What is Láadan?
Láadan is a language that was constructed in 1982 by Suzette Haden Elgin, a science fiction author, self-help author, feminist, and linguist. She built Láadan to explore the idea of an “undefinable other reality” that we have no vocabulary for. As a science fiction author, she knew of stories that were “Matriarchies” and “Androgynous” presented as an alternative to our traditionally Patriarchal society, but she wondered about some third alternative, where it wasn’t a fight between men vs. women for power, but something else completely.
This as well as her own personal experiences with using language for human communication, her perceived difficulties that women experience trying to express themselves with certain limitations (how to more easily describe concepts that are common among women but have no terms, how men react to the language women use and write off concerns, etc.), this caused her to think about a language by and for women.
Láadan went along hand-in-hand with her Native Tongue series of books. In the book series, a group of women who are sent to the “Barren House” once no longer useful to their society end up creating Láadan in secret. In reality, Suzette created Láadan as an experiment, curious whether women would become interested in it, or at least inspire women to build a better language.
Klingon and Láadan were both created in the 1980s. After ten years passed, Láadan did not gain much popularity, and Suzette saw the Klingon language being more widely adopted as… well, it was something. She declared the Láadan experiment a failure.
I think that the concept of Láadan is easier to portray to those who have grown up queer and sheltered like me. For people from my generation and before, if you’re not quite the same as others – whether sexuality-wise or gender-wise – it feels alienating. And, without that community, you aren’t aware of the words that exist to describe your experience (Dysphoria, Asexuality, etc.) In this case, we can see that there was clearly a lack of vocabulary to describe our experiences, but it has since been created and a community built up.
Likewise, some words in Láadan help describe certain experiences that all people have, though its emphasis as a woman’s language is in how it tries to be more soft, perceptive, and in-tune with feelings. Of course, people of all genders can use and appreciate this language if they are interested; Suzette never meant for it to be “just for women” even if she created it for women. Similarly, so many movies are made with male leads but meant for everybody, while we still assume movies with a female lead are often movies “for women”. Something made for women can still be for everybody.
In a comparison between Klingon vs. Láadan, I think you would have to compare how they were presented and backed – Klingon had a television show it belonged to, and with the TV show came merchandise to popularize Klingon characters and keep it alive long-term. Suzette had a series of three novels and purposely did not try to market it in such a way.
On the downsides of Láadan, I have to mention the lack of queer vocabulary. This can be remedied, but it is not something that I am comfortable doing myself and I would like to have more people join my efforts in working with Láadan, so that we may expand the dictionary to cover more perceptions and experiences.
How do I learn Láadan?
There are three main resources you can use to learn the grammar of Láadan. In and of itself, the grammar is not very difficult and it is very regular – though it is not in the “Subject-Verb-Object” form that English is in, and can take some getting used to.
- Láadan Wikibook by Rachel Singh >>
- The First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan by Suzette Haden Elgin (Backup) >>
- Láadan Lessons by Amberwind (Backup) >>
I also have some videos about Láadan that you can use to learn more about the language and how it sounds.
What tools are there for me to use Láadan?
The following tools I’ve written to help make Láadan more accessible to use and reference. Most of these tools are open source and available on the Áya Dan GitHub page: https://github.com/Aya-Dan
Rachel Singh’s tools:
What communities exist around Láadan?
The internet Láadan community is not very active, in all honesty. Formerly, the LiveJournal community was the active Láadan place to go to, but it has since become silent. (This community was around before I learned about Láadan).
There are people who will check the Láadan Facebook group and occasionally ask questions and leave comments, and same with the subreddit for Láadan.
There is a message board on this website, though it is currently unused. I welcome any interest to the board, but I’m not holding my breath.
Finally, there are chatrooms – There are plenty of conlangers active on Telegram and on Discord, and there are some Láadan specific channels you can join. Still, while people may be active in these channels, it is less likely that you will find someone to talk with in Láadan, and more just interest around the language.
Still, here are the links if you would like to check any of these out.
- LiveJournal community >>
- Facebook group >>
- Subreddit >>
- Laadan.club Message Board >>
- Discord server >>
- A First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan (Book backup) >>
- Láadan Lessons for Beginners (LaadanLanguage.wordpress.com) >>
- Láadan to Spanish dictionary >>
- Láadan Made Easier >>
- Amberwind’s Láadan Lessons (Backup) >>
You can email me at Rachel@Moosader.com if you have specific questions or comments.