Thursday, June 14, 2012

Aliens Prequel Includes PIE Passage

The Language Log blog is hot on the path of deciphering an untranslated passage spoken in a reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language in the movie Promotheus, which is a prequel to the Alien movie series complete with comments providing hints from the person who wrote the passage for the movie and short sound clips.

One of those hint comments notes that:

Schleichers' Fable is indeed the practice piece used in David's language lesson. Fassbender took, by his own admission, about 17 hours to commit the entire fable to memory - poor man - and RS ended up using only the first line, which runs as follows:

hjewɪs jasmə hwælnə nahəst akʷunsəz dadʳkta (KD

This isn't a million miles away from Kortlandt or Lühr (or, for that matter, Schleicher's original). On the subject of the writing system, let me quash a rumour: it ISN'T of my doing. The use of what resembles a mixed cuneiform/hieroglyphic system, with elements of Eteocypriot and Linear Elamite chucked in for good measure, would not have occurred to me - I'm glad to say. The script comes courtesy of Fox's art department.

Quite a few efforts have been made to reconstruct PIE, so resources for deciphering it are fairly readily available (and the source language is hinted in a way fairly obvious to people familiar with linguistics earlier in the film). But, since the reconstuctions are anything but uniform and the phonetics are unfamiliar to English language speakers, the task is quite daunting, even for the professional and serious amateur linguists who frequent the blog.

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