Arika Okrent

American linguist

Arika Okrent is an American linguist, known especially for her book In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language[1], the result of five years of research on the subject of constructed languages.

Arika Okrent
Arika Okrent
Arika Okrent
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Biography at Wikipedia

Language really isn't about information transmission. You speak a language in order to join the group that speaks that language.



Times Online, May 18 2009

  • Language really isn't about information transmission. You speak a language in order to join the group that speaks that language.
  • With Esperanto conferences, it was the level of fluency. I sort of thought it would be like watching a video of "Chapter 1 Dialogue" in a language class, like "Where is the library?" But it was very fluid, like watching someone speak Spanish. So seeing that happen convinced me that it's a real language; it's not people playing dress-up with a different vocabulary.
    • When asked what impressed her the most in Esperanto congresses
  • If you decide to get into Esperanto, that means you're not listening to all the people who say, "Why not learn a real language?" or "Isn't that the crazy utopian cult thing?" So there's an element of eccentricity in that, but also an element of toughness. You can stand up to the judgment and negative reactions and do it anyway. There's something admirable in that.


  • "I enjoy looking at paintings, but I have no desire to paint. That impulse isn’t in me, and I wouldn’t be any good at it without it"
  • "No one takes as many pages as English to explain all the exceptions, all the irregularities, and it’s really the matching of the spelling to the pronunciation that causes a huge headache for learners of the language"
  • "English is also very prolific borrower of words from other languages, but that’s not entirely to blame for the inconsistencies"
  • "The weird things about English got baked in from the very beginning, especially with respect to the printing press … and all languages change over time but printing press caught English at a very bad moment"
  • "The vowel system was undergoing a big change, and we were just bringing English back into written form again after it had been basically out of written form for a couple hundred years"
  • "We were also spelling that oo sound as ou, because that’s how they spell that sound in French, so it made sense that moon had that spelling but then the spelling didn’t make sense anymore after the sound shifted, then it shifted again, but in some places it didn’t"
  • "Even in phlegm, we didn’t have that g in phlegm when we borrowed that word or first used that word. But we dressed up medical terms, we dressed up various terms with their classical inspirations"
  • "No, I don’t think governments should have any role in conlang development or promotion. The languages will entice people to participate or they won’t. That’s the only way it’s ever worked, even when governments have tried to get involved"
    • [8] on if governments subsidize CONLANG development


  1. . Random House. May 2009. 
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