The linguistics expert from the University of Southern California isthe brains behind the language used by James Cameron's 10-foot-tallalien tribe in the much-anticipated science fiction epic, Avatar。
"Jim Cameron's production department at Lightstorm Entertainment was looking for a linguist that would be able to help him develop an alienlanguage," explains Professor Frommer。
"At that time, it wasn'teven called Avatar - it was project 880 - but the e-mail was forwarded to me and I saw it and jumped on it. I was very excited about it. Aweek or two later I was called in for a talk." The language enthusiast managed to persuade Cameron that he was the man to create afunctioning language for a story the director had dreamt up a decadeearlier. "I spent a wonderful 90-minutes with Jim and at the end of it he shook my hand and said 'welcome aboard,'" says Professor Frommer。
The pair worked together for four years to develop the Na'vi language。
The director had already come up with about thirty words, for the characters' names and body parts. But he was looking to the professor to give the language an authentic but exotic feel。
Crucially, it had to be a language that could be articulated。
"This is an alien language but obviously it has to be spoken by human actors," explains Professor Frommer。
"It has to be sounds that human beings are comfortable producing."
It is a unique language, with its own syntactic and grammatical rules。
It screator says some of Cameron's original words had "a vaguely Polynesianfeel". Others have suggested that it sounds like German or Japanese。
As well as creating the language, Professor Frommer taught the actors how to speak it。
"I met with each of the seven principal actors who use the language before hand. I helped them with the pronunciation, we broke things down。
"I also created some sound files, MP3 files. I guess some of them downloaded them onto their iPods so they could listen to them at thegym."
The language currently runs to about a thousand words. It does not have ahuge vocabulary, but Professor Frommer is still working at it. He isalso still trying to master his own language。
"I wish I could speak it fluently," he says. "As for who atthis point understands the grammar and such, I think probably I'm theonly one. I wish that eventually that might not be the case." In fact, one day, Professor Frommer hopes Na'vi will match Klingon, as the "gold standard" alien language. "There's a translation of Hamlet into Klingon," says Professor Frommer. "There are Klingon clubs that meet all over the world. There are a very dedicated group of people who meet and try to speak it. "If anything happened like this with Na'vi I'd be delighted."