Here’s How the Dothraki Language Was Invented

Photo: HBO

The New York Times takes a look at the fantasy world language trend and discovers that there is a method behind the madness of Klingon, N'avi, Thhtmaa (the language of the termite aliens from Dark Skies), and, of course, Game of Thrones' Dothraki. To explain the origin of that last language, the Times tracked down David J. Peterson, the 30-year-old linguistics enthusiast who created Dothraki, along with twelve other languages including Zhyler ("inspired loosely by Turkish") and Kamakawi. His method for Khal Drogo and friends? First: determine what words would be necessary to its speakers (Peterson nixed toilet and cell phone, but gave the Dothraki fourteen words for horse). Second: build a vocabulary, with emphasis on words that are "native and basic" (translation: words that don't sound like other words). Third: grammar! Peterson, for his part, "adored the 18 noun classes in Swahili and the negative verb forms in Estonian, both influences in his created languages. He scribbled sample sentences and added suffixes and prefixes to expand the vocabulary." And then, magically, he had 10,000 Dothraki words — still not enough to write one chapter of a George R.R. Martin book, but enough to scare people on HBO.