I don’t usually do blog posts about production details in TV series that don’t air for another year. But most TV shows do not entail inventing an entire freaking language.
HBO’s dark fantasy saga Game of Thrones, on the other hand, does. Today the network announced that’s it’s going where James Cameron did with Na’vi, Star Trek did with Klingon and J.R.R. Tolkien did with Elvish and developing a full-fledged version of Dothraki, the language of the warlike nomadic horsemen who roam the plains of the Eastern continent, having taken in the heirs of a fallen royal house from the continent of Westeros and—OK, at what point in that sentence did you start silently making fun of me?
For those of you who find my interest in the invention of author George R. R. Martin nothing to laugh at, the network promises that its Dothraki language will boast “more than 1,800 words and [a] complex grammatical structure.”
Excerpts from the release after the jump. Stop laughing at me!
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.