Native Tongue

     Section 1. The nineteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed…
        (Declared in force March 11, 1991.)

     Section 1. No female citizen of the United States shall be allowed to serve in any elected or appointed office, to participate in any capacity (official or unofficial) in the scholarly or scientific professions, to hold employment outside the home without written permission of her husband or (should she be unmarried) a responsible male related by blood or appointed by her guardian by law, or to exercise control over money or other property or assets without such written permission…

– Suzette Haden Elgin, Native Tongue    

Suzette Haden Elgin‘s Native Tongue (1984) is the first of a trilogy concerning the construction of a feminist-pacifist constructed language called Láadan. It was followed by The Judas Rose (1987) and Earthsong (1993)

Native Tongue is set after the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution



Elgin sets out her aims in her essay ”Láadan, the Constructed Language in Native Tongue” (1999):

When I put Láadan together, it was to serve two purposes. First, much of the plot for Native Tongue revolved around a group of women, all linguists, engaged in constructing a language specifically designed to express the perceptions of human women; because I’m a linguist and linguistics is the science in my novels, I felt obligated actually to construct the language before I wrote about it. Second, I wrote the novel as a thought experiment with the express goal of testing four interrelated hypotheses: (1) that the weak form of the linguistic relativity hypothesis is true [that is, that human languages structure human perceptions in significant ways]; (2) that Goedel’s Theorem applies to language, so that there are changes you could not introduce into a language without destroying it and languages you could not introduce into a culture without destroying it; (3) that change in language brings about social change, rather than the contrary; and (4) that if women were offered a women’s language one of two things would happen — they would welcome and nurture it, or it would at minimum motivate them to replace it with a better women’s language of their own construction. I set a ten-year time limit on the experiment — since the novel came out in 1984, that meant an end date of 1994 — and I turned it loose. I didn’t know in 1984 that the experiment would escape from the novel that was its lab, but in the long run I was glad that it did; it make the final results more interesting.”

– Suzette Haden Elgin, ”Láadan, the Constructed Language in Native Tongue”

See my essay on Constructed Languages


  • Elgin, Suzette Haden (1984) Native Tongue
  • Elgin, Suzette Haden (1987) The Judas Rose
  • Elgin, Suzette Haden (1993) Earthsong
  • Elgin, Suzette Haden (1999) ”Láadan, the Constructed Language in Native Tongue”
  • Elgin, Suzette Haden (2000) The Language Imperative
  • Elgin, Suzette Haden with Dunja M. Mohr (2000) ”The Profession of Science Fiction, 53: Towards a Society of Non-Violence” in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction #79, Summer 2000
  • Elgin, Suzette Haden (2004) ”We Have Always Spoken Panglish”
  • Gough, Val, Candas Jane Dorsey, Dunja Mohr & Farah Mendlesohn (2000) ”Commentaries on Native Tongue” in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction #79, Summer 2000
  • Lá
  • Squier, Susan & Julie Vedder (2000) ”Afterword: Encoding a Woman’s Language” in Elgin, Suzette Haden (1984)
  • Squier, Susan &  Julie Vedder (2002) ”Afterword: Gender, Technology, and Violence” in Elgin, Suzette Haden (1987)

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