic detail the development of Dothraki and the other conlangs.

I think one of the chapters I loved the most in Okrent's book is her defense of the flaws of natural languages in Chapter 23, "Flaws or Features?" which I think really gets at the issues that earlier inventors (specifically the ones trying to come up with "perfected" languages) don't quite grasp about the value and point of linguistic conventions.
Profile Image for Sara G.
1,744 reviews
October 17, 2022
There isn't really a better way to say it - this book is just neat. The author catalogs the history of manmade languages throughout the years, everything from Saint Hildegard's writings to Klingon and the languages in Lord of the Rings. The grammar and syntax are a little exhausting, but it's worth the effort to read this if you're interested in how people think about communication. So many of these languages (particularly Esperanto) were developed in the pursuit of world peace, or to end the "curse of Babel." Linguistics isn't my subject, but I met a linguist recently who sort of inspired me and I'm glad I read this since I think I can understand him a bit better now!
Profile Image for Joshua Buhs.
647 reviews112 followers
September 25, 2014

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 the story into five, based on both chronological and thematic considerations. The first section looks at Enlightenment attempts to create perfect languages. It was during the Enlightenment that mathematical symbols--+ - x, etc.--were first introduced, and this helped give shape to how a perfect language could be imagined: like a mathematical formula, or a calculus of thought. All of which relied on another Enlightenment fascination: cataloguing the entire known universe. In order to have a perfect language, one needed to know all the possible words, and so language inventors spent most of their time classifying every possible thought, every possible nuance.

No one should be surprised that this project was doomed to failure.

Okrent is a game investigator, though, with a facility for languages, and so she tries out these invented tongues and, as most would, does so by considering swear words. Her struggles illuminate exactly why natural languages are superior, and why invented languages are so often ridiculed. For all that natural languages are riddled with inelegance, they can be used and improved from within. The investment of learning an entirely knew--and ugly--language to fix communication seems too high.

The second section focuses on Esperanto and its various competitors and successors. Arguably Esperanto is the most successful of the invented languages, created by a Pole--it is amazing how much of the story of invented languages is driven by Poles and Russians--Esperanto focused on a different way of creating a universal language. Rather than trying to classify every possible thought, Esperantists borrowed from a variety of languages to create a lingua franca, obviating the need for translations. It came at a time when French was losing status as _the_ language of diplomacy and Germany was losing its place as _the_ language of science. Unfortunately, it was undone by the very political forces it was trying to combat: Esperantists were one-worlders, but the one world was being riven by deep nationalist divides and pride in language. Indeed, nationalism and ethnic pride led to the (re-)creation of Hebrew, which had been a dead tongue of scholars and became a living language, somewhere on the continuum between natural tongue and artificial language. Esperanto found its adherents, and has even been passed down through the generations among families, but remains very circumscribed.

In the third section, Okrent turns to symbolic languages, invented mostly in the 20th century, and based on a simplistic understanding of Chinese graphology. This part of the story touches on attempts to simplify spellings. But mostly it's a throwback to 17th century attempts to discover the basic elements of thoughts, and turn these into symbols, which could be combined. But of course, one's ideas of basic concepts are another's of complicated thought, and so the various systems mostly failed. One, invented by an Australian named Charles Bliss, did have a bit of success, Okrent found with some deft reporting, in a Canadian school for disabled children--but only as a bridge to learning English.

A fourth attempt at inventing languages also comes from the twentieth century, this one trying to make languages adhere more closely to formal logic. There was some of this impulse in Korzybski's General Semantics, which sought to expose and eradicate hidden assumptions. But there were other, more complete revolutions; attempts to give (literal) voice to formal logic. Okrent roots these attempts in the Whorf hypothesis that different languages make different parts of reality available to be noticed. If a language was fully logical, advocates thought, then all the relationships could be seen. But of course, Okrent points out, one of the reasons that natural languages flourish is that the speaker need not consider every logical implication of what they say! That's a good thing. Okrent spent time trying to learn one of these languages--Lojban--and emerged feeling that "everything I heard seemed to be filtered through the sensibility of a bratty, literal-minded eight-year-old."

The final section focuses mostly on Klingon--which is the language she first mentioned in the introduction--but touches on other languages invented by science fiction and fantasy aficionados. These are associated with less grandiose plans--not finding a universal language, not bringing about world peace--but mostly for fun. This marks them as strange--as does, say, their tendency to dress as Klingons--but it is a harmless, nerdy kind of fun. And a kind of fun not likely to change the world.
Profile Image for Igor.
107 reviews15 followers
December 6, 2021
Легка, коротка, але досить всеохопна історія штучних мов, приправлена польовими спостереженнями за людьми, що намагаються цими мовами спілкуватись.
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