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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eyecatchers-24 : 'Bored Student Invents New Language' - LATWP

Booming Tongues: Bored Student invents new language

Toronto, Aug.29: In any language, Sonja Elen Kisa was depressed. The world was overwhelming, and the thoughts that swirled through her mind in French, English, German or Esperanto echoed that.

So Kisa, 28, a student and translator in Toronto, decided to create her own language, something simple that would help clarify her thinking. She called it Toki Pona - 'good language' - and gave it just 120 words.

Ale li pona," she told herself, "Everything will be OK."

Kisa eventually sorted through her thoughts and, to her great surprise, her language took off, with more than 100 speakers today, singing Toki Pona songs, writing Toki Pona poems and chatting with Toki Pona words.

It is all part of a weirdly Babel-esque boom of new languages. Once the private arena practice of J.R.R.Tolkien, Esperanto speakers and grunting Klingon fanatics, invented languages have flourished on the Internet and begun creeping into the public domain.

The Website Langmaker.com now lists more than 1,000 language inventors and 1,902 made-up languages, from Ayvarith to Zyem.

The language inventors have, of course, created a word to describe what they do - conlang,' short for constructed languages.

In this realm of art, Toki Pona is white canvas with scattered brush strokes of primary colors.

Kisa created Toki Pona as an exercise in minimalism, looking for the core vocabulary necessary to communicate. With only 120 words, a Toki Pona speaker must combine words to express more complicated ideas. For example, the Toki Pona phrase for 'friend' is jan pona (the 'j' sounds like a 'y'), literally 'good person'.

Kisa, who is studying speech language therapy, tried to focus Toki Pona's vocabulary on basic, positive concepts. "It has sort of a Zen or Taoist nature to it," Kisa said.

Tolkien liked to call invented language his 'secret vice.' He spent hours at this hobby, designing grammars and modifying words from Latin, Finnish, Welsh and others for his languages. Eventually, his languages needed tongues to speak them, and they needed a place to live. Thus Middle-Earth was born - LATWP

(Courtesy: The New Indian Express, Madurai, Aug.30, 2007)

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