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A Year Ago Today

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A Year Ago TodayAn Eccentric Account of a Year of Na'vi
I did a little digging through my old facebook statuses recently.  I was looking for my first post about Na'vi.  I remember being so surprised about the ejectives that I had to post a note.  That day, December 8th 2009, probably marks the beginning of my involvement with the language.  Here’s the article that started it all for me: USC professor creates an entire alien language for ‘Avatar’.  I don’t remember how I came to read that article.  Obviously, it was published a few weeks before I even read it.  But anything related to invented languages comes to my attention eventually.

So, Na’vi had come to my attention — especially the ejective choice — even though I really knew almost nothing else about the language at this point.  Cameron’s behavior at the Oscars when he won for Titanic had left him in bad aroma with me, and though I knew he had “Avatar” coming out eventually, I had no special urge to see it.

Then I read the NYT “Skxawng!” article, which had samples of Frommer speaking Na’vi.  I don’t know exactly which day I finally got to that article, but whatever day it was, that was the instant I knew I had to learn more about this language.  Those three short sentences turned an interesting example of public language invention into something much more interesting.  Na’vi sounded really good — natural, not like a Euroclone, but not grasping at alienness.

Facebook groups appeared.  A mailing list popped into existence.  Someone transcribed the vocabulary list from the ASG and posted it to a forum, from which it migrated to a public blog post on December 9th.  The Wikipedia article on the Na’vi language, which was the repository of our earliest steps of decipherment, had its first commit on December 12th.  On December 13th, I added a note that längu might be lu with an infix.  :)  On December 15th, we discovered the agentive and patientive cases, which we were then still calling “ergative” and “accusative.”  I thought this warranted a note with an explanation point in the wiki commit comment: commit - this was exciting!

At this point, I knew I would have to see the film.  I don’t know how many people went into “Avatar” just because of the language, but whatever that count, I’m part of it.  I was lucky.  I saw it opening week in 3d (not IMAX), but the “Avatar” juggernaut wasn’t yet up to full speed, so there weren’t crazy lines or crowded theaters full of chattering kids.  Needless to say, I got an experience I wasn’t expecting.  Any plans to pay most attention to the language would have to wait for a later viewing.  Instead, I was always staring at plants in the background — somewhat disorienting in 3d.

A few days after I saw “Avatar,” this web site was born.  I joined on the day it opened, and my knowledge of linguistics somehow convinced Fish I’d be a decent moderator.  I’m not so sure that’s the best judge of moderational expertise, but I hope I’ve done ok.  When the site first formed, I spent a lot more time on Skype with other members, helping people approach the challenge of ejectives and alarming linguistic vocabulary, though there was a great deal of silliness, too.  Unfortunately, there was no way I could sustain that much time in Skype and on Na’vi.  I have a little nostalgia about the early days, but it’s nice now, too, when we know so much more about the language.

One of the constants I’ve seen in the lì'fyaolo' is the struggle between competing visions of the Na’vi language.  Some day I’m going to sit down and figure out all the axes along which people differ (cultural purity vs. human use; alienness vs. familiarity; conservatism vs. innovation in relation to Frommerian canon, etc).  Being a long-time language creator myself, I fall solidly on the conservative side of things, and I hope I was occasionally a useful wet blanket, rather than merely annoying, early in our history.  Some people were so eager about Na’vi that they were prepared to just start inventing things to fill in gaps, even though we knew there was so much more Frommer hadn’t yet given us.  One of my favorite episodes was the person who wanted to stick a new word on our wiki.  They were upset that we didn’t have a word for “love,” which is certainly understandable.  I wouldn’t let them put the word up as Na’vi, and a wiki edit war (well, skirmish) ensued.   I especially liked the end.  I wear the title, “the one who killed the love in Na'vi,” with pride.  Even Frommer joked about it at the Workshop.

The first LEP project in March through May was a hothouse example of the different ways people had become attached to Na'vi and their ideas about it.  Some day a sociologist should read that entire subforum for the debates.  The Zeitgeist “Avatar” taps into is on full display there in so many ways.

I really had no idea what trip I was starting on when I made that first Facebook post, “ooh, hey, ejectives — cool.”  I had no idea how many interesting people I would be interacting with online weekly, if not daily.  I had no idea I’d be the mod on a forum that would grow to a few thousand members, a forum which, despite it’s size and a few missteps, would manage to be more consistently pleasant and drama-free than any forum I can think of.  I certainly had no idea I’d be traveling to California in October to hang out with other fans of an invented language, along with the inventor himself.  And I had no idea I’d still be at it a year later.

Here’s to another year of Na’vi!

Hear hear. It's actually been exactly one year for me, too. I miss ye olden days too, but I like the fact that it's actually a community now. Also, I still don't know what possessed the Bass to Mod-ify me.

Nìwotxkrr Tìyawn:
I joined on January 6th, and had lurked for about 2 weeks before that, so I too know about nostalgia.

I remember first seeing Avatar not knowing anything about it, I hadn't seen any advertising at all amazingly, at least none that I can remember. It was more or less a split second decision after going to the theater to see another movie (I forget what) but I just saw the poster out side and I said to myself "I think I'm going to see that instead."

I instantly fell in love with the movie, not yet knowing that the language was an actual language until a few days later when I learned it from my cousin Chad who found out about from one of his friend's from out of state when they met up in Chicago to see Avatar in Imax.

It's only by shear dumb luck that I'm here now. If I hadn't seen the movie when I did or the conversation with my cousin never took place (or his meet-up with his friend for that matter) I have no idea where I'd be.

I also remember my printer being busted and I ended up having to hand-write the entirety of a certain someone's newly formed dictionary in a notebook that I still have, though I don't update it.  :)

Hopefully, I too will have the pleasure of meeting you all in person one day.

I also recall a comment about "hollywood bosses" or some such thing that I believe was one of the first if not the first fan-made comment in Na'vi, but I can't for the life of me remember whether it was you (wm) or Prtton.

Swoka Ikran:
A good read on the history of Na'vi. :)

I didn't discover Avatar until January 9th (and that was because I was bored and a snowstorm was coming the next day). Never saw any commercials, and didn't know anybody who'd seen it. I saw it only because nothing else good was playing.

I found this site some time in February after seeing it for the sixth time...came home and googled "Na'vi". Joined April 5th, after lurking for the better part of 2 months. I was hesitant to sign up, but now regret not joining sooner. I still can't speak/compose in Na'vi, but I can read a lot of it now.

--- Quote from: Nìwotxkrr Tìyawn on December 07, 2010, 08:19:51 pm ---I also remember my printer being busted and I ended up having to hand-write the entirety of a certain someone's newly formed dictionary in a notebook that I still have, though I don't update it.  :)

--- End quote ---
Has something similar happen when I finally discovered the dictionary and nutshell guide - No working home printer, so I ran off the ~70 pages in the library at my HS (school had free printing). The librarian yelled at me for hogging the printer.

It will be a year for me a day or two before this site turns a year old.  I don't exactly recall what made me look up the language of Avatar, but I do remember seeing the film on opening night then wanting to see it again but had to wait till the next day because the theater was now closed for the night.  I found the soundtrack online that night, my favorite soundtrack ever btw, and I stayed up late listening to it.  I think I searched for the language of Avatar on a whim thinking that maybe it would be something like Klingon, where it would be an actual language.  I was amazed that it actually was a real language, and I've been hooked on it ever since.   
Raises glass...


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