Catching Up

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Catching Up
Release date December 23, 2011
Source Naviteri
Link: 1

Kaltxì, ma oeyä eylan!

Contrary to rumors that I have fallen off the face of the earth, I'm happy to say I'm alive and well, if a bit damp, here in Los Angeles. My three months of heavy travel—September through November—are now history. The revisions for the fifth edition of the linguistics workbook I've co-authored, Looking at Languages, which is due out next year, are almost complete. (This edition will include two Na'vi exercises.) And I'm looking forward to returning to my blog and being in closer touch with you all.

I thought you might be interested in a few highlights of my travels.

SEPTEMBER: Europe[edit]

I spoke in Stockholm at the Bonnier GRID 2010 conference, a two-day event for employees of the multi-national Bonnier Corporation. The theme of the conference, “It's all about passion,” fit in well with the development and growth of Na'vi. After a wonderful week in Stockholm during which I met members of the Swedish Na'vi community, John and I headed to Copenhagen for five days and then flew to Paris for another ten.

OCTOBER: U.S.A.[edit]

The month kicked off with the now-legendary Ultxa a mì Na'rìng—the Meeting in the Forest, hosted at the beautiful sylvan home of Prrton and Yotsua in northern California. Ever since, I've proudly ended my talks about Na'vi with pictures and stories from that event, including an analysis of

1 Po täpeykìyeverkeiup nìnäk. I'm so jazzed that he may be about to drink himself to death. 1

Po täpeykìyeverkeiup nìnäk that some of the attendees had come up with. Audiences are always impressed with the creativity and exuberance of the community.

My next event was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I spoke at the annual Oklahoma Conference in the Humanities and met some great members of the community as well. Then it was off to Rochester, New York for the 45th reunion of my undergraduate class at the University of Rochester. I was one of the guest speakers, and the audience was extremely enthusiastic, which was gratifying. (My undergraduate college career was hardly distinguished, yet I was given the royal treatment on my return to campus 45 years later. It's remarkable what an association with Avatar can do!)

After visiting my piano teacher from college days in central New York, I flew back to Los Angeles to take part in a Fox media event promoting the Collector's Edition of the Avatar Blu-Ray and DVD. They had invited about 60 members of the press, both domestic and international. We creative types were divided into teams, each one staying at its station while the journalists rotated around in groups of six to eight to hear the presentations. I was paired with Dr. Jodie Holt, the botanist from the University of California, Riverside, who had named and described the plants in the Pandoran forest. We did our joint talk no less than ten times; the last time around, Jodie half-seriously suggested that we exchange roles, with her talking about the language and me about the plants—that's how familiar we had become with each other's presentations!

It was good to see James Cameron again, whom I hadn't talked to since the end of 2009. He looked great—fit and trim (I believe he had dropped 30 pounds) and relaxed. At the time, I learned what I'm sure you all know by now: there will indeed be Avatar 2 and 3, which are slated for release in 2014 and 2015 respectively. A reporter asked whether we could expect Dr. Grace Augustine to make a miraculous reappearance; Jim smiled and answered cryptically, “Well, no one in science fiction ever dies.” Beyond that, I don't know any more than you do about the new scripts. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there will be some Na'vi in them and that I'll be re-invited to participate.

My final talks of October were back on the east coast, at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Wellesley is an all-female university . . . and what an impressive place it is. In the morning I had the great pleasure of talking to a linguistics class devoted to created languages, I believe the only such class in the country! The students were extraordinarily engaged and engaging; the professor, Dr. Angela Carpenter, had put together a rich course that they clearly loved. As a semester project, each student had to make progress in developing her own conlang, and at the start of the class, I was greeted in 16 different artificial languages, along with kaltxì, which they had all practiced. In the evening, I spoke to a more general audience of about 250 people. Unfortunately the technology failed and my PowerPoint couldn't be projected onto the screen, so I had to wing it, which was a challenge. But all in all I think things went well.

NOVEMBER: Australia and New Zealand[edit]

We spent three and half weeks Down Under, a great trip. I spoke twice—first at Monash University in Melbourne and then on the west coast, in Fremantle (close to Perth), at the biennial conference of AUSIT, the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators, where I was the keynote speaker. I usually begin my talks by plunging into a Na'vi greeting (typically: Kaltxì, ma oeyä eylan. Oel ayngati kameie nìwotx. Furia fìtsengit terok fte tsivun ayngahu teri lì'fya leNa'vi pivängkxo, oeru prrte' lu nìngay) and then explaining what I just said. This time, though, before I got up to speak, an elder of the Noongar group of indigenous people opened the conference with a beautiful—and long!—bilingual blessing, half of which was in fluent Noongar. When it was my turn, I had to acknowledge that what they were about to hear might not sound very impressive after that.

The rest of our time in Oceania was pure vacation. In addition to Melbourne and Fremantle, we toured the west coast wine-growing of Margaret River; then Sydney; then a hop over to New Zealand for five wonderful days on Waiheke Island, a little piece of heaven 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland; and then back to Melbourne before heading home to L.A. In most of those places we connected with friends we hadn't seen in years, all of whom were extremely generous with their time and hospitality.

While in Melbourne I did several interviews for Radio Australia. If you have 15 minutes, you might like to listen to this one with Maria Zijlstra of the Lingua Franca program. In my second interview with Maria, we talked not so much about Na'vi but rather about the kinds of things I generally find the most fascinating about language.

Let me conclude by congratulating Sebastian and everyone else involved with the amazing on the site's first anniversary. (More about that in the next post.) And to the many people who have written me e-mails and haven't yet received a response—thank you all for your patience, and I hope to catch up on my correspondence soon.

Hayalovay, ma frapo.

ta Pawl

  • The canonical translation is, “I'm so jazzed that he may be about to drink himself to death.”