Friday, August 19, 2016

Book Review: The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World Building by David J. Peterson

The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World Building
by David J. Peterson
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books
Buy It: Amazon US / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
Source: eARC from Penguin / Bought own Kindle version

An insider’s tour through the construction of invented languages from the bestselling author and creator of languages for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the Syfy series DefianceFrom master language creator David J. Peterson comes a creative guide to language construction for sci-fi and fantasy fans, writers, game creators, and language lovers. Peterson offers a captivating overview of language creation, covering its history from Tolkien’s creations and Klingon to today’s thriving global community of conlangers. He provides the essential tools necessary for inventing and evolving new languages, using examples from a variety of languages including his own creations, punctuated with references to everything from Star Wars to Michael Jackson. Along the way, behind-the-scenes stories lift the curtain on how he built languages like Dothraki for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Shiväisith for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, and an included phrasebook will start fans speaking Peterson’s constructed languages. The Art of Language Invention is an inside look at a fascinating culture and an engaging entry into a flourishing art form—and it might be the most fun you’ll ever have with linguistics.


   I originally got this book through Penguin's First Reads thinking, "Hey, I'm an anthropologist. I like linguistics class and I love learning languages." I love basically anything about language, I love translating between them, and all the intricacies of how thought and the environment influences language. So I thought I would love this book. I did (5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads), but it was quite a long time before I actually finished this book. I only got 90 pages into the book and had to return it due to the deadline for loaning the books Penguin has for the program. So I bought it, but didn't pick it up again for a while. Let me tell you, this is more information heavy than I think a lot of people are anticipating. This is a like a smaller, more easygoing textbook version for making conlangs (conlang: a constructed language). This book is not Peterson just telling you how he made his languages of Dothraki, High Valyrian, etc. and telling you what everything means in English. He is basically combining a bunch of linguistics courses into one condensed book targeting on what you need to know on how to make your own conglang. This is going from the basics on up, explaining everything to you, defining words, just helping YOU make your language. This book isn't so much about him, but he does talk about how he started, what he prefers, gives his own advice, and he mainly uses his work as case studies. There are some topics, such as sign language, he doesn't go into too much detail over due to the fact that they could have a whole book solely about them and advises the reader to get a hold of books dedicated to those topics.  It starts with the basics and progresses on how to form a language as David Peterson, himself, does. This is a book for those who would like to construct their own language and gain advice from someone who excels at it. In the back he includes a glossary of all the terms and a little phrase book for his own conlangs. Also, we learn David J. Peterson hates onions.
   This book is not for everyone. It is written well for the layman who are not very knowledgeable about linguistics. My advice: If you are interested in reading it check it out of library first and read the first 50 pages. If you don't like it return it and don't bother with it. You helped him out by borrowing it from the library. However, if you did like it then return and go buy it for yourself. You will want to own this book to mark in, underline, and treat as your conlang study guide. This will be a book you will want to keep. This will be a great manual for people when they want to research and go back to it. The Art of Language Invention is a great geek manual in linguistics and constructing your own language. 

My Favorite Quotes/Highlights from The Art of Language Invention:
"The first widely known author to use a more or less fully constructed language was J.R. R. Tolkien, who set the bar very high... He understood that language itself is inseparable from the culture that produces it (or mythology as he put it), and he felt that if the languages he was creating had no place to breathe, they wouldn't have any kind of vitality."
"If you're creating a language on your own and you're the only speaker, intonation is usually not high on the list of features to focus on, but intonational flavorings is well worth it (read: crucial) when it comes to making an authentic language."
"A fleshed out history is what separates languages that are good enough from those that are excellent."
"Is conlanging art? By any broad definition, the answer has to be yes. Some conlangs may be more utilitarian than others, but some painting is also more utilitarian than other types of painting."


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