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Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly
Theatre Program
Plutzik Reading Series

Department of English

Undergraduate
  Clusters
  Courses
  Majors
  Minors
  Debate
  Theatre

Graduate
  Programs
    Doctoral Program
    Masters Program
  Research
  Teaching
  Funding
  Courses
    Spring 2005
    Fall 2005
    Recent P.h.D. Seminars
  Requirements for Admission
  Apply Online
  Graduate Handbook
  Graduate Student Directory

Faculty
Calendar/Events
Newsletter
  Alumni
Contact Us

Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly
Theatre Program
Plutzik Reading Series

Associate Professor of English Sarah Higley was recently interviewed by Brenda Tremblay of WXXI for National Public Radio about her "invented" language. The segment aired Sunday August 5, 2001, and highlighted not only recitations of her own private language, Teonaht, but her discovery in 1998 of an extensive listserv called CONLANG, devoted to the invention of private languages by over two hundred participants from around the world. Higley has recently published an electronic article on this topic in Australia's M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture: "Audience, Uglossia, and CONLANG: Inventing Languages on the Internet," discusses the prevalent nature of this pastime, indulged in by far more people than one would think, and no more bizarre or unnatural than building models or inventing imaginary cities and countries. Higley is eager to redress the popular idea that private language invention is rare (something only Tolkien did on a large scale), or "pathological" or "lunatic"--notions reinforced by some scholars and reflected in the French term fous du langage. J.R.R. Tolkien himself looked upon the elaborate and sustained development of his Elvish languages as "a secret vice," an obsession whose "higher developments" could not be shared with anyone. Higley is convinced that recent media technologies are changing this feeling of "shame and shyness" (Tolkien's words) to a feeling of accomplishment as the Internet and databases afford new ways to showcase and document language inventors' private languages. Her interest is primarily in the "private" sector, and private-language making is to be distinguished from "International Auxiliary Language-Making," like Esperanto, where the intent has been to put a lingua franca into circulation. The very nature of language and its uses in the world is what fascinates her in this private pursuit, and forms the basis of a book she is writing--an extension, she hopes, of her M/C article. In the Fall of 2000, she co-taught an independent study with linguistics Professor Jeffrey Runner, wherein freshman (and linguistics major) Douglas Ball was allowed to develop grammar and text for his invented language Skerre. Higley surmises that a way to introduce language typology to students is to approach it from the creative angle, and she hopes one day to incorporate "conlang" into her future teaching. Her own decision to pursue medieval languages (she teaches Old English, Middle English, and Middle Welsh language and literature) were instigated by her early development of a private language whose fascination has kept her at it for decades.

NPR RealAudio recording at 14.4

Teonaht Grammar

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