This course is a hands-on introduction to making constructed languages (or conlangs) as a creative pursuit, taught by a linguist and experienced conlanger. In this course, you'll learn some basic concepts from linguistics, but you'll learn it all by doing. By the end of the course, you'll not only have created a language of your own, but you'll also have the ability to repeat the process and create whole worlds full of languages.
Week 1: Introduction
What is a language and what does it mean to construct a language? In this session you’ll learn enough of the basics of linguistics to figure out what we need to do to make our first conlang. We’ll use this knowledge to break the task into chunks and set up a logical progression which will guide the rest of the course. Finally I’ll send you away with a mission to find a spark of inspiration for your first language that will guide you throughout the process.
Week 2: The Sounds of Your Language
What gives a language its unique sound? In this session, you’ll learn how to classify different types of sounds and use that information to create a palette of sounds for your language to draw on. Then you’ll learn how to combine these sounds to make words according to a unique blueprint that you’ll develop for your language.
Week 3: From Words to Sentences
This session is about going from your language’s first words to your language’s first sentences. To do this, we’ll learn the different strategies languages use to package meaning into words. Then we’ll learn about the different ways languages express relationships between words. This will give us the tools to start making sentences.
Week 4: Filling in the Grammatical Gaps
In this session, we expand the grammar we created in the previous class to do the things a language needs to express beyond the simple sentence. By the end of this class you'll be able to write a grammar capable of telling a story.
Week 5: Delightful Complications
This week we will take your nicely laid-out rules and start adding complications and exceptions. We'll look at how irregularity in language is the most regular process of all. We'll also examine how words change their form and meaning over time and see how we can express aspects of the culture and history of the language's speakers through the language.
Week 6: Show and Tell
This week we'll share the results of the translations and get feedback on how the languages have turned out. Most importantly, we'll get a chance to try out speaking each others' languages! We'll end with some suggestions on how to develop the languages from this starting point.
By the end of the course, you will have created a set of core reference material for a new language:
- A short guide to your language, including information on spelling, pronunciation, as well as how to form words and sentences.
- A small dictionary for your language
- A translation of a short fable (< 100 words in English)
Who is this course for?
This course is for you if you:
- Have a creative project you'd like to make a realistic language for (e.g. authors, game designers, worldbuilders).
- Want to learn to conlang as a creative pursuit.
- Are curious about linguistics and want to learn it in a fun and creative way.
But it's probably not for you if you...
- Are an experienced conlanger (this will be too basic for you).
- Are most interested in making a planned language for international communication (i.e. an auxlang) or to explore a logical idea (i.e. a logical language). This course focuses on naturalistic conlangs.
- No linguistics background is assumed.
- You'll need a Google account to participate in shared Google Docs/Sheets.