Monday, December 8, 2014

Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin *****

The beauty of Science Fiction is the inclusive nature of the genre. Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin is SF based on linguistics. Much of the novel hinges on language relativity or the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis or the idea that language affect the speakers world view and cognitive process. That is: different languages cause their speakers to think differently.

The is a attractive, popular and seductive idea. Certainly the various language police and PC have this principle as one of their core beliefs. Much research continues to be done in this area, mostly concluding minor or no actual effects. However, the siren song of this idea continues regardless.

Native Tongue examines two linguist issues. The first is language relativity and the impact on society by the invention of a new language ... in this case one invented for women. The second is language acquisition, especially early acquisition by infants and later acquisition by adults. Both topics add the the narrative.

Even though the book is 30 year old, it is rightfully still available.

Native Tongue (published in 1984) is a 1984 for feminists. It presents a dystopian extrapolation of women's rights where women ultimately have none. The men are arrogant, self-confident and in control, while the women are subversives.

While this premise might sound ludicrous (at least I hope it does), the world created by Elgin is so realistically constructed, the result is more frightening and insightful, than hyperbolic or unbelieveable.

An excellent book for anyone interested in SciFi by and about women, and after 30 years it is still available - a recommendation in itself.

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