School of English
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Reading Fictional Languages


The invention of fictional languages has been a feature of literary worlds from Aristophanes to the imagined languages of utopias, dystopias, satires, fantasy and science fiction of more recent times. These fictional languages range from one or two words right up to highly specified and rich accounts of grammars, phonologies and vocabularies. The fictional languages of literature can be seen as one element among a set of artificial languages including constructed languages (conlangs), logical languages (loglangs), auxiliary languages (auxlangs) and other artistic languages (artlangs).

Different notions of the narrative or literary functions of such fictional languages have been proposed: as phonoaesthetics, syntax and context (Tolkien); as elaborative, indexical, and emblematic functions (Stockwell); for characterisation, as emblem, as alien encounter (Cheyne); or as being speculative, rhetorical, descriptive, mimetic, or diegetic (Noletto). These typologies combine the descriptive account of the imagined language with their aesthetic, experiential and rhetorical effects in the reader.


Date: 11 March 2022
Time: 9:30 - 17:00 (UK Time)
Cost: £10 (on campus - including lunch and refreshments)
£5 (online - including access to recordings)
 University of Nottingham and Online

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Call for Papers

This one-day symposium aims to bring together scholars from different disciplines to consider the nature of reading fictional languages. Presentations are invited on such topics as:

  • the construction/composition of fictional languages
  • the functions of fictional languages
  • the role of fictional languages in literature, film, videogames and/or other discourses
  • the relationship between fictional languages and world-building
  • the relationship between fictional languages and characterisation
  • the relationship between regional dialect representation and fictional dialect, language variation and change, translation, and dialects of the future
  • the readerly experience of fictional languages.

The event will be held in a fully integrated arena comprising both on-campus and online participants. It is thus designed to be accessible, enabling participants to attend from around the world, as suits their circumstances, as part of a truly hybrid event. The on-campus room will be as covid-safe as possible with a maximum occupancy. Refreshments and lunch will be provided in line with covid guidance.

Presentations may be given in person or online as preferred. Please send a short title and abstract (max 250 words) along with five key words to:

School of English

Trent Building
The University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900