Regular readers of our irregular blog will recall the series of posts we did on Anthony Burgess’s other invented languages a couple of years back, of which there are more than a few. These collected thoughts have now been expanded, revised and published in the peer-reviewed Hungarian journal of English literature, The Anachronist, and (almost all) the journal is free to read or download in the spirit of open access thanks to the publishers at ELTE, Hungary’s foremost university.
In this paper, Burgess is used to demonstrate that the role of invented languages in literature goes far beyond the existing well-explored territories of Science Fiction (SF) or High Fantasy, though they predominate therein, and can also be found in historical novels, and even realist fiction, as Burgess’s variegated novels reveal.
This is Ponying the Slovo’s second publication for 2023, and it’s not even two weeks in. We might need a little lie-down!
Anyhow, feel free to read the article here, and the whole journal, all of which will be of interest to Burgess scholars, may be accessed from this page.
What we found was inevitably very interesting. We found that Watership Down features an extensive linguistic topography, including not only the rabbit language, which features also in an extensive glossary prepared by Adams, but also a ‘hedgerow patois’ spoken as a form of common creole by all creatures, and implicitly other species-specific languages too.
We also discovered that Adams’s linguistic creation, Lapine, was not as fully realised as other seminal art-languages such as Tolkien’s languages or even Burgess’s anti-language, Nadsat. Nevertheless, like elements of Elvish or Nadsat, some terms from Lapine actually entered human popular culture briefly.
There’s a lot more too, but if you want to discover why Kehaar the gull sounds like he has German and Jamaican parentage, you’ll have to attend our paper at the conference this weekend.
Readers with access to a university library can access this article through their university library account, but if we get requests to read it we will try to accommodate that by sending out pre-prints of the article to interested parties.
This article is the latest of a series of outputs, all of which can be seen here. It also foreshadows our next scheduled publication, which will compare the English, French and Spanish versions of Nadsat linguistically, using parallel translation corpora techniques. We’ve already introduced some of the findings here for those interested, and in a forthcoming post we’ll be looking specifically at the Spanish translation and its curious history.