Myths About Láadan

Every few months I do a Google search for “Láadan language articles,” just to see if anything new has turned up, and yesterday’s search was productive — there were quite a few things I hadn’t seen before, some of them composed mostly of words like “stupid” and a four-letter word I don’t use. I’m accustomed to that, and to being misquoted, and to having the novels misquoted, and to reading criticisms that are based on the misquotations; I’m accustomed to the many well-justified complaints. All of that goes with the territory, and is to be expected; if I wasn’t prepared for that, I should have gone into animal husbandry instead of into writing either fiction or nonfiction. But after reading for the n-th time that Láadan is a language intended only for women, I began to wonder if I had finally lost my mind. That is: I began to wonder if it was possible that somewhere in the Native Tongue trilogy I had actually said that Láadan was intended only for women. At which point I abandoned Google and went back to the novels to find out.

It turns out that I have not lost my mind. [Yet.]

For the record, therefore, here is an excerpt from pp. 355-356 of The Judas Rose, the second book in the trilogy, where a woman named Nazareth is lying in her bed thinking about things…

“In a while, Láadan would move out among Protestant and other women as well as Catholic, because the easing of the prejudice against the ‘Lingoes’ was at last beginning to heal the split between them and the rest of the world. Soon women of the Lines and other women would be mingling freely again, whether the government approved of that or not; soon, there would be non-linguist women coming to the Womanhouses as friends, and bringing their children along with them to be friends, too. They would hear Láadan spoken there, not just in church services and set pieces, but as common everyday language. And the little ones, both boys and girls, would pick up the language as effortlessly as they picked up any other language, and use it among themselves.

Nazareth closed her eyes, thinking that after all she might sleep a little, and smiled at the ceiling. If she lived long enough, she would be so interested to see what they were going to be like — the first human men who had learned Láadan as infants and toddlers. It might make little difference, or no difference at all; on the other hand, it might make a difference worth rejoicing over, and the chances were good enough to make that the likely outcome.

We never dared teach our male children, she thought; it would have alerted the men to things they were better off not noticing. It was always ‘just for girls,’ and peer pressure has kept it that way without much effort on our part. But out in the world, and out in the colonies, it would be different. The little ones would be enchanted to have a ‘secret language’ to play with and to share. Bless the children.

She wouldn’t live long enough to see it all happen, but she didn’t mind; it was enough to have lived to see it all begin.”

I am reassured to know that I have not lost my mind. [Yet.]

It was never my intention that the language should be restricted to women, just as that was not the intention of my characters in the novel.

Reprinted from (11/27/2006) with permission.