Conlang Courses Around the Globe

Conlang Courses Around the Globe

Author: Jessie Sams

MS Date: 06-02-2020

FL Date: 07-01-2020

FL Number: FL-00006A-00

Citation: Sams, Jessie. 2020. «Conlang Courses Around

the Globe.» FL-00006A-00, Fiat Lingua,
. Web. 01 July 2020.

Copyright: © 2020 Jessie Sams. This work is licensed

under a Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Fiat Lingua is produced and maintained by the Language Creation Society (LCS). For more information
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Conlang courses around the globe 1

Conlang Courses Around the Globe
Jessie Sams


In Spring 2011, I offered a special section of our department’s Topics in Linguistics

course under the title “Linguistics of Invented Languages.” At the time, I was not aware of any

other undergraduate courses focusing on teaching students linguistics by teaching them how to

construct a language, so I worked on my own to develop content and materials to teach the class.

The timing felt right to be able grab students’ attention for the course because the film Avatar,

featuring Paul Frommer’s Na’vi language, was still making waves, and—although I didn’t

realize it at the time—HBO’s Game of Thrones would start airing in April of that semester, which

featured several of David J. Peterson’s conlangs, including Dothraki.

In early 2011, I reached out to Paul Frommer to see if he would be willing to speak at a

student conference held at my university via Skype and was pleasantly surprised when he

accepted the invitation. (By “pleasantly surprised,” I really mean “completely blown away with

joy” because my reaching out to him was a shot in the dark, just to see what would happen—I

was a bit starstruck by him! For anyone wondering, he is an amazingly nice person and a great

speaker.) While speaking with Paul prior to the student conference, he told me about Angela

Carpenter’s class at Wellesley College, and, at the time, that was the only other undergraduate

course he was aware of that was like mine.

That first semester was so successful that I knew I wanted to offer the course again,

which I did (every odd spring semester since 2011), but I also wanted to take it one step further: I

wanted a course code and number dedicated to an Invented Languages course. Because

academia’s wheels tend to move slowly, the process of developing and proposing the new

linguistics course took roughly two years. During one faculty meeting, a colleague asked if the

course was a “real” linguistics course, asking what it would look like for graduate schools if they

saw “Invented Languages” on a student’s transcript. Thankfully, I was able to legitimize the

course and its work through my students—a student from my 2011 section went on to win a Top

Conlang courses around the globe 2

Scholar award for our college for her conlang grammar. After that, my colleagues gave me their

full support.

In Spring 2013, the course-creation process was not quite complete, so I offered it under

our Advanced Linguistics course code, and that was the fateful semester where the stars aligned,

and the Language Creation Conference was held in Austin, TX, in early May, making it possible

for my students to attend and even present a poster at the conference. There, I met David

Peterson, who has generously been willing to visit my conlanging course every time it has been

offered since. (Another amazingly nice person and great speaker in the conlanging community!)

Beginning Spring 2015, I was able to offer the course under our newly minted ENG 437

Invented Languages. Due to some university-internal shifts, the course is now LING 4337

Invented Languages, and its current course description is below:

Study of typological principles, natural language features, and connections between culture
and language through the hands-on process of constructing an original language.

The course does not carry any prerequisites, so the students in my class range from beginning to

advanced linguistics students. This year, we proposed a major in Linguistics, which will be

offered as a concentration in the Modern Languages major, and all students pursuing that degree

will be required to take LING 4337. (Conlanging for the win!) The proposal has been approved

by our Board of Regents and should be officially on the books beginning Fall 2020.

While I have been teaching my Invented Languages course for nine years, it wasn’t until

the past few years that I became more aware of just how many other undergraduate conlang

courses were being offered. One reason for my lack of awareness is that it is difficult to search

for a course that goes under so many different names, including special topics courses. In my

history of offering it alone, it has been offered under three course codes and titles! While trying

to compile a list, I ran into these problems again and again:

• When offering the course, not everyone uses the same special topics title using terms

such as constructed languages, invented languages, conlangs, artificial languages, and

language invention.

Conlang courses around the globe 3

• This is complicated even further when a specific topics title is not entered for the course

in the university system (e.g. in some cases, it still just shows up as “Topics in

Linguistics” or whatever the course is generically titled).

Furthermore, some professors use conlanging as tools in non-conlang-specific courses,

such as heavily incorporating aspects of conlanging into an Introduction to Linguistics or

Introduction to Linguistics Anthropology course, which means these courses won’t show

up at all when searching online for conlang-relevant courses.

Although I consider myself pretty good at finding information online, I struggled when

attempting to compile a list of courses and could only find a handful of them even though I knew

many more were out there. And so I tweeted for help and received many replies with the names

of universities and professors teaching conlang courses or using aspects of conlanging to teach

linguistics. You can see the original tweet with its replies here:


Based on the responses I received, I compiled the following list, which I have presented

below in alphabetical order based on university name. Each entry contains as much information

as I could find online, and some include all the following information: website(s), course title,

professor, and course description. For some universities, I couldn’t find any of that information,

so there is a short section of “Others reported on Twitter” following the list of universities. 1

Finally, at the end of the article, I provide links to additional resources you may find helpful if

you are planning on creating or teaching your own course that incorporates aspects of conlangs

and conlanging.

With your help, I can regularly update this list! If you have any specific information to be added to
the list, whether it is more information about a course provided or a course not yet included, please email
me at [email protected] or reach out to me on Twitter (@quothalinguist). The minimum information I
need includes the following three items: (1) university where the course is offered, (2) course title, and (3)
professor (at minimum). Of course, if you have more information, such as a course description, website,
or link to a syllabus, that would be amazing to include, too.

Table of Contents (hyperlinked with bookmarks to take you directly to the entries)

Conlang courses around the globe 4

Bowling Green University
Bucknell University
Carleton College
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University, 2
Cornell University
Iowa State University
La Trobe University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Ohio State University
Queen Mary University of London
Southern Illinois University
Stephen F. Austin State University
Truman State University
University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Alberta
University of Arizona
University of British Columbia Okanagan
University of California Berkeley
University of California San Diego
University of California Santa Cruz
University of Kansas
The University of Sheffield
University of South Carolina-Columbia
University of Texas-Arlington
University of Toronto
University of Tübingen
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Washington University
Wellesley College
Western Washington University
Wichita State University
Others reported on Twitter

More resources

Conlang courses around the globe 5

Bowling Green University

Course title: ENG 480/580 Extraterrestrial Language (offered 2001)
Professor: Sheri Wells-Jensen

Course description

This graduate/undergraduate seminar will explore what linguistics, literature, and the natural
sciences have to tell us about the possible structure of a language of extraterrestrial origin
and our hopes of being able to understand it.

Bucknell University

Course title: LING 105 Linguistic Analysis: Sounds & Words (with an invented language
assignments for each unit)
Professor: Heidi Lorimor

Course description

One semester of a two-semester introduction to linguistics. Topics include: phonetics,
phonology, word forms, language change, language acquisition. [I’ve developed an invented
language assignment to correspond to each of the major units (phonetics, phonology,

Carleton College
Course title: LING 150 From Esperanto to Dothraki: The Linguistics of Invented Languages

Carnegie Mellon University

Course title: 11-823 Conlanging: Learning about linguistics and language technologices through
construction of artificial languages (offered Spring 2017)
Professors: Alan Black and Lori Levin

Course description

Students will work individually to create artificial human(oid) languages for fictional human
cultures or SciFi worlds. Students will implement at least one language technology for their
languages. In the course of creating the languages, students will learn about the building
blocks of human language such as phones, phonemes, morphemes, and morpho-syntactic
constructions including their semantics and pragmatics.

Conlang courses around the globe 6

Class instruction will focus specifically on variation among human languages so that the
students can make conlangs that are not just naively English-like. We will also touch on
philosophical issues in philosophy of language and on real-world socio-political issues
related to language policy.

Students will be required to use at least one of the following technologies: language
documentation tools that are used for field linguistics and corpus annotation, automatic
speech recognition, speech synthesis, morphological analysis, parsing, or machine

Carnegie Mellon University (another department!)

Course title: 80-284 Invented Languages

Course description

Language is normally something that develops and and changes organically within human
communities, without much in the way of organized design or invention. Over the centuries,
however, many have succumbed to what J. R. R. Tolkien called the «secret vice» of language
creation. The purposes of these invented languages have been diverse. Some, like Tolkien’s
Elvish languages, Okrand’s Klingon, and Peterson’s Dothaki and Trigedasleng have been
designed for artistic or entertainment purposes: they have set out to be «natural» languages
within fictional worlds. Others, like Zamenhof’s Esperanto, Brown’s Loglan, and Elgin’s
Láadan have tried to address perceived inadequacies of the natural languages that their
creators saw in the world around them. The of study language invention is thus both the
study of a distinctive art form, and an exploration of the history of how people have thought
about language in different ages and societies. In this course, we will explore the linguistic
considerations involved in language invention, and the linguistic lessons of the history of
invented languages, with a particular emphasis on applying these insights to our own
language invention projects. Over the course of the semester, students will be expected to
develop invent their own languages, and to complete various shorter assignments to
supplement relevant ideas and skills. This course does not assume any background in
linguistics, and is intended to accommodate both newcomers and advanced students.

Cornell University
Course title: LING 1100 How to Build a Language (first-year writing seminar)
Professor: Ed Cormany

Course description

In this course the students learn the skill of writing at the university level. Instructors offer
themes for their courses within their own special area of expertise.

Conlang courses around the globe 7

Iowa State University
Course title: ENGL 320X: Conlangs: The art of language construction (Topics in Linguistics
Structure; topic offered in Spring 2019)
Professor: John Levis

Course description

Special topics related to the study of linguistic structure. Focus on language structure in areas
not covered in detail by existing courses. Topics include field linguistics, morphology,
forensic linguistics, neurolinguistics, semantics, non-English phonology, acoustic phonetics,
linguistic universals, and historical linguistics.

La Trobe University

Course title: Imagining Language (offered 2020)
Professor: Lauren Gawne

Course description

In this subject students will be introduced to the essential building blocks of language: the
sounds and sound systems (phonetics and phonology), how words and sentences are
structured (morphology and syntax) and how we understand meaning (semantics).
Employing the analytical tools of linguistics, students will begin applying them to the
development of a new language of their own imagining. The inspiration will come from a
range of human languages, including natural languages, but also secret languages, ritual
languages (for example the Aboriginal language Damin, or Polari spoken by members of the
gay community in the UK) and constructed languages from TV (e.g. Dothraki and Valyrian in
Game of Thrones, Belter Creole in The Expanse), film (Na#vi from Avatar, and Elvish from
Lord of the Rings) and literature (Lapine from Watership Down and Newspeak from 1984).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Course title: 24.917: Conlangs: How to Construct a Language (offered in Spring 2020)
Professor: Norvin Richards

Course description:

Explores languages that have been deliberately constructed (ConLangs), including Esperanto,
Klingon, and Tolkien’s Elvish. Students construct their own languages while considering
phenomena from a variety of languages of the world. Topics include writing systems,
phonology (basic units of speech and how they combine), morphology (structure of words),

Conlang courses around the globe 8

syntax (how words are put together), and semantics (the expression of meaning, and what
language leaves unexpressed). Through regular assignments, students describe their
constructed language in light of the topics discussed. Final assignment is a grammatical
description of the new language.

The Ohio State University

Ling 3502 sample syllabus

Course title: LING 3502 Klingon, Elvish, Dothraki: The Linguistics of Constructed Languages
(recently offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2019, Fall 2018, and Spring 2018)
Professors: Julia Papke; Micha Elsner

Course description

Constructed languages like Klingon, Elvish, and Dothraki may seem like the province of
ComiCon goers, but they have a long and varied intellectual history. Constructed languages
require a deep understanding of both the mechanics of language and how languages relate to
the cultures that they come from. This course examines the linguistic complexity of
constructed languages.

Queen Mary University of London

Course title: LIN6203 Constructing a Language
Professor: David Adger

Course description

From Esperanto to Klingon, from Volapuk to Elvish, from Leibniz’s Universal Characteristic
to Peterson’s Dothraki, humans have made up artificial languages to support political,
philosophical, and creative ends. This course examines examples of such artificial languages
and their relation to natural language systems, and allows you to create a constructed
language of your own, with a strong focus on systematic linguistic structure: phonological,
morphological and syntactic systems as well as systems of lexical semantics and historical
change. It will require you to bring together all your knowledge of linguistic structures as you
make up your own language.

Conlang courses around the globe 9

Southern Illinois University
Course titles:

• LING 302 From Esperanto to Dothraki: The Linguistic Reality of Invented Languages

(offered Spring 2017 and 2019)

• LING 440/540 Invented Languages and Fictional Worlds (offered Spring 2015)

Professor: Jeffrey Punske

Course descriptions

(LING 302) Elective course in Linguistics without any prerequisite requirements. Focus is on
linguistic typology through the lens of language invention.

(LING 440/540) Cross-listed course enrolled by graduate students and all levels of
undergraduate students, focusing on the connections between constructed languages and
natural occurring human languages and on fictional representations of language and

Stephen F. Austin State University

Course title: LING 4337 Invented Languages (used to be ENG 437)
Professor: Jessie Sams

Course description

Study of typological principles, natural language features, and connections between culture
and language through the hands-on process of constructing an original language.

Truman State University
Professor: Doug Ball
Doug teaches an upper-level course, with mostly LING majors and minors in the course.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Course title: Klingon, Elvish, and Dothraki: The Art and Science of Language Creation (offered
(Spring 2017)
Professor: Robin Shoaps

Conlang courses around the globe 10

University of Alberta

Course title: LING 399-A4 Languages of Tolkien (special topics course offered in Spring 2014)
Professors: Antti Arppe and Benjamin Tucker

Course description

Introduction to linguistics using the languages of Tolkien’s literary works as the basis for
understanding core linguistic concepts and phenomena as well as learning the fundamentals
of linguistic analysis, covering phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. In
addition, the course will touch upon topics particular to Tolkien’s languages such as historical
linguistics and language change, linguistic typology and writing systems.

University of Arizona
Professor: Amy Fountain (incorporates aspects of conlanging into introductory linguistics

Professor: Natasha Warner (teaches a course focusing on Klingon)

University of British Columbia Okanagan

Course title: ANTH 170 Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
Professor: Christine Schreyer

Course description

Exploration of human communication, both verbal and non-verbal. The structure, cognitive
role, and social functions of the spoken languages of the world will be emphasized.

University of California Berkeley

Course title: LING 183 The Linguistics of Game of Thrones and the Art of Language Invention
(taught Summer 2017)
Professor: David J. Peterson

Conlang courses around the globe 11

Course description

This is a college level introduction to language creation (conlanging) and language study.
Language creation lies somewhere between the realms of art and science, drawing heavily on
both. Students will acquire the fundamentals of the scientific study of language, and will be
encouraged to take that information and employ it creatively in the field of conlanging. This
course will feature in class lectures, group discussion, classroom activities, and at home

University of California San Diego
Course title: Linguistics of Invented Languages, How to Create a Language (freshman seminar)
Professor: Grant Goodall

University of California Santa Cruz

Course title: LING 80K Invented Languages from Elvish to Esperanto
Professor: Pranav Anand

Course description

Considers invented languages, including Elvish and Klingon, as well as lesser-known ones
that tackle ethical, social, or cognitive concerns. Students learn tools from contemporary
linguistics to analyze language structures and understand how they relate to creator

[This course was also taught earlier under a slightly different name and under a different

Course title: Constructed Languages from Elvish to Esperanto (offered in 2017)
Professor: Nick Kalivoda

University of Kansas
Course title: ANTH/LING 430 Constructed Languages
Professor: Arienne Dwyer

Course description

The study of language as a symbolic system. Exploration into the interrelatedness of
linguistic systems, of nonlinguistic communicative systems, and of other cultural systems.
(Same as ANTH 430.)

Conlang courses around the globe 12

The University of Sheffield

Course title: ELL364 Constructed Languages
Professor: Robyn Orfitelli

Course description

This module builds on theories learned in Level 1 and 2 ELL and Language and Literature
modules, applying them to the constructed languages (‘conlangs’) created specifically for
books, television, and film. Topics covered will include the grammatical patterns underlying
the sound and structural systems of conlangs, the similarities and differences between
conlangs and ‘natural’ human languages, the representation of historical change in conlangs,
and the textual use and representation of conlangs in literature.

University of South Carolina-Columbia
Course title: special topics course
Professor: Scott Brewer

University of Texas-Arlington

Course title: LING 2321 Constructed Languages

Course description

This course is an introduction to constructed languages. Presentation, examination, and
analysis of constructed languages, such as Esperanto, Klingon, Dothraki, and many others.

University of Toronto

Course title: LIN 402 Linguistic Typology and Constructed Languages
Professor: Nathan Sanders

Course description

This course uses constructed languages (e.g., Esperanto, Klingon, Dothraki) to explore
crosslinguistic patterns in language structure. Topics include phonological and
morphosyntactic typology, language change over time, effects of culture and environment on
language, history of language construction, standards in writing descriptive grammars, and
critical analysis of research on language diversity.

Conlang courses around the globe 13

University of Tübingen

Course title: Kunst- und Plansprachen – von Esperanto bis Dothraki (offered in 2016)
Professor: Armin Buch

Course description

Der Untersuchungsgegenstand der Linguistik sind zunächst die tatsächlich existierenden,
natürlichen Sprachen. In diesem Seminar erweitern wir ihn um Kunst- und Plansprachen,
also um erfundene Sprachen. Das Erfinden von Sprachen lotet die Grenzen dessen, was eine
Sprache ist und sein kann, aus, und schärft damit die Definition des Begriffes an sich. Auch
spielen konstruierte Sprachen eine Rolle in der Forschung (kontrollierte Korpora,
Spracherwerbsexperimente). Im Untertitel nenne ich Esperanto stellvertretend für
konstruierte Welthilfssprachen, und Dothraki für fiktive Sprachen, die beiden häufigsten
Unterarten von Plansprachen.

Themen des Seminars sind: Sammeln und Klassifizieren von Plansprachen, Gründe für und
angewandte Methoden bei ihrer Konstruktion, Grenzen des Begriffes «Sprache», sprachliche
Vielfalt und Universalien, geplanter und spontaner Sprachwandel, die Einarbeitung in und
Vorstellung von einer selbstgewählten Plansprache.

Sprachpolitische und soziolinguistische Aspekte bleiben außen vor: Dies ist kein Kurs über
«Interlinguistik», «internationale Kommunikation» oder Sprachkontakt.

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Professor: James A. Berry

Washington University

Course title: The Linguistics of Constructed Languages (first-year seminar)

Course description

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.

Conlang courses around the globe 14

Wellesley College
Course title: LING 315 Invented Languages: Wilkins to Navi
Professor: Angela Carpenter

Course description

Over the centuries, invented, or artificial, languages have been devised for many reasons,
including a desire to improve existing languages, an effort to unite the world, or a need to
explore how languages are learned. The vast majority have failed, but why? Is there a place
for invented language? What do invented languages teach us about natural language? We will
look at invented languages from a variety of points of view: linguistic, historical,
philosophical, psychological, and sociological. We will explore the linguistic underpinnings
of various languages, from seventeenth century Real Character to Na’vi, with a look at a
successful «reinvented» language, Modern Hebrew. Students will design their own miniature
artificial language.

Western Washington University
Course title: ANTH 247 Introduction to Linguistics Anthropology
Professor: Judy Pine

Course description

The study of language from an anthropological perspective. Includes an introduction to the
structure and patterning of language, the study of language as it is used in daily life, and the
role of language in human evolution.

Wichita State University
Professor: Mythili Menon

Others reported on Twitter
I requested help in compiling a list of universities that offer conlang courses on Twitter, and the
following universities were included in replies to the tweet, but I cannot find any information
online for their courses.

Metro State University, Denver
Monash University
University of California Los Angeles
University of Pittsburgh (this may be cross-listed with Carnegie Mellon’s course)

Conlang courses around the globe 15

More resources
If you are interested in more information and resources available on conlanging in the classroom,
I encourage you to check out these resources:

Conlangery #138: Jessie Sams and Conlangs in the Classroom”

Panel on Teaching Linguistics with Invented Languages at LSA in 2017

“Constructed Languages in the Classroom” by Nathan Sanders

Language Invention in Linguistics Pedagogy, edited by Jeffrey Punske, Nathan Sanders,
and Amy V. Fountain, published by Oxford University Press (available September 6, 2020)

This volume includes chapters from the following contributors:

Jessica Coon, McGill University

Skye J. Anderson, University of Arizona
James A. Berry, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Shannon T. Bischoff, Purdue University Fort Wayne

• David Adger, Queen Mary University of London

• Andrew Miles Byrd, University of Kentucky
• Brenna Reinhart Byrd, University of Kentucky
• Angela C. Carpenter, Wellesley College

• Edward Delmonico, Matsue Kita High School
• Amy V. Fountain, University of Arizona
• Carrie Gillon, independent scholar and co-host of Vocal Fries
• Grant Goodall, University of California, San Diego
• Randi Martinez, Yale University

• Arika Okrent, journalist and author of In the Land of Invented Languages
• Matt Pearson, Reed College
• David J. Peterson, language consultant and creator

• Nathan Sanders, University of Toronto
• Christine Schreyer, University of British Columbia
• Kimberly Spallinger, Bowling Green State University
• Coppe van Urk, Queen Mary University of London
Sheri Wells-Jensen, Bowling Green State University

Spencer Morrell, consultant and ESL instructor

Jeffrey Punske, Southern Illinois UniversityConlang Courses Around the Globe image

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