Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 by Russ Fischer
On the grand list of Big Questions left by Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus, one item that probably falls somewhere down in the lower third is “what the hell did David say to the Engineer?”
Well, we can’t tell you specifically what the black goo is, or what it has to do with the green goo, or what the sea monkey in Holloway’s eye was all about, but we can answer that burning lower third mystery. (And a burning lower third mystery sounds like something you should really get checked out.)
Here’s how this works: the ancient language being studied by David (Michael Fassbender) is actually Proto-Indo-European (PIE), and the man giving him a hologram lesson is played by Dr. Anil Biltoo of the SOAS Language Centre in London. Dr. Biltoo is also the language consultant for the film, and he has provided a translation of David’s dialogue from his meeting with the Engineer.
The Bioscopist tracked down Dr. Biltoo, who explained that the line we hear spoken by David is really just the opening to a longer conversation between David and the Engineer, which was cut from the final film.
Here’s the line that David speaks to the Engineer, and the consultant’s translation of it:
/ida hman?m a? kja nam?tuh zd?:taha/…/gh??vah-pjorn-?ttham sas da:t? kredah/
A serviceable translation into English is:
‘This man is here because he does not want to die. He believes you can give him more life’.
Not much of a revelation, I know. That’s text we might have guessed. But every little detail is valuable in making up the overall picture. There’s a bit more detail and discussion here.
Dr. Biltoo was also evidently complimentary about Fassbender’s effort to learn the full PIE text of Schleicher’s Fable, a work composed in 1868 as PIE was being reconstructed by linguists. A bit of the fable is heard in the film early on, but most of Fassbender’s recital was cut. More material for the director’s cut!