Print Friendly and PDF With Strings Attached: For the language mavens

Sunday, June 14, 2009

For the language mavens

Books about language abound these days! Two new releases that we are reading (full disclosure: DH has finished them and I am still reading them):
* In the Land of Invented Languages, by Arika Okrent.
'Esperanto rock stars, Klingon poets, Loglan lovers, and the mad dreamers who tried to build a perfect language.' I've long been intrigued by Esperanto, but not enough to search out fellow Esperantists to learn it -- but apparently there are lots of people who have. Okrent, a linguist, goes back to the 17th century in her research about invented language. (An appendix lists 500 of them; who knew?)
* Origins of the Specious, by Patricia T. O'Connor with Stewart Kellerman. 'Myths and Misconceptions of the English language.' It turns out that many of the 'rules' that we who aspire to good grammar practice are relatively recent. (As Okrent writes, 'Forced tradition + time = real tradition.') O'Connor's essays include 'User Friendly,' about those Texas road signs that declare, 'Drive Friendly.' It turns out that 'friendly' 'has been both an adverb and an adjective since the Middle Ages. In fact, 'friendlily' is the klutzy latecomer--it didn't arrive until the 17th century.' Or, about double negatives: 'I wasn't until the 18th century that a sentence like, 'I didn't see nothing' was pronounced a crime against English..'"
Have you noticed that in recent years expository writing has taken a decidedly conversational turn? The author is more likely to interject first person opinion and address the reader ('you'). I think that's the influence of e-mail; surely people who study that sort of thing have already researched the trend.

1 comment:

  1. Concerning Arika Okrent'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


Thanks for stopping to read my blog. I can't respond to every comment, but be assured that I appreciate each one.