Nerd Nite Madison Podcast: Inventing languages

William Annis delves into the complex task of creating new languages for video games.

Grey Goo, one of the games for which William Annis has created languages.

Grey Goo, one of the games for which William Annis has created languages.

Nerd Nite Madison is back at the High Noon Saloon this Wednesday, January 20. Right before that at the High Noon, we at Tone Madison are hosting a live show and podcast recording with Wisconsin electronic musicians Thomas Wincek and Samarah. Both are free. We partner with Nerd Nite Madison to present both of these events, and to create this audio series of their talks.

I basically never think about video games, but Madison resident William Annis captivated me with his August 2015 Nerd Nite talk about his work developing fictitious languages for games including the recent title Grey Goo. Annis traces the art of language construction from its beginnings in Tolkien (who called inventing languages "the secret vice") to contemporary mass-culture phenomena like Avatar and Game Of Thrones. The most interesting part of the talk, though, is how language construction intersects with the endless complexities of real human languages, and sometimes inspires language-inventors to get out of control. Give Annis' talk a listen below.