Game of Thrones fans can now perfect Dothraki pronunciation on new language course

The language now features upwards of 3,200 words

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The Independent Culture

Good news, nerdy linguists. As of next month you’ll be able to perfect your Dothraki pronunciation thanks to a new conversational language course released by Living Language. Game of Thrones fans will already be familiar with this strange tongue, but for those still struggling with their French verb conjugation here's the nesikh ('low-down').

Dothraki is a constructed language spoken by a race of nomadic horse-riding warriors in George RR Martin’s fictional continent of Essos. Snippets of it exist in Martin’s original books, but the majority of the lexical grunt work was done for the HBO series scripts by linguist David J. Peterson. The language now features upwards of 3,200 words, one of which ‘Khaleesi’ (meaning ‘queen’) has entered English as a first-name for girls.

Constructed languages have been an important indicator of superior sci-fi and fantasy, ever since the Anglo-Saxon professor JRR Tolkein began devising the Celtic-inspired Elvish languages Goldogrin and Sindarin for his Middle Earth fiction. Since then, Star Trek has given us Vulcan (‘olozhika’ is translated in English as ‘logic’), Romulan (very similar to Vulcan), Cardassian (involves a rectangular script) and Andorian (similar to Cantonese).


By far the most successful of TV’s made-up languages, however, is another one of Trekkie origin, Klingon. Based on harsh gutteral sounds improvised by James Doohan, the Star Trek actor who played ‘Scotty’ in the original series, it was developed into a full-fledged language by linguist Marc Okrand in the 1980s. Since then, works of literature including Hamlet and A Christmas Carol have been translated into Klingon, it has attracted an estimated 20-30 fluent speakers worldwide, and in 2010, ‘u’, the first opera entirely in Klingon debuted in The Hague to rave reviews.

Constructing an entire new language might seem a lot of effort to go to for a television programme, but believable-sounding dialogue helps create a cohesive alternative universe - and it’s the opportunity to escape into such a universe that draws viewers in. Which is not to say foreign language isn’t also an important part of making non-sci fi or fantasy drama. For an example of how not to do it, see Tyrant, a new series starting at 9pm this evening on Fox. It’s written by Homeland creator Gideon Raff and set in the fictional Middle Eastern kingdom of Abbudin. What language do they speak in Abbudin? Perfect English, apparently. Albeit with a heavy Arabic accent.

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