Building A Better Language

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Linguist Arika Okrent, author of In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language, discusses the utopian underpinnings of invented languages.


Arika Okrent

Comments [17]


Esperanto does not have grammatical gender--all nouns end in -o, all adjectives end in -a, and there is only one form of each article or preposition.

Some Esperanto words have inherent gender (patro = father, becoming patrino = mother with the addition of the -in- "femininity" affix) but there are modern reforms that adjust this to make the default form gender neutral and add another (optional) affix to denote masculinity (e.g. patro = parent, patruno = father). There are also separate pronouns for "he" and "she" ("li" and "sxi") but some today use a more recently invented gender-neutral pronoun, such as "gi".

May. 27 2009 02:20 PM

wife and i began speaking vietnamese in front of our first child when she was 2,3,4, and we wished to exclude her from the dialogue. (We grew up in usa and have no connection to vietnam other than we lived there long enough to pick up some of the language).

needless to say, our first daughter now knows vietnamese.

May. 27 2009 02:09 PM
Brad from Pelham, NY

My mother (now 74) and her sister would speak alfalfa language at the dinner table so their parents wouldn't understand what they were discussing. She never felt compelled to teach it to any of her five sons.

May. 27 2009 12:07 PM
Bakery from Jersey City

If Esperanto was supposed to be universal, why did it adopt the frivolous and wildly inconsistent concept of grammatical gender?

May. 27 2009 11:58 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Agree with previous commenter: Tolkien's languages were subject of much scholarly investigation

May. 27 2009 11:58 AM
allsion from brooklyn

My husband speaks, Elvish, Logban and some Klingon...he is a computer guy and THAT is an invented he's into it.

May. 27 2009 11:57 AM
hjs from 11211

supporters of anglish want all the french and latin out of english!

May. 27 2009 11:57 AM
Melissa from Brooklyn

We as waiters certainly "invent" a language. We do this to alert one another to a "special" diner or someone who might or might not tip as well.

May. 27 2009 11:56 AM
Caitlin from Jersey City

I learned a bit of Elvish in college (tragically I've forgotten it all). Tolkien started Lord of the Rings pretty much as a setting for the languages he had invented.

May. 27 2009 11:55 AM

My college (SUNY Albany) started offering a course in Klingon language while I was there (offered credit, but less than a regular class), two otherwise respectable linguists taught it.

May. 27 2009 11:54 AM
John-Paul G from Elizabeth, NJ

Don't say QI'yaH! The FCC will not approve.

May. 27 2009 11:53 AM
Daniel from Munich

What constitutes a language? It seems that the last century has many invented _technical_ languages, from circuit diagrams to C++ to IKEA instructions.

May. 27 2009 11:52 AM
Lee Mandell

How does this relate to languages such as Swahili and Indonesian that were created for trade purposes by colonizers

May. 27 2009 11:52 AM

Though I had heard of it before I first learned about Esperanto while studying early 20th century anarchist movements in Japan, China, and Korea. Apparently these anarchists published many of their newspapers in Esperanto.

May. 27 2009 11:49 AM
Daniel from Munich

Esperanto is 19th Century.

May. 27 2009 11:48 AM
Mary Panzer from NYC (Inwood)

Re: Sotomayor's education --- didn't she go to Catholic Schools before going to Princeton? Not a NYC public school graduate ---

May. 27 2009 10:34 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

What about interlingua? I could read it right away.

May. 27 2009 10:18 AM

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