The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Bi & Niedzielski teach at MIT Splash 2020

Agnes Bi and Patrick Niedzielski taught two Zoom sessions of their class “Make Your Own Language” at MIT Splash 2020, a yearly event in which MIT students hold classes for 9th-12th graders on any topic from “atomic chess to ancient Chinese literature to aerospace.”  In “Make Your Own Language,” students learn about the history of constructed languages, pick up some basic linguistics by making their own constructed language, and then teach fellow students their constructed languages well enough to complete translation challenge sentences. Their course description is below:

Glidis, O studans! When you pick up a fantasy or sci fi novel, do you flip to the back to look at the glossary for that alien language? Do you think the world would be a much better place if there were one, neutral, easy-to-learn language that we all could speak? Maybe you’ve made a code or cypher for you and your friends. Or maybe you think language is too imprecise and really wish there were some unambiguous way of communicating. If any of these statements describe you, congratulations! You might just have what it takes to be a conlanger, someone who makes languages, for fun (and for profit!). In this practicum, we’ll create our own language, for fun (not for profit!), learning some interesting facts about conlangs and linguistics along the way.