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Stony Brook University’s new conlangs course explores fictional languages

The official flyer for Stony Brook University’s Department of Modern Languages new course which will be available for the spring ’24 semester. “Conlangs: Fictional Languages, Languages of Fiction,” invites students to explore fictional languages from books and films. PHOTO COURTESY ELENA DAVIDIAK

Stony Brook University is bringing The Lord of the Rings’ Elvish poetry and the battleground of Star Trek’s Klingon warriors to students in the spring ‘24 semester. The new course, “Conlangs: Fictional Languages, Languages of Fiction,” will transport students into the worlds of fictional languages.

Dr. Elena Davidiak, a lecturer in the Hispanic languages & literature department, will be teaching the new course. In an email sent to The Statesman, Davidiak shared information about the enrollment requirements and provided insights into what prospective students can expect to see content-wise. 

Sessions are scheduled to run on every Monday for ten weeks, from 1 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. in room 121 at the Alan S. deVries Center. The course does not require a language prerequisite.

According to Davidiak, this is not your typical language course. Students will delve into the disciplines of linguistics and fictional languages while analyzing and interpreting sentences from conlangs, artificially constructed languages, during class.

“The course presents an overview of a few fictional languages, rather than a single natural language,” Davidiak said. “It does not give you practical communication skills but rather serves as an introduction to linguistics through unusual and entertaining content.”

During the course, students will explore various fictional languages sampled from fantasy books and iconic movie scenes. Each class will allow students to comment on the modes of expression of the studied languages. Using different media forms, students will evaluate, discuss and explain the immersive magical elements behind the creation of these languages. 

Students will also delve into comparing and contrasting conlangs with real languages, such as Latin or Greek, and how these conlangs reflect the fictional locations where characters utilize them.

Davidiak said that the course aims to maintain a balanced learning environment. Students should anticipate drawing parallels between fictional and conventional languages as they discover the branches of linguistics, such as phonetics, phonology, syntax and morphology. 

“All well-developed conlangs simulate the structure and functions of natural languages,” Davidiak said.

The course will also address common linguistic stereotypes, such as a “monolingual bias.” Students will explore the multifaceted world of linguistic expression, examining diverse phonological, morphologic, semantic and syntactic structures.

“I hope that [students] will learn about the principles of linguistic study and the knowledge and creativity required for the creation of these languages,” Davidiak said.

As students consider enrolling in this course, it becomes evident that “Conlangs: Fictional Languages, Languages of Fiction” is far from ordinary. Instead, it embraces the artistic mediums of linguistics, cultures and fictional languages.

Correction: This article previously stated that the course in question was created by the Department of Modern Languages; no such department exists at Stony Brook University. Additionally, it was stated that Dr. Davidiak specializes in linguistics; however, she is a lecturer in the Hispanic Languages & Literature department.

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About the Contributor
Clare Gehlich
Clare Gehlich, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
Clare is the Assistant Arts and Culture Editor for The Statesman and a senior journalism major with a minor in political science. Since transferring to Stony Brook University in 2022, she has written for both Herald Community Newspapers and WSHU Public Radio.
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