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Conlang Books - Reviews & Recommendations

From:Sai Emrys <sai@...>
Date:Wednesday, January 23, 2008, 21:54
I'm in a community college library at the moment, and happened to be
near the PM 8008 section... and amazingly, they have one: Pei's _One
Language for the World_.

I haven't read it, but it seems to be extremely euro-auxlang-centric
on brief perusal.

What I *have* read that comes to mind right now (I've not read these
in a couple years though, so sketchy on details):

* Suzette Haden Elgin, _Laadan Primer_
* Okrand?, _Klingon Dictionary_

Both written pretty well, as primers. Not much to say about the form,
really. My interest in the content is purely engelangy - i.e. what
could I borrow in terms of ideas, methods, etc. - so I didn't read
them so much as skim, as I would an encyclopedia entry.

* Yaguello, _Lunatic Lovers of Language_

Well written, as far as it goes. I found its approach to essentially
not even address modern conlanging, so I wasn't as offended by its
obvious... opinion as I might otherwise have been. Very
sociological/psychological. Goes into some languages that I found of
laughably poor design (e.g. Leibniz'), but treats them like the height
of originality.. which may well have something to do with its opinion.
Would be interesting to see what she thinks of modern conlanging, and
languages like Ithkuil, Toki Pona, Teonaht, et (lots o') alia.

* Payne, _Describing Morphosyntax_

Highest marks. Very slight nits to pick, all in the way of wanting to
have had more detail in some sections. Primarily intended (as the
subtitle says) as a guide for field linguists, but very easily
reapplied as a) a guide to developing a conlang, and b) a "look, these
are all the common options" listing in wide breadth with excellent
explanations. I find the latter to be especially useful, since usually
these bits of information are scattered across divers specialist

Requires (only) fairly basic existing linguistics knowledge to grok.

* Eco, _Search for the Perfect Language_

Quite interesting (given my interest in this, a la my 'on the design
of an ideal language' essay), but not really about ideal-as-in-design
but rather (almost exclusively)
perfect-as-in-spoken-by-Adam-and-Yahweh. Again (like LLL) I find many
of the languages described to be laughable both in design and in
purported etiology, but no more so than I do most religious
sillinesses. Did not detract from the quality of the book.

* Lakoff, _Women, Fire, & Dangerous Things_

Several novel-to-me ideas presented that have since become staples of
cognitive linguistics - framing, categories, weird derivations
thereof, unusual family classifications, unusual referents, etc. Not
too bad as a primer on cogling even. I can't recommend his IRL
classes, but the book is well worth reading. I've not read any of his
more popular form stuff on politics etc, so can't comment there.

* Rasula & McCaffrey, _Imagining Language_

Never actually got around to reading this collection, but it sure
looked interesting based on the titles. Will get to it someday...

So: I'd like to see what you all think of the various conlang books
out there, and what's worth reading.

Feel free to include books that are not *about* conlangs as such, but
have significantly affecting your conlanging (e.g. WF&DT above). And
feel free to include reviews of books that have already been

- Sai


Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>
Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>