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Course Details

Spring 2012-2013
* TRA 305 / HIS 310 / ECS 305 (HA)   na, npdf

Imagined Languages

Michael D. Gordin
Joshua T. Katz


This course combines historical and linguistic analysis in an attempt to understand how and why people are sometimes moved to try to transcend the languages to which we have natural, or at least relatively easy, access. Among the examples we will consider are Esperanto, Klingon, Middle Egyptian, Linear A and B, Cornish, Fortran, and Proto-World. Taking a view that is broad both geographically and temporally, we will explore, in an interactive and collaborative way, the philosophical and sociological implications of constructing and reconstructing languages for purposes that range from the political to the literary to the simply frivolous.

Sample reading list:
John Chadwick, The Decipherment of Linear B
Stanislaw Lem, His Master's Voice
Marc Okrand, The Klingon Dictionary
Arika Okrent, In the Land of Invented Languages
Max Talmey, Practical and Theoretical Esperanto
See instructor for complete list

Reading/Writing assignments:
In addition to reading an average of 150 pages a week, students will complete five special assignments, develop a joint project with a fellow member of the class, and write a final paper.

Paper in lieu of Final - 30%
Design Project - 30%
Papers - 20%
Class/Precept Participation - 20%

Other information:
To be placed on a waitlist, please contact Prof. Joshua Katz (

Reserved Seats:
Freshmen Only 5
Sophomores Only 6
Juniors Only 7
Seniors Only 8

Schedule/Classroom assignment:

Class numberSectionTimeDaysRoomEnrollmentStatus
42981 C01 01:30:00 pm - 02:50:00 pm M W   Aaron Burr Hall   209   Enrolled:26 Limit:26 Closed