Suzette Haden Elgin

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Sun Feb 9 14:18:35 EST 2003


>Native Tongue is great.

See, this is why we love the list. Everyone is generally so right-thinking. 
Of course it is great.

>I actually have a copy of Elgin's grammar of
>Laadan (? is that the language's name? Er, it's been a while), even though
>I know I'll never bloody get around to learning it.

I made a concerted effort with my friend to learn the language, but we were 
frustrated by a couple of things. 1) the book is full of typos, which plays 
merry hell with the inflected endings of the words, and it took me ages to 
figure out why I was so often "wrong" about verb forms. 2) the vocab list 
in the book has a number of depressing omissions (eg, no word for "play"), 
and we were constantly frustrated by not being able to say things we wanted 
to say. This is particularly annoying, since that's the stated purpose of 
the language. We ended up coining a lot of terms, many of which we use in 
talking to one another. 3) I know Elgin claimed the opposite, but the word 
order of the language is really counter-intuitive for native speakers of 
most Indo-European languages, so that made it really hard to learn. 4) We 
had problems with pronunciation (a minor issue I suppose), because, 
annoyingly for a supposed linguist, Elgin had clearly written the 
pronunciation guide as if everyone has a North American accent. Problem 4) 
is symptomatic of 5) the book, despite her claims of inclusiveness, is, 
like so much else, Northern Hemisphere centric. So she does things like 
name the months after what happens in each, and makes no allowance for the 
fact that in no way can January be described as "snow month" in Australia.

>I read the sequel, The
>Judas Rose, & thought it was good but not as good, & didn't bother to read
>the third one because I've heard so many times how awful it is. Have you
>read it?

Yes, and I had the appalling experience of receiving an email from Elgin 
about the book when I posted my opinion on the (now defunct, I think) Women 
SF&F list. Basically, she abandons Laadan in the book. Given that the 
language is what so many of us liked about the first two, this is a major 
problem. She told me in the email that she did this because of her 
disappointment that no-one had picked up her language and used it. I 
responded by explaining our difficulties, but apparently that just wasn't 
good enough.

Robyn 

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