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Wil sha![edit | edit source]

Welcome to the WikiBook on Láadan!

The purpose of this WikiBook is to provide a resource for learning Láadan that is under a permissive Creative Commons license. There exist other resources; but may be expensive (the original print book), hard to find (lessons on webpages that have since gone down), or simply cannot be freely shared and preserved due to lack of licenses being stated in the works.

As a libre work (requiring only attribution and that the same license be used for derivatives), you are free to use this Wikibook as you wish. Please share, add, and help keep Láadan alive!

About[edit | edit source]

Láadan[edit | edit source]

Láadan is a language that was constructed in 1982 by Suzette Haden Elgin, a science fiction author, self-help author, feminist, and linguist. She built Láadan to explore the idea of an “undefinable other reality” that we have no vocabulary for. As a science fiction author, she knew of stories that presented alternatives to real-world patriarchal societies by either depicting matriarchies (where the structure of patriachy is retained but women become the favoured class) or depicting androgynous societies (where no social differentiation such as gender roles are distinguished between people); but she wondered about some third alternative, where it wasn't a fight between men vs. women for power or abolishment of their differences, but something else completely. [1]

This as well as her own personal experiences with using language for human communication, her perceived difficulties that women experience trying to express themselves with certain limitations (how to more easily describe concepts that are common among women but have no terms, how men react to the language women use and write off concerns, etc.), this caused her to think about a language by and for women. This was part of a larger movement in the latter part of the 20. century to consider various formulations of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the idea that one's ability to think and communicate are in large part defined by which linguistic tools are available.

Native Tongue[edit | edit source]

In the jargon of language creation, Láadan is not merely an a priori language which tries to start from first principles (in this case about gendered uses of and responses to language), but it is also what is known as a "fictlang": a language steeped in a fictional world and writings.

The creation of Láadan went hand-in-hand with Suzette's publishing of her Native Tongue series of novels. In the book series, a group of women who are sent to the “Barren House” once no longer useful to their society end up creating Láadan in secret. In reality, Suzette created Láadan as an experiment, curious whether women would become interested in it, or at least inspire women to build a better language.

Native Tongue is a three-book science fiction series, created as a ten-year experiment, along with the language created "within" the series, Láadan. [2]

Native Tongue is set in the 22nd century, where the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated in the 1980s. At the same time, Earth is dealing with many alien species, and has need for translators.

These translators come from special "Linguist lines", whose lives revolve around studying alien languages and acting as interpreters.

Within one of the Linguist houses, a group of women secretly construct a language for women...

Suzette was conscious how even languages in fiction garner real-life popularity. She would sometimes compare it to the language from the Star Trek motion pictures (later grammatically fleshed-out), tlhIngon-hol - better known as Klingon. Klingon and Láadan both have their origins in the 1980s. After ten years passed, Láadan did not gain much popularity, and Suzette viewed the much greater attention Klingon had received of being symbolic. She declared the Láadan experiment a failure; if a strongly-stated Sapir-Whorf hypothesis proved true, and there was indeed a language that would better allow a unique but coequal human experience to be expressed by women, it had not been ascertained in the project of Láadan as it stood. However, the story of the language does not end with the story of the experiment.

Dramatis personae[edit | edit source]

Over the ten years of the Láadan experiment and beyond, Suzette was able to garner a small community of readers and speakers of the language, mostly by publishing her dictionary-and-grammar, distributing pamphlets in arts and women's magazines, and discussing her thoughts about the language on the web once that was invented (in particular, LiveJournal). Some of these Láadaná (a word for someone who uses the language) contributed to the language's development and growth -- especially through new vocabulary -- and were subsequently credited by Suzette in later publications. She referred to them by their initials, and this continues as a tradition to the present-day, even beyond Suzette's death.

Old guard[edit | edit source]

  • Suzette Haden Elgin — {SHE} 1936–2015; a linguist and sci-fi author. She first began writing science fiction novels to help her pay for tuition for grad school. She taught linguistics at San Diego State University until 1980. [2]
  • Sharla Hardy — {SH}
  • Anne Hatzakis — {AH}
  • Carole Fontaine — {CF}
  • Julia Penelope — {JP} (credit includes collaborations with her students)
  • Tina Black — {TB}
  • De Kanel — {DK}
  • Elizabeth Baronowsky — {EB}
  • M. Lynne Murphy — {MLM}

Second generation[edit | edit source]

  • Dathimithedeyul (A.M.J. Barnhart, Amberwind) - {AB}
  • Jeanne Gomoll - {JG}
  • Diane Martin - {DM}
  • Baer Gewanter - {BG}
  • Catriona Harrison - {CH}
  • Jackie Powers - {JLP} (feministSF.net)
  • ??? - {PJ}
  • Rae Beno - {RB}
  • Yahoo Mailing Loop - {YML}

This Wikibook[edit | edit source]

Feel free to add your name if you contribute to it! This is a living document.

Foreword and dedication[edit | edit source]

I think that the concept of Láadan is easier to portray to those who have grown up queer and sheltered like me. For people from my generation and before, if you're not quite the same as others – whether sexuality-wise or gender-wise – it feels alienating. And, without that community, you aren't aware of the words that exist to describe your experience (Dysphoria, Asexuality, etc.) In this case, we can see that there was clearly a lack of vocabulary to describe our experiences, but it has since been created and a community built up.

Likewise, some words in Láadan help describe certain experiences that all people have, though its emphasis as a woman's language is in how it tries to be more soft, perceptive, and in-tune with feelings. Of course, people of all genders can use and appreciate this language if they are interested; Suzette never meant for it to be “just for women” even if she created it for women. Similarly, so many movies are made with male leads but meant for everybody, while we still assume movies with a female lead are often movies “for women”. Something made for women can still be for everybody. [3]

In a comparison between Klingon vs. Láadan, I think you would have to compare how they were presented and backed – Klingon had a television show it belonged to, and with the TV show came merchandise to popularize Klingon characters and keep it alive long-term. Suzette had a series of three novels and purposely did not try to market it in such a way.

On the downsides of Láadan, I have to mention the lack of queer vocabulary. This can be remedied, but it is not something that I am comfortable doing myself and I would like to have more people join my efforts in working with Láadan, so that we may expand the dictionary to cover more perceptions and experiences.

Overall, I believe that studying Láadan and about how and why it was created has ultimately changed my own perception of the world, and possibly how I think of a more ideal world, though I still find it hard to put my own thoughts into words. Láadan as a language and as a concept means a lot to me. Over all of history, women's work and accomplishments have been swept under the rug. I see this as somebody with a computer science background, and somebody interested in learning about women's history. My attempt to preserve and document Láadan is just a small way I'm trying to keep one woman's accomplishment of writing a language from disappearing.

-- Rachel Wil Sha Singh

Learning Láadan[edit | edit source]

Part 1: Basic Sentences

  1. Sounds, tones, and euphony
  2. What is it? What is it doing?
  3. Speech Act morpheme, Evidence morpheme, and verb negation
  4. Time, adjectives, and plurals
  5. Pronous, objects, and multiple verbs, to try to [VERB]

Part 2: Relations

  1. The Goal and Source markers (to, from)
  2. The Association marker and Beneficiary marker (with, for)
  3. The Instrument marker and the Location marker (per/by means of, at)
  4. The Manner marker, the Reason marker, the Purpose marker, and the To-Cause-To marker (in this manner, because, in order to, to cause to)
  5. The Path marker (Through, across)

Part 3: Perception

  1. Ways to perceive
  2. Possession markers
  3. Relationships
  4. Degree markers
  5. Duration markers and Repetition morphemes
  6. State of Consciousness
  7. Additions to the Speech Act morphemes
  8. Noun declensions
  9. Comparisons

Part 4: Additional

  1. Who, what, when, where, why?
  2. Embedding sentences
  3. Passive voice
  4. Numbers and quantity
  5. If... then...

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Why a Woman is not like a Physicist, WisCon talk March 1982, Suzette Haden Elgin
  2. a b http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/
  3. http://laadanlanguage.org/node/21

Grammar reference[edit | edit source]

Grammar reference

A quick-reference list of grammar rules and examples.

Phrase book[edit | edit source]

Phrase book

A list of categorized phrases in Láadan.

Word lists[edit | edit source]

Word lists

Categorized word lists to quickly find useful words.

Practice material[edit | edit source]

  1. Text stories - Short stories for practicing reading Láadan text.
  2. Comics - Graphical comic strips and art that uses Láadan.

Resources beyond this Wikibook[edit | edit source]

Reference works[edit | edit source]

Dictionaries[edit | edit source]

Guided courses[edit | edit source]

Interactives[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]