Author Date


Degree Name



Linguistics and English Language



Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Dirk Elzinga

First Faculty Reader

Joseph Windsor

Honors Coordinator

Don Chapman


Language, creation, construction, listener, rhythm, semantic intonation


Through creating a language that uses semantic rhythms to convey information in ways that typical intonation does not, I was able to see the benefits and drawbacks of strict semantic intonation. The Listener language replaces intonation with rhythms, and it uses rhythms in place of intonation in cases where intonation would generally be used in other languages, though it also uses rhythms in all other speech. Rhythms in the Listener language are grammatical, and speaking the language without the rhythms is considered to be ungrammatical. During the language construction process, there were several setbacks, both expected and unexpected. The Listener people have an oral history passed on through songs, sometimes over one hundred stanzas in length. Thus, I needed a language that despite having no written script, could easily be formed into lengthy songs. Once the language grammar and a substantial portion of the dictionary were completed, I back-translated select stanzas from one of the songs written in the books. Since the language itself did not exist when Brandon Sanderson wrote the English version of the song, which would have originally existed in the Listener language, the translation process was particularly difficult, but allowed for a vibrant expression of the features of the language that I had created, particularly the semantic rhythms. The features include extra complexity to learn and express, a requirement for a keen ear, being harder to learn as a non-native language, a quicker capability to convey complex ideas, less misunderstanding of intonation, and easier non-lexical communication.