In’venting Na’vi

You’re making a movie about “people” from some fantastical, far-off land, you have a $300 million budget, and you want your made-up characters to be convincing. These blue creatures who star in the movie Avatar are computer-generated, so there’s not much of a need for acting classes. Instead, why don’t you pay a linguistics professor to invent a language?

That’s what director James Cameron did.

“He wanted a complete language, with a totally consistent sound system, morphology, syntax,” Frommer says. And “he wanted it to sound good — he wanted it to be pleasant, he wanted it to be appealing to the audience.”

So now, the Na’vi language exists. And if this movie is as successful as it promises to be, we should soon see the proof that Na’vi has transitioned from fictional word gimmick to legitimate language: a Hamlet of its own.

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About Mike Keliher

I play guitar and love semicolons. I read Rolling Stone to argue with the “National Affairs” section and watch Bill O’Reilly to remind myself how not to argue. I’m roughly 1/6 the age of my colleagues here – and roughly 1/6 as smart. But I write well and they fell for it. As a student, I served on the national leadership committee of the Public Relations Student Society of America. I was the editor of the association’s newspaper while also serving as the opinion section editor for the University of St. Thomas’ Aquin newspaper. For the past four years, I’ve worked at a small, smart and interesting public relations firm called Provident Partners. Before that, I grew up in and managed a hardware store, built Web sites, worked in tech support, and played a lot of baseball. I still do all of these things with varying levels of professionalism. I wear shoes as a little possible.

7 responses to “In’venting Na’vi

  1. Pingback: Mike Keliher (mjkeliher) « In’venting Na’vi « THE SAME ROWDY CROWD « Chat Catcher

  2. Jon Austin

    This has been done before, most successfully with Klingon, which I’ve actually heard spoken in public (OK, yes, it was at a Star Trek convention). Interesting to see if this one takes off to the same degree.


    PS – For those so inclined, you will find me at the Southdale theater tonight at Midnight for the 12:01 3D IMAX screening (if I can get a ticket).

    • Yes, it has. Thus my “Hamlet” reference (there’s an edition of Hamlet written in the Klingon language). And I’m pretty sure Tolkien invented a language for his elves in Lord of the Rings.

      Perhaps I’m putting too much stock in this new instance, but I get the impression this is a bigger, more thoroughly developed language. But maybe not. Either way, it’s a fascinating idea.

  3. Joe Loveland

    Newt, aren’t you going to remind us that English needs to be the official language?

  4. Joe Loveland

    P.S. Is that a Vonage logo on that blue dude’s forehead? Product placement taken to new depths?

    • Dennis Lang

      Damn! That is the Vonage logo. Pretty cheesy in a 300M extravaganza. The accountants over-turning every rock to guarantee recovery of the investment? I wonder if Cameron has his own money in this.

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