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

North Island Tour De Rock rider Benjamin Leah leads team to Port Hardy

“You don’t have issues and problems when you look at these kids and how much they’re going through.”

Seeing double, the trials and tribulations of twins

BIG READ: Three Vancouver Island mothers share their experiences with multiple births

Paving complete, lines coming to the Malahat this week

$34 million safety project is 95 per cent complete with hope to relieve traffic congestion between Victoria and Nanaimo

UPDATE: Missing 77-year-old Barbara Munroe found safe

Shawnigan Lake RCMP are asking public to help find woman

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

B.C. man fined $15,000, barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill in Kootenays

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Family, friends of B.C murder victim want killer sent back to max security facility

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

B.C. VIEWS: Looking under the hood of ICBC’s war on crashes

Is our accident rate really soaring, or is it inefficiency?

Most Read