Linguistics is a fascinating field of study, and the fact that a completely new language can be developed from scratch is something that always astounds me. A language is a complex things as is; throw in syllables, sounds, genders, derivatives, demonstratives, sentence structures, lexicons and whatnots, it becomes one elaborate area of study that’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s not mine either, but the difficulty level of linguistic studies does not stop me from being amazed at the little things that I do comprehend. And this little story in the wide fabric of literature and linguistics is something I have found extra impressive.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin, popularly derived into the Game of Thrones series, has been a personal favourite for many reasons. One of them is the linguistic angle that has enabled the franchise to actually create the languages used in the books and the shows. The fictional languages, mainly High Valarian and Dothrakhi play a vital role in the GOT universe and have extensively been adapted in the series as well. The languages are now real, developed by linguists from Harvard with painstaking detail, and can be learnt by anyone.
There are videos and articles online of David J Peterson explaining how he developed the languages of Dothrakhi and Valarian from the technicalities of the language to the artistic aspects. One of the articles online claims that in the process of developing Dothrakhi, the linguists have studied George Martin’s description of Vaes Dothrakh, its people, its culture, its history and its everyday dynamics; and matched the details with real tribes that resembled the description. They comprehended their communication including the details such as syllables, formation of words and meanings, symbols and pronunciation and then developed Dothrakhi based on that database. The authenticity of this information however, is not verified. Peterson’s videos go only as far as explaining the technicalities of the process of developing the language.
Dothrakhi now has 4000 words that can be learnt by anyone online. More so, there are videos that explain how exactly the language was developed, but you’ll need some background in linguistics to understand that fully.
A study of a language generally leads you to a geographical location where the language originated from. The cultural history, administrative structure, demography, weather, geography, food habits and so on of a place heavily influence the language of its residents. Although, at some point should someone attempt a study of Dothrakhi, he/she will land at a fictional geographical location in a book, which originated purely from someone’s imagination. This is true for all languages created for movies and series.
That influence literature can have on the physical world is quite amazing. Linguists would say it is something they see and do every single day – they’re developing new languages for college assignments and movies but the kind of genius it takes is rare and impressive to me. There’s so much to be considered and the sky is the limit in terms of experimentation and establishment of grammatical rules. With that elaborate a canvas, the skill and imagination are truly tested. That’s why, Dothrakhi, Valarian, Alienese, Na’avi and such languages will always be more astounding than real ones for me.