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Friday Lazy Linking

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 11 years ago, in 2011, on the World Wide Web.

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  1. John

    The Dinosaur Comic about invented languages reminds me of the language Ithkuil, which I came across a few months back. It’s pretty crazy to imagine an entire language being invented from scratch. They aren’t practical, but they’re fascinating.

    • Rad Geek

      Oy, another logico-philosophically motivated language! Those tend to be the craziest of all. The author does at least seem to be fairly realistic about his aims, which is more than you can say for some logical-language inventors. I do like how the sound and writing system of pure Ithkuil makes all the sentences look like something they would write on Tl@@c3;b6;n.

      If you’re interested in the topic and haven’t seen it yet, Arika Okrent put out a good book a couple years back, In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers who Tried to Build a Perfect Language. (I posted a passage from it, specifically on the ideal of clarity and languages that are motivated by the quest for maximal ex-ante clarity, back around New Years’.) It has a nice section on Esperanto, as well as a number of politically-, philosophically-, and pedagogically-motivated artificial languages (Loglan, Lojban, Blissymbolics, Láadan, …), as well as a fair amount about Klingon and aesthetic conlangs. (There’s surprisingly not very much about Tolkien or Elvish; maybe because the various languages in Tolkien were never completely formally described in the way that Klingon et al. have been.) In any case, the book does a really nice job of being serious and sympathetic towards its subjects (to the point of some moral indignation at a couple points against those who pile on artificial language enthusiasts), while also being not only realistic but actually taking their projects seriously enough to say some things about the real limitations of their projects and what that might teach us about natural language.

      Fun fact: Okrent only brushes up against the topic in her discussion of Esperanto, because she’s got other stuff to talk about and so is mostly interested in a rather broad-strokes picture of the scene, but a lot of the early Esperanto enthusiasts, and especially the organizers of many of the Esperantist journals and associations, tended to be European, Chinese and Japanese Anarchists. (Esperanto was intended as a language of international understanding and peace, and it originally spread largely through pro-peace, anti-nationalist appeals in central European radical circles during the 1880s-1920s, so Anarchists were pretty thick on the ground when it got started up. The Syndicalists also hoped that it would become a sort of “Worker’s Latin” that would unite the working class across national boundaries.)

      During the 1900s-1920s, they published Esperanto translations of Kropotkin, and published a number of anarchist journals in Esperanto from Paris to Japan; there was an active Berlin Group of Anarcho-Syndicalist Esperantists, and a group called TLES, which is an Esperanto acronym meaning “World League of Stateless Esperantists.” The whole thing is discussed in more depth in an article by Will Firth.

  2. John

    Wow, this information and the passage that you transcribed from Okrent’s book in that previous post are both really interesting. I honestly didn’t know there were so many invented languages. Now that I’ve read a little bit about them, it does seem like a lot of logical language inventors and enthusiasts are quite honest with themselves and realistic about their goals: they do it largely as a linguistic and neurological exercise, not in an effort to overhaul the world of human communication. Or maybe it’s just that Okrent was realistic about their prospects for success. I get the impression that Esperantists took it a lot more seriously.

    When I first saw them, I thought the Ithkuil characters looked a lot like Klingon.

    I had no idea Esperanto was invented so early or that it had any special connection with anarchists. I’m not sure if I’d want my philosophical brethren to be associated with a movement that took an invented language too seriously! That strikes me as an interesting dichotomy, though: some people who are identified by their association with a decentralized, grassroots type of philosophical movement championing an artificial, invented language!

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