Native American language found for film

Jan. 26, 2006 at 7:14 PM
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CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Director Terrence Malick recruited a linguist to reconstruct and coach his cast in the long-lost language of Pocahontas for "The New World."

There were hundreds of Native American languages when John Smith and the English settlers arrived in Virginia, New York's Newsday noted Thursday.

It was up to University of North Carolina at Charlotte linguist Blair Rudes to sort them out and reconstruct the Virginia Algonquian tongue, the newspaper said.

Several words we use now came from Algonquian family of languages, such as "raccoon," "hickory," "terrapin" and "moccasin," Rudes told Newsday.

For the movie, Rudes revived a language that has not been heard since 1785. To do that, he consulted two lists -- one compiled by Smith and the other by William Strachey, secretary for the Jamestown Colony.

He found about 650 words. The dialect Rudes reconstructed uses an inflection slightly similar to Russian, pronunciation rules comparable to Japanese and an overall structure similar to Spanish.

He said the scripts and pronunciation CDs will eventually be given to Virginia tribes that can trace their ancestry back to the Powhatan.

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