Iotic v Pravic

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In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed, the characters use two languages, Iotic and Pravic. Iotic is the language of Urras, the planet intended to mimic earth. As such this language is very similar in content to English. Pravic is the language of Anarres, the anarchist planet that separated from Urras hundreds of years previously. Because of this separation, Pravic does not include certain words or connotations found in Iotic. The gaps in communication might lead to interesting revelations about Anarresti culture.




Rare or "Unnatural" Words

  • Religion
"In Pravic the word religion is seldom. No, what do you say-rare."[1]
  • Occupational Titles
While all of those from Urras refer to Shevek as Dr. Shevek, he refuses the addition of doctor. "You are a doctor. [...] I am not. I am called Shevek" (p. 7).[2]

Interesting Words

  • Work
Interesting to note is that in Pravic, the same word is used for both work and play. This suggests no distinction between the tropes of Work and Pleasure, except in the case of Defense work, which was boring due to the lack of defense needed. "Most Defense work was so boring that it was not called work in Pravic, which used the same word for work and play, but kleggich, drudgery." (pg. 150 of ebook) [3]
  • Nuchnibi
Used for people who wandered from job posting to job posting on Anarres.

Absent Words

  • Bastard
Defense foreman translates it as a 'foreign for her people'. She recognizes the negative connotation both from the sound of the word and the tone in which it is said.
  • Higher (in reference to superiority)
Urrasti "often used the word 'higher' as a synonym for 'better' in their writings, where an Annaresti would use 'more central'" (15).


As this language is very similar to English, only words with altered meaning or references will be listed.


  • Oddies
Used by the Captain of the Mindfull to mean the people of Anarres.
  • Splendor
While Shevek knew of this word, it didn't apply to anything on Anarres. Yet when he got to Urras, he could see its clear application in the way people looked and dressed (p. 23).[2]
  • "Birdseed"
A slang (and possibly vulgar) term that people on Urras use for the popular press and media (p. 141).[2]


  1. Le Guin, U. K. (1974). The Dispossessed (ch.1 pp. 15). New York: Harper & Row, Publishers Inc.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Le Guin, U. K. (1974). The Dispossessed. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers Inc.
  3. Le Guin, Ursula K. (1974). The Dispossessed. HarperCollins e-books. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from Barnes and Noble:
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