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LIGN 5. Linguistics of Invented Languages

Couse description: How do you create a language from scratch? Why would anyone want to do this? These are some of the questions addressed in LIGN 5, which blends insights and techniques from linguistics, history, cognitive science, literature and film studies to explore the story of invented languages and the science behind them. Students will explore a number of existing invented languages, including the languages from the Renaissance designed to clarify thinking, the 19th-century languages designed to improve international communication, and the languages of our own time designed to make the fictional peoples and alien species of books and movies seem more real and life-like. Along the way, students will see how our ability to create languages has gone hand in hand with our scientific understanding of how human languages work. Basic design principles for creating new languages will be a central part of the course and students will use these to develop their own languages.

Assignments will include problem sets (both for analyzing existing languages and for creating one’s own), short readings, and exams.