In summer 2020 I piloted an online, noncredit course on Language & Linguistics in Sci-Fi. Since then I’ve taught the course in person and online, as a 1-credit reading group and as a 3-credit first-year seminar, and I plan to keep teaching it at least once a year indefinitely. If you’ve been thinking about teaching a class like this—or if you just like reading fiction and thinking about language—welcome! I hope you’ll find some inspiration here.

My course design is very simple. For each class we read and discuss a short story or novella that helps us view some fundamental property of language in a fresh way. For example:

  • The Easthound (Nalo Hopkinson) shows us, through a child’s eyes, how frightening the world-changing power of language can be.
  • Elliott Spencer (George Saunders) shows how our human desire for freedom might engender—and be engendered by—our creative use of language.
  • Solitude (Ursula Le Guin) shows us what language might look like in a society where people just…don’t talk much.

See the readings for the full list of stories and my comments about each one.

If you’re an instructor, see format + mechanics for details about how I organize and manage the class and how you can adapt these ideas to your teaching context.

If you’re curious about constructed languages and other ways to connect linguistics and sci-fi, see other approaches.

See more readings for additional reading lists and recommendations, and visit my webpage to learn more about me.