Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Paul Johnson

Second Advisor

David Kutzko

Third Advisor

Jana Schulman


"Glottopoeia: A Case Study in Language Change" is a thesis in the form of a I32-page grammar booklet, entitled An Elementary Ghau Aethauic Grammar, with a preface detailing what I did, why I did it, and how I accomplished it. In effect, I invented a language called Ghau Aethau. It was created almost entirely ex nihilo, borrowing nothing in the way of phonetics, morphology, or vocabulary from any real language. It does employ grammatical concepts present in many real-world languages, but also several of my own design. I chose this project for two reasons: first, to explore the art form of what I call Glottopoeia - language-making; and second, the project allowed me to observe in a very controlled and deliberate way how languages may develop and how they may change over time (hence the title of the thesis). I determined that languages begin simply, having more things implied by the circumstances of an utterance, and then gradually acquire specificity with pragmatic and idiomatic ways of saying things. Thus Ghau Aethau originally has no subordinating conjunctions or prepositions, and complex grammatical concepts are always and very clearly founded on more basic (older) grammatical concepts. The language in its final form has a remarkably high level of specificity inherent in its morphological system, yet I did not at any point allow myself to draw distinctions that are nowhere present in some language somewhere in the real world. In this way, I have been able to be creative, relying on my own artistic and aesthetic tastes as a guide, while still maintaining what J.R.R. Tolkien called the "inner consistency of reality," whereby everything present within the creative work makes sense and is explainable by means of the internal logic of the piece of art. Thus, almost all of the grammatical features in the Classical form of Ghau Aethau are based on older features from the Ancient form of the language. Likewise, all vocabulary is etymologically founded on older words in one way or another, in addition to being based on the conversational needs of the native Ghau Aethauic speakers, dictated by their culture, religion, history, geography, etc. Just as in real languages, it is imperative that a glottopoetic language defines the culture of its speakers even while the culture defines the language. Having established complex phonological and morphological systems, I was able to postulate how certain of the speech sounds and grammatical features might break down over time, simplify, and reform in different ways (e.g., grammatical case suffixes become prepositions) in the post-Classical period of the language. It has thus been a project requiring extensive scholarly research, study, and learning--employing all the academic "tools" I have acquired throughout my four years as an undergraduate at WMU-while at the same time involving a high level of artistic creativity. If well conducted, Glottopoeia proves to be both an intensive way of learning about how language works and changes, as well as a relatively new (and very exciting) artistic outlet.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access