Posted on March 31st, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Invented languages | Leave a Comment »
One of the experts is the inventor of Na’vi, the language used in the movie Avatar, so there are a few questions posed about that, with interesting responses. Here’s a sample:
One thing that always strikes me about languages is that some of them (particularly) English are such kleptomaniacs: they steal liberally from other languages they come in contact with, but they frequently seem to have rules for how things are assimilated. Japanese has a positively Ellis Island-like knack for making borrowed words sound completely different and naturalized, while at the same time using an entirely separate character set to keep them segregated. English, on the other hand, has so many words of foreign origin that most speakers aren’t even aware of it. So I’m curious, then, about the “future” of the Na’vi language: how do you expect it to change as it bumps up against English and other languages and their alien vocabulary, sounds, and concepts? — John
Paul Frommer: On Pandora there are already some borrowings from English into Na’vi – English words the locals have adopted for alien objects and concepts that have been filtered through the Na’vi sound system. “Gunship” is kunsìp; “book” is puk; “badge” is pätsì. On the other hand, some words are developed from existing elements rather than borrowed: “human” is not yumìn but rather tawtute, which literally means “sky person.”
As you’ve noted, languages differ in their readiness to borrow foreign words. Among the Na’vi-enthusiast community that has exploded in the last couple of months, the sentiment seems to be against borrowings except as placeholders until suitable native expressions are coined. So “computer” and “lawyer” are not kompìyuter and loyer but rather eltu lefngap (metal brain) and, tentatively, pängkxoyu lekoren (one who discusses rules). I expect this preference to hold as Na’vi continues to develop, especially in view of the fact that the emerging community is not limited to English speakers. (Source: Schott’s Vocab Blog)
As you can see, the questions and answers are quite long and in-depth, so be sure you have a bit of time on your hands before starting to read. Enjoy!