Láadan is a constructed language created by Suzette Haden Elgin in 1982 as a female-centric experimental language. She wanted to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, holding the idea specifically that Western languages are designed to express the ways that men think, and that there ought to be a language that expresses the ways that women think. She also used the language in a trilogy of science fiction novels, Native Tongue.
Most sentences in Láadan include three particles:
- A speech-act particle, indicating whether a sentence is a statement, a question, a polite request, a less-polite request, a promise, or a warning.
- A tense particle, for the past, present, future or hypothetical. If absent, it’s assumed that the tense of a sentence is the same as the previous sentence.
- An evidentiality particle, indicating whether a statement is known to a speaker because they personally perceived it, because it’s self-evident, whether it’s something they perceived in a dream, whether they assume it’s true because they were told it by someone they trust, whether they assume it’s false because it was told to them by someone they distrust, whether it’s hypothetical, or whether the speaker considers themselves not knowledgeable enough to judge the validity of the statement.
The language is agglutinative and affixes are used to convey the speaker’s feelings on many topics. For example, pronouns get extra affixes depending on how the speaker feels about the referent. Possessive descriptors get affixes depending on the basis of the possession, be that nature (“her mother’s milk”), law or custom (“her husband”), sheer chance (“his winnings”) or unknown. Nouns are also presumed feminine by default, and must take an affix to make them masculine (the inverse of Esperanto).
Phonologically, Láadan has tones (high vs unmarked or low), five vowels /ɑ ɛ ɪ o u/ and 13 consonants /m n b d θ ɬ ʃ h ʒ w ɹ j l/.