276 – Linguistics, Conlangers and Game Of Thrones’ Dothraki
Guest: David J. Peterson Host: Markus Voelter Shownoter: Stefaan Rillaert
Conlangers are people who design human languages, either just for fun or for use in works of fiction, often TV series or movies. My guest, David Peterson, has designed several languages, including the the Dothraki language featured prominently in Game Of Thrones. In this episode we use Dothraki (and English, and a bit of German) to introduce the basics of linguistics, i.e., the science behind natural (and in this case, designed) languages. We also discuss a few specific of Dothraki, and how it gets used in Game Of Thrones.
- David’s Book (paper, Kindle, audio book)
- David’s Google Talk
David Peterson | David Petersons' book 'The Art of Language Invention' | Game of Thrones | Dothraki | Linguistics | Esperanto
David Petersons' Dothraki talk at Google | Game of Thrones books | Noun | Grammar | Adjective | Verb | Object | Subject | Preposition and postposition | Inflection | Compound | Language Creation Society | Grammatical case | Article | Actors about Dothraki in Game of Thrones | Dothraki conversation in Game of Thrones
Ingredients of a language00:18:31
Phonetics | Phonology | Syllable | Intonation | Tone | Vowel | Consonant | Fricative | Grammatical gender | Morphology | Lexicon | David Peterson on the Lexicon Valley podcast | High Valyrian | Syntax | Place before time word order in English | Ordering of adjectives in English | Flexible word order in Latin | Emoji | Inverted question and exclamation marks (in Spanish) | Rhetorical question | Pragmatics | Speech disfluency | Semantics | Lexicographer | Urban dictionary | Guy Steele's keynote on "Growing a language" | Singular 'They' | Minimalist languages | Basic English | Alphabet | Twitter 280 characters
Eskimo words for snow | 'How to invent a language' in Wired | Phonology
Thanks for the great episode. However, some 20 or some minutes before the end, you were talking about introducing new words as pronouns in a language in comparison to mis-using existing words. And you basically said, you never ever introduce new words because people don’t like it. The example of the newly introduced swedish pronoun “hen” speaks against this view.
This was a (for me) fully unexpected interesting topic, presented in a really bubbly and groovy talk! Thank you for this delight!
thank you, this is very nice to hear :-)
Ah, interesting. Thanks Henning :-)
Very nice episode, one of the best ones in my view.
If I ever need to invent a wort in German, it will begin with the sound “FT – “
I agree, I enjoyed it a lot. And it encouraged me to maybe move outside the obvious topics a bit more often!
Thank you very much for this interesting episode.
Your Question regarding the number of vowels in my oppinion depends on your viewpoint. In english and german we don´t distinct between short and long vowls because we use the same letter for it. The german words “Kuss” (kiss) and “Ruß” (Carbon black) for example, the first one is a short “u” and the second one a long “u” (engl. pronounsed oo as in cool) .
In Thai for example, you have a diffrend symbol or a shortener symbol for it. There are also compound vowls. In english for example “oa” as in boat or the “au” as in Auto in german. Thai itself has 44 diffrent vowls. Here is a link to a vido from Stuard Jay Raj about the thai vowls (https://goo.gl/AtKa1M).
He would also be a very interesting interview partner. He speaks about 20 languages and as far as I can tell has also a ver good understanding of the topic in general and he has a very good way to explain things.
Excellent episode (one of the best on omegatau)! Got hooked right from the beginning. And as also Pepe stated: a fully unexpected interesting domain/topic. The cross reference or comparison with computer languages was also very insightful.
Recently, the History Respawned podcast featured an episode about conlangs in Computer Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp4bvDvSI8Q
Reminds me of my pending annual omegatau subscription ;)
So far I haven’t been able to watch Game of Thrones, but I have watched some issues of the TV show with John Snow. However since that’s a daily live production they don’t quite have the budget for CGI dragons. If Game of Thrones is only half as awesome, it’ll be rather good.
It’s in a language called “English” where I originally thought that all words need to have at least one vowel in them. My best counter-example was the English word “cdr” which means the 2nd and following elements of a list. However later I found out there’s a word composed entirely out of fricatives and plotisives “‘t’s”, which is Australian English and short for “is is”.
At some point, Markus mentioned how in some southern German dialects, “ei” can be pronounced both [aɪ̯] (as in standard German) or [eɪ̯|. I was originally a Swabian speaker and wanted to mention words like Freiheit, Eigenheit or Reinheit, where I would pronounce the first “ei” as [eɪ̯| and the second one as [aɪ̯], but could not find any references for this on the web. So, just a personal observation: This seems to be a real effect of where a speaker comes from, and to quantify the effect and determine the areas of origin, more funding and research are needed ;-)
Brilliant work! Another masterpiece podcast
Excellent and interesting episode, was not aware that there is a whole eco system of language inventors.
Regarding the “ei” pronunciation in standard German vs dialect: Just recently there has been a lively debate on this topic in the “language lab forum” of http://www.leo.org.
Thank you for quite an interesting episode on a fascinating topic. Great to hear from David not only on the actual language creation process, but also on the exterior boundary conditions when extending a previously created language.
However I was quite amazed that not even once a reference was made to Tolkien, who with his Middle-Earth narrations actually went one step further by inverting the problem: create the world (with everything in it) in which created languages exist… plus the “little” extra of also creating the writing.
Fascinating subject! I never knew that this was such a huge subject with such a dedicated following.
Couple of things:
At 1:33:55, your guest says nobody ever would say “its” in, for example, “every student should bring its book”. However, we do use “it” for a child or baby, even though it violates animacy which is considered so important. I thought that was interesting.
At 1:51:35, you mention a talk by a linguist at a programming conference. Do you remember which talk this was?
Re your first comment: right, I should have noticed that during the interview :-)
Re the linguist at the conference: https://2017.splashcon.org/event/splash-2017-keynotes-onward-2017-keynote-how-the-languages-we-speak-shape-the-ways-we-think
And it happened again… Never thought, that this topic could be so incredibly interesting. Especially the later parts of the episode, where you were talking about syntax and semantics. Thanks so much to you and your guest!
Thanks a lot for the great episode! Listening to David has been really enlightening, and you Markus are a true master of interviewing your guests. Best episode so far!