Jim Wilce jim.wilce at nau.edu
Wed Nov 17 21:35:09 UTC 1999

I thought the list would be interested in this word from someone who was
with Allen Sonafrank when George Lucas asked him to record some Quechua for
the first Star Wars.  Susan Niles has her own perspective on the making of
the film, etc.  It all makes interesting followup to our spring and early
summer discussion of sci-fi.



>I enjoyed reading your article on Linguists in Hollywood in the recent AN.
>And I'm writing because I think I can shed a little more light on the
>mystery of the Quechua in Star Wars (or, more likely, shed a little more
>mystery on the whole business!).
>Quechua is, indeed, the language spoken by Greedo in the star bar, and
>Lucas did, indeed, contact Allen Sonafrank about dubbing the part.  Allen
>and I were both studying Quechua at UCB at the time, and we discussed the
>request.  In addition to the reasons that Kit Woollard gave you, we were
>both concerned about the possibility that to give a real but non-Western
>language to an alien was a demeaning thing to the real-life speakers of the
>language--regardless of who was to do the dubbing.  We were also especially
>leery of any movie that might promulgate any kind of theory that
>"primitives" were aliens, rather than humans--this was not long after Von
>Daniken's work had inspired a rash of irresponsible "research."  Allen
>declined to do the dubbing.  But as I recall, the person who did the work
>was not a native speaker, but a grad student in Linguistics who could
>pronounce (but did not speak) Quechua.  The phrases are from a standard
>Quechua textbook (I'm pretty sure it was Don Sola's grammar for Cuzco
>Quechua).  Incidentally, the sand people are supposedly speaking an
>electronically-mixed language created from Quechua and Swahili (both, I
>believe, recorded by the same grad student). At the time, we were told that
>Lucas specifically wanted Quechua for his aliens because he had heard it
>spoken and thought it sounded cool.
Jim Wilce, Assistant Professor
Anthropology Department
Box 15200
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff AZ 86011-5200

fax 520/523-9135
office ph. 520/523-2729
email jim.wilce at nau.edu
http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~jmw22/ (includes information on my 1998 book,
Eloquence in Trouble: The Poetics and Politics of Complaint in Rural
Bangladesh, ISBN 0-19-510687-3)

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