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The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words…

by David J. Peterson

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3291461,905 (3.96)6
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 Defiance From 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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
My four star rating is very much based on my own experience of this book -- I think for a conlanger starting out this book is probably a five star resource, for a linguist proper this might drag a bit because it covers a lot of intro-level ground you're probably already familiar with, and for someone expecting this to be more memoirish or quick-and-easy you should readjust your expectations.

I think Peterson makes his intentions quite clear in the book's intro: "This work is a sincere attempt to give new conlangers a place to start by detailing what things I take into account when creating a language." It does read in some places like a textbook, but a well-written and humorous one, and I personally enjoyed a refresher of basic linguistics info in addition to the material that was new to me (the only major section I skipped was the tech walk-through about creating digital fonts). I liked that Peterson draws not only from his own conlangs, but also natural languages and conlangs created by others for his examples. I wish we had gotten even more of the fascinating history of conlangs that was briefly outlined in the intro.

In general I thought the book created a unique and interesting lens through which to view linguistic and orthographic change. Definitely the "case study" gray-edged sections are worth the price of admission alone. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
Maybe in ten years when I finish my own conlang I can come back here and make a proper review. Until then. ( )
  Raykoda3 | May 8, 2021 |
If you have any interest in language, do not dismiss this book based on its title. While the fantastical implications may cater to a particular audience, they certainly don’t invalidate the wealth of knowledge contained within The Art of Language Invention.

David Peterson introduces the breadth and depth of linguistics in a light-hearted manner that is surprisingly easy to consume – not an easy task. The book covers many topics including, but not limited to, phonetics, casing, inflections, tenses, voicing, grammar and even orthography. I would highly recommend this book (in part or entirety) to anyone generally interested in language, writing, and especially, language creation (though I’m no conlanger). ( )
  mitchanderson | Jan 17, 2021 |
Would probably be more interesting to someone who's a fan of the Game of Thrones TV show. This should've really been disclosed on the cover as half of the book revolves around and is illustrated by the language the author developed for it. Autobiographical elements aside it's actually intriguing - even to someone like me who's never even considered developing a language.

I was annoyed by the quirky "I'm so random" humour and the recurring onion joke wouldn't be funny even if Stewart Lee did for 2 hours. I hate this trend in non-fiction books. It's as if Bozo the clown was giving a lecture. Do authors not see the incongruity? Sure, I can look past it but why are you doing this? ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
This book was far more in-depth, technical, and intense than I expected, and I'm all the happier for it. Peterson is clearly a linguistic expert, and he is clearly passionate about the subject. I was impressed by the breadth of information in a book of this size and topic - here we have some background on the development of several conlangs, some historical context on naturalistic language development (which made my behavioral heart sing), some historical context on conlangs, discussion of various linguistic structures, development of writing systems and fonts, and lastly, Peterson drops the idea of conlangs as an art form in our laps to chew on. The book has a wonderful 'voice' - Peterson uses humor and personal anecdotes to good effect.

If your interest in the book is purely out of love of Game of Thrones, you probably will be disappointed - this isn't a collection of behind-the-scenes stories about Martin, or the actors, or the filming process. Peterson doesn't go into detail on the story world of Game of Thrones. I don't consider this a flaw in the book - just make sure you know what you are getting.

If you have a deep background in linguistics, much of the middle of the book is probably information you already know. For me, it was a more detailed look at structure than I've been exposed to. It was challenging at times (there's a lot of terminology), but it felt manageable and digestible. I honestly learned a lot from this book.

I had never thought of conlangs as an art form before this book. It makes total sense, the way Peterson lays it out. If a movie, novel, or video game can be art (games are art, fight me irl), why not this? Language can be both the medium of art and an art form itself. I'm still thinking about the idea of a flavor-based language - would the writing system describe the flavors and textures themselves....or just be a recipe?

A word of warning:
This isn't something you can listen to in the car and get much out of it. I really think the way to go is to get this in audiobook format and keep the pdf close at hand, or get both an audio and text copy of the book. Think of it as a course more than anything else. You really need to hear the pronunciation differences to get it...but you also really need to see the examples as they are written (doubly so for the discussion of writing and fonts). Also - when Peterson asks you to do an exercise (e.g., touch your throat and pronounces various sounds), do it.

My only criticisms:
-Trust us, as readers, to remember the major languages and what they were for. Almost every single time Shiväisith was mentioned, we were reminded "Hey this is for Thor: The Dark World!" Multiple times a chapter. After the second time it was brought up in the book, I got it. Ditto for Sondiv and the languages in Defiance.
-It drags a bit in the middle - understandably, as its really technical and its hard to spice up with stories or humor as Peterson does so effectively in other parts.
-You are left wanting more. Again, this is understandable. We're warned that this is a toe-dip, just the tip of the ice berg in conlangs. But there are so many fascinating ideas that are touched on and then dropped for time. I was sad when the book was over.

Oh, and Peterson? Totally taking you up on that offer of coffee. I'll buy the scones. ( )
  kaitlynn_g | Dec 13, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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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 Defiance From 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.

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