An Invented Language Project for the Introductory Linguistics Classroom

Skye Anderson is a graduate student in Linguistics at the University of Arizona; her research are the phonology and morphology of Semitic languages, speech perception and corpus linguistics. She started studying Linguistics when she realized all of her invented languages had words for aardvark, but no grammar.

Shannon Bischoff is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Linguistics at Purdue University Fort Wayne. His Ph.D. is in Formal and Anthropological Linguistics with a minor in Computational Linguistics. His research interests include English and Spanish in Puerto Rico; English as a language barrier to minority and endangered language communities; language documentation, revitalization; formal and computational approaches to language; and Indigenous languages of the Americas. He has been teaching using language invention since 2006.

Amy Fountain is an Associate Professor, NTE, in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Her Ph.D. is in Anthropology and Linguistics. Her research interests are in language endangerment, documentation, and revitalization, and the indigenous languages of the Americas. She has been teaching freshmen about linguistics using language invention since 2006, and is always learning new things about language, and students, because of it.

Jeffrey Punske is an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He earned his PhD in Linguistics in 2012 from the University of Arizona. His research focuses on morphosyntax. He teaches courses on invented languages, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics, phonology, among other topics. He previously taught at the University of Oklahoma and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. He is frequently bow-tied.

Abstract

This paper presents a brief description of a constructed language project developed for the introductory to linguistics/language classroom. The paper describes the project, its history of development and use, and provides links to sample syllabuses, the project outline, and student project examples. The project described has been used with thousands of students at three different universities. Developed for a large lecture-style setting with up to 500 students at a major research university enrolling over 30,000 students, the project has been taken to a smaller research university (12,000 students) and a metropolitan university (13,000 students), where it has been implemented in a variety of undergraduate courses. The project has been used as a means to introduce basic linguistic concepts to the non-major in a general education setting. In addition, it is currently being piloted in a course on typology. These applications demonstrate the versatility of the project as tool for a variety of linguistic classrooms.

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The Dai Language: An Embarrassment

David J. Peterson received a BA in English and Linguistics from UC Berkeley in 2003 and an MA in Linguistics from UC San Diego in 2005. He created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Castithan, Irathient and Indojisnen languages for Syfy’s Defiance, the Sondiv language for the CW’s Star-Crossed, the Lishepus language for Syfy’s Dominion, the Trigedasleng language for the CW’s The 100, and the Shiväisith language for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. He’s been creating languages since 2000.

Abstract

David J. Peterson’s first paid conlanging project occurred eight years before Game of Thrones. It was a language called Dai, and it was done in early 2001 for a high school student’s Dungeons & Dragons campaign. This paper provides a brief introduction to the nature of the work, and the full language, as it stood at that point.

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Old High Veriden

Ola Lisowska is a hobbyist language creator from Germany with a Master’s degree in Slavic Linguistics. While English and German are her native languages, her additional known languages include Polish, Russian, older varieties of Slavic languages, and some tidbits of French and Latin. She is most intrigued by “immersive” conlangs that go along with entire fictional universes, and very much enjoys creating these herself. She is especially passionate about creating conlangs for use in music and chant.

Abstract

Veriden, a constant work in progress, is a synthetic language that is strongly influenced by slavic languages, while not being overtly based on them. Its creation is largely driven by the author’s subjective aesthetic ideals, which are demonstrated when Veriden is used as a language for song and poetry. Veriden is part of a larger fictional universe, which comes with its own peoples, mythologies and stories, but the focus of this essay remains primarily on the grammar of the language itself. In this article, the creator presents the groundwork of the creation process along with a detailed description of Veriden’s grammatical structure.

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Nuvutani: Introducing a new language

Sylvia Sotomayor has been conlanging since she read Tolkien at an impressionable age. She is best known for the Kēlen language, which won a Smiley Award in 2009. She is currently the Treasurer of the Language Creation Society, and keeps the membership rolls and the LCS Lending Library.

Abstract

Sylvia is most famous for Kēlen, a verbless language, and so for her second language, sodna-leni or sodemadu, she created a language with a closed class of verbs. However, in fleshing out Sodemadu, she became frustrated with its limitations, so one weekend she decided to forego the limitations of Sodemadu and created a new language, her third, that had an open class of verbs. Like Sodemadu, most of the vocabulary has cognates in Kēlen. At the end of the weekend she had a draft of a story in this new language. The story comes from a book of Australian Aboriginal myths and legends, shortened and adapted to suit her and this new language.

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Enaselvai: A Sketch of a Constructed Language

Jonathan is a Director of Engineering at Sauce Labs, leading a team of software developers to improve the web and mobile testing ecosystem with Appium. He has worked as a programmer in tech startups for over a decade, but is also passionate about academic discussion. Jonathan has master’s degrees in philosophy and linguistics, from Stanford and Oxford respectively. Living in San Francisco, he’s an avid constructed language enthusiast, yogi, musician, and writer on topics he considers vital, like the relationship of technology to what it means to be human. Visit jonathanlipps.com for more information.

Abstract

Enaselvai is an Indo-European-inspired constructed language with a well-mapped syntax and morphology, and a minimal vocabulary (1,000 words). In this paper I detail the motivations for working on Enaselvai (which are primarily artistic), and sketch its various linguistic categories. As a case study I present the standard Babel Text with translation, and demonstrate the Enaselvai ornamental writing system by using the same text. Note: this paper was written long before I formally studied linguistics and therefore contains some oddities of style and nomenclature.

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Absolutive Descriptives

Étienne Ljóni Poisson graduated from undergraduate studies in Icelandic, Finnish and linguistics from the University of Iceland in 2011, and is currently finishing a BS in organic chemistry and biochemistry from the same university. During his studies he began to systematically describe Siwa, his conlang project which he is still working on to this day. Siwa’s descriptive grammar is one of the most thorough descriptions of a conlang available in English.

Étienne speaks French, English, Icelandic, and Finnish fluently and is currently studying Georgian and Northern Sámi.

Abstract

Siwa is an a priori conlang set in pre-Columbian Quebec whose protolanguage emerged at the end of the last glacial maximum in Europe and subsequently migrated to North America. In this essay, a component of verbal morphology is described which has not been identified in natural languages, though it may be likened to Japanese counter words. Absolutive descriptives are monosyllabic infixes that add directly to verb stems and add information about the absolutive argument. Interestingly, Siwa is an active-stative language and does not display ergative-absolutive alignment. The article is part of the language’s complete grammatical description, A Descriptive Grammar of Siwa.

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Invented Languages: From Wilkins’ Real Character to Avatar’s Na’vi

Angela Carpenter is a professor in the Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences department at Wellesley College. She earned her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a dissertation titled “Acquisition of a natural vs. an unnatural stress system”. Since joining the faculty at Wellesley in 2009, she’s taught an undergraduate capstone course on conlanging, amongst her many other teaching and departmental responsibilities.

Abstract

Angela Carpenter taught an undergraduate course on conlanging at Wellesley College during the fall semester of 2015. Collected in one .pdf are the final papers of the students from her course. In each paper, the student has documented their conlang and presented a text in that conlang. The document also contains links to audio recordings of the included texts.

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Gnóma: A Brief Grammatical Sketch of a Conlang

Jessie Sams is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Stephen F. Austin State University. She generally teaches courses rooted in linguistic analysis of English, though one of her favorite courses to teach is her Invented Languages course, where students construct their own languages throughout the semester (she was even able to get Invented Languages officially on the books at SFA with its own course number). Her research primarily focuses on syntax and semantics, especially the intersection of the two within written English quotatives; constructed languages; and history of the English language and English etymology. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hosting game nights with friends, baking (especially cupcakes), and, of course, conlanging.

Abstract

Gnóma is a conlang for garden gnomes, who have a grim past behind their currently pleasant statued smiles. Their language is rooted in Gothic (as that was their native language) and has been influenced by both Romani and Turkish through long periods of language contact. The description of Gnóma in this paper treats it as a natlang, comparing it to typological trends of world languages and providing a brief overview of its sounds, writing system, and grammar.

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The Romanization of Middle Pahran

George Corley is currently a PhD student in Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with research interests in phonology, Chinese, and minority languages. He also has a strong personal interest in invented languages (conlangs), which has led him to host and produce Conlangery, a monthly podcast on the subject, and to become Vice-President of the Language Creation Society.

Abstract

In this essay George Corley expands on his “Design Parameters for Romanization” (Corley 2011), defining five parameters for designing and discussing conlang romanizations: elegance, accessibility, aesthetics, internal history, and technical factors. He applies this framework in a detailed discussion of his own process designing the romanization for his current conlang, Middle Pahran. He pays special attention to overspecifying the phonology for accessibility, and to the compromises he made due to the technical limitations of the software he uses.

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Potential Paonese: A Reconstruction from Jack Vance’s “The Languages of Pao”

Logan Kearsley lived in Belgium for three years as a child, but didn’t realise other languages were cool before moving back to the anglophone United States, where he started conlanging at a still-young age and eventually studied Russian in high school. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a minor in linguistics, and has had the opportunity to study a wide variety of languages while working to develop software for teaching and learning foreign languages at the university level and researching language pedagogy.

Abstract

While Jack Vance’s novel The Languages of Pao provides next to no information about the eponymous languages themselves, there are tantalizing glimpses of the intrafictional natlang Paonese. Based on narrator’s comments, glosses, and a small corpus of individual words, this article describes the process of analyzing the attested data on Paonese and producing a reconstruction. Due to the sparsity of the evidence, there is an enormous amount of room for individual interpretation and creativity in filling in the gaps; thus, we cannot say that this or any reconstruction necessarily represents the original, correct Paonese, or even that such a thing actually exists. Nevertheless, we can create a description of a language that could have been Paonese—a potential Paonese. For this particular reconstruction, I have chosen not to produce the simplest possible language that accords with Vance’s work; but rather to develop a language which is naturalistically complex, does not reflect an obvious anglophone bias, and yet still can explain the evidence in the book.

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