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Isaac Newton Once Tried To Invent His Own Language

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Marion Kimberlin
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The great 17th century physicist Isaac Newton is known for many things.

His most fully worked-out example shows how prefixes could modify the meaning of tor, his word for temperature, to produce more specific meanings from exceedingly hot owtor , through pretty hot awtor , warm etor , indifferently cold aytor and extremely cold oytor , with all gradations in between.

Tolkien invented an Elvish language for his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

These fictional languages usually have limited vocabularies with only a few thousand words, and other than Esperanto—two million people speak it today, mostly concentrated in Europe, East Asia, and South America—they haven t really caught on.

True, a Klingon translation of Hamlet exists, and there s a small but passionate online community dedicated to learning the Na Vi language invented by Caltech linguistics professor Paul Frommer for Avatar.

The Principia wasn t going to write itself.

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Marion Kimberlin
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