Want to study Klingon? Take new UBC language course

This fall students at UBC’s Okanagan campus can explore the made-up languages of Star Trek’s Klingon and Avatar’s Na’vi as part of a new anthropology class titled Pidgins, Creoles and Created Languages.

“Pidgin is a form of speech that is a mixture of languages,” explains Christine Schreyer, assistant professor of anthropology. “Often they are created by two or more groups of people who want to communicate with one another to accomplish a purpose -- for example, trading -- but don’t speak one another’s languages.

“Creoles are languages that originally started as pidgins, but have evolved to the point where children are learning them as their mother tongue.”

The fourth-year class, Anthropology 490O, examines how languages are formed, their linguistic features, the social context in which they are used, and whether or not they can ever be considered standard languages. It also covers the development of new languages and some reasons for their creation, including trade, unity, media, and secrecy.

“The first part of the course really focuses on Pidgins and Creoles, which tend to get neglected in language studies because they are sometimes viewed as a mix of languages and not a ‘real’ language,” says Schreyer. “But they are used all over the world and there are a lot of them.”

The other half of the course focuses on created languages, such as Esperanto -- the most widely-spoken created international language in the world.

“Esperanto was created in the end of the 19th century as a universal language to promote world peace,” says Schreyer. “People thought if everyone could speak a language that wasn’t connected to a national identity or a country then we could have better communication globally."

Schreyer designed the language course hoping students will gain a better understanding of how languages are constructed, how they can begin and come to an end, and how they relate intimately to culture.

Students interested in registering for the course can find out more at

https://courses.students.ubc.ca/cs/main?campuscd=UBCO or contact Christine Schreyer at christine.schreyer@ubc.ca.

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