Inventor of Kryptonian aims to revitalize endangered languages

UBC-O’s Dr. Christine Schreyer — an associate professor teaching anthropology and linguistics — went to Krypton. At least, as close any of us will ever get.

In 2011, Warner Brothers approached Schreyer to develop the Kryptonian language for Man of Steel.

Schreyer began her journey quite young — she has wanted to be an anthropologist since she was twelve. She’s also always been interested in Indigenous peoples, and completed a directed study on the Cree language during her undergraduate studies at the University of Winnipeg. In graduate school, she compared the oral stories of the Chapleau Cree First Nation to records from the Hudson’s Bay Company and worked with the Loon River Cree and Taku River Tlingit First Nations.

This research focused on how languages are embedded in landscape and how people can learn about language in tandem with reclaiming knowledge of the land. She currently does field work in Papua New Guinea documenting Kala, which is spoken in six villages and one of the country’s 862 languages.

What does this have to do with Krypton?

Schreyer’s background in reviving and protecting endangered languages made her the perfect candidate to create an imaginary language — with one big difference. Her research studied the interaction between language and land, yet the fictional world of Krypton cannot be visited. Right?

Wrong, explained Schreyer. The world of Krypton was so lavishly imagined by the production designer for Man of Steel that she gained important evidence from visiting the movie set and by studying other pre-existing texts.

“The world of Krypton was so well-imagined … there’s so much in there I feel that is not on-screen,” said Schreyer. “Alex McDowell — production designer for Man of Steel — is famous for developing these really intense worlds with so much backstory to them … There was so much culture and land that I got to see. I guess I did get to go to Krypton.”

Being on set while making the language brought Schreyer physically to the land of Krypton as imagined, and helped her make decisions when forming new words and the writing system.

Read more: The Ubyssey

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