Interviews, Questions, Comments

Kaltxì, ma frapo.

I thought you might be interested in a few things I’ve been doing.

First, I did an interview for a UK-based language blog that’s now online:

You probably won’t find anything here that you haven’t heard or seen before, but I think it’s a nice summary of certain considerations that were important in the creation of Na’vi.

I’ve also done an interview—along with David Peterson, creator of the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for “Game of Thrones”—for the humor/information web site It’s titled “6 Things You Never Knew About Inventing Languages For Game Of Thrones And Avatar.” It should be appearing shortly. When it does, I’ll let you know.

Also, let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who commented so positively on the last post. Seiyi irayo, ma smuk. Aylì’u ayngeyä oeru teya si. And let me respond to the questions and comments.

Tanri asked about the pronunciation of soleia. The careful, “correct” pronunciation, as you know, has four syllables: so.le.i.A. But in ordinary conversation, people will almost certainly reduce it to three. Would it then be so.ley.A or so.le.YA? In terms of pronunciation, I don’t think it matters: there’s very little difference between the two, at least to my ears.  🙂 By the way, something similar happens with kameie in Oel ngati kameie. The last word is “correctly” four syllables, but almost always pronounced in three.

Plumps asked what happens to a verb like ue’ if we try to add the honorific, second-position infix <uy>. You can see the problem: we get uuye’, which is not allowable, since in Na’vi we don’t have two identical vowels in sequence. A similar problem arises, much more familiarly, when we add the positive-attitude infix <ei> to si: we should get seii. Well, you all know what happens in the latter case: seii becomes seiyi, where a y intervenes between the two i’s. If we tried to do the same thing with uuye’, we’d get uwuye’, where w is the natural sound to interpose between the two u’s. But another possibility is simply to have the two u’s coalesce into one: uuye’ > uye’. For some reason, this feels like the more natural solution; uwuye’ just looks odd to me. I’d be interested in how other people feel about this.

And now a question for Plumps: Could you please come up with a context in which you would add the honorific infix to ue’? I’d be very interested in that story!  🙂

Blue Elf and Vawmataw discussed how the word Skype should appear in Na’vi. When it comes to foreign terms adapted into Na’vi phonology, there’s often room for variation. The question we need to ask ourselves is how a native Pandoran, hearing (rather than seeing) the English (or French or German or whatever) word, would pronounce it. In the case of Skype, if Neytiri or Eytukan heard the English word “Skype,” there’s no reason they would give it two syllables, since the English word has one syllable and a Na’vi word can end with a p-sound perfectly well. So they would probably just say Skayp. Might they say Skxayp? I suppose so. To be honest, the reason I chose that form is that I saw it used that way in the lì’fyaolo’ and I said to myself, “Well, why not?” I’d be happy to have two alternate forms that can be used interchangeably: Skayp and Skxayp.

Finally, Vawmataw commented that the word paskalin ‘sweet berry, sweetheart’ sounds just like the French word Pascaline. Irayo, ma ’eylan! I was completely unaware of that. I’ve since learned from Wikipedia that a Pascaline is a mechanical calculator invented by Pascal in the 17th century. Imagine that!

This is a nice example of what has been called a “bilingualism”—a sequence of sounds that exists meaningfully in two languages, where the meanings are generally very different. Let me give you my two favorite examples.

The first comes from the great pianist Artur Schnabel, as related by Abram Chasins in his 1957 book Speaking of Pianists: “I once mentioned a pianist who was about to give an all-Mozart concert. ‘Oh,’ said Schnabel, ‘when he plays it, it isn’t Mozart. It’s Nozart.’ Particularly ingenious, I think is the bilingualism: the English ‘notes-art’ implying the pianist’s inexpressivity, and the German ‘no-zart,’ (zart meaning tender or delicate).” Sìlronsem nìngay, kefyak?

The second takes a particular phrase and tries to “hear” it in both French and Yiddish. The phrase in French would be gai avec un fils, which I suppose means “happy with a son,” although I don’t know if this is really idiomatic. In any event, if you alter the pronunciation slightly and put it into Yiddish, you get “Go away without feet.”


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7 Responses to Interviews, Questions, Comments

  1. SGM (Plumps) says:

    Ma Karyu,

    fìpostìri amip irayo nìtxan.

    It may not contain new words but I find the interview eltur tìtxen si nonetheless 🙂

    Concerning Skype. I always thought that the first version we had, Skxaypxe was a bit too much for our ejective enthusiasts back then 😉 For my taste Skayp is a perfect representation of the word through the Na’vi sound system – a case in point where English actually has the unaspirated k sound. But as with other loan words or proper names like Jake (Tsyeyk/Tseyk) there is room for variation and the important thing is that we understand each other. If it so happens that *skayp becomes its own lexical entry, be it verb, noun or adjective, I still think context will make it clear 😉

    Now, about ue’ and ‹uy› … I have to say that I find the merging of the two u’s quite natural. Better than to insert another (somewhat neutral) sound like w.

    An example? 😛 I am creative but not that creative. But the same would happen with nui, ‘fail’. I could imagine that in a ceremonial context a leader might have to announce:

    Uniltaronìri tsamsiyu apxan soluya. Nuyi a fì’u kop numuye.
    The worthy worrior rose to the challenge of the Dream Hunt. To fail is to learn as well. (obviously shortened from nuyi a fì’u lu fwa kop numuye)

    Tìpängkxori alahe srefereiey nìprrte’ 🙂

    • Vawmataw says:

      I think uye’ raises a good cultural question. Is there a ceremony or any kind of ritual where vomiting is part of it? (NB: gross but constructive question)

  2. Vawmataw says:

    Kaltxì ma Karyu Pawl,

    I enjoyed reading the interview. It is nice to learn more about the person behind the conlang. Speaking of interview, what could be a word for an interview or a series of questions to know more about someone or their skills?

    Nì’i’a tì’eyngìri ngeyä irayo seiyi ngaru.

  3. Blue Elf says:

    Tì’eyngìri a tare awngeyä säplltxevit irayo si, Ma Pawl.

    Related to Skype translation – I’m fine with Skayp or Skxayp. However in our community dictionary it translates as Skxaypxe. So should we fix it in dictionary, or is this last form also acceptable? You are marked as source of this translation, so you probably used it in the past. You know, I want to be totally sure. 😉

    • Pawl says:

      Right! I think the article turned out nicely. Despite the humor, it has a fair amount of substance. There’s only one glitch that I know about: in the paragraph on infixes, they omitted the umlauts in and kolä. I notified the author, but apparently it’s difficult to fix. (Don’t ask me why.) I suggested they change the verbs to hum and holum, which wouldn’t require diacritics. Hopefully one fix or the other will be implemented.

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