Dothraki, the made-up language from “Game of Thrones,” is the latest fake language to capture the curiosity of fans, as evidenced by a new course at UC Berkeley.
“The Linguistics of ‘Game of Thrones’ and the Art of Language Invention,” will be taught for six weeks over the summer by language creator David J. Peterson. UC Berkeley announced the class on its website last week.
Peterson is a UC Berkeley alum and says his love of creating languages dates back to his very first linguistics class at the school. He earned his Masters in Linguistics at UC San Diego in 2005 and just four years after that, was creating the Dothraki language based on snippets from George R.R. Martin’s books.
“From there, I’ve worked on about a dozen other shows and movies,” he told Berkeley. “Language has become my entire life and my livelihood.”
The Dothraki are a warrior group that ride their horses across the sands of Essos. In the show, Daenerys is married to one of its leaders, Khal Drogo, where she has to learn the nuances of the language in order to communicate with her people and her new husband. It sounds feral and is usually shouted before riding into battle, probably why it’s become so popular.
Besides Dothraki — arguably his most famous work — he also created the show’s High Valyrian language. Peterson’s also worked on other shows, such as MTV’s “Shannara Chronicles,” the CW’s “The 100,” and Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful.”
This isn’t the first time the Dothraki language has been the subject of a language course. Peterson contributed to a course called “Living Language Dothraki: A Conversational Language Course Based on the Hit Original HBO Series Game of Thrones.” Random House also released an app in 2014 that taught users some phrases.
The difference between this new course and those others is the focus on the art of making a language, rather than a study into the grammar and the vocabulary of one. Dothraki will be the framing device to help students explore what it’s like to enter the mind of somebody experiencing a new language. Basically, it’s a linguistics class, but about one of your favorite made-up languages.
“There’s precisely as much value in creating a new language as there is in creating a new fictional story,” Peterson explained. “If you see no value in something like ‘As I Lay Dying’ or ‘To the Lighthouse,’ then I probably can’t convince you there’s value in creating a new language.”