VOT-PEL-JIC-RUD. VOT-RUD-JIC-TAM. These aren’t word puzzles or acronym-making gone mad. Though the words are meaningless, they are sentences in a language—one of perhaps hundreds of miniature artificial languages that language scientists have created for their research.
These mini-languages are to real languages what Matchboxes are to real cars. You won’t find them spoken on the street or written online.
They are, however, useful simulations used in laboratories that show how humans learn languages in all their varied forms.
Such research seeks to understand how we learn the linguistic significance of patterns in speech: where do words begin and end? What are the important words in a sentence? Which parts of language are learned first? How do babies and adults learn languages differently?