The LCS has posted an interview with Na’vi creator Paul Frommer conducted by David J. Peterson and Sylvia Sotomayor. Frommer provides some great stories about how he created Na’vi and what it’s like working on a major movie. Nice job, David and Sylvia!
The Conlanging Librarian has been busy adding new items to the Library:
- A new book has been added to Books (Science Fiction): Years in the Making: The Time-Travel Stories of L. Sprague de Camp.
- Several new articles and a video (from Arika’s appearance at Geeking Out) have been added to the Press Coverage of Arika Okrent and her popular book.
- And, finally, a new article by Arika Okrent herself that appeared at Slate.com about Paul Frommer’s Na’vi. Find this one in the Press Coverage of Dr. Frommer and his language of Pandora.
A March 10, 2010, column from the New York Times has been posted to the Newspaper Articles in TCL. Arika Okrent and Paul Frommer have responded to readers’ questions about “invented languages” and provided some very in-depth answers. Enjoy!
This post isn’t entirely conlang-related, but I’ve finally seen Avatar and have a few thoughts I’d like to share.
First, of course, is the conlang. It was great to see Dr. Frommer listed right near the top of the closing credits as “Na’vi language creator”. The language itself was incorporated fairly well into the plot, although it would have been nice to see a little more of Jake’s learning curve. The only thing we see is Neytiri correcting Jake’s pronunciation of nari “eye”. At 162 minutes, I suppose something had to be cut. I did think it was appropriate that Jake hadn’t achieved enough fluency for his speeches, asking both Tsu’tey and Neytiri to translate for him. Well played there. Overall, the actors did an acceptable job with fluid pronunciations and making the language appear “natural.” Congrats to Dr. Frommer for bringing conlanging back into focus for the general public. Although the native language was incorporated well and sounded genuine, the Na’vi’s use of English was a little too fluent and widespread for my taste. Their rejection of what the Earthlings have to offer would lead me to believe that they would not bother to continue to practice their English skills so assiduously.
One final conlang comment: The Na’vi greeting of Oel ngati kameie “I see you” was a little troubling. I saw the movie with my college-freshman daughter, and afterward she said the only thing she could think of when they said that was “Peek-a-boo, I see you.” While I understand the spiritual implications, Na’vi-wise, of the greeting, maybe there could have been a better English translation used: “I hold you in my eyes”? “I see you with my heart”??
Now, for some more kudos. The look of the film was visually stunning, but I think the massive hype inflated my expectations just a bit. I will agree, however, that Pandora is quite the bioluminescent, floating-mountain, hexapod-filled wonderland. Cameron did a great job of incorporating the 3-D into the film. This was no Monster Chiller Horror Theatre or Jaws 3-D. The 3-D effects, in short order, simply became the look of the film – not an effect. Some of the coolest shots in retrospect were in the cockpit of the aircraft with their heads-up displays. There were some shots that were bows to 3-D, but overall it was not “in your face.”
As for acting, Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch easily deserves an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Lang absolutely nailed his role. As much as I abhorred his drive to eradicate the Na’vi, he’s the guy I’d want on my side in a fight. Lang provides a very interesting perspective on his role in a recent Los Angeles Times article.
Now for some constructive criticism, as if James Cameron needs constructive criticism from the Conlanging Librarian: Avatar has grossed (as of Dec. 31, 2009) $268,886,074. In any case, here goes…
Cameron is not a subtle screenwriter, and by “not a subtle screenwriter” I mean he writes foreshadowing and metaphor with a sledgehammer. Both my daughter and I could see the ending coming several miles (or clicks) away. Furthermore, I could almost hear James Cameron’s voice whispering in my ear: “PSST, DID I MENTION THE NA’VI REPRESENT NATIVE AMERICANS!!” From the paint on their faces, to their war cries, to their horse-like mounts, the metaphor was barely a metaphor. Egads! My daughter and I agreed that Cameron could have at least given them different mounts than horses (okay, horses with tendrils and six-legs but still “horses”). How about a big ostrich-like lizard-bird. Say, a flightless version of the banshees or great leonopteryx (ikran and toruk to use their Na’vi terms); maybe call it a atxkxe-ikran “land banshee”. I would also rather have seen the Na’vi patterned after a more “exotic” indigenous population (at least to mainstream North American audiences) such as those in Polynesia or Central/South America.
Overall, I’m definitely glad that I saw it, was impressed with the visuals, and was happy to see conlanging making a dent in the media. The story, as has been pointed out elsewhere, was basically “Indigo Pocahontas Dancing with Wolves in Space”. I wasn’t blown away, but I’d definitely suggest people go and see it. It’s an important film, both technically and conlang-wise.
I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing more about Pandora and the other moons of Polyphemus.
Okay, in an attempt to consolidate press coverage of Dr. Frommer’s new alien language, TCL now has a page devoted to video, audio, text, and fan-generated material on Na’vi. Everything from links to the ABC News interview to Learn Na’vi is now available in one place. Eywa ngahu!
The information on Na’vi just keeps coming! Here is a story on NPR from Dec. 15. There are some very nice examples of Frommer speaking Na’vi (and even getting Renee Montagne to try her tongue at it).
The movie has only been out a few days and already a fan community has begun to coalesce around the language. Check out Learn Na’vi for some grammar, vocabulary, and phonetics that have been gleaned from publicly available sources. Nothing “official” from Frommer or Cameron…yet. Incidentally, this is where the title of this post was cobbled together from. It’s supposed to read “Wow! More and more and more Na’vi.” In addition to this site, there’s a Facebook group already in existence as well — Learn the Na’vi language — with the description “Kaltxì! Ngaru lu fpom srak? which, as far as I can tell, roughly means “Hello! How are you?”
Paul Frommer, the creator of the Na’vi language, has posted a guest posting at Language Log. He provides much more detail than we’ve seen before concerning his new conlang.
The big buzz in the conlang community right now is about James Cameron’s film Avatar due to be released on December 18. Of course, the reason for the buzz is the language of the Na’vi created by University of Southern California professor Paul Frommer. The language has only been glimpsed briefly from articles and interviews, but the known corpus is growing. Here is a collection of articles and websites to whet your appetite. Whether you plan to see the movie or not, Avatar has definitely brought artlangs front and center again. Personally, I get a kick out of the authors of some of these articles falling all over themselves in fascination that someone can create an “entirely alien language”. 😉 What a shock!
What can we say from a wordlist?
The language of Avatar revealed
Skxawng! You don’t matter!
USC professor creates an entire alien language for ‘Avatar’
Brushing up on Na’vi, the Language of Avatar
USC professor gives Avatar aliens a voice