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My wife questioned me if there's a subject that I cannot teach effectively (per my standards of making the students salivate for more). I mentioned my weakness at teaching languages, English for example.

I can teach English from a mechanical/rote POV, but I've found it hard to be fascinated by it (let alone light a kid's curiosity).

Thus, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this question:

If I didn't know English (or any language) and I had to articulate my ideas, how would I do it?

This piqued my interest in linguistics and how it has to do with syntax, semantics, phonology, morphology, grammar etc., Given such a POV of not having language and then coming up with one piqued my interest in learning English more effectively (and perhaps using that for teaching, if at all).

Hence my question - hypothetically, is it possible to create a language in a classroom setting, piece by piece?

And use that as a guide to talk about language constructs to better understand the need for them?

I'd want to experiment this on myself and was wondering if there are any references that teach the linguistic aspect via language construction?

Things I'm looking for:

  • I have a list of phonemes and the next step is coming up with words/numbers and rules of building words vs. random sounds
  • Word Composition i.e., very simple sentence formation
  • Grammar: What doesn't sound "good" and what does? What is considered 'valid' and what exceptions are allowed?

Tenses, plurality would be good, but it'd be asking too much from this question.

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    That's an idea, but I don't know if it's been tried before. Maybe you could find inspiration from conlang materials, like the language construction kit or the conlangery podcast. – melissa_boiko Apr 14 '18 at 1:47
  • I'm assuming your students know English and it's a "grammar" (prescriptive) style class. when I taught something like that to early teens, what I ended up doing instead was to play with tacit knowledge, showing to them how much they know about their mother tongue without realizing they know (like the wug example). We then proceeded to transform tacit knowledge into explicit, taking a scientific approach to language—testing things, seeing what sounds like part of the language and what doesn't, coming up with tests for categories… – melissa_boiko Apr 14 '18 at 1:53
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    You don't have to create a whole language -- you really have to know a lot of stuff to do that satisfactorily.Take a cue from some of the ideas in this paper, which was written by an undergraduate in my English Grammar and Writing course who was concerned with precisely this question. The title says it all: "Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me This Before?" – jlawler Apr 14 '18 at 2:05

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