Over winter break I got the chance to read this really delightful book called In the Land of Invented Languages. The author, Arika Okrent, points out that most linguists turn their noses up at invented languages as being fake and artificial, “a few lonely shelves of faded plastic flowers” among the “lush orchid garden of languages” that evolved naturally among human communities. But the stories she tells of, as she describes them, “Esperanto rock stars, Klingon poets, Loglan lovers, and the mad dreamers who tried to build a perfect language,” would surely charm even the most exacting scholar of (natural) languages.
Today’s Pop Quiz is in honor of this lovely book. Admittedly, it’s a toughie, for a few reasons. First of all, I purposefully picked natural languages that are not, shall we say, widely spoken. Secondly, language inventors are also dedicated language geeks, so they tend to give their languages names that make them seem like they could, in fact, really be a language spoken out there somewhere.
Which of these languages are natural, and which are invented?
- Toki Pona
- Tok Pisin
Extra credit: Which author once said this about his obsession for inventing languages? “I often long to work at it and don’t let myself ’cause though I love it so it does seem such a mad hobby!”
1. Pasilingua – invented, 2. Menominee – natural, 3. Toki Pona – invented,
4. Tok Pisin – natural, 5. Tiwi – natural, 6. Twi – natural, 7. Tlingit – natural,
8. Klingon – invented (hopefully you at least got this one right!), 9. Ithkuil – invented, 10. Tlacoatzintepec – natural
(Note: the natural languages all have Ethnologue entries, while the invented ones link to Wikipedia articles…that was on purpose!)
J.R.R. Tolkein, of course! Possibly the greatest language geek in the history of time (I knew I liked that guy)
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about this book or the languages profiled in it, the author has a great website!