First-Year Seminar: The Linguistics of Constructed Languages


What's "wrong" with English, or French, or Chinese, or any one of the 6,000+ languages spoken natively by humans today? Why invent a language like Esperanto to be a common tongue among all people, or invent a "calculus of thought" to "perfectly" express pure meaning? Why is it hard to sound romantic while speaking Klingon? What are the benefits of Lojban's attempt to rid the world of confusion and ambiguity? This course explores the design of and motivation for constructed languages from a modern linguistic point of view. Constructed languages are those that are the result of some conscious and deliberate design rather than ones occurring naturally. We will explore the different motivations for language construction, from the desire to create a "perfect language", to fictional world building, to fostering global harmony. In characterizing the different types of invented languages, students will develop familiarity with the basic tools of linguistic theory, focusing on phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. Languages analyzed in detail include Klingon, Esperanto, Heptapod B, Lojban, Dothraki, Valyrian, Elvish, and various philosophical languages. This class is only open to first-year students.
Course Attributes: EN S; FYS; BU Hum; AS SSC; FA HUM; AR HUM