Ever wondered what languages the characters of Game of Thrones speak? Following the release of Game of Thrones’ latest season and my fanaticism, I began reading a bit about the featured languages spoken in the series, particularly by the Dothraki people and Daenerys Targaryen.
The idea of the Dothraki language dates back to George R.R Martin’s (pictured left) A Song of Ice and Fire book series in which the author mentions the language, describes it and even features around 30 words and names which are spoken by the indigenous inhabitants of the Dothraki Sea. Martin admitted “I don’t have a whole imaginary language in my desk here, the way Tolkien did” and that’s the reason why HBO was forced to hire someone to create the language.
In order to feature the language in the (so far) six seasons, HBO got in contact with the Language Creation Society, who- as the name clearly describes- creates languages as a hobby aka “conlanging”. This was in fact the first time the Society was actually hired to create a new language!
So, after an internal contest and a 180-page proposal, the task was assigned to linguist David J. Peterson who has constructed a total of 9 languages. He used the descriptions found in the novels as well as the Dothraki words which had already been created. Furthermore, in order to construct the new spoken language, Peterson sought inspiration from languages such as Turkish, Estonian, Russian, Inuktitut and Swahili. Aside from the normal constraints of creating a new language, Peterson had to be particularly careful in order to make it easily pronounceable and learnable by the actors. Consequently, this influenced the phonology and grammar of the language and hence there is no contrast between aspirated and unaspirated stops. Peterson has said that to him it sounds like a mix between Arabic and Spanish.
Given the hype of the show and its massive popularity, it’s not surprising people are actually learning Dothraki! You can do so by visiting http://forum.dothraki.org/ As of May 2015, there are over 3,000 words in the constructed language. Fonas chek! (Goodbye!)