The eagerly awaited Season 3 of HBO series Game of Thrones has arrived. This season language enthusiasts can get to grips with two new fantasy languages, carefully constructed for the series, High and Low Valyrian.
Most viewers aren’t too bothered about actually learning the languages spoken in science fiction and fantasy, but there are always some, as any Klingon speaking trekkie will tell you. J.R.R Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings, carefully constructed the Elvish runic language based on his studies as a philologist, on the runes and languages of Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon. Obsessive fans appreciate this attention to detail and that’s why producers now hire language specialists to work on making authentic languages for their films and television programmes.
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus featured aliens who spoke the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language, from which most of the world’s languages are derived, including English, Hindi and Spanish. The linguist recruited to teach actors this language, was actually employed as an actor, playing a linguist in the film itself.
Game of Thrones doesn’t feature any real languages except English, but the first two series involved a lot of Dothraki, the language of the equestrian barbarians of the plains. This language was invented by the Language Creation Society, an organization set up by people called colangers who invent new languages. The society held a contest to see who could create the best language for the Dothraki and David Peterson’s 180 page proposal was the winner, so he was hired by the HBO producers.
The full extent of the Dothraki language is never demonstrated on the television programme. But Peterson’s language is available in its entirety online if you want to Learn Dothraki. When making the language, Peterson was inspired by his beloved wife Erin, using her name as the Dothraki word for “kind” from which is derived the verb “erinat” (to be good) and the noun “erinak” (lady, kind one). The Dothraki word for “friend” is okeo, which was the name of Peterson’s cat, which was rescued from a shelter where it was named Oreo, but Peterson misread the cat’s label and called it Okeo instead.
Just as real life languages are heavily influenced by the cultures that use them, Dothraki has some cultural metaphors which provide an insight into the culture of these horse loving barbarians. The central role of the horse in their culture is reflected in their way of saying “how are you?” Hash yer dothrae chek? literally means”Do you ride well?” And their formal farewell Fonas chek! means “Hunt well!” The Dothraki are a simple folk and not well inclined to abstract thinking nor do they hold those who are in high regard as evidenced by their term for “to dream” Thirat atthiraride which means “to live a wooden/fake life.”