|Paul R. Frommer|
September 17, 1944
1989 - present
creator of the Na'vi language
Background[edit | edit source]
Born in New York City, New York, Paul Frommer graduated from the University of Rochester with a bachelor of Mathematics in 1965. Spending two years in Terenganu, a state of Malaysia, as a United States Peace Corps volunteer, Frommer taught Mathematics and English where he 'fell in love with languages'. Although previously studying other foreign languages such as German, Hebrew, French and Latin, Frommer decided to complete a graduate in linguistics and enter the doctorate program at USC. Upon teaching for one year in Iran, Frommer completed his doctorate on Perisan grammar; entitled "Post-verbal Phenomena in Colloquial Persian Syntax".
Career[edit | edit source]
After teaching for several years, Frommer moved to business and became a strategic planner and business writer for Bentley Industries in Los Angeles. Frommer moved back to academia in 1996 as a full-time faculty member at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and became chair of the department for the Centre of Management Communication in 2005 and held that position to 2008. Frommer also wrote for the 1989 film Step into the Third Dimension
Avatar[edit | edit source]
After being contacted by Lightstorm Entertainment, James Cameron's own production company, Frommer was hired to create the Na'vi language for Avatar after a ninety minute interview with Cameron. Requested to build a language with a consistent sound system (phonology), word-building rules (morphology), rules for putting words together into phrases and sentences (syntax), and a vocabulary (lexicon) sufficient for the needs of the script. Cameron also requested that the language be 'pleasant sounding and appealing to cinema audiences'.
Taking inspiration from the 30 to 40 words Cameron had already creating for place names and character names, Frommer developed the phonetics and phonology of the language - 'the sounds that would and would not appear in the language, along with the rules for combining sounds into syllables and words and the pronunciation rules that might in certain circumstances change one sound into another'. Throughout the production process, Frommer had to be aware that although the language was alien, it had to be spoken by human actors.
Frommer also designed the morphology (structure of words) and syntax (the structuring of sentences and words) for the language. Frommer included structures and processes that were relatively rare in human languages but that could be acquired by humans as the language was used on another planet. For example, the morphology for the language was achieved exclusively through infixes, less common than prefixes and suffixes in human languages. Utilizing some Polynesian languages, Frommer placed ejectives in the language, of which is found in only 20% of earth's languages. and removing common Western sounds such as the consonants "b", "d" and "g".
Relying on the actors to communicate the stresses and emphasis of words of the language, Frommer meet with the Na'vi speaking actors such as Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana and supplied them with MP3 recordings of the language as well as coaching the actors in specific areas of communication in the language.
Since Avatar's release, Frommer has received numerous emails from avid fans of the language, with suggestions for improvement and expansion, as well as numerous websites growing with learning Na'vi functions and lessons. This culminated in a regularly updating Soundcloud channel The Sounds of Pandora, which features audio tips on pronunciation from Frommer.
Frommer has unofficially confirmed that he will be involved with the sequels.
Further Reading[edit | edit source]
- Spoken Na'vi in Avatar
- Na'vi Language
- Paul Frommer on Wikipedia
- Paul Frommer's personal blog Na’viteri ("Concerning Na’vi")
References[edit | edit source]
- Wikipedia collective
- University of Southern California Contact Listing
- Matteo Milani, 2009, 'An interview with Paul Frommer, Alien Language Creator for Avatar', retrived 9/5/2010
- Paul Frommer on IMDB
- Ladefoged, Peter (2005), Vowels and Consonants (Second ed.), Blackwell