Dr. Cornell Afterthought, Action Linguist

Ever since he was little, Doctor Cornell Afterthought (he wasn’t a doctor since he was little, just to be clear - the Ph.D. came much later) has been fascinated by the power of language. Fluent in numerous languages, and dabbling in other sciences, he felt confident that his dissertation would revolutionize both the field of linguistics and the broader scope of science.

It didn’t.

There’s only so many ways to say “they laughed at me at the University”, but Dr. Afterthought can say them all. So he approached TeslaDyne.

At this point, Cornell’s interests included:

  • Cultural-historical vs. Structuralist vs. Functionalist vs. Formalist language theories
  • The Babel story and the essential connections between language and organization
  • Conlangs, or constructed languages
  • The neuroscience of multilingualism - how learning languages literally changes your brain
  • Xenoglossy, or the phenomenon of speaking a language you’ve never learned (including foreign accent syndrome)
  • Cryptolects, anti-languages, and language isolates such as Sumerian, Shabo, and Esmeralda

By putting these findings together, Cornell had discovered a principle that a human being, training themselves to think in a specifically constructed conlang, could literally reshape their own brain, unlocking latent potentialities such as psychic abilities. He dubbed this field “action linguistics”, and had the presence of mind to lock the TeslaDyne interviewers into the room with him long enough to actually demonstrate what he could do. The rest, as they say, is linguistics history.

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Example uses of Action Linguistics:

  • Create an advantage with Deceive: “hey you left the jeep keys behind”. The other PC didn’t, of course, but by making them think about it and then realize they were tricked, they will be On Edge and more prone to notice small details or inconsistencies going forward (an aspect that can be invoked to boost Notice checks, for example)
  • Identify strangers by accent, word choice, and so forth - or conversely, blend in by adopting an accent
  • An Invention that allows him to understand animals
  • Translate highly technical documents - or ancient magical incantations

Example invokes and compels:

Would-Be Action Linguist

  • Invoke to reinforce his devotion to science and his desire to promote his field
  • Compel when he encounters mockery, derision, or confusion

I’ve Studied That! Theoretically

  • Invoke to do something scientific or technical based on an abstract understanding of the concept
  • Compel to derail or foil an attempt at something by misapplying knowledge or overestimating the value of theory

The Power of Positive Thinking

  • Invoke to get through difficulties with optimism
  • Compel to put the PC into a tough situation he thought he could handle

Neuro-Linguistic Hacker

  • Invoke to get through a situation or affect someone with language
  • Compel when constant mumbling in conlangs alienates people or makes him stand out

Useful for Narrow Definitions of “Useful”

  • Invoke to come through when a situation calls for narrow or weird expertise
  • Compel to interfere in something that’s not his field, or to be looked down upon by “regular” scientists
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"Afterthought is an unusual last name, isn't it?"


(pause) "Is there, uh, a story behind it?"

“Ah. Yes. You see, my great-grandfather, coming to America, was very proud of his English. He was always practicing his new words. My great-grandmother would drill him. So, when he comes through Ellis Island, they ask him many questions. He answers, and he is proud of the big words he uses. Not all right, but all big.”

“So. The interviewer forgets a thing. A very important thing. My great-grandparents are on the way out. The man at the podium shouts after them: what do you want for your last name? My great-grandfather does not hear clearly. But he recognizes the man has forgotten something and is now remembering it. He says, ‘ah, afterthought!’ because that is the word for such things. The interviewer shrugs and writes this down.”

“Later, my great-grandparents receive their papers. They see this big English word as their new last name. They are very proud. And so it has stuck.”


Fun Action Linguistics Fact! Language can be used to start a war. Example:

A popular song about a cryptolect (anti-language)

An example of a modern conlang (constructed language) is Toki Pona.

…although it was not created to be an international auxiliary language. Partly inspired by Taoist philosophy, the language is designed to help users concentrate on basic things and to promote positive thinking, in accordance with the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.

An example of the written form:

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Only humans can sing like this.


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