On Mar 4, 2010, at 1◊33 AM, Kay Richardson wrote:

> Has anyone on this list ever encountered an undergraduate course/module 
> where students are asked to create a language themselves, or propose 
> reforms to an existing one (e.g., pronoun reform for English...)?

There have, indeed, been a number.

Both Sai Emrys and I have done DeCal classes at Berkeley with a conlang
focus. Mine involved using a fixed vocabulary to communicate--
without a grammar--with the intention being that students
would create one spontaneously over the course of the semester.
It didn't work out so well.

Sai's was a straight up "how to conlang" course, and the course-long
project was to create a language. The course spawned the LiveJournal
Conlang Community.

Both of these were student-run courses, and counted for elective

There have been several other courses for which the course project
was to create a language. The most famous was done by, from
what I remember, a stodgy English professor at Columbia University.
He maintained that students can't write effective essays until they
understand grammar, and they can't understand grammar until
they've worked with it hands-on. His freshman writing course,
then, was to create a language. He himself wasn't a conlanger, and
had no contact with anyone who was, as far as I know. There was
an article in the New York Times, I think, on the class and should
be googleable... As I recall the professor was famous enough to
have a Wikipedia page, but can't for the life of me remember his

Sheri Wells-Jensen, an English/Linguistics professor at Bowling
Green University and a contributor to SpecGram, has taught a
course for awhile where students create a language. Sai and I did
a great interview with her about the class for the LCS Podcast,
but it hasn't gotten webified yet.

I'm not sure about the specifics at all for this one, but Lila Sadkin
who spoke at both LCC2 and LCC3 was in a class at the University
of Florida where the project was to create a language. Her professor
continued to work with her, and her conlang served as her
undergraduate honors thesis.

At Rochester, Doug Ball (LCC1 speaker and linguistics professor
at Truman State) did a freshman research presentation on his
conlang Skerre under the direction of Sally Caves, and Sally, if
I remember right, has indeed taught a class at Rochester where
students have to create a language as their semester project.

This isn't an exhaustive list primarily because there's a lot we don't
know about, and all of this is coming from memory right now,
and I'm sure I've missed some. But the short version is, yes, it's
been done, but it's by no means widespread.

"A male love inevivi i'ala'i oku i ue pokulu'ume o heki a."
"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn."

-Jim Morrison

LCS Member Since 2007