30 Apr 2013

The Small Council Should Include A Master Of Tongues

David J. Peterson has a job I would love: he invents languages. President and co-founder of the Language Creation Society, he is current language and culture consultant on the excellent Syfy series Defiance, and inventor of the spoken languages of Dothraki and Valyrian on Game of Thrones. While George R. R. Martin created those languages, his books rarely used more then a few words in a row. Peterson took those words, or phrases, and created a working language that could be spoken by actors, and understood by those willing to learn. And if you don't think in ten years there will a college somewhere offering Dothraki, then you underestimate geek appreciation. And to hammer home that point, I really should have written it in Klingon.

According to Peterson, who actually had to craft two versions of Valyrian (high and low, based on the real world Latin), the show has made only one major mistake in their use of his language guides. Says Peterson, "it should be 'KHAH-lay-see,' not 'ka-LEE-see.' The vowel change bugs me. The producers decided they liked the other way better. They probably thought most people were pronouncing it that way anyway, which is true."

I mentioned how impressed I was with Dan Hildebrand, who played slaver Kraznys in the first four episodes, how despite speaking an entirely fictional language (laced with profanities), he seemed like the most natural and less uptight cast member on the show. Peterson was impressed too, saying "He’s very convincing." And Peterson, as everyone else, was blown away by Emilia Clarke's bad ass boast at the end of episode four. And you can bet that scene wouldn't have been near as impressive if she was just talking nonsense rather then something with structure and reason behind it.

His work over on Defiance is impressive too, especially the Castithan that Jamie Murray and Tony Curran speak most regularly. Because of the smaller budget, tighter episode lengths, and longer assimilation between cultures, most dialogue is in English and the majority of the translations are one word swaps, like shtako in place of shit. Which is a common practise for sci-fi, which replaces every frakking bit of gorram dren with something more FCC friendly.

As I said, Peterson has an awesome job.

Via The Mary Sue.

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