Consciousness and how it got to be that way

Sunday, December 20, 2009

James Cameron and the Problem of Reference

Artificial languages are interesting, though I always find myself longing for some index of strangeness relative to the creator's language (pick a Native American language at random; is the conlang ever going to be more different than the creator's native language than the natural language is? I doubt it.) That said, James Cameron did it right for the Na'vi language in Avatar, reportedly claiming to have out-Klingon'ed Klingon. The linguist Cameron chose to create Na'vi summarizes its structure and during the preamble of the article, his interviewer states this gem:

"...since there is already tremendous interest in the [Na'vi] language, and some less-than-accurate information about it is currently floating around online, I asked Paul [the creator] if he could write up a formal description of Na’vi as a Language Log guest post."

The problem of reference is really a set of problems in different situations. The answer to this one is I think implicit and relatively obvious. Maybe we don't know if the current king of France is bald, but we do know whether Romeo is gay or Na'vi is agglutinating.

1 comment:

  1. Ke rakonto estas amuza! I have seen this film of which you speak. I didn't think it was the nightmare people make it out to be, but then again I got it specifically because it was in Esperanto (and I actually *wanted* to hear Shatner's French Canadian accent in Esperanto). I'm sorry it traumatized you so much, but at least you shouldn't let it put you off Big Sur, CA, the very beautiful place where it was filmed.