Utne Blogs > Science and Technology

How to Invent a Language

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Science and Technology, language, Failure,

Esperanto InventionWhen English isn’t good enough, innovative inventors set out to create their own languages. Most fail miserably, but every once in a while, a newly formed language will take on a life of its own. “Every time an invented language has found success,” language expert Arika Okrent told Failure magazine, “it has been an unexpected success.”

Okrent, the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, thinks that most would-be language inventors tend to view their new form of speech as a product, while most speakers don’t think of it that way. The most successful invented languages are Esperanto and Klingon, which have both changed far beyond their original intents. Okrent advises potential inventors:

Put your language out there in the world and then let people take it away and ruin it for you. If you try to hold on too tightly you’re going to have problems. If you want people to use it, you have to let them use it, but they are not going to utilize it the way you want them to.

Source: Failure 

Image by Limako, licensed under Creative Commons.

jerry
4/4/2014 10:49:34 AM

So many English speakers are too lazy to learn a second language, but expect others to be able to speak English it's quite amusing. http://www.thelanguagemachine.co.uk/language-areas/ isn't bad if done from an early age so you can develop the tongue and become more natural as you grow up speaking multiple languages.


istvan ertl
8/23/2009 1:15:35 AM

What do you mean by "when English isn't good enough"? "Artificial" languages do not aim to replace any language in particular, at least Esperanto does not. And why do you say "when *English* isn't good enough"? Are the propositions "when *Hungarian* isn't good enough", or "when *Cherokee* isn't good enough" not good enough? Best Istvan Ertl


enrique
8/22/2009 3:41:18 PM

I cannot believe anybody can compare Esperanto with Klingon. They were created with very different purposes. Esperanto was created 122 years ago, for easiness of learning and using, for communication inter people that didn't have another common language. 20 hours of study time should be enough to start using Esperanto. After 100 hours you can reach some fluency. Klingon was created by an Esperanto speaker, for a TV show, with no intention of easy learning or using, or even for communication. Most Esperanto speakers aren't linguists. They use Esperanto to speak about any subject. Please search the web for means how to learn Esperanto. When you search, you may add my name to the search. Best wishes, Enrique from California, USA


cindy mckee
8/21/2009 3:10:29 PM

In the linked article, Arika Okrent states things more simply and clearly than any linguist I've read. For the last 2 years or so, I've been using Esperanto daily. It seems to serve as a neutral cultural bridge. Obviously, the author is right. The two cited successful invented languages are ones that the speakers feel they 'posess' and use in a particular culture -- even though Esperanto is used transculturally, it also has its own proper culture. I'm finally impressed by a linguist.


cindy mckee
8/21/2009 3:09:47 PM

In the linked article, Arika Okrent states things more simply and clearly than any linguist I've read. For the last 2 years or so, I've been using Esperanto daily. It seems to serve as a neutral cultural bridge. Obviously, the author is right. The two cited successful invented languages are ones that the speakers feel they 'posess' and use in a particular culture -- even though Esperanto is used transculturally, it also has its own proper culture. I'm finally impressed by a linguist.


neil_nachum_1
8/21/2009 3:00:08 PM

Having just returned from the musicians Esperanto (KEF) convention (Denmark and Sweden) with 130 participants from 30 countries I would differ with the "nerd opinion" that proceeds me. Esperantists are diverse, and throughout the world. To see a video go to my blog:www.EsperantoFriends.blogspot.com article #25 I will never foget the daily tours given to me for free by local Esperanto speakers in and around Mink, Belarus, who brought me to the village of my grandfather. The 2000 Esperantists that were in Bialystok this summer are far from nerdy. Environmentalists, musicians, socialists, vegetarians i.a. were there for their specialty meetings.


mikael
8/13/2009 2:34:57 PM

I've always been fascinated by linguistics so a number of years ago, when an international Esperanto conference took place here in Copenhagen, I went along. I had done some homework on the language and was looking forward to learning more about it. Boy, was I disappointed. It was the most nerdy affair I have ever experienced. Linguist geeks all over the place. It was like being at a model train conference. The similarities, in this sense, are much like the people who are 'into' Klingon. These hobby languages will never take off unless they are mainstreamed and sexed up. And that won't be happening anytime soon.