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

Risk of ‘deadly avalanches’ leads to warning for B.C.’s south coast

Weak layer of snow on Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland could trigger an avalanche

Another snowfall warning for Lower Mainland

Another 5-10 cm expected for Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Sunshine Coast

Saskia and Darrel kick off spring tour with Chilliwack concert

Stories of the Great Plains delivered in Gaelic, French and more

Harrison to participate in inter-municipal business licence program

Construction companies and related businesses will be able to work across the Fraser Valley in 2020

RCMP officer reaching out to youth about intimate partner violence

Chilliwack officer and friends of Maple Batalia team up to encourage bystanders to speak up

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness

Two boys saved after falling through ice in Coquitlam

RCMP say a Good Samaritan pulled the kids to safety

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

UPDATE: Man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside B.C. elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

HBC shuttering Home Outfitters across Canada

North America’s oldest retailer is revamping its various stores to improve profitability

BC SPCA investigates Okanagan woman with prior animal abuse convictions

BC SPCA is investigating a property near Vernon

Most Read