Business Language Services Constructed Languages: The Man Behind Dothraki

Game of Thrones & Dothraki

Fans of the hit TV series, “Game of Thrones”, are familiar with Dothraki. It’s the language of use in the series, together with Low Valyrian and High Valyrian. But did you know that this is a constructed language (conlang) created specifically for the series?

George R. R. Martin

Game of Thrones, written by George R.R. Martin, has many invented words in the book created by the author himself. When HBO turned the book into a TV series, the management team decided that the actors should use the words as they appear in the book so that fans of the novel would not be offended. HBO later partnered with the Language Creation Society to find a linguist who could create the language for the show. One of the participants, David Peterson, who is also a co-founder of the society, won the contest.


David Peterson & Conlangs

David J. Peterson, has created various conlangs used in a variety of sci-fi and adventure/fantasy shows. He has a Masters in Linguistics degree from the University of California, San Diego. For the Game of Thrones, Peterson created Dothraki, Mag Nuk, and Low and High Valyrian. He said that he did not have much to work on when he created Dothraki, although the producers told him they wanted to use all of the words from the books and to make sure that they were harsh-sounding words. Out of the 56 words Martin penned in his books, 24 were names of things, places and people, with no guides for pronunciation. Peterson began his conlang work for this project with a phonetic inventory and later found out that changing the cadence and stress system worked well. Likewise, ending some words with “kh” gave Dothraki a very distinct sound.

Mag Nuk is the language spoken by the Giants in the series. Peterson said that when creating conlangs, it is important to take the physiology of the speakers into account. For the creation of Mag Nuk, the giants’ language, the background information he received was that the giants did not have the mental capacity of humans and they would use the Old Tongue, with one-syllable words.

Although the approach to creating conlangs is generally scientific, Peterson said he did add just a small personal touch, using Keli, the name of his pet, as the term for cats in High Valyrian.

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