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A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages by Stephen D. Rogers

01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages in the USA - or Buy A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages in the UK

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pub: Adams Media. 293 page small hardback. Price: $16.95 (US), $17.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4405-2817-0).

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‘A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages’ in case you don’t understand is also equipped with the sub-title, ‘From Adȗnaic To Elvish, Zaum To Klingon – The Anwa (Real) Origins Of Invented Lexicons’. In other words, this is a guided tour around especially created languages, the majority in fiction belonging to fantasy and Science Fiction.

Each language is noted where its source originated, some use of the words and other information as appropriate. For those who want to dabble further, there are also websites that you can look up and get more involved in such languages. Rather amusingly, Ithkuil was a language that even its creator, John Quijada, could never speak so if you’re not a polyglot there is no need to be ashamed. Littered throughout the book are little tit-bits of information about languages from various sources to keep you on your toes.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone as to how many times J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ came up with number of creature species with their various languages. Ursula LeGuin, Poul Anderson and C.J. Cherryh also have several reference languages as well. Oddly, Anne McCaffrey isn’t actually cited for her Pern books which when you consider how new names were found for things like nitric acid as ‘agnothree’ got seriously overlooked. Then, too, so did DC Comics’ Legion Of Super-Heroes 30th century Interlac. It is referenced against the similarly titled language in ‘Babylon 5’ but as its symbolic spelling was used thirty years before it, should have merited its own entry rather than a brief line.

Of course, TV SF and films gets own share of entries. After all, where else would you find a place to actually use them regularly. Klingon and Vulcan are pretty obvious but the likes of ‘Stargate’ are also included. If you wonder what happened to Romulan, then you need to look up Rihannsu although the handy index will point you at the right place.

About the only other one missing is the 1985 film ‘Enemy Mine’ where a human is taught the Drac language. Author Barry Longyear might not have created the language in the book but it was certainly there in the film.

What amazed me was how many of the numbering names were based on the French and how frequently ‘ok’ was used for the number 8. Likewise, the number of artificial languages created in our own reality. Rogers includes Esperanto and its derivative Ido as well as Volapűk that were made on this planet as an attempt to create a common language. When you consider how many languages existing in our world today and how many have died out, it does make you wonder why we would need more although the aim of those was for a universal language. Odd that, because I thought English which readily accepts words from other languages and itself a combination of several languages already served that purpose. Although Mandarin is spoken by the most people, its ideogram writing tends to limit it extending beyond the orient.

If all this knowledge of languages has geared you up to create your own language, even for the sake of a story, then the back section of this book will get you started and even lists two hundred words that you would need to translate as a starting point.

This book serves several purposes, key amongst them as a guide to the various artificial languages out there and how many of them were created for fantasy and Science Fiction. As a source book and despite the couple errors I’ve pointed out, which no doubt will be amended in future editions, it is also indispensable as a reference book for any of us in our genre so be sure to add a copy to your bookshelves.

GF Willmetts

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