From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages Hardcover – 27 Oct 2011
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This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature that treats linguistic invention seriously. (Dirk Elzinga, Language Problems and Language Planning)
the book ought to be read by anyone with an interest in the future of Scots, Gaelic, and even English. (The Scotsman)
About the Author
Michael Adams is currently Associate Professor of English and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Indiana. He has contributed to and edited many journals as well as numerous linguistic works, including the Middle English Dictionary and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. He is the author of Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon and co-author of How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction to the English Language.
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Top Customer Reviews
The editor/author has gathered eight writers (or, in some cases, groups of writers) to tackle in turn eight chapters, each about language alternatives of one sort or another. This stretches the book's actual subject matter rather beyond what the title says. The core of the book, for the majority of people who will read the words on the tin, is the two chapters about attempts to create a new language for its own sake - Tolkien's Elvish and Okrent's Klingon (the Klingon chapter is written mainly by Okrent himself). The chapter on Elvish is a tad reverent, the chapter on Klingon a bit tongue-in-cheek, as you would expect - but both are of a good length, fascinating, well-written, and tell you where to go to find out more.
But Elvish and Klingon together(plus a chapter about the languages, sometimes quite developed and sometimes hardly more than verbal codes, that have been invented for computer games) don't take up much more than 150 pages.
So we have a chapter on attempts to engineer a general language in the cause of peace: Volapuk and Esperanto, among others. Of course devising an 'International Auxiliary Language' can't really be called language creation - it's more like language distillation, seeking to render down the various eccentricities of (mainly) European tongues into a medium of basic communication.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Far from exclusively focusing on the science fiction/fantasy languages implied in the title, it also includes expository treatment of internet slang, Newspeak (of 1984 fame), modern revival languages with constructed elements such as Hawaiian, Breton, and Hebrew, and early attempts to create utopian universal languages. Heck, the book even takes a stab at looking at the dialogue of Joyce.
The treatment each language receives varies slightly, but in general it couches the structural and phonological descriptions of constructed languages in the history of their development and the way decisions in the constructed languages play out in their speaking communities. Each bit of context is given to help you understand the motivations behind many of the (often idiosyncratic) people that created these languages, or, if no one creator exists, the interactions between the people in charge. The technical descriptions of the languages, by the way, are unusually accessible given the clearly academic origin of some of the writing. I can't remember a single instance of IPA making its way into the text, for example (although there is a short section in 1337). For those who want additional discussion of the languages, every chapter has an appendix, though it may not contain what you want.
I liked this book, but I will easily say that it's not for everyone. The writing style is academic and thus at times very dry, particularly when moving through the histories of early constructed languages in the late 19th century that I'd never heard of. I managed to power through to read the (alas, breathtakingly short) chapters on Elvish and Klingon, but many others may want to skip them and move to the other self-contained chapters.
The book also is more enjoyable in parts if you have the right external context. Two chapters in this book stand out to me in particular. One covers Newspeak and Nadsat, two constructed languages/jargons from 1984 by George Orwell and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. The other covers "Oirish," the attempt to differentiate Irish English as a written language from Standard English, as written by James Joyce in his many novels - including, at the end, a discussion of Finnegans Wake. Reading about the way language is used in books you've never read is sometimes interesting, but you will get more out of it if you've read those books. Given that I have a realistic idea of how many people have attempted to read (let alone completed) Finnegans Wake, I would advise the average reader to just skip that chapter.
This book contains essays about invented languages, from Newspeak, languages devised by J.R.R. Tolkein, Klingon, and gaming languages. It examines why people invent new languages and what role they play in society.
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