Before Game of Thrones enthusiasts try their hand at speaking Dothraki, they might want to talk to David J. Peterson, the man who created the language of the horse tribe in the popular HBO series.

Peterson, who also develops languages for SyFy’s Defiance and The CW’s upcoming sci-fi drama Star-Crossed, graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in English and Linguistics in 2003, and he went on to receive his MA in Linguistics from UC San Diego in 2003.

“As a language creator, you must start with the culture, you have to start with the people. You piece together what their life is, and little by little you build up vocabulary that kind of reflects their world view and their world,” Peterson said on his creation of Dothraki in the Game of Thrones featurette.


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When he isn’t working on creating languages for Hollywood, Peterson travels the country and makes regular appearances at various fantasy conventions. Peterson is also very active on Tumblr, and even responds to fan requests to translate their name into various languages he has created.

Peterson is a co-founder of the Language Creation Society, a nonprofit that strives to widen the circle of language creativity. Peteron’s passion lies in conlang, a term meaning ‘Constructed Language.’ On his official website, Peterson points to UC Berkeley professor John McWhorter’s TED Ed videos on conlag, including Dothraki, for those who might be unfamiliar with conlang.

Peterson’s work includes the creation of Dothraki and the Valyrian languages used in Game of Thrones, Castithan and Irathient languages used in Defiance and his work will also be featured in the upcoming Thor 2: The Dark World.

Tomorrow, Peterson will be speaking at UC Merced as part of their Mind, Technology, & Science (MTS) Talk Series on the use of metaphor in language creation (aka ‘conlang’).

“In this talk David Peterson will discuss the use of conceptual metaphor in his languages from HBO’s Game of Thrones, SyFy’s Defiance and the CW’s Star-Crossed, as well as comment on their use in other created languages, and their use in potential languages,” reads the event description.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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