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Native Tongue: 09/28/06

Native Tongue

I read Native Tongue not so much for the science fiction (I'm not big on complete distopian stories) but for the linguistics. As a linguistics story, the book is wonderful but the near future world of the United States as a government of the "Protestant Taliban" as one reviewer put it, leaves too many questions unanswered. Unanswered questions lead to weak stories and frustrated readers.

Many languages are discussed in the book. Some are real and some are made up. Among those made up is Láadan, the language of women. The women of the Barren Houses work on this language in their spare time as a way of being able to express ideas without the men who are their "care-takers" interfering. The language is also supposed to fill in the gaps that English under the oppressive patriarchal system cannot express. The language is built and maintained through a networked database. Now life is imitating art as there is a Láadan wiki where the language is being expanded. I have to admit to being weirded-out a bit by a work group for a made up language, whether it be Láadan or Klingon.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

Native Tongue is the first of a trilogy but having finished the first book I'm not inspired to find the remaining two books. The bit about the linguistics and human, humanoid and non-humanoid language fascinated me, I found the overly oppressive but poorly explained near future patriarchy hard to believe.

Were these changes just to the United States? To the whole world? How many nations are there in the near future? Do women leave the country (even by underground railroad if necessary) if they don't like living in such an oppressive world? Are there any men who dislike the division of genders? Why are men so anti-children?

On the linguistic side there are some other unanswered questions. Why do babies die when introduced to non-humanoid speech? Why are women better linguists? Why have the adults lost the ability to learn new languages?

All of these unanswered questions make for an incomplete diagesis. I wish the author had fleshed out her world better.

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