I spent a lot of time waiting in doctors’ offices last week, and I needed something to save me from boredom- and anxiety-induced insanity. What better choice could I have made than The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson?
Back when I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Dougal Dixon’s After Man: a Zoology of the Future. As an exercise in speculative biology, the book is responsible for maybe 90% of my enthusiasm about evolution, anatomy, and animal behavior. The fact that I know anything about those subjects at all is because I was enthusiastic for them, which puts Dixon to blame for most of what I know about the natural world. When I read The Art of Language Invention, the same thing happened with linguistics.
You can’t create a good made-up language without knowing about real languages. Through the lens of his invented languages and his experience using them, Peterson educates the reader about the forces that shape the way we speak—a practical gift wrapped in shiny packaging. Like all good speculation, The Art of Language Invention educates and inspires as much as it entertains.
And it IS entertaining, if for no other reason than the cat and onion jokes.
Go read it. I expect to see your new language on my desk by Monday.