Invented Languages, Invented Worlds
Invented Languages, Invented Worlds
How the world around us shapes our speech, and how our speech shapes new worlds
Signum University’s sixth Annual Texas Language and Literature Symposium (TexMoot) invites you to join us as we consider the what J.R.R. Tolkien called “the secret vice”, the invention of languages, specifically as it pertains to speculative fiction.
From Tolkien’s own Elvish, to Star Trek’s Klingon, to George R. R. Martin’s Dothraki, invented languages have played a crucial role in immersing the audience in their respective invented worlds. Indeed, these invented worlds can hardly be imagined without the invented languages on which they depend. The power of this connection also raises important considerations about our own language and reality.
At TexMoot 2023, you will explore questions like: What purposes do invented languages serve? What makes for an effective and compelling ConLang (constructed language)? How do these invented languages help create the invented worlds in which they’re spoken–and vice versa? How do these invented languages inspire the state of what Tolkien calls the “unwilling suspension of disbelief”? And what can invented languages teach us about language in the “real” world–and our relationship to it?
TexMoot ’23 Schedule
8-9, Arrival and setup.
9-9:15, Greetings and opening remarks by Corey Olsen.
9:15-9:45 “Constructed script letter design” by Victor Andrade
9:45-9:55, 10 minute break
9:55-10:25, “Chronicling artlang development from a decolonial perspective” by Victor Andrade
10:25-10:35, 10 minute Q&A session
10:35-10:50, 15 minute break
10:50-11:20, “Realism vs Accessibility in Languages for Fiction” by Aidan Aannestad
11:20-11:30, 10 minute Q&A session
11:30-12, “Tulkas, *Tiwaz and Bagme Bloma” by Samuel Lewis
12-12:10, 10 minute Q&A session
12:10-12:40,“Different textualities and the paratextual function of the Kesh language.” by Israel A. C. Noletto
12:40-12:50, 10 minute Q&A session
12:50-1:50, Lunch hour
1:50-2:50, “Tolkien’s Use of Invented Languages in The Lord of the Rings” by James Tauber
2:50-3:20, “What Was Aragorn’s Tax Policy? And Other Assorted Economic Questions About Middle-earth You’ve Never Bothered to Think About” by Adam Beaton
3:20-3:30, 10 minute Q&A session
3:30-3:45, 15 minute break
3:45-4:45, “Intro to Tengwar”, a creative presentation by Matt Cannon and Chad Bornholdt
4:45-5:05, “LotR paintings”, a short show and tell with Stephen Montalvo
5:05-5:20, Closing remarks and farewells by Corey Olsen
Please note that all times listed in the schedule are local to our venue in Texas.
Keynote address by James Tauber
Tolkien’s Use of Invented Languages in The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien is well known for his language invention and much of the richness of The Lord of the Rings lies in its use of invented languages. At times, Tolkien showed remarkable constraint, almost never using an invented common noun where the English equivalent would do. Other times, he happily included Elvish expressions and entire poems without providing translation. The appendices lay out information that occasionally seems more at home in a neogrammarian grammar than a novel and yet they only scratch the surface in terms of what underlies the snippets of language in the main text.
This talk will focus not on the languages themselves so much as the various ways in which they are used in the main text of The Lord of the Rings. Drawing on a forthcoming book chapter on the topic, we will explore how the languages of Tolkien’s legendarium break into the narrative, sometimes subtly, sometimes boldly. We will also look at the use of historical languages alongside invented languages and Tolkien’s choice to translate some of his world’s languages while merely transliterating others.
In short: where in the text does Tolkien make use of his invented languages, how does he make use of them, and most importantly, why does he use them in the way he does?
James Tauber is philologist, linguist, and software developer who works with scholars around the world using computers to better understand languages and texts.