Sunday, December 6, 2009

"The most beautiful toy in the world"

The Lousy Linguist is amused by this rather breathless profile of Paul R. Frommer, who created the Na'vi language for the film "Avatar".

"In fact, the average second year grad student in linguistics can do it, and typically they do, just for fun," Chris notes. Indeed. But that bar is too high; anyone can "create a language." Many conlangers began when they were children, including some fairly well-known ones; it's just harder to create something that's interesting to other people, or not merely a relexified English when English is the only language you can think in; and people with exposure to more languages can have a broader view of the variety of options.

To be fair, it sounds like much of the story's enthusiasm comes from Frommer, who (it seems) had a blast with this. A U.S.O. interview gives some more detail on the language (ejective consonants, infixing, and tripartite alignment) [EDIT: See also the NYT story Skxawng!, and the NPR interview with Frommer].

There appear to be few or no consonant clusters in the names of the film's Na'vi characters, to judge by IMDB. It sounds like Frommer is interested in further developing and releasing more information on the language, which is a good sign. Marc Okrand's instructional video on how to speak Atlantean on the "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" DVD was great fun.

The comments of this LanguageHat consideration of the most interesting language points us to this lovely quote: "I was fallen in love beyond limites with languages, for, as the renowned Italian Orientalist Alessandro Bausani told, languages are 'the most beautiful toy of the world.'"

No comments:

Post a Comment