Immersive Languages

It’s a misuse of terms to say that we have a natural language; languages are arbitrary and conventions of peoples by institution. – François Rabelais

Constructed languages, or conlangs, are popular features of many science fiction and fantasy tales. Examples include Barsoomian (Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter series), Elvish and Khuzdul (Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy), Klingon (Star Trek), Na’vi (James Cameron’s Avatar), and Dothraki and Valyrian (George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire). Thanks to the efforts of dedicated – some might say obsessive – fans, these invented languages occasionally slip the bonds of their native genres, as witnessed by Klingon translations of Shakespeare and the Bible.

Not all conlangs have roots in fantastic literature. The most widely-spoken “auxiliary language,” Esperanto, was created in the late 19th century by a Polish ophthalmologist, and was intended to be an easy and flexible second tongue that would foster peace and international understanding. UC San Diego Linguistics Professor Grant Goodall was fascinated by languages at an early age, and quickly found himself drawn to Esperanto; through his study of Esperanto he developed an interest in other conlangs.

In addition to Goodall’s remarks about his linguistic adventures in Inventing Languages, two of the most popular contemporary conlangs, Na’vi and Dothraki, are discussed by their creators. Paul Frommer was tasked by Avatar director James Cameron to create a language for his science fiction epic set on an alien world. Frommer describes a process which entailed setting certain rules for the new language, dubbed Na’vi, which were drawn from various Earthbound tongues, including English, the Romance languages, and several Eastern European languages. The primary challenge was to create a language that seems sufficiently alien to our experience, yet could be learned quickly by decidedly human actors portraying the language’s native speakers while also lending itself to a vocabulary that could be expanded on short notice.

David Peterson, co-creator of the Dothraki language used in Game of Thrones, faced a somewhat different set of challenges since the basics of Dothraki were established in the novels upon which the series is based (complete with translations). Peterson’s first task was to reconcile inconsistencies in spellings across various books, followed by establishment of certain rules of grammar and pronunciation based on common usages in various modern languages – key elements in Peterson’s ability to form new Dothraki vocabulary upon demand. Like Frommer’s Na’vi, Peterson’s Dothraki needed to sound exotic while retaining just enough familiarity for actors to learn and speak the language convincingly.

In recent years conventions, workshops, seminars, websites, and user groups have sprung up around fictional languages, including Na’vi and Dothraki, as fans seek an immersive experience based on their favorite novel, film, or TV series. Thus far none have yet achieved the international prominence of Esperanto, but devotees are convinced that it’s only a matter of time.

Watch Inventing Languages: A Conversation in Language Construction

Superbugs and Antibiotics

32822We’ve all heard about superbugs, bacterial infections that don’t respond to antibiotic treatment and wondered what’s going on.

When someone falls ill with one of these infections doctors determine which antibiotic to use based on a standard test. But UC Santa Barbara biologist Michael Moore says we may be relying on the wrong test when identifying the antibiotic to treat an infected patient.

The current test was developed in 1961 and is used throughout the world but it’s based on how well drugs kill bacteria on petri plates — not how well they kill bacteria in the body. Moore’s lab has developed a new test that mimics conditions in the body, potentially transforming the way antibiotics are developed, tested and prescribed.

His lab has identified antibiotics that effectively treat infections caused by diverse bacteria, including MRSA, the cause of deadly Staphylococcal infections. These antibiotics are often not prescribed because they failed the standard tests, despite being inexpensive, nontoxic, widely available and often effective.

He is working to modify the existing test so that it can be widely adapted to give doctors better tools and information when battling superbugs.

Drugs that pass the standard test often fail to treat bacterial infections, whereas drugs identified by Moore’s test have been effective.

Learn more and watch Why Antibiotics Fail – People Are Not Petri Plates

For more talks in this series, click here.

Check Out UCI Open

8232Today we welcome UCI Open to the UCTV family!

Looking to discover research that goes beyond the classroom? UCI Open highlights the minds studying the issues that impact our lives and change the way we think about society, technology, healthcare and more. Hear from researchers on the forefront of creating change in California, the nation, and beyond.

Featured programs:

Rap on Trial: Is it a Crime to Rhyme?

Designing Water Conservation Solutions in Middle Schools

Blum Center Drones to Enhance Flood Resilience

Check out all that UCI Open has to offer.

Trans Media Makers

8232Transgender issues have been represented on film for some time and have an enormous impact on society because it is through media that most Americans learn about transgender people. This series from the Carsey-Wolf Center at UCSB looks at contemporary media work in television, feature documentaries, and fiction films that explore the dreams, challenges, successes and everyday lives of trans people. These unapologetic films challenge the often rigid binary view of the world.

Take a look at these fascinating discussions:

Raising Zoey
The film follows 13-year-old Zoey and her family as they navigate Zoey’s transition from boy to girl, highlighting the legal battles they wage against discrimination in Zoey’s public school. This Q&A session with the film’s director Dante Alencastre is moderated by Abigail Salazar of UCSB’s Resource Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity.

Transparent
The critically-acclaimed comedy-drama series debuted in 2014. It strives to demystify the trans experience and make it visible. Amy Villarejo, professor of performing and media arts at Cornell University, joins Patrice Petro, professor of film and media studies at UCSB, for a discussion of transgender emergence, Jewish identity and queerness within this TV series.

Free CeCe
The documentary confronts the culture of violence surrounding transwomen of color. CeCe McDonald survived a brutal attack, only to be incarcerated for defending her life. A Q&A session featuring director Jacqueline (Jac) Gares and CeCe McDonald is moderated by Lal Zimmerman, assistant professor of linguistics at UCSB.

Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen
Director Kortney Ryan Ziegler’s documentary centers on the stories of six diverse transmen. This Q&A session with Ziegler is moderated by Jennifer Tyburczy, a professor of feminist studies at UCSB.

Tangerine
The critically acclaimed indie film offers a compelling and unique look trans street culture rarely seen on film. The Los Angeles sex trade story was entirely shot using modified iPhone 5S cameras. This Q&A session with actress and transgender woman Mya Taylor is moderated by professor of film and media studies Patrice Petro.

Entrepreneur Insights

8232What do you get when you pair a street-smart start-up expert and UCSB Professor of Practice with industry leaders who have distinguished themselves in their fields? You get a front row seat to fascinating, and sometimes surprising, candid conversations. The newest programs in this long-running series from the Technology Management Program at UC Santa Barbara finds John Greathouse in conversation with some intriguing people. Check out these new interviews:

  • Mark Sylvester, a cook who became the father of CGI and won an Oscar for scientific and technical achievement
  • Stacy Peralta, a skateboarding legend and the accidental inventor of the action sports video
  • Robbie Bach, the creator of the xBox, redefining the gaming industry
  • Mike Falzone, a YouTube star who leveraged his passions into a career
  • Cheryl Conner, who turned her love for writing into a PR firm.
  • For more from the series go to ucsd.tv/tmp