Láadan was created, according to Wikipedia, to try an experiment in seeing if a constructed language designed specifically for women could better express the views of women better than natural Western languages:

Láadan is a feminist constructed language created by Suzette Haden Elgin in 1982 to test the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, specifically to determine if development of a language aimed at expressing the views of women would shape a culture; a subsidiary hypothesis was that Western natural languages may be better suited for expressing the views of men than women.

How does the language aim to express this difference? What differences make it better for women to express their views than in natural Western languages?

What steps are the creators of Láadan taking to make sure that women can express themselves better in Láadan than in natural Western languages, that it will be different from those natural languages?

1 Answer 1


I am not an expert on Láadan but I was also researching it in the context of feminist communication. This is what I found based on that research.

The idea behind creating Láadan as a "feminist" language was to test the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis to see if natural languages were biased toward expressing male communication, but the language's creator, Suzette Haden Elgin, was unable to prove or disprove the hypotheses she set out to study because of low adoption of the language. As far as I can tell, even Elgin remains uncertain on the effect of these approaches to facilitating feminine communication.

The distinctive characteristics that strike me are

  1. It is a tonal language - This seems to have been very deliberate in the development of Láadan. Does this facilitate feminine thought with particularly more clarity than non-tonal languages? I am not sure, and I couldn't find any reputable research indicating whether or not that is the case, but I suspect that when the language was being developed by Elgin she did not make it a tonal language by accident. Since her hypotheses about the implications of Láadan on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis remain unconfirmed, we probably don't know for sure.

  2. The language has emotional context markers. This is presumably meant to aid in the expression of subtle emotional context to avoid ambiguity that leaves a dialogue open to interpretation and reliant on context clues.

    • -d anger marker

    • -th pain marker

    • -li love marker

    • -lan celebration marker

    • -da joke marker

    • -di education marker

    • -ya fear marker

  3. The language has many affection words, for example, of love. Like the other aspects, whether this is truly a facet that favors female communication over male based on empirical evidence is unclear to me, but it certainly satisfies many widely accepted assumptions about differences in male and female thought. However, it should be noted that many of these assumptions are widely challenged today. Perhaps men desire more nuanced emotional communication as well but suppress this impulse for cultural reasons.

    • a love for inanimates

    • áayáa mysterious love, not yet known to be welcome or unwelcome

    • áazh love for someone sexually desired in the past, but not anymore

    • ab love for one liked but not respected

    • ad love for one respected but not liked

    • éme love for one neither liked nor respected

    • am love for one related by blood

    • ashon love for one not related by blood, but kin of the heart

    • aye love that is unwelcome and a burden

    • azh love for one sexually desired now

    • oham love for that which is holy

    • sham love for the child of one’s body

These text examples were taken from this online PDF resource.

  • 2
    None of those things are inherently more feminine and masculine. Are Chinese and Vietnamese better for women to express themselves than English just because they're tonal? And if it's a language for women to express themselves, shouldn't they not need to explicitly communicate emotional cues, as only men have problem picking up the cues? (As the patently false stereotype says.)
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 7, 2018 at 1:54
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    @curiousdannii I generally agree with you on all of that. Feb 7, 2018 at 2:16
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    Yeah, I wasn't disputing your answer at all, just expressing my bewilderment at the whole idea of a language "for women".
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 7, 2018 at 2:17
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    Do you happen to know if it categorises things differently, like the opposite of Women, Fire and Dangerous Things? To me, that's the kind of default masculinity I'd expect to be reversed in a female language.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 7, 2018 at 2:19
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    @curiousdannii that's a good question, I do not know the answer. I remember that the word for "woman" can also mean "person" so in that sense I think it sort of tries to reverse the way a plural group of people is generally masculine. Feb 7, 2018 at 2:26

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