Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Linguistics expert creates new Kryptonian language for "Man of Steel"

Fictional movies often create new worlds, whose residents need to speak.  Unlike  books, which can get by with a few sentences or words in a created language, film scenes have to come alive with the sounds of that world, and someone has to create its language.  After coming up with words, sentence structure and syntax for Klingon and Na'vi, University of British Columbia linguistic anthropologist Christine Schreyer was recently tasked with constructing the language of Krypton, the doomed planet where Superman was born.  Current hit "Man of Steel" and its upcoming sequels feature scenes of the Kryptonians speaking their newly-minted langauge.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The Globe and Mail

Link to article: 
Creating a Whole New Language for the Man of Steel
Excerpt: "What does a language sound like when it only exists in written symbols? The producers of this summer’s blockbuster Superman movie, 'Man of Steel' , ran into this problem when it comes to the native language of Krypton, the fictional and faraway planet where Superman was born. So they turned to the Okanagan Valley, where University of British Columbia professor Christine Schreyer teaches linguistic anthropology and specializes in created languages.

Over the past two years, Dr. Schreyer worked on sussing out the sounds of Kryptonian for the film. She talked with The Globe and Mail about how to speak a language that’s never been spoken.

What exactly was your role for the production of Man of Steel ?
My role was to provide the linguistic meaning behind the writing system. They wanted to have writing as part of the background in the world of Krypton, but they wanted to have a meaning behind that writing system and not just have it be gibberish.

This must have required learning everything there is to know about Superman and his planet.
Yeah, I had to learn a lot about the Superman universe. Luckily everyone working on the film had a lot of time preparing for that, so I was able to ask them questions and they provided a lot of support for that. But to find out what kind of sounds we wanted to put in, for example, we looked at previous words that had been associated with the Superman canon. So the character names, the names of cities, the names of spaceships. And then we took whatever the letters were, the sounds there, to help develop the sound system for this new Kryptonian.

So we thought about what sounds we could use, and once I had sounds picked, then I started making words for that. They would give a sentence, for example, 'The light of Rao.' And I would make up which sounds would go together to make the word 'light.'

You’ve taught classes at UBC’s Okanagan campus about languages like Klingon and Na’vi. What’s the right terminology for this, do we call them fake languages?
I would never say fake because you can actually have conversations in them. So they are languages. Constructed languages is used a lot, I tend to use creative languages. And the people who make them are often called conlangers."

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