Bay Area Game of Thrones fans can rightfully take a measure of local pride from the obscure fact that a UC Berkeley alum invented both the Dothraki and High Valyrian languages spoken on the hit HBO series. (San Francisco has also risen the Game of Thrones power rankings by hosting the Game of Thrones Season 5 premiere, letting Hodor play a techno set at Mezzanine, and Madison Bumgarner snapping selfies with Khal Drogo.) That UC Berkeley alum is one David J. Peterson, and fresh off creating fictional languages for Game of Thrones, Peterson will return to Berkeley academics this summer session to teach a three-unit course called “The Linguistics of Game of Thrones and the Art of Language Invention.”
Eyeliner will not provided. In fact, the Dothraki language will not even be taught in the class. Instead, Peterson tells the Daily Cal that students “will learn how to create their own language,” and “how to create writing systems and everything that’s involved in that process” in a six-week summer course.
Peterson calls himself a “conlanger”, which is short for “constructed language creator”. He has also created fictional but functional languages for Marvel’s Thor, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, and the CW series The 100, as apparently creating fake languages for TV and movies is now a real job.
“Students are going to be learning how to create a naturalistic language,” Peterson said in a press release from UC Berkeley. “These are languages that attempt as nearly as possible to replicate the quirks and idiosyncrasies of natural languages, those that have evolved naturally on Earth. It’s not going to focus on the creation of alien languages, or auxiliary languages, or parody languages, etcetera.”
Fun Dothraki Facts: There are currently 3,163 words invented for the Dothraki language. Dothraki has only three verb tenses (the English language has six), four vowels (the letter ‘u’ is not used) and the language does not employ any diphthongs.
But to Game of Thrones-loving locals, there are far more urgent matters — like when does Season 7 start? HBO has announced the Season 7 premiere date of July 16, and this will be the next-to-last season as producers have given up on George R.R. Martin finishing another book anytime soon. Season 7 will have only seven episodes and Season 8 will have but six, but then as many as four Game of Thrones spinoff series are reportedly in the works.
The “Linguistics of Game of Thrones” class is already posted for enrollment online, and there are still open seats in the class. But you’d have to be enrolled a UC Berkeley student to register. If you’re not enrolled at Berkeley but you’re still dying to hear the inventor of the Dothraki language wax poetic on the topic, Peterson’s YouTube channel The Art of Language Invention has about three dozen free videos. Peterson has also published a paperback book called Living Language Dothraki, which comes with an audio CD “featuring over 200 words and phrases, grammar explanations, cultural notes, a dialogue, and exercises for reinforcement.”