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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Milestone RCMP Cops For Kids fundraiser ride going virtual

You can join and help RCMP raise funds for families and possibly win 20th anniversary cycling shirt

No abandoned Seadoo found on Okanagan lake

Vernon Search and Rescue crews and RCMP unable to find reported abandoned Seadoo on Kal Lake

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Rainy June leads to another rise in Shuswap level

The level of the lake has peak and fallen again three times this year.

Shuswap resident spots waterspout near Salmon Arm

The rare weather event was spotted early in the morning on July 4.

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

Coalmont woman airlifted after ATV crash

Off-road vehicle swerved to miss oncoming traffic

Summerland campground to provide COVID-safe accommodations for temporary farm-workers

The managed seasonal worker campsite will be located within a separated area of Peach Orchard Municipal Campground

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

Kelowna high school football star, water skier, signs with University of Calgary

Isaac Athans, and his family, have a long history of success across various sports in the Okanagan, nationally

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Police searching for missing Lake Country man

David Anthony Jenken, 65, was reported missing Friday and was last seen on June 28

Most Read