MIT News Podcast: Build your own language (with transcript)

Listed here podcast and transcript are included in an element on MIT’s training course 24.917 (ConLangs: how-to build a Language). See the associated article.

FEMALE SOUND: All people tend to be produced free and equal in dignity and legal rights. We have been endowed with reason and conscience to do something. [Crosstalk] [expressions in international languages]

HOST: Language. We as human beings are in the middle of language constantly, whether we’re reading, composing or talking it. Language is embedded within our everyday. Exactly what is language? The thing that makes language a language, and not a small grouping of words, gestures, or noises? By meaning, language could be the way of man communication, composed of the usage words in a structured and mainstream way. To put it simply, language is the way we interact with the world along with one another. But so how exactly does it work? And just how do we as people learn it?

HOST: during the undergraduate degree only at MIT, teacher of linguistics Norvin Richards features expected their pupils to think about such concerns and attempt to know how real human languages actually work by generating their own.

ALYSSA WELLS-LEWIS: So my language is Dænikjə.

SHILOH CURTIS: My language is called Xalate.

JOSEPH NOSZEK: My language is Sowopuwuk.

STUDENT: It is known as Ehtokh.

HOST:  in the program, Constructed Languages, Professor Richards presents students to your principles of linguistics like phonetics (creating sounds), morphology (forming terms), and syntax (building phrases) to help all of them within their projects. But beyond that, they have free rein to develop a language of the choice and a tale of those who talk it.

SHILOH CURTIS: For the first assignment we had been likely to compensate such as a straight back story for our languages, so mine is made for the populace of the generation starship, which is really a spaceship that takes generations to reach another, like, habitable planet so you just have a society that may live on it for years and years and merely exist on spaceship until they actually achieve the planet. And I wanted my language becoming sort of vaguely pronounceable by speakers of English, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese because we figure we in the field specially that could be going on this starship can speak these three languages.

JOSEPH NOSZEK: My language actually language which is designed to be applied being a torture unit, to torture individuals when you are insufferably, painfully, and inappropriately attractive. The theory is simply you will find just two vowels which are “oo” and “oh”, and using them a lot is maddening. [Laughs]

JOSEPH NOSZEK: “Oo, ook sowopuwuk,” therefore, “we talk Sowopuwuk.” “Oo dwong jowoong,” that will be, “I eat fish.” “O dowa pudo kuta oouton,” which can be, “you will purchase a battery pack.” Plus the last one here’s, “Oo dwong ovo oo ovo do so,” which is, “we consumed an egg that has been great.”

HOST: Professor Richards, who obtained both their undergraduate and graduate levels here at MIT created this program as fun and imaginative way to get pupils enthusiastic about linguistics. A self-proclaimed linguist whom enjoys mastering languages, Richards can speak and realize a number of languages and has been understands to rattle down words from languages intentionally created, like Klingon, created for the “Star Trek” series, to produce a linguistic point.

NORVIN RICHARDS: In linguistics, that which we are attempting to do is to, to spell it out and understand entirely everything it is you are aware once you understand how to use language, whenever you understand how to talk, when you understand how to comprehend, once you learn how to signal if you should be signing. Exactly how can it be that you can to do most of the very complicated items that we do as soon as we speak and understand one another? How will you learn to do those actions? And, and what exactly is it exactly that you are manipulating once you manipulate language?

NORVIN RICHARDS: So they spend the semester producing languages and also at the conclusion they’ve got a mini sentence structure of a language that they’ve invested the semester producing. And in addition they have heard lots of information about the way the languages worldwide work and exactly how they don’t work. Kinds of languages that you can get and forms of languages that as far as we know, cannot occur. And when we say, “Here’s a variety of thing that exists, and here, over here, they’re kinds of languages that as far as we know do not occur,” I get two forms of students. There are students who state, “Okay, I will make language that might be a standard man language,” and you have various other students who they hear me say, “No, no language ever does this.” As well as state, “That. That’s what i wish to do. We’ll put that during my language.”

NORVIN RICHARDS:  [crosstalk] Superb, that sounds great, you must have —

LULU RUSSELL: So my language is called Lɵʌ. It is bimodal, therefore you talk and sign on top of that. There is at this time no present language that performs this, but my language you simply speak words and use indication language simultaneously to share your meaning. A number of the signs you can hear since there are snaps and slaps. For example, saying I am speaking my language, is, “Nah Lɵʌ.” So you can hear two of this signs here since there’s two hits. However it just means “i will be addressing my language.” Together with signs that I did that you mightn’t see were me personally by using this private pronoun I, um, because the topic the hit, and then with my language is yet another hit using a preposition.

HOST: for the semester, pupils get yourself a special chance to spending some time in this intellectual room they might otherwise perhaps not tap into. Nevertheless the languages need work. They should follow the rules. They have to make sense.

NORVIN RICHARDS: therefore we do a lot of speaing frankly about ways in which languages tend to be alike and ways that languages are very different and then what kinds of issues they have to resolve in a single means or any other and differing techniques languages solve all of them, different kinds of grammatical buildings that languages use. We explore items that some languages do but others don’t. Usually during the course we say, “Okay, therefore here is a menu of things. You can easily pick one of these or you can make up a. But you need to regulate how your language, you understand, does these exact things, which of those things it can.”

HOST: Students apparently pull inspiration for his or her languages from a variety of places. There isn’t any shortage of individuality. Their languages are innovative, full, organized as well as step-by-step.

ALYSSA WELLS-LEWIS: we type of really went in tough aided by the lore behind the language [laughs] but i am a huge lover of “Avatar: the very last Airbender” which is a, a TV show.

AUDIO FROM AVATAR: Only the Avatar, master of most —

ALYSSA WELLS-LEWIS: i really just selected like, one of several creatures from that show and I ended up being like, “Okay, I’m going to compose a language for all of them.” Thus I selected the buzzard wasps which is really a mix between a vulture plus wasp. And they also have actually such as a bird beak after which such as the human body of the wasp. Therefore I had been thinking, like, in terms of the sounds they’d be able to make, assuming that they have teeth, they might oftimes be able to make most of the sounds except for those that use your mouth. Therefore it is a language which has a significant t’s and b’s and very available vowels.

ALYSSA WELLS-LEWIS: the way in which you say, “we talk dænikjə,” is “nee ho unok dænikjə.” A different one is, “i’ve meals;” this is certainly, “mee zanok foosh.” Together with way that we type of developed the text is I variety of play around using what seems appropriate, i assume. It’s a really creative course, that we really, truly, enjoy.

HOST: The course, which premiered just last year, has already been one of the more preferred courses available in linguistics. And in accordance with Richards, usually not one associated with the students who take the course are linguistic majors. Rather, the course is populated with company pupils, chemists, computer system experts, and designers.

NORVIN RICHARDS: We get students taking the class since they desire to invest some time performing some thing fun and innovative, and possibly they’dn’t thought much about language before but, they may be interested in attempting it.

SHILOH CURTIS: I became sort of casually thinking about linguistics before i got eventually to MIT. I did not know a lot about any of it but I became like: this can be a subject that I would like to explore more basically get a opportunity. In my freshman spring I took intro to linguistics which happened to be taught because of the same professor, Professor Richards, and I also was like: Linguistics is awesome, and I love this professor. And I also learned he was teaching this conlang course and I also ended up being like: Really, obviously I need to just take this.

NUMBER: In the field that is present in the intersection of science and the humanities, linguists you will need to comprehend just what continues on inside mind once we communicate and realize both. For students, their research and knowledge of language and just how it really works can spread well beyond the constraints with this course and become placed on the areas of study like their major.

JOSEPH NOSZEK: municipal environment engineering is my significant but i am when you look at the core of systems manufacturing within that. The systems engineering occurs when you are looking at something that’s, you realize, includes a lot of pieces, very huge, has lot of information, and you also’re only have to you will need to sound right from it for some reason and often you need to improve it. And I feel like there’s a similarity that when you’ve got a language you understand, that’s a system. There is a large number of parts, plenty of principles, many words. There’s already this type of, like, methods viewpoint you’ll have on it of, like, ah, discover the device, how do I make my personal phrases off that?

HOST: Besides assisting students within the creation of languages, Professor Richards also has a strong fascination with preserving languages at risk of fading away. He has spent years of their career working with the Wampanoag individuals of Eastern Massachusetts because they attempt to revive their local language.

NORVIN RICHARDS: all the earth’s languages are in risk of vanishing. Perhaps not the languages that you have heard about; not, you understand, English or Spanish or French. Those are not going everywhere however if you count the languages worldwide, which will be hard to do, there are something similar to six or seven thousand languages on the planet, and also at least 50 % of all of them come in danger of vanishing. How will you know whenever a language is within threat of vanishing? It comes down in a variety of degrees. Maybe the absolute most extreme can there be are languages which are just spoken by way of a couple of elderly people no you’re in the process of learning them today.

NORVIN RICHARDS: most native languages for this nation like, come in that shape. Most of the indigenous languages of Australian Continent, there are lots of languages in Africa and various locations on earth where many languages they truly are in trouble. I’ve the honor to be active in the Wampanoag task, which really is a project that tries to do this for language that was spoken here because of the those who taught the Pilgrims simple tips to survive, and so the individuals who go on Cape Cod, the standard people who own the place where our company is now. And therefore language went through in regards to a century of not being spoken by any person at all however the Wampanoag are now attempting to restore its use so might there be numerous texts in Wampanoag including a whole interpretation of the Bible. It is the first Bible which was posted inside hemisphere, it was published in Boston when you look at the 1600s and lots of various other documents, mostly legal documents, deeds and things such as that.

NORVIN RICHARDS: In a world in which, you understand, local Us americans into the larger culture and a lot of enough time they may be kind of relegated to, you know, recreations mascots and Halloween costumes, you realize. So to be able to state no, you know, you are able to outfit anything like me and you may pretend to appear like me, but I’m the only one that’s myself. Which may be the method in which we chat. Which is a particularly thing to allow them to have the ability to tell the exterior globe. No, you realize, this thing, this might be mine and I’m the specialist upon it, you realize. Myself additionally the other individuals just like me, we are the individuals whom understand this and we also get to choose to what level we will share it using the outside globe, but it is ours.

HOST: Language. It unites united states like a species because human being communication is exclusive. Various other animals communicate but as far as we know, its uniquely individual to create and use language. But various languages set people besides one another. When we read about the creation of particular languages, we read about the people just who made all of them so when we learn the required steps to build any language, it can help us know very well what it is become person.

HOST: Thanks for listening. You can find much more sound content from MIT on Apple podcast, Google Enjoy, or wherever you receive your podcasts.