InScience Film Festival

Big Ideas: How to create a language?

Dothraki, spoken in Game of Thrones, is a constructed language. Movies like Dune – Part Two, Elemental and several Marvel productions also contain such a conlang. They were all created by the world renowned conlang couple David and Jessie Peterson, who are invited to Nijmegen by film festival InScience and Radboud Reflects. Come and join this Big Ideas Lecture on Friday 15 March with this famous conlang couple and learn how creating a language actually works, and what we can learn about the inner workings of language by constructing a totally new one. 

Conlang is short for ‘constructed language’, meaning that this language did not develop naturally but was consciously devised for a specific purpose. Where do you start when constructing a language from scratch? How do you get a language to actually mean something? 

Creating realities
After David en Jessie Petersons lecture they will, together with linguistic scientist Marc Oostendorp, discuss questions such as: Is it not a core characteristic of language that it evolves naturally between people? Can language exist outside of a cultural context? What makes a language authentic? Some linguists suggest that language creates realities, does that mean that David and Jessie also create new possibilities by creating languages? Come and join these famous inventors of languages and ask your own questions. 

This programme will be in English. 

About the speakers

David Peterson With a background in English and Linguistics, David J. Peterson has created languages for Game of Thrones, as well as for different television productions by Netflix, Disney, Pixar and Marvel. He co-founded the Language Creation Society in 2007 and served as its president from 2011 to 2014. He also wrote the books The art of language invention and Living Language Dothraki.

Jessie Peterson was a professor of Linguistics at Stephen F. Austin State University. After teaching and researching the art of inventing languages for 13 years – with expertise in syntax, semantics, and English etymology – she now became a fulltime professional conlanger.  

Marc Oostendorp is a professor of Dutch and Academic communication at Radboud University. He teaches Theoretical and Applied Linguistics and studies how academics can communicate more effectively. 

This programme is a collaboration between Radboud Reflects and InScience Filmfestival. InScience 2024 centers around language – from animal languages to questions on how language works in our brains, and from the cultural value of Dutch sign language to analyses of film languages. This Big Ideas lecture is part of the festival, that takes place from 12 until 17 March 2024. 

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