Book Review: ‘In the Land of Invented Languages’ by Arika Okrent

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Not so long ago, I was a stranger in a particularly strange land. The land was that of invented languages, and my guide was Arika Okrent, linguist and professional writer. My ticket was a bright red paperback with zany white lettering on the front. The journey lasted just over 800 years – the length of the recorded history of invented languages. Or perhaps that was the destination rather than the journey? I seem to have reached the outer border of this metaphor, so let’s cross over to a more tangible overview of Okrent’s book.

In the Land of Invented Languages was released in 2009 and is 293 pages long. The book is the result of five years of research into …

Rhyme and Reason

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“A letter may be coded, and a word may be coded. A theatrical performance may be coded, and a sonnet may be coded, and there are times when it seems the entire world is in code.”

 This piece of philosophy comes from one of my favourite childhood authors, and it’s one which can often provide some comfort when the world feels mysterious and unreasonable: It’s not that the world doesn’t make sense, it’s that the sense it makes is obscured by a layer of puzzles and codes just waiting for you to figure them out.

That’s if you read the quote as referring to the more general meaning of the word ‘code’. For my exam in computational linguistics, I decided …

Book review: ‘European Language Matters’ by Peter Trudgill

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There’s a particular experience that I have encountered many times during my life, and which you might recognise from your own, that I tend to think of as ‘the geographic eureka’. I’m walking in an area that I’m familiar with, and I decide to stray from the path I know in order to explore some road less travelled. I’ll walk around for a stretch of time, every turn or fork in the road leading me to new areas with varying degrees of interest, and eventually I turn the corner that, completely unexpectedly, puts me back on familiar territory; which is when the feeling hits me: “Oh, so that’s where I am!”. Peter Trudgill’s newest book, European Language Matters, consistently …

Lingolit II – Linguistics in the pop press

A little more than a year ago, I wrote a Lingoblog article recommending a selection of books discussing various topics in linguistics from a pop science perspective – that is, books that are about technical aspects of linguistics, but which can be understood without any prior knowledge of the field. Since these past twelve months have, for many of us, taken place largely inside the same four walls, there has (to look on the bright side) been plenty of time to read.

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True to form, a handful of the books in my personal reading pile has been about language and linguistics. My previous article was sparked by my conflicted feelings about Daniel Everett’s Language: The Cultural Tool, and I …

LingoLit: A Linguist’s Quarantine Reading Guide

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Blogger’s note:
I originally wrote this blog entry with the intention of asking the editors of Lingoblog to release it shortly before the summer holidays. However, since then another situation has arisen, which to an even higher degree seems to leave people needing something good to read, so I’ve decided instead to submit this entry now, as a guide to quarantine rather than summer reading. I urge you to consider it a bit of tragic irony when I refer to the holidays below, rather than to the current situation.
The libraries here in Denmark may be closed, but there’s still audio- and e-books as well as online bookstores that are accessible without venturing into the public and risking contamination. I