Arika Okrent on the radio

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One of yesterday's guests on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane was 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. You can listen (or download the mp3) here.

I don't know very much about the history of invented languages, so I'm looking forward to reading her book.

[Update: a transcript of Okrent's interview with Gelf magazine is here.]


  1. Jonathan Badger said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

    I quite enjoyed her book. What makes it a little different from other books on the subject is that it isn't just a history — she actually attended gatherings of Esperantists (and even Klingonists!) after learning the basics of those languages and describes her experiences, and for the most part avoids the snide "Whatta bunch of geeks" attitude that is common when the "real world" notices conlangers.

    Charles Bliss (or Blissymbolics) does come off rather badly, but I suppose a real life stereotype of conlanger as lunatic had to be included to satisfy readers looking for a freak show.

  2. Matt Pearson said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 2:54 am

    I enjoyed the book too. She covers most of the major themes and 'movements' in the history of invented languages, and does so both concisely and entertainingly. She gets the linguistics terminology right, for the most part. And while she plays up the exoticism and eccentricity of the various invented language subcultures (Esperantists, Klingonists, Lojbanists, conlangers)–inevitable, I guess, since this is a mass market book–she does so without being at all condescending.

    Most importantly, Okrent tries to situate the various trends in language invention within a broader intellectual history, and to use the failures (and occasional limited successes) of constructed language projects as a way of understanding the design of natural human language. So the book ends up teaching the reader a bit about linguistics as well.

    (Full disclosure: one of my invented languages is mentioned in the appendices. Not that that would necessarily predispose me to like the book. Language inventors are notoriously leery of outside attention, since we get so much bad press.)

  3. Corcaighist said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 9:50 am

    Thanks for the tip! I went straight to order a copy of the book and download the interview so I can enjoy listening to it on the plane tomorrow.

    I'm a student of linguistics and one of my hobbies is construct-languages so I am really looking forward to what Okrent has to say.

  4. Brian Barker said,

    July 16, 2009 @ 11:54 am

    Concerning Arika's new book.

    I think that the choice, realistically, for the future global language lies between English and Esperanto, rather than an untried project. As a native English speaker I would prefer Esperanto.

    It's unfortunate, however, that only a few people know that Esperanto has become a living language.

    After a short period of 121 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA factbook.

    It is the 17th most used language in Wikipedia, and in use by Skype, Firefox and Facebook. Native Esperanto speakers,(people who have used the language from birth), include George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polgar, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet.

    Further arguments can be seen at Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

    A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at

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