January 18, 2010

Constructed (or fake-real) languages rock

The week preceding Avatar's release was filled with news articles and interviews. During that week, I think I heard just as much about the Na'vi language as I did about the special effects. Which, in my opinion, is fantastic. I found it surprising though, that as reporters talked to Na'vi creator Paul Frommer, that the name J.R.R. Tolkien didn't come up. I mean, Klingon popped up a few times. But you're gonna mention Klingon without mentioning Elvish? To be fair, I didn't listen to or read all the interviews. I'm sure the reporters thought Klingon would be more recognizable. < /misplaced righteous indignation>

Anyways. The creation of a full language for the Na'vi has brought constructed languages back to the spotlight. In the realm of fantasy and sci-fi, I can't even imagine how many artificial languages have been constructed. Only a few of these, however, have been developed into full useable languages with syntax and grammar. I count Klingon (created by Marc Okrand), Elvish, and Na'vi among these. Though Na'vi doesn't have many or any fluent speakers...yet. Am I missing any other biggies?

It remains to be seen whether Na'vi will "out-Klingon Klingon" as James Cameron hopes. But it definitely seems to be on the right path. Paul Frommer expanded the language for the Avatar video game, and now it has over 1,000 words. If you were going to learn a constructed language, which one would you choose?

Constructed language resources:
Klingon Language Institute
Linguistic Resources for Tolkien's languages
Na'vi

Until next time:
Qapla'

Kìyeváme
Mára mesta

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