12.51: Constructed Languages, with Dirk Elzinga

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary, Dan, with guest host Beth Meacham

Dirk Elzinga, an associate professor of linguistics, joined us live at LTUE to talk about constructed languages, and how we, as writers, might go about constructing them for our work.

Liner Notes: The big stack of notes from Dirk required its own page. Below are links to specific tools mentioned during the episode.

Credits: This episode was recorded live at LTUE by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson and mastered beneath a pyramid of stone tablet encyclopedias by Alex Jackson.



Come up to with a non-combat, non-warfare metaphor to talk about a debate.

Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin

12 thoughts on “12.51: Constructed Languages, with Dirk Elzinga”

  1. Great episode as always! I heard Mary say that Frank Oz wasn’t the voice of Yoda toward the end. Is that true? I swear I heard Frank Oz talk about it on an episode of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me on NPR, and I looked it up, and most sources say he did voice Yoda. I wonder if there’s some sort of puppetry etiquette I’m unaware of? Thanks; I’m a huge fan of the podcast!

  2. Great episode guys, but Frank Oz does voice Yoda. That’s why he sounds a lot like Grover and Miss Piggy, other characters Oz performed.

  3. One of the more intriguing casts I’ve heard in a while. I think the WE gang switched it up with this one.
    There was a question asked about who, other than the Tolkien grandmaster himself, put language into her/his work.
    Hmm, that’s a tough one. One thing to think about is that Salvatore did bring the idea of language into the world, but I don’t think he went into the construction of that language – just that it was there.

    Robert Jordan should not be overlooked here. He clearly was a pupil of Tolkien and created a rich world with great linguistic beauty in the Wheel of Time. However, other than a few characters only speaking bits and pieces of the Old Tongue, it exists mainly in written form.
    Still, he put some work into that.
    Thanks for the cast.

    1. That does seem like some dumbness! They should have hobnobbed with more people. Sorry, I’m being obnoxious :)

  4. Fascinating episode, thanks. Other interesting invented languages, from outside SF/F, also very much worth a read:

    ‘Nasdat’, in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.
    The rabbit language (and also a whole invented rabbit *culture*) in Watership Down by Richard Adams.

    The former burrowed itself into my head so much, I found I was *thinking* using Nasdat terms for a couple of days after reading it.

  5. Hammer, nails… no, no, phonemes, syntax, grammar? Yes, Howard, Mary, Dan, and special guest host Beth Meacham got together with Dirk Elzinga, linguist extraordinaire, to chew the fat about constructed languages! A few phonemes, some written characters, a healthy helping of syntax and grammar, and… your language speaking is! Or as Tolkein’s elves might say… well, Yoda says… okay, the transcript to read, in the archives or over here


    And then check out the liner notes for more help!

  6. An author was mentioned, Caroline Terry? Can you point me to one of her works? I’m sure I have the name wrong.

  7. I was so expecting someone to mention David J Peterson! But then I realized he isn’t a writer, just a linguist that creates languages for his career. Check him out! He created the languages on Games of Thrones, the Thor 2 movie, The 300, plus many more! Ah, he is listed in the liner notes!

    Another amazing resource is the podcast Conglangery. Now, this podcast isn’t aimed at writing, but more on creating, but it has so much info it’s like walking into a candy store! The earlier episodes are not as good and the audio quality is bad, so don’t worry about starting at the beginning. They have many episodes dedicated to real world languages!

    There is also a forum you can lurk on (I do since I also create conlangs as a side hobby), the zompist forums. It’s on the website listed in the liner notes but I’ll post a direct link so you guys don’t have to go searching for them.


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