Lecture on Writing systems and Invented languages

“Sumerian? Maya? Armenian? Cherokee? – What writing systems should I select if there are so many? How can I fit into 45 minutes if there is a universe of scripts, each of them being so enchanting and individual?”.
When Dr. Eva J. Daussà kindly offered me to be a guest lecturer in her course, I was about to be torn apart with my enthusiasm to design my lecture for 9 December. It was like flying back to the third academic year at Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), back to 2010. In that time, I was spending every free minute on getting familiar with the diversity of writing systems dispersed in space and time.

Now, when I am a PhD student at MSU staying in Groningen for almost a year, it seems to be different. I have been dealing with Old Frisian for almost 4 years and that is what my PhD thesis is about.
In November 2015, I finally had the pleasure to get acquainted with those who had been my providers to the Frisian heritage, whose works were among the key ones for my research – Prof. Goffe Jensma and Dr. Willem Visser. It felt like going to the Hollywood: “Oh my God! These scholars are real!”.
And I happily started working on numerous manuscripts and dictionaries to describe the Old Frisian compounding system. Which is – to carry out a comprehensive research on a European language, i. e. no hieroglyphs, no diving into Austronesian languages, no alien-like syntactic constructions.

And all of a sudden the vortex of typological exoticism appeared in my life again, and I jumped into it without a shadow of doubt. So it was: the today’s adventure in the world of Writing systems and Invented languages with the best team I could think of.
Together with the Indiana Jones bachelors of the first year, we traveled to China, Korea, India, Ancient Persia, Russia, and to Cherokee territories.
We recognized the symbols, because we knew the codes.
We could read words in different languages, because we live multilingualism.
We were detectives, making conclusions about the language structure through analyzing sample words.

Yet it was not enough for real adventurers, so we went even further.
We immediately recognized our fellow Elves from Tolkien’s books.
We did not get scared of the Klingon guys.
We slightly simplified communication through speaking Esperanto.
We knew for sure what the dragon from the Game of Thrones said.

The thing about invented languages is they are like magic creatures: they actually come real as soon as you believe in them.
I revealed a secret to the adventure team and showed them my own invented language: a mixture of verbal components (lexis) and gestures (morphology) called Wordsil, ‘The Word-Sign Language’.
Together with the team, we translated several sentences from English into Wordsil, and magic happened: the language came to life!

…Having returned to my dear Old Frisian, I am continuing the research with a warm feeling in my heart. I know there are people who are not afraid of linguistic difficulties, who are ready to explore the world and solve the riddle of the language. I do believe, guys, you will succeed.
And I truly appreciate your cordial welcome and active participation!

I would like to say a huge thank you to Eva for this fantastic journey and to everyone at the Department of Minorities and Multilingualism for being so professional and caring. Being with you is my pleasure.

By: Ksenia Pospelova