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Paul R. Frommer
Born (1944-09-17) September 17, 1944 (age 71)
New York City, New York, United States
Education Doctorate in linguistics, 1981, University of Southern California
Occupation Communications professor at University of Southern California
Known for Constructed languages

Paul R. Frommer (/ˈfrmər/; born September 17, 1944) is an American communications professor at the University of Southern California (USC) and a linguistics consultant. He is the former Vice President, Special Projects Coordinator, Strategic Planner, and Writer-Researcher at Bentley Industries in Los Angeles, California. From 2005 to 2008, he served as Director of the Center for Management Communication at the USC Marshall School of Business.[1]

Youth and education[edit]

Frommer was born in New York City.[2] Interested in astronomy from an early age, he changed his college major from astrophysics to math, graduating from the University of Rochester with a bachelor of arts in mathematics in 1965. He soon taught English and math in Malaysia in the Malay language with the Peace Corps. He had studied languages earlier, but this experience switched his focus to linguistics. He began a doctoral program in linguistics at the University of Southern California (USC). During the program, he taught English in Iran for a year in the mid-1970s and studied Persian.[3] He earned his master's degree and doctorate in linguistics at USC in 1981 under Bernard Comrie; his doctorate was on aspects of Persian syntax and entitled "Post-verbal Phenomena in Colloquial Persian Syntax".[1]


Frommer taught for several years and then moved into business, becoming a Vice President, Special Projects Coordinator, Strategic Planner, and Writer-Researcher at Bentley Industries in Los Angeles. Frommer was also a writer for the 1989 film Step Into the Third Dimension.[4] In 1996, he returned to USC as a full professor of clinical management communication at the Marshall School of Business. In 1999, he co-authored a linguistics workbook called Looking at Languages: A Workbook in Elementary Linguistics.[5] From 2005 to 2008, he served as Director of the Center for Management Communication at Marshall School of Business.[1]

After a search by James Cameron, writer and director of the 2009 film Avatar, Frommer was chosen to create a language for the Na'vi, the film's fictional alien race of sentient blue humanoid inhabitants of the moon Pandora.[6] Frommer says that his process for creating the language began with phonetics and phonology: "The sound system has to be all nailed down first, so that there is consistency in the language". The morphology, syntax and vocabulary followed. Cameron had already created several dozen words that he wanted to incorporate into the new language. That gave Frommer "a sense of what kinds of sounds he had in mind". Cameron also told Frommer that he "wanted the language to be pleasant sounding and appealing to the audience."[5] "When you create a language, you experience the joy of rolling sounds around in your mouth, hearing unusual sounds, playing with the sounds and structural properties of language – it's a process that took about six months for the basics".[3]

Frommer based some Na'vi grammar on Polynesian languages and used consonants such as ejectives and word-initial velar nasals that do not occur in Western languages, while omitting common Western sounds like "b", "d" and "g". He placed verb modifiers in the middle of words, instead of at the beginning or end of them. Cameron wrote some songs for the Na'vi characters that Frommer translated into a poetic form of Na'vi language, and he then coached the singers on pronunciation.[7] He then worked personally with the actors who needed to speak the Na'vi language in the film and created MP3 files for them to use to study it. The actors' voices were not altered in the film, as Cameron wanted the Na'vi characters to have human-sounding voices.[3] Since the film opened, Frommer has received numerous e-mails from fans with suggestions for expanding the language[7] and websites have grown up devoted to the study and use of the language.[2]

Frommer also created the Barsoomian language for the Disney film John Carter.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Marshall Faculty Directory: Paul Frommer". USC.edu. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b McCally, Karen (March–April 2010). "Avatar of Language". Rochester Review 72 (4). 
  3. ^ a b c Andrews, Susan (January 20, 2010). "Paul Frommer Sounds Off on Avatar Language". USC News. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  4. ^ Paul R. Frommer at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ a b Milani, Matteo (November 24, 2009). "An interview with Paul Frommer, Alien Language Creator for Avatar". Unidentified Sound Object. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  6. ^ Jensen, Jeff (January 15, 2007). "Great Expectations". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Genlen, Larry (April 19, 2010). "How to say 'ass' in Na'vi". New York Post. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Meeting with Avatar Na'vi language creator in L.A.". 2M Language Services. April 6, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Frommer — Please support Wikipedia.
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146 news items


Mon, 14 Dec 2009 16:44:44 -0800

Paul Frommer, a professor at the University of Southern California, is the linguist who built it for him — and he says the bar Cameron set was pretty high. "He wanted a complete language, with a totally consistent sound system, morphology, syntax ...

Times of India

Times of India
Mon, 27 Jul 2015 00:50:19 -0700

From an artificially created species, to the population of a fictitious country across the globe, Hollywood's most loved characters sometimes flaunt a fictitious language of their own.Hollywood filmmakers even hire linguists to construct a fictitious ...


Tue, 01 Sep 2015 08:34:56 -0700

Paul Frommer, a professor of business with a doctorate in linguistics, was charged with coming up with a tongue that would be learnable by humans, but not too similar to any existing Earth language. He took about six months to structure the syntax and ...


Thu, 05 Feb 2015 12:03:45 -0800

The creator of the Na'vi language and linguistics professor at the University of Southern California Paul Frommer helped create the @LearnNavi Instagram feed that teaches the basics of the language, showing words with photo stills from the movie.

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times
Fri, 20 Nov 2009 17:15:38 -0800

James Cameron has big aspirations for “Avatar,” and here at Hero Complex we're stepping up with some epic coverage plans: a 30-day countdown. Today's topic: The USC professor who found himself on an unexpected Hollywood adventure when he was ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Fri, 14 May 2010 00:00:00 -0700

With thousands of languages listed alongside animals as endangered or extinct, Avatar's 3D universe and the internet have spun off a new language which is rapidly gaining speakers. Linguistics expert and mild mannered academic, Professor Paul Frommer, ...

The Independent

The Independent
Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:02:58 -0800

Today, skilled conlangers such as Paul Frommer, (a linguistics professor at USC Marshall School of Business who created Na'vi, the language spoken on Pandora in the 2009 James Cameron movie Avatar), Matt Pearson, (a linguistics professor at Reed ...

Times of India

Times of India
Tue, 17 Mar 2015 22:56:34 -0700

The wait is almost over. Come April 12, Game of Thrones' fans across the world will find themselves transported to the continents of Westeros and Essos, embroiled in deceitful weddings, vengeful wars and secret alliances of the Starks, Lannisters ...

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