UBC professor creates ancient language for Hollywood blockbuster

The film Alpha is set 20,000 years ago

What might language have sounded like 20,000 years ago?

If you see Alpha screening at your local movie theatre, that’s your chance to find out.

Christine Schreyer, an associate professor of anthropology at UBC Okanagan, created a “constructed language” for the historical adventure drama film set during the Upper Paleolithic period.

The movie follows the journey of a young hunter in what is now Europe who befriends an injured wolf during the Ice Age.

Producers reached out to Schreyer, who is an expert on language creation and helping communities revitalize Indigenous languages, to create a couple of test scenes for the movie.

She spent the day on the Vancouver set with lead actor Kodi Smit-McPhee.

The film executives were so on board with her new language that they tasked her with creating dialogue for the whole 90-minute film.

Schreyer admitted it was a challenge.

“Nobody really knows what was spoken 20,000 years ago because we don’t have fossils of language,” she said.

“I did research on proto-languages — those are estimated languages, for the approximate time range of the movie, which included Proto-Nostratic, Proto-Eurasiatic, and Proto-Dené-Caucasian. It’s a case of taking those related languages and estimating them back in time, with a little creative licence as well.”

It’s not the first time Schreyer’s been picked to develop ways of speaking for Hollywood blockbusters.

She helped develop the Kryptonian language for 2013’s Man of Steel, and she made up Eltarian, which is used in the 2017 Power Rangers movie.

She also teaches a class that examines other created languages such as Star Trek’s Klingon and Avatar’s Na’vi.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Renter beware: Online rental scam happening in Trail

Don’t be giving anyone money if you can’t get keys to have a look or meet the person, realtor warns

Rossland group builds hiking trail FORR everyone

The project will allow people with mobility issues to enjoy the trails in the summer

2019 Colombo Lodge executives

The 2019 men and ladies executives were sworn in at the installation ceremonies earlier this month

Mounties warn about open liquor at Rossland Carnival

They’ll be out there watching for illegal drinking

The Trail Smoke Eaters win in a shootout over Wenatchee Wild

The Trail Smoke Eaters split its two-game series against the Wenatchee Wild on weekend

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

No cash, no election sign policy pondered by B.C. city

A deposit could be required to put up election signs in 2022.

China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng

9 brains, 3 hearts: Some wild facts about octopuses

Things to know about the giant Pacific octopus, which is naturally found in the waters of the U.S. West coast, the Aleutian Islands and Japan

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Most Read