HBO has sent out a press release concerning the Language Creation Society, which was hired to created the Dothraki language as shown in HBO’s Game of Thrones. That the producers had hired a linguist to develop the Dothraki language for the pilot has been previously reported at the time that the pilot was being filmed in Northern Ireland. The press release, with additional details and commentary, follows:
For Immediate Release April 12, 2010
EXPERT CREATES LANGUAGE FOR NEW HBO SERIES GAME OF THRONES
David J. Peterson, an expert language creator from the Language Creation Society (LCS), has been chosen to create the Dothraki language for HBO’s upcoming fantasy series GAME OF THRONES, based on the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin.
When GAME OF THRONES executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss needed a language for the Dothraki, Martin’s race of nomadic warriors, they turned to the Language Creation Society. The LCS solicited and vetted a number of proposals for the Dothraki language from its pool of experts, with Peterson’s proposal ultimately being selected by the GAME OF THRONES production team.
Peterson drew inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s description of the language, as well as from such languages as Russian, Turkish, Estonian, Inuktitut and Swahili. However, the Dothraki language is no mere hodgepodge, babble or pidgin. It has its own unique sound, extensive vocabulary of more than 1,800 words and complex grammatical structure.
“In designing Dothraki, I wanted to remain as faithful as possible to the extant material in George R.R. Martin’s series,” says Peterson. “Though there isn’t a lot of data, there is evidence of a dominant word order [subject-verb-object], of adjectives appearing after nouns, and of the lack of a copula [‘to be’]. I’ve remained faithful to these elements, creating a sound aesthetic that will be familiar to readers, while giving the language depth and authenticity. My fondest desire is for fans of the series to look at a word from the Dothraki language and be unable to tell if it came from the books or from me — and for viewers not even to realize it’s a constructed language.”
“We’re tremendously excited to be working with David and the LCS,” says producer D.B. Weiss. “The language he’s devised is phenomenal. It captures the essence of the Dothraki, and brings another level of richness to their world. We look forward to his first collection of Dothraki love sonnets.”
Did you know? (Hash yer ray nesi?)
The name for the Dothraki people — and their language — derives from the verb “dothralat” (“to ride”).
The Dothraki have four different words for “carry,” three for “push,” three for “pull” and at least eight for “horse,” but no word that means “please” or “follow.”
The longest word in Dothraki is “athastokhdeveshizaroon,” which means “from nonsense.”
The words for “related,” “weighted net,” “eclipse,” “dispute,” “redhead,” “oath,” “funeral pyre,” “evidence,” “omen,” “fang” and “harvest moon” all have one element in common: “qoy,” the Dothraki word for “blood.”
Dothraki for “to dream” – “thirat atthiraride” – literally means “to live a wooden life”; in Dothraki, “wooden” (“ido”) is synonymous with “fake.”
The word for “pride” – “athjahakar” – is derived from “jahak,” the traditional long braid worn by Dothraki warriors (“lajaki”).
More information about the Dothraki language (and their love poems) will be released over the course of the series.
From a fan perspective, this latest news is quite remarkable because it shows the degree to which the producers envision the series as an immersive experience, bringing viewers into the living, breathing world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The novels only feature a handful of words and phrases in the Dothraki language, as Martin has noted he’s not a linguist and only creates words when he needs them. The television show is apparently intent on extending this, in a way not dissimilar to how the Klingon language was created around the nucleus of a handful of phrases written by James Doohan for the Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The number of words reported—1,800, with a detailed grammar—is said to be right in line with “language that is actually meant to be used to communicate.”
We believe we’ve discovered the original call for submissions sent to the conlang community. It was first posted on September 4, 2009. One can see that the details fit the series: graphic violence, a fantasy setting with some prepared vocabulary, a pilot with the possibility of 10-12 episodes a season. According to this page, David Peterson provided the most interesting proposal but other names are mentioned.. One leaps out at us: Bill Welden, a Tolkienian language expert who was involved in The Lord of the Rings films. On his Livejournal, Peterson wrote at the end of 2009 of 2009 that the, “biggest bit of unexpected news was the television job to create a language. Still can’t wait to say more about that. Come March, I should be able to say everything. This project, though, cut into my August, September, October and November.” He had posted some additional information at the start of November:
But, of course, the largest enterprise I undertook over the course of the last month (two months, really) was I applied for a job posted by the LCS. Without going into details, the job was to create a language for an upcoming television show. The application process was exhausting (took most of my free time for the past two months), and there were a ton of excellent conlangers applying. At the beginning of this month, I was informed that I’d moved onto the final round, and this past Friday, I was informed that I’d won.
Until someone somewhere leaks the information, or I’m given the okay by the network, I signed a thing saying I wouldn’t say anything about the series, so all I can say for now is that it’s a major TV network, and the show is, at this point in time, guaranteed a pilot (and I’m guaranteed work for the pilot). If the pilot is picked up, the show will get a one season run, and I’m guaranteed work for the first season. Thereafter, I imagine it will depend on the show’s popularity, the quality of my work, and the direction of the show. Still and all, very exciting!
On December 2nd he remarked that the job proved to be less work-intensive than he had expected, suggesting that the amount of Dothraki used in the pilot is not as great as first envisioned; or at least, the amount of work that went into preparing the “artistic language” for the show was greater than what ended up on screen to start with. Examples of Peterson’s constructed languages can be found at his page on the Language Creation Society website.
The Language Creation Society was founded in 2007 and it seems they offer language creation services for television, film, fiction, and other endeavors, with Game of Thrones appearing to be their first major client.