Reverse Engineering Na'vi
March 26, 2010 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Learn Na'vi The large Na'vi reverse engineering project. (via). See also.
posted by OmieWise (53 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I respect this guy's work, but all I really need to know is how to say, "Suck it, Cameron!"
posted by Madamina at 9:55 AM on March 26, 2010


Papa Na'vi I na'vi'd my na'vi!

Braaaaiiiinyyyyy!
posted by DU at 9:57 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


How do you say "This is the nerdiest thing ever" in Klingon?
posted by bondcliff at 10:01 AM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


pelun?
posted by sneebler at 10:01 AM on March 26, 2010


I had to interview a guy the other day who, I noticed from his resume, worked with Cameron one summer on once of his post-Titanic 3D things .

"Did he shout at you?"
"Yes. He's kind of an asshole."
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sha'nt.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 10:11 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm torn. On the one hand, I love pursuits of this nature (and Okrent's article on Slate and her fantastic book). On the other hand, I just can't get behind any Avatar fandom - the hype for it seemed totally manufactured, the movie was not that great, and the Avatar universe does not seem interesting enough to warrant further exploration.
posted by Think_Long at 10:12 AM on March 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


You don't know what you're talking about, there was floating islands and shit!
posted by P.o.B. at 10:21 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


and the Avatar universe does not seem interesting enough to warrant further exploration.

Yeah, this. In fact I just now realized that the part in the movie when they go to all the other Na'vi tribes and gather them together, and they live in disparate places and climates, should have intrigued me. I should have thought, 'Oooh, I wonder what they're like, and what sorts of ancient conflicts have existed between these different peoplegroups.'

Instead, that thought occurred to me now. I saw that movie in, like, January.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:21 AM on March 26, 2010


I'm torn.

Your comment pretty much sums up my feelings. On the one hand: Good God!!! that's some dedicated, detailed, and cool shit, just by virtue of being so dedicated and detailed. On the other: I can't care that much about Avatar.

I would only add that the "paradise" presented by Pandora, and by extension the investment in it indicated by projects like this, seems so profoundly and dangerously escapist that it makes my skin crawl a little bit.
posted by OmieWise at 10:21 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm glad I saw and enjoyed Avatar before the real crazy got publicized, because if I'd waited until now I'd be too embarrassed to be seen going into the theater. Now when you see someone standing in line, they're either a broken person whose world is empty because this world is not Pandora, or a linguist trying to one-up Trekkies who bothered to learn Klingon.
posted by fatbird at 10:21 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


You don't know what you're talking about, there was floating islands and shit!
posted by P.o.B.


I guess this means there will be a huge increase in Yes record sales. Finally, something good comes out of the movie!
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:24 AM on March 26, 2010


This ain't nothin' compared to Frithaes. Call me when you take a 2 page Lapine "dictionary" in the back of Watership Down and turn it into a language with internally-consistent conjugation and mp3 pronunciation samples, u embleer hraka!
posted by vorfeed at 10:27 AM on March 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


I liked Avatar, but yeah, the world itself didn't seem that interesting as a setting for expansion. Unlike Starwars or the Matrix or something (until both those franchises were ruined by crappy sequels). Obviously there could be a lot of room for showing us what things are like on Earth, which is something that was in the original script. Supposedly it's very bladerunner-esq.

I feel like I would have hated a bunch of Avatar Ripoffs.
posted by delmoi at 10:29 AM on March 26, 2010


Holy shit. I love me some Watership Down but I had no fucking idea that existed. That's terrifying.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:29 AM on March 26, 2010


I bet Paul Frommer's life has gotten really weird. Presumably, he approached this language as an interesting intellecutal exercise and now all of a sudden all these people are begging him to be the Judge Dredd of the Na'vi Language Academy. At least Marc Okrand presumably knew what he was getting into when he started with Klingon.
posted by Copronymus at 10:32 AM on March 26, 2010


Finally an obsession that makes Star Trek and D&D look cool by comparison. Thanks Avatar, you are a crap movie, but at least you're good for something.
posted by oddman at 10:34 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would LOVE to have enough time on my hands to throw myself into a large Na'vi reverse engineering project.....and then do something else.
posted by therubettes at 10:35 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this. In fact I just now realized that the part in the movie when they go to all the other Na'vi tribes and gather them together, and they live in disparate places and climates, should have intrigued me

You know how Chekov said something like “if there’s a gun in the first act, it has to be used in the third” or something like that? I feel like this rule does not apply in good Science Fiction and Fantasy, where the fictional universe is ever expanding and changing. In good Science Fiction, we see the floating Cloud City on Bespin as a simple establishing shot, and then never really explore it further. In good Fantasy we see the ruined kingdom of Gondor, but don’t dwell on it. In good SciFi we sometimes ride Tauntauns, no big deal.

Cameron followed Chekov’s law to a T: remember the cat alien from the beginning? It’s coming back in the final battle. Remember the herd of buffalo alien things? They’ll be back . . . in the final battle! Remember the giant dragon that was obliquely referenced a couple of times, hopefully just to establish a sense of a deeply shared cultural tradition among these Na’vi? Yeah, it’s coming back in a big way. Cameron brought everything from the beginning back around, full circle, closing the circuit and strangling the product. I have no interest in a world that is so completely self contained.
posted by Think_Long at 10:38 AM on March 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


Tsk. Judge Dredd is a street judge through and through. Instructing cadets at the Acadmey of Law is generally a task for Judges too old for the streets, but Dredd will go out on his feet, Probably gunned down by some random no account perp.
posted by Artw at 10:39 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I felt so bad after leaving District 9 when I realized that I could never live in a world of dirty shantytowns, corrupt government officials, large crustaceans, and Nigerian gangsters. Maybe if I commit suicide I will be reborn into a world like that. It must exist out there somewhere.
posted by benzenedream at 10:40 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I felt so bad after leaving District 9 when I realized that I could never live in a world of dirty shantytowns, corrupt government officials, large crustaceans, and Nigerian gangsters. Maybe if I commit suicide I will be reborn into a world like that. It must exist out there somewhere.

[SPOILERS!] I felt so bad after leaving District 9 when I realized it was gonna take Christopher the Prawn three whole years to come back and nuke the planet. [/SPOILERS!]
posted by vorfeed at 10:50 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tsk. Judge Dredd is a street judge through and through.

Getting ready to make this exact point and then finding that somebody had already made it is what makes MetaFilter both awesome and terrifying for me.
posted by Shepherd at 10:59 AM on March 26, 2010


I was in a coffee shop in San Francisco last week and bunch of guys were arguing over whether or not this Avatar movie was out in the theaters yet. It made me feel both confused and hopeful for humanity.

Disclaimer: I still haven't seen it.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:03 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh you should, it's amazing.
posted by Artw at 11:08 AM on March 26, 2010


I liked Avatar, but yeah, the world itself didn't seem that interesting as a setting for expansion. Unlike Starwars or the Matrix or something (until both those franchises were ruined by crappy sequels).

A problem with those franchises is that you have to be a "chosen one" of some sort to get anything done. In Pandora, pretty much all of the Na'vi are awesome. And if you're a human, you could be doing cool shit on a ruined Earth or in a mech-like suit or something.

Y'know. Just in case you were hypothetically considering running a role-playing game set in one of these worlds.
posted by Jpfed at 11:10 AM on March 26, 2010


I really want to see it, if only for Na'vi. The grammatical sketch (PDF link in the FPP) is pretty awesome *and* thorough. Plus, Na'vi has ergativity! That's just whacky and fun. So yeah, if I can get past the fact that I know the plot is going to be trite and colonial, that it'll eat 3+ hours of my life, and cost me $20, I do know I'll love it. I might actually catch it in Mexico, if it's playing down there this summer when I move and have time (and it'll be cheaper to boot!) Wonder if it's dubbed or subtitled.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:22 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Getting ready to make this exact point and then finding that somebody had already made it is what makes MetaFilter both awesome and terrifying for me.

Heh.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2010


A problem with those franchises is that you have to be a "chosen one" of some sort to get anything done. In Pandora, pretty much all of the Na'vi are awesome.

How would you describe Worthington's character if not the "chosen one"? If I recall, he is essentially deemed "the chosen one" by the Na'vi after he tames that flying dragon thingy.

The mech suits were cool though
posted by Think_Long at 11:41 AM on March 26, 2010


This ain't nothin' compared to Frithaes.

Learning of this item's existence makes me go tharn.
posted by Babblesort at 11:43 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really it should be combined with Bunnies and Burrows.
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on March 26, 2010


How would you describe Worthington's character if not the "chosen one"? If I recall, he is essentially deemed "the chosen one" by the Na'vi after he tames that flying dragon thingy.

Well, let's be fair here - he's a "Chosen One" because a tree decides it likes him and he figures something out to do with predator eye placement, and at the end of the day he's not really even the one that wins the battle. Avatar is remarkably free of the special mystical destiny bollocks that forms the basis of far too much SF.
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on March 26, 2010


Hmmmmm. You're right about that. However, it still has that whole "white man is holy among the savages" fallacy, so in the eyes of the natives he is in fact "the chosen one" even if he isn't anything special in reality. Is that the same thing?
posted by Think_Long at 11:53 AM on March 26, 2010


I'd say they are two entirely different concerns.
posted by Artw at 11:58 AM on March 26, 2010


Wait I thought that whole 'Toruk Makto' thing was a pretty explicit prophesied-chosen-one thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:18 PM on March 26, 2010


Couldn't they ask the newly-revealed Na'vi who have discovered themselves in human bodies how to speak the language?

I'll disagree about Star Wars being all about the chosen one. One of the things I like about Return of the Jedi is how Han Solo comes back after an extended absence to discover that the revolution went on without him. Sure Luke and Anakin may have been "chosen ones" but the conflicts were happening on hundreds of planets throughout the known universe. This is a great thing for companies like Dark Horse and Bioware, because with thousands of years of history and a massive universe to work with, individual stories can be safely sandboxed in time and space without serious continuity problems.

That said, I'll agree with Think_Long, OmniWise, and others that while the conlang aspect of this is cool, I can't really call myself a fan. (It's a good movie, it just doesn't inspire me to think about what's going on elsewhere in the universe. If it works that way for you, go for it.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:26 PM on March 26, 2010


Lord. If you're going to spend the time, learn Arabic, learn Chinese, learn Farsi.

Or learn a dying language. There are a number of languages that have only a handful of speakers left, and which are in danger of being lost forever. If you're going to learn Na'vi or Klingon, learn one of those first.
posted by oneironaut at 1:15 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you're splitting mighty fine hairs if you're saying Toruk Makto isn't a chosen one and God/Eywa/Gaia/Super Computer Planet isn't deity driven mysticality.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:40 PM on March 26, 2010


Plus those floating jelly fish did select him, which would be evidence of a very real power or distinguishing quality that Worthington's character inherently possessed.
posted by Think_Long at 1:45 PM on March 26, 2010


Lord. If you're going to spend the time, learn Arabic, learn Chinese, learn Farsi.

Or learn a dying language. There are a number of languages that have only a handful of speakers left, and which are in danger of being lost forever. If you're going to learn Na'vi or Klingon, learn one of those first.


Jesus, why? Let conlangers play with a conlang. Let language aficionados play wit aficionados. There's room for BOTH.
posted by grubi at 2:05 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let language aficionados play wit aficionados

Oops. Should be: Let language aficionados play with languages.
posted by grubi at 2:06 PM on March 26, 2010


Lord. If you're going to spend the time, learn Arabic, learn Chinese, learn Farsi.

Or learn a dying language. There are a number of languages that have only a handful of speakers left, and which are in danger of being lost forever. If you're going to learn Na'vi or Klingon, learn one of those first.


Likewise, if you're going to spend the time to do woodworking, learn how to make Elizabethan furniture first. Stop fucking around with model airplanes, or military miniatures, or whatever the reason why you wanted to do stuff with wood was in the first place, and do it MY WAY! RIGHT NOW! BECAUSE HOBBIES ARE SERIOUS!
posted by vorfeed at 2:13 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think that Arika Okrent suggests that conlang communities do end up raising awareness of threatened languages as that's where conlang enthusiasts go for ideas on non-European grammars.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:25 PM on March 26, 2010


Do I have to?
posted by Relay at 3:19 PM on March 26, 2010


I finally got around to seeing Avatar this week and was surprised to find that it totally did live up to all the hype. It's a gorgeous, fantastic, entertaining movie.
But still, everything about it - the plot, the physiology of the creatures, the physics of the planet, the landscape - all seemed a bit cobbled together and half-baked. The floating mountains? The superfluous limbs and antennae appended to otherwise very earth-like creatures? So I'd think any attempt to 'reverse engineer' the language, even with a lot of creative interpolation, isn't going to end up with much.
posted by Flashman at 3:25 PM on March 26, 2010


Quite a convoluted way to state "I don't get laid".
posted by surrendering monkey at 3:54 PM on March 26, 2010


Lord. If you're going to spend the time, learn Arabic, learn Chinese, learn Farsi.

Or learn a dying language. There are a number of languages that have only a handful of speakers left, and which are in danger of being lost forever. If you're going to learn Na'vi or Klingon, learn one of those first.


This is such a weird comment. Isn't it obvious that there is a huge overlap between the people who care about (and bother to learn) real languages and those who care about made-up ones?
posted by Dumsnill at 4:04 PM on March 26, 2010


Nerds? Neerrds! NEEEEEEEERRRRRRRDDDDDDS!!!!! -Ogre, 1984
posted by jake1 at 4:13 PM on March 26, 2010


The Avatar world reminds me when you have a 9-year-old telling you about the ideal treehouse he drew.

"And there's a fireman pole! And a water slide! And a helicopter pad! And here's the little place where I can store all my video games. And it connects to this robot-TV that automatically plays them when I say."

I mean, it sounds pretty sweet, but I'm not gonna spend all my time trying to live there.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:20 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Count me as one of those people who learns about real languages so I can make a better conlang. I'll give props to Cameron for getting an actual linguist professor to create the language, but I still dislike the hype around Avatar.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 6:27 PM on March 26, 2010


What is with aliens and their apostrophes? Are they all grocers, or what?
posted by Phanx at 1:32 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's the science fiction equivalent of the Metäl ümläut.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:51 PM on March 27, 2010


Metafilter's own zompist and his language construction kit for conlangs
posted by The Whelk at 3:26 PM on March 28, 2010


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