New words are generally formed out of necessity – the need to communicate a new object or idea.

Whole new languages are much rarer. So it’s interesting that a whole new language has been created for a movie.

A linguistics professor at the University of Southern California has done just that, for James Cameron’s forthcoming film, Avatar. Working from the basis of a few words provided by Cameron, Paul Frommer created the Na’vi language that now consists of over 1,000 words as well as its own rules , structure and sound system.

The language is spoken by aliens from the planet Pandora, although the professor was restrained by the human actors who had to voice his creation. As well as words, Frommer added ejectives, sounds that are made in languages around the world. The finished language apparently sounds to some like an African language, to others like Japanese – no one language is predominant but Cameron hopes it sounds musical, not harsh like the famous invented language Klingon.

The professor hopes Na’vi will catch on and followers will speak the language, much like Star Trek fans do with Klingon. How successful the language becomes I suppose rests on how much people like Avatar. We shall see.

Read the full article on Paul Frommer here.