by Ben Zimmer
When James Cameron’s science-fiction opus “Avatar” comes to the screen this month, audiences will witness meticulously conceived alien characters — speaking a meticulously conceived alien language. To lend extra authenticity to the Na’vi — the tall, blue-skinned, vaguely feline humanoids living on the distant world of Pandora — Cameron enlisted the help of a linguist to construct a full-fledged language, with its own peculiar phonetics, lexicon and syntax. From the mind of Paul Frommer, a professor at the University of Southern California, was born a Na’vi language, with mellifluous vowel clusters, popping ejectives and a grammatical system elaborate enough to make a polyglot blush.
Read the whole story and listen to the language here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/magaz … tar&st=cse
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