A very interesting linguistic discussion on Language Log.
*update* Dr. Anil Biltoo (the Linguistic consultant for Prometheus) has now revealed exactly what the utterance was and a translation in this interview.
I saw the new Disney live-action film “John Carter” this weekend. I liked it, I mean it’s not without some pretty obvious story and character flaws, but the mythology and world building was so much fun that I was willing to overlook the fact that the main character’s motivation is never truly defined. and I am 100% planning to see it again, mainly to transcribe more of the Barsoomian dialogue.
Never having read any of the Barsoom novels (by Edgar Rice Burroughs), I didn’t know before seeing the movie that the inhabitants of Mars (Barsoom) would be speaking some lines in a novel language. Of course those scenes instantly became my favorite, because I am a language nerd. Preliminary googling on Barsoom turns up this general info and word list page, as well as this article about expanding Burroughs’ linguistic creation for the movie. The linguist hired to work on developing the limited inclusions in Burroughs’ novels into a fully-functioning spoken language for the movie was Paul Frommer, who is also responsible for creating the Na’vi language spoken in Avatar. I’m extremely jealous of Frommer, but I’m also grateful for his work to make these fiction-based languages “real” and rule-based the way languages actually are, because it makes it so much more fun to analyze and try to learn them. (As opposed to the alien languages in Star Wars, which are basically jibberish and not even consistent with themselves.) In researching Barsoom I also discovered that Frommer has a blog in which he discusses grammatical aspects of Na’vi, and I can’t wait to find time to start pouring over that information! (You can get a head start on me by reading his blog here.)
Anyway, here’s as much as I was able to transcribe during my first viewing. (So glad I had my notebook with me!) I’ll update this post when I’m able to watch the movie again, because there are some lines I didn’t catch and it’s also possible that I didn’t hear everything clearly. (I’m pretty sure I confused some k’s and t’s.) And of course I’m totally guessing at word boundaries.
I’m using IPA. It seems like voiceless stops are mostly aspirated word-finally, but then some of them sounded unreleased. (Of course maybe the unreleased ones are not word-final and my word-boundary guesses are wrong…)
[mi dutʃe] “…hell are you?” (spoken by Tars Tarkas upon seeing Carter, following Carter’s own “What the…” utterance.)
[sɑ tʃɑ tʃik] “don’t shoot him” (-Tars Tarkas)
[ʤɑteth] “don’t run” (-Tars Tarkas)
[tsɑtɑ] “it’s okɑy” (-Tars Tarkas)
[sɑkh | səlɛt˺ sɑk vəˈʤɑkh] “Jump! Jump like you did before.” (-Tars Tarkas)
[doθekh ɑdɑs] “step ɑwɑy” (-??? Probably Tars Tarkas. It’s hard to get everything written down!)
[doltɑɹ ˈsoʤath] “my right hand,” the Thark name given to John Carter by Tars Tarkas. (Sometimes sounded like it might actually be [doltɑɹ ˈsoʤæth]?)
[ɑkh ɑhɪm ɑkte wiz bɑɹsu:m] -the phrase the Princess teaches Carter to say that will teleport him between planets. (Barsoom is replaced with Jasoom when she originally teaches it to him, becauses they’re on Mars and he wants to return to Earth. But this is the phrase as he says it at the end of the movie.)
Blerg, I’ve seen the relevant scenes a couple more times and feel more lost than ever. I’m just not very good at phonetics, (don’t tell my students!) Also this would be a lot easier if I could hit pause and rewind. Anyway here’s a pdf of what I have at this point:
***update*** i missed my chance to see it again and it’s no longer showing at my theater, so i’ll have to wait for the dvd. it’ll be easier to capture with a pause button anyway.