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New Language 501

Students create their own languages to learn how real languages are structured
  [vote for,

Instead of just learning an existing language, students will be able to take a course where they will develop their own language.

Students can choose either a textual or pictographic type of language, and, during the course of the semester, with the professor's help, they will build up the articles, pronouns, grammatical structures, pronounciation, and other elements needed to produce a complete, workable form of communication.

Students will be encouraged to "borrow" words from other languages, both existing and fictitious (e.g. from the languages of other students in the class). Special class topics will deal with alternate spellings, slang and degenerate forms, the possible future evolution of the language, dialects of the language as may be spoken by men vs. women, and phonetic translation into English.

As a final project, students must hand in a dictionary (the professor will provide the 2000 words/phrases from English that must be translated), as well as the their_language translation of a short piece of English literature, as provided by the professor.

phundug, Jul 14 2003

avvaq punniliuqtuq (half bake) http://www.alaskool...+On-line+Dictionary
Not really related, but quite cool. [Worldgineer, Oct 04 2004]

language construction kit http://www.zompist.com/kit.html
[Great Satan, Oct 04 2004]


       I'm not sure about this. It can be a very cool learning tool but creating a language is not so easy. I think the process of learning a language is enough to realize how they are structured, and it's a much more productive use of one's time.
Pericles, Jul 14 2003

       Agreed; this is an advanced placement course, not a joke class to get your 1-semester language credit.
phundug, Jul 14 2003

       This class would be easy to cheat in. You could just grab a dictionary of a little known language like Inupiat Eskimo, and unless the teacher is _really_ good (and knows all 6,800 languages in the world), would never know you weren't creating it from scratch.
Worldgineer, Jul 14 2003

       Interesting concept: I like to apply for computer languages. I am sure, it would not be very difficiult and give student a good chance to understand more about computer existing computer languages.
artist, Jul 14 2003

       Cool Idea. Would be a great graduate-level linguistics course.
Why does everyone want to jump to computer languages? They aren't nearly as interesting or complex as actual human language. Buncha geeks.
kevindimie, Jul 14 2003

       Hehe! kevindimie, my Dad and I have a standing competition along those lines. He knows 11 spoken / written languages and I know 11 computer languages. I argue that each of us spent half our lives in this pursuit, therefore we’re tied.   

       It is fascinating when our paths cross, which occurs when we discuss things such as encryption...
Shz, Jul 14 2003

       That is very interesting. I imagine that at some point, learning the 9th, 10th, or 11th language (either human or machine) becomes fairly easy, almost second nature. At that point, you really understand, implicitly or explicitly, how "language" in and of itself functions. Am I right? For me, learning French was easier than learning German, and learning Spanish was easier still (haven't tried a non-Indo-European one yet). I think that that's what's cool about this idea, because it could give individuals a lot of those insights, too, on an explicit level.
kevindimie, Jul 14 2003

       By the way, [Worldgineer], I'd bet that [Shz]'s dad would spot that cheater from a mile away, even if he didn't know the specific language. So would most linguistics professors, I imagine.
kevindimie, Jul 14 2003

       I read about someone who did this as a school project, and at the end of the semester had come up with about 500 words total (I think) and a whole bunch of rules for the language that hadn't yet been used in those 500-ish. I'd think rules for the language would have to be set down before creating many words, or else the student's new language would end up being something like English, with a huge mix of stuff that never quite follows a pattern because of all the different origins of the words.
tekym, Jul 14 2003

       //Am I right?//   

       You are right. He’s a classics professor BTW. - The languages he usually teaches are no longer spoken, which of course I give him a hard time about. “Dad, really, I mean when’s the last time you ran into a Minoan Greek?” I haven’t yet told him that Fortran IV is a far less useful language to know.
Shz, Jul 14 2003

       Why not learn a more widely -useful- language instead, while dissecting it analytically? Phonology and syntax are highly systematic, but not in the ways typically taught in prescriptive grammar courses; I think spoken languages tend to have more complex rules, based on less obvious features, than students would likely come up with without familiarizing themselves with empirical examples in the first place. Bottom line: the effort needed would, I think, be better spent analyzing a speech variety which students either already know, or which would let them talk to many folks they'd otherwise not be able to.
n-pearson, Jul 14 2003

       I think a create-your-own-language class would be an interesting exercise in a college linguistics course. I think the students would learn the most from the mistakes they made in doing so. (Existing created pseudo-natural languages, like Esperanto and Lojban, apparently violate the rules which govern evolved natural languages.) It would also be easier and more fun (but just as educational, not to mention harder to cheat at) to allow them to use English vocabulary as a starting point, but modifying pronunciation, spelling, and adding or removing words from the closed classes (pronouns, articles, etc.).   

       [kevindimie], it's perfectly possible to learn lots of different languages without having any concept of the true underlying structure, as no one really did before Noam Chomsky came along.   

       [n-pearson], I think you learn a lot more about underlying syntactic, semantic, and phonetic structures by looking at a variety of different languages. Looking at a single Romance language doesn't give you much insight into many possibilities - like alternative word orders, new phonemes (like clicks in African languages), semantic issues (like color-words), inflectional morphology (you get tense and gender denotations, but not formality, or how-reliable-is-this like you do in Japanese or some African languages...some languages don't do tense and number like Romance languages do.) And it's also quite insightful to know how languages evolve over time (which can be confusing if you're trying to learn a new language). In short, there should be linguistics classes which are distinct from foreign language classes. (Though I think that it would be good to inject more linguistics into foreign language learning.)   

       Actually learning a foreign language involves (in addition to learning syntax) lots of painful memorization of vocabulary, learning a completely new system of pronunciation, and possibly even an entirely new character set. It takes several years to learn a new language properly.   

       A make-your-own computer language class might also be interesting. Of course, computer languages have different fundamental rules from natural languages, so this would be teaching different material (with some overlap of vocabulary and concepts you'd have to master). Then there's computer processing of natural languages..   

       Personal pet peeve: I hated learning foreign languages in high school, but loved taking linguistics classes at MIT. I think I would have enjoyed learning new languages more if I had first been taught the real underlying rules, which are actually quite beautiful and interesting. But not even English grammar is taught this way; instead, we get an apparently arbitrary and often contradictory and incorrect set of rules of thumb.
beland, Jul 16 2003

       [beland], wholeheartedly agreed!
n-pearson, Jul 16 2003

       <related, long-winded aside> I attended a lecture the other day where it was mentioned that recent research using advanced brain scanning techniques indicate that when a person speaks two languages they have two physically separate speech centers in the brain. They didn't say what happens when someone speaks more than two languages. They mentioned similar physical changes in the brain for musicians as well. Also speculated that these physical changes may be harder to effect the older a person is and that that may account for why language and music are more difficult for people to learn after the age of about 12 years or so and even easier for those under the age of about 7(however there are always exceptions).
bristolz, Jul 16 2003

       For your first assignment, you must translate the following: 'My hovercraft is full of eels..."
RayfordSteele, Jan 08 2008

       I really like this idea. I've kind of made a few rudimentary languages of my own (mostly just what symbols represent what sounds) for fantasy's sake, and I think this course could be both fun and enlightening.
Kryptid, Apr 19 2008


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