A Linguist of Fire and Blood

David J. Peterson is a linguist by trade and a conlanger by hobby -until he actually got a job inventing languages. HBO hired him to create the fantasy languages used in the series Game of Thrones: Dokrathi and Valyrian. How does one manage to land a job like that? They contacted a club of conlangers, the Language Creation Society.

The Language Creation Society then put together an application process, which took the form of a contest. You had to sign an NDA in order to see what show it was, so a lot of good conlangers—those of us who create languages for fun—didn’t take it seriously. But there were still about 40 really excellent conlangers who applied, and I was one of them. There were two rounds of judging. First round of judging was by language creators; the second round was by producers. And I’m the one who made it through both rounds.

I had been creating languages for 10 years. But everybody else applying was equally skilled. So I figured the edge that I had was pretty much an endless amount of time—I was unemployed. I just decided: Well, let’s just try to create the whole thing. In those rounds of judging, I created about 90 percent of the grammar—which is ridiculous for two months. Then I created 1,700 words of vocabulary—which is equally ridiculous for two months. Overall, I produced about 300 total pages of material. I figure that was probably what put it over the top.

Since then, Peterson has been pretty busy. In addition to Game of Thrones, he’s the staff linguist for several other TV series now. The A.V. Club talked to Peterson about the challenges of constructing a language, from scratch or from the few words George R.R. Martin used in his books, and what it’s like working for the hit HBO show. -via Metafilter  

Also check out Peterson’s blog, Dothraki.


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