What a joy it was to read a book with so many different positive aspects. Arika Okrent’s book on artificial languages possesses many qualities that make it both informative and entertaining.
First, the informative parts. Okrent has organized the book according to a timeline, explaining each major boom in language creation. She also has broken the subject into sections, within which are chapters. She typically starts with an explanation of the times and what about those times spurred people to create an artificial language. Some chapters are biographical in nature, talking about the lives of the language inventors. Others discuss the languages themselves, providing context, examples, and a discussion of what the goals were of the language. These inevitably talk about why they failed to capture a wider audience. It was fascinating to me to learn that the irregularities and ambiguities of naturally-developing languages are something that sets them above those created to be regular and precise.
Okrent also shows great humor in her writing. She discusses meetings of Klingon speakers and her work to get her first Klingon pin, meetings of Esperanto speakers that are filled with idealists, a symbolic language developer who spent time alternately flattering and insulting those who adapted his work to assist disabled children communicate with others, and the arguments between discussion group members that get quite heated. She does an excellent job of providing balance to the more educational parts by interspersing these entertaining stories.
Overall, Okrent has produced a book of utmost interest to those who love languages and linguistics. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.