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Invented languages

A fascinating article in the New York Times describes the rise of invented languages (conlangs) in Hollywood.

The most famous conlangs are probably Klingon (from Star Trek) and Esperanto but more recently languages have been invented for the film Avatar (Na’vi) and the television show Game of Thrones (Dothraki). Who is behind these new languages?

Trained linguists, it would seem. The person who constructed Dothraki is David J. Peterson, a linguistics graduate of the University of Southern California, San Diego. Paul R. Frommer, the man behind Na’vi is a professor at USC. Constructing new languages is apparently quite challenging:

Dothraki came with its own challenges. Mr. Martin’s books described the Dothraki people as nomadic warriors who live in grass fields and survive mostly on horsemeat.

“First you say, should this word exist at all?” Mr. Peterson said. He decided that the Dothraki, with their long braids, or “jahaki,” wouldn’t have a word for toilet, cellphone or even book since that implies they have a printing press. The Dothraki do however have more than 14 words for horse (including “hrazefishi” for a teeny-tiny horse).

Next, Mr. Peterson tried to establish words that would be native and basic (meaning they are not derived from another Dothraki word), toying with letter combinations and sounds he liked. His favorite sound is “JH” as in “genre,” so he made the word for man in Dothraki mahrazh.

“I said to myself, if I won the right to coin the word “man,” it better be cool,” Mr. Peterson said. (Source: New York Times)