The Queen Mary Invented Languages Scheme (QuILS) is an initiative from Queen Mary University of London which aims to disseminate constructed languages (abbreviated “conlangs”) to the general public, and to promote the public understanding and awareness of linguistic science. While it’s true that conlangs are fun and creative, their construction is actually informed by world-class linguistic research. In our posts, you’ll find that constructed languages extensively use human languages as blueprints. After all, how would one break the rules of human language without knowing what they are?
Since its inception, the Linguistics department at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has been typologically oriented. If a linguistic generalization has cognitive reality, then it better manifest itself in a range of geographically and genetically diverse languages! Here are the researchers involved in QuILS:
David Adger (PhD: University of Edinburgh) is Professor of Linguistics, and President of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain. He has authored many books and articles on linguistics including the forthcoming Language Unlimited, from Oxford University Press.
Coppe van Urk (PhD: MIT) is Lecturer of Linguistics. He writes on the nature of variation across languages, with a particular focus on understudied languages.
Daniel Harbour (PhD: MIT) is Professor of the Cognitive Science of Language. He has written extensively on linguistic features, and has also worked extensively on the documentation and preservation of an endangered language, Kiowa, spoken in Carnegie, Oklahoma.
Margaret (Ruoan) Wang (MA: QMUL) is a PhD Candidate in Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London. She is interested in typology, honorifics and syntax.
Conlangs can also be used to do serious pedagogical work, as students use the same set of knowledge in learning languages and creating languages.
How do languages differ in their word orders? Hmm… what will the word order of my own language be like? How do languages pack grammatical information into their sentences? Hmm… will mine do so with tones, with affixation, or something else?”
At QMUL, we have successfully used the concept of constructed languages as a pedagogical tool at secondary and tertiary levels. (To take a look at our teaching materials, click here.) We ran a Creating a Language summer school to enable students from less-advantaged backgrounds to gain an understanding of linguistic concepts relevant to Languages and English Language GCSEs. We have also run the university level module Constructing a Language for several years, giving final-year students the opportunity to exercise their linguistic knowledge in creative ways.
The scalability of our approach is a key advantage. Students at many different levels are able to engage with linguistic concepts in a productive and creative way. At primary level, we are currently developing the constructed languages approach for primary level via collaboration with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) to better tackle National Curriculum assessments.
Image source: https://carwad.net/wallpaper-677848