Na’vi is on the way

Na’vi is a language of blue elf guys in the movie Avatar made by this guy, Paul Frommer.

Sample words from the LA Time article:


Dec 18 we’ll get the first attested canonical words when the movie is released.  There are supposed to be 1000 root words to start with. No news on if they are practical words, or if they the word list is burdened by too many SF movie words like phazer.

Diacritics! So typing this with a standard keyboard will be a pain or  just ugly.  If I could herd all the conlang designers into a room and make them stay until they agreed to use multiple vowels instead of vowels with diacritic marks– at least the world would have conlangs that could be emailed without being ugly.  Unless you’re a Finn and are a wizz at diacritics anyhow.  Personally, I’m hoping there will be an orthography reform if the language has diacritics.  I mean, if you’re going to require diacritics, why not go whole hog and require IPA, which at least has a well recognized ASCII format (XSAMPA) ugly as it may be.

Design goals. It was designed to sound good, be a real language, alien and be pronounceable. The last part is a important improvement over Klingon, which had too many gh, H, q, Q sounds which where too close in sound to easily distinguish.

License. No word on the license for the langauge yet– language invented specifically for movies and music often have extremely restrictive licenses on using the language.   Why someone would pay money for a license to talk to themselves and their cat in a constructed language, and forgo try to use it for something of commercial value, I don’t know.  Will it be legal to write works of fiction in Na’vi for sale? Will it be legal to compile competing or complementing dictionaries?  Anyhow, restrictive conlang licenses is a pet peeve of mine, even if it ultimately is an academic question because the events of profitable commercial activities involving a conlang  probably can be counted on one hand, (I’m thinking the movie in Esperanto, the books and software for Klingon)

The Na’vi grammar guide. Nothing on yet.  Keep clicking on this to search for all of Paul Frommer’s books. (he’s published a few so far, just not about Na’vi)

Google searches for Na’vi alphabet, grammar and word lists currently turn up nothing.  I’m not even sure what the language is called in its own language.  Google doesn’t like the ‘ in between Na and vi.

Virginian Algonquian is better documented than this!  What is the world coming to when we have better movie reconstructions of 200 year old dead languages than a language that will be spoken any day now?

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4 thoughts on “Na’vi is on the way

  1. Thanks for keeping an eye out for Na’vi. I haven’t found anyyhing yet either. I have a Google Alert in place, which is how I found out about your blog post. Try putting double quotes around “Na’vi” and that may help with your searches.

    Licenses for conlangs? What a ridiculous idea, especially if their ontention is for Na’vi to go viral. The best response is simply to ignore it. Ask the millions of people who do slash and other fanfic.

    As for conlangs and orthography, I have to say I’m a little surprised at your wish that the crazy xenophiles who make up the conlang community would limit themselces to ASCII. Think Unicode! Typing diacritics on Roman letters is a breeze on a Mac and not impossible even under Windows. (There’s an “American International Keyboard” setting, or something like that, which defines two-keystroke sequences for diacritics.)

    Keep up the good work. Maybe something more substantial about Na’vi will leak out before the movie is released.

  2. um, klingon has no k, or kh. it has q, Q, and H, if thats what you meant. I dont really have high hopes for na’vi, espicially because of the lame apostrophes.

  3. Ah, good point. Just got out my Klingon dictionary. gh, H, q, Q. Makes for wonderful minimal pairs like, naQ/naH. Alien, but indistinguishable except by talented polyglot fans. Klingon has glottal stops (the apostrophes), too. Diacritics are bad though. No one wants to switch keyboards or type alt+ 3 digit number to type a letter with diacritics.