Exploring constructed languages: From Science Fiction & Fantasy to ‘real-life’ applications

Ring and Map from The Lord of the Rings
Dr Bettina Beinhoff
Date 02/05/2023 at 17.30 - 02/05/2023 at 19.00 Where Gatsby Room (Chancellor's Centre) & Zoom

How are constructed languages relevant for research in the social sciences and humanities?

Ring and Map from The Lord of the Rings


Constructed languages are increasingly popular in film and TV, such as Avatar (with Na'vi), The City and The City (with Illitan) and the Hobbit (with Tolkien's Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin). These languages contribute to the characters and their identities; therefore, these languages must reveal certain key traits. However, we have very little understanding of how audiences respond to these languages and how they develop attitudes towards them. In this talk, I will explore how constructed languages are designed using several languages as examples. I will also discuss what the study of constructed languages can contribute to our knowledge of language ideologies and attitudes, and I will argue that from a sociolinguistic perspective, the study of constructed languages is very fruitful for a number reasons.

This talk is based on a study that investigates attitudes towards several constructed languages, most of which were unknown to the participants. This study is based on an online survey and interviews conducted in the UK and Hong Kong. In the final part of my talk, I will present the results which reveal fundamental differences in how the languages are perceived, thus indicating that how constructed and unknown languages are perceived is dependent on the cultural and linguistic background of the listeners. This has potential consequences for migration settings and intercultural contexts.



Dr Bettina Beinhoff is a Senior Lecturer in English Language and Applied Linguistics at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and Director of Studies and Bye Fellow at Wolfson College. She holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge (Trinity Hall) and studied for an MPhil at Wolfson College back in 2005/6. Bettina's main research interests are in the areas of attitudes towards language, language ideologies and the negotiation of identities in intercultural settings.



This is a hybrid event, which will take place in-person in the Gatsby Room (Chancellor's Centre) and also on Zoom.

If you would like to attend online, please register for the Zoom link.

Refreshments will be available for the in-person audience.


The Humanities Society organises regular talks spanning a wide range of topics. Every Tuesday during term time.



This event will take place in the Gatsby Room on the first floor of the Chancellor's Centre. It has step-free access with a lift and there is an accessible toilet located each floor of the building.

For more details please view our AccessAble guide.

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