dr Linguistics professor and consultant Paul Frommer turned his attention to Polynesian languages when he developed Na’vi for the first “Avatar” in 2005. “[James Cameron] wanted a complete language with a totally consistent sound system, morphology and syntax,” Frommer told NPR. Frommer then taught the cast members the language and loaded their iPods with sample recordings.
“At this point, I’m pretty much the only one who knows the grammar,” Frommer said in 2009. “Maybe that will change over time. …Who knows?” It certainly did, in a way Frommer clearly wasn’t expecting. “Avatar” superfans have embraced the language, and online communities like Learn Na’vi and Kelutral (the Na’vi word for home tree) exist to connect “Avatar” fans and share the Na’vi to learn language. According to Rolling Stone, Learn Na’vi and Frommer worked together to expand the language from 500 words to about 2,600. Learn Na’vi also provides resources on grammar and phonetics.
For fans like Sam Wright, co-founder of Kelutral, Na’vi is a tool for building an international community. “There are people around the world who don’t speak English but have learned Na’vi,” Wright told Rolling Stone. “I share a common language with them and I can communicate with them, even though I may not speak their native language.”