October 05, 2020

Upcoming University Honors virtual forum will discuss invented language

by Jason Franchuk

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Jeffrey Punske insists he wouldn’t have been an annoying companion during viewings of “Game of Thrones.”

Yet Punske, an associate professor in the Department of Linguistics, was as fascinated by the popular television show’s unique dialogue as he is about any invented language.

Punske will hold a Zoom forum at 5 p.m. Oct. 15 on linguistics and discuss his first book, “Language Invention in Linguistics Pedagogy.” The book explores the varied ways in which invented languages can be used in teaching languages and linguistics in university courses.

The University Honors Program is sponsoring the forum. The event is open to the public, along with the campus community and students. To join in, request zoom link from honors@siu.edu.

Linguistic experts on the panel

Punske said the co-edited book includes “a lot of great contributions from a lot of different people in really different areas.” The panel includes eight linguistics experts from around the country and Canada. David Peterson, a noted language-creator expert in Hollywood, will be part of the discussion.

  • Brenna Byrd, assistant professor, German Studies, University of Kentucky and co-creator of language Wenja for “Far Cry Primal” video game.
  • Amy Fountain, associate professor, linguistics, University of Arizona, and one of the book’s three co-editors.
  • Carrie Gillon, co-host Vocal Fries Podcast.
  • Grant Goodall, professor of linguistics, University of California, San Diego.
  • David Peterson, creator of numerous languages, including Dothraki in “Game of Thrones.”
  • Nathan Sanders, assistant professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto, and one of the book’s three co-editors.
  • Christine Schreyer, associate professor, anthropology, University of British Columbia, and inventor of the Kryptonian language from the film “Man of Steel.”
  • Sheri Wells-Jensen, associate professor, English, Bowling Green State University.

From history of countries to pop culture   

Punske said the book shows the use of invented languages as a teaching tool can reach a student population who might not otherwise be interested in studying linguistics. The volume brings together renowned scholars and junior researchers, a measure of everything from anthropology to psychology.

“You can look at everything from ‘Star Trek’ to ‘Game of Thrones,’” Punske said, noting there’s a contribution from Peterson.

“So much goes into creating internal consistency,” Punske said. “It really is fascinating. Language is a true blending of science and art. I think what is most exciting is that our students will have direct access to all of these experts. I think the discussion itself will be free-flowing and centered on student interests.”