Avatar language 'based on Maori'

BY CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2010

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The blue aliens that star in the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar speak a fictional tongue based on Maori.

Avatar director James Cameron says the language is based on Maori sounds he heard in New Zealand.

"The way that the language was created, it started off innocently enough as I was writing the script," Cameron said at a London press conference.

"I came up with some place names and some character names and so on. You know, I was just sort of free associating, and I had been to New Zealand a few years ago and really liked the sound of the Maori language and some of the Polynesian form, so I put that in."

Cameron used language expert Paul Frommer, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, to mould the alien language, mixing Maori with languages from Europe and Africa.

Avatar has become a box office juggernaut, grossing US$1.6 billion (NZ$2.16b) worldwide and $10 million in New Zealand. The use of Maori was welcomed by the Maori faculty dean at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Hana O'Regan. "That is quite impressive. I am not too possessive over the language being used for something like that, which is something that some people might get disturbed about," she said.

Avatar won best film drama and director at the Golden Globes this week.

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- The Press

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