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In the Land of Invented Languages [Paperback]

Arika Okrent
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 May 2010
Here is the captivating story of humankind’s enduring quest to build a better language—and overcome the curse of Babel. 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. But few people have heard of Babm, Blissymbolics, Loglan (not to be confused with Lojban), 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. With intelligence and humor, Arika Okrent has written a truly original and enlightening book for all word freaks, grammar geeks, and plain old language lovers.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Inc (11 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812980891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812980899
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and inspiring 29 Jan 2010
An unusually well-written and enlightening insight into the problems and thoughts behind invented languages. Anybody with an interest in representation and communication of knowledge and ideas, an area where aspects of linguistics, psychology, logic and computer programming meet, will find this book both interesting and inspiring. It is Arika Okrent's great accomplishment to write a highly readable and entertaining book on this esoteric subject!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Arika Okrent has written a fascinating book which reveals the obsessions, motivations and sometimes self-destructiveness of the men (and they are usually men) who have felt compelled to invent their own languages. Of course, Esperanto is in here, but it's the other languages that stick most in the mind, such as John Wilkins' idea that words ought to link form and meaning - so that the word itself tells you what it means - or Brown's Loglan, a language designed to remove the ambiguities inherent in human languages, by allowing only logically precise sentences. You would imagine that Vulcans would speak such a language (maybe they do!) but it's the Klingons who get airtime in this book. Yes, we all know how sad they are, those who attend Star Trek conferences with plastic mouldings on their foreheads, but did you know that Klingon looks like a real human language (albeit a very odd one)? I really couldn't put this book down - it was such a great read. If I have any criticism at all, it's that there just wasn't enough about the grammar of each of the invented languages described. I would have liked a syntax summary in the appendices for each of the languages, so as to get more of a flavour of the oddness (or otherwise) of each of them. But that's really a minor point, as we can all go and look them up online if we wish.

So, do YOU have the "secret vice"? Have you ever dabbled in made-up languages? Go on... admit it! You're not alone, you know! They can't arrest you for it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolkein's Secret Vice 19 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I was twelve or so I read The Lord of The Rings. I read it so often that the books eventually fell apart. In particular I reread the appendices for their treasure trove of scripts and invented languages. It fired me with a love for languages, the way they work and for picking features from them to mix and build my own. I am very far from alone in this. Arika Okrent's book picks some of the highlights from the history of constructed languages, from John Wilkins' quixotic Philosophical Language to Klingon with diversions to languages like Laadan and Lojban.

Most of the languages she focuses on were attempts to improve the human life, from the Zamenhof's language of hope (if we can all communicate with each other we'll treat each other better, right?) to James Cooke Brown's Sapir-Whorf-embedded Loglan. All these languages began with utopian intentions and crashed into people and their emotions.

Okrent finishes with Klingon, devised to add a sense of reality to a film and, it seems to me, the most vibrant of the languages presented, because it has been devised only to exist and to allow its growth and change.

This is a wonderful book: intelligent, benign and forgiving of the frailties of the all-too-human inventors of these languages. Now, about those evidentials...
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