In the movie Prometheus, David, an Android tasked with maintaining the functions on the space ship while his human comrades are sleeping in cryostatic chambers, is learning PIE during his off-duty time.

In one sequence he is repeating after his holographic teacher a text in PIE. One sound in the word akwunsez sounds odd, it sounds like some one is beat boxing, a sound generated with probably only the larynx and its epiglottal membranes in a loud way.

You can hear it here, about the time stamp of 1:10 David is beat boxing very ancient lyrics

Is this sound one of the exotic ones I asked about , are there more ?

  • 1
    I think it's the next word, not 'akwunsez'. Note the k' in the transcription. I think that's intended to be a glottalized /k̓/, part of the modern glottalic theory of PIE consonants, which posits a different set of historical changes. Glottalized or glottalic consonants are indeed made with the larynx and epiglottis in concert with ordinary oral stops.
    – jlawler
    Mar 20, 2017 at 15:37
  • Thanks for pointing out to those glottical consonants, but are you sure about the word following 'akwunsez',dad-r-kta? It looks and sounds to me like an r letter and an r sound Mar 20, 2017 at 15:44
  • No, I'm not sure of anything. I didn't see the movie. Though it is true that if PIE had glottalic consonants, they have all been lost or mutated because there are none in any current IE language.
    – jlawler
    Mar 20, 2017 at 15:55
  • 2
    @AbdulAlHazred Don't take Hollywood movies as a reliable linguistic source :) Mar 21, 2017 at 10:23
  • 2
    The glottalic theory is a minority view -- most specialists don't believe that PIE had glottalized sounds.
    – TKR
    Mar 21, 2017 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


By "modern IE languages" you have most probably intended English or some other of the most widespread European IE languages. But if you reckon all the modern IE languages, you can't even imagine the variety of sound they can have. Modern Dutch has many quite unique and "strange" vowels, Modern Indic languages have some weird "breathy" vowels and retroflex consonants; modern Scandinavian languages have tone-like accents; Modern Russian and other Slavic languages have rare fricatives and central vowels; and so on. Therefore, in comparison to the whole variety of the modern IE sound systems, nothing would be exotic enough.

Another difficulty is represented by the fact that we don't have a complete certainty about the pronunciation of the IE reconstructed phonemes. Indeed, there are at least two different phonetic interpretations thereof: the classical interpretation postulated by the Neogrammarians and that of the Glottalic theory. If we accept the latter, most consonants will sound quite odd to an English speaker. Another famous case is that of the laryngeals: we don't have the slightest idea of how they could have been pronounced, so that we just transcribe them with numbers: H₁ "laryngeal 1", H₂ "laryngeal 2" and H₃ "laryngeal 3". Many theories have been suggested in such respect but the issue is still under debate.

The authors of the movie you quote must have simply asked a specialist in Indo-European studies to give them an idea of a possible pronunciation, and then the actor has performed - with a strong English accent - something that, for the average audience, sounded like gibberish meaningless formulae. And when someone who has no special training in field fonetics hears an unknown language, he/she cannot be even sure about what sounds have been pronounced. Thus, some "normal" sounds can appear exotic because of some additional features (like tones or special accents), as well as something really exotic can easily escape the attention of an untrained listener.

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