|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2008)|
Pravic is a fictional language used and referred to in the science-fiction book The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Pravic is a fictional constructed language: in the book, it is said to have been constructed by a person named Farigv. Pravic is spoken on the planet Anarres, where followers of the philosopher Laia Asieo Odo chose to be exiled in order to achieve the goal of a functioning anarcho-communist society. Anarres is actually the semi-desert moon of Odo's homeworld Urras. As far as we know, the only language spoken widely in Anarres is Pravic, though the few people that have contact with Urras (mostly trade officials and scientists) also speak Iotic, the language of Urras's dominant nation A-Io.
The anarcho-communist philosophical premise produces some interesting linguistic phenomena, mentioned in passing by the author. For example, since private property does not exist, the possessives ("my", "your", etc.) are usually avoided and replaced by the more general definite article ("the").
Equality of the sexes follows automatically from Odo's principles, and thus there is no word in Pravic for what a man does to a woman (or vice versa) during mutually consented sex: there is just an intransitive verb ("copulate") that must have a plural subject. For sex understood as imposition or as a gain of dominion, the only alternative is the use of a transitive verb meaning "rape". Shevek, the main character in the book, ponders about the institutions of "marriage" and "prostitution", which appear in quotes in the text because he is thinking in Iotic, not in Pravic.
Pravic apparently has no word for "forest", probably because Anarres has no real forests, being mostly dry, with small sparse trees and bushes, if anything. It also has no words for many common animals found in Urras, such as horses; for institutions like prisons; for gambling (since there is no money or property to be gambled); for religious terms like "hell"; or, apparently, for verbs like buy, that again relate to property rights absent for them.
In the Odonian society, the authority associated with parenthood is also played down, and descent becomes (sociologically) unimportant. Accordingly, the words for biological "mother" and "father" are specialized terms, clearly separated from those referring to the people who raise a child (mamme, tadde), which in turn do not mean just "mom" or "dad" but cover the whole set of parents, relatives and others involved directly in physical and emotional contact with the child. The word ammar is used for "brother" (or "sister" -- the language is completely neutral as to gender), not in the genetic sense but as a general expression of fraternity, for fellow human beings ("brethren").
Although not stated explicitly in the text, Pravic is implied to lack pronouns that show different degrees of politeness or deference, as well as titles and other terms of address that do not refer to an actual function of the person.
At several points in the novel the usage of "modes" in Pravic are mentioned ("ethical mode", "analogic mode" [referring to Odo's book Analogy], "experiential mode", "technological mode", "economic mode" etc.). And throughout the book this concept seem to be central to Shevek's way of thinking.
This is somewhat expounded upon by Shevek, in conversation with the ship's doctor, whilst en route to Urras:
"The vocabulary makes it difficult," Shevek said, pursuing his discovery. "In Pravic the word religion is seldom. No, what do you say--rare. Not often used. Of course, it is one of the Categories: the Fourth Mode. Few people learn to practice all the Modes. But the Modes are built of the natural capacities of the mind, you could not seriously believe that we had no religious capacity? That we could do physics while we were cut off from the profoundest relationship man has with the cosmos?"
— Shevek (speaking in Iotic about Pravic), page 15
Pravic cursing does not follow the usual mold; sex is not considered obscene and the Deity is not referenced within the language in such a way that could even be used in a curse; as it had never been the language of religious believers, Pravic has no such expressions as "damned" or "go to Hell".
The author mentions that "bastard" as an insult is used in Iotic, but it remains a foreign untranslated word during a conversation in Pravic, since it has no meaning in Anarres, where marriage does not exist.
In Pravic, there is no need of using euphemisms with regard to excrement. Instead of such terms as "toilet", "water closet/WC", "going to the bathroom" and the like, Pravic speakers feel no hesitation in forthrightly calling the place "the shittery".
To the contrary, certain words pertaining to the capitalist system rejected and demonized on Anarres, such as "propertarian", are often used as generic insults or epithets. On one occasion a character with too-small shoes complains "Rotten profiteering boots!"
Though Anarres in fact does have its own brand of politics (which play an important role in the book's plot), the term "politician" is highly derogatory and anyone accused of being one would hotly deny it.
Linguistic description 
There is very scarce actual linguistic information about Pravic in the book. Nothing is said about syntax, morphology or phonology. Most Pravic words in the book are proper names (said to be generated randomly by a computer), and they are two-syllable words with five or six phonemes (of the form CVCVC, where C = consonant, V = vowel), if one counts the groups sh, gv and kv as single consonants, which they probably are. Gv appears several times word-finally (Kadagv, Farigv) and word-initially (Gvarab), and kv at least once word-initially (Kvetur), and once medially (Takver); they are suggestive of labiovelar consonants. Other than that, consonant clusters seem rare; there is a person named Trepil and another named Skovan. Word-final clusters, if they exist, are not found in our limited sample.
Words like ammar and tadde, as well as the place-name Abbenay, would seem to indicate the presence of long/geminate consonants, unless LeGuin uses double consonants as pronunciation aids as in English. We do not know whether Anarres and Urras are actually proper Pravic words. They of course must have existed before the invention of Pravic, so they could have been borrowed from Iotic or other language, but maybe they are indeed Pravic adaptations, or simply approximated English spellings.
See also