April 9th, 2012
01:11 PM ET

'Game of Thrones' linguist: How to create a language from scratch

Editor's NoteDavid Peterson is the creator of the Dothraki language used in the HBO show 'Game of Thrones.' Peterson also is a member of the Language Creation Society.  A 30-minute profile of Peterson will air on CNN's "The Next List on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

The work of a language creator is often regarded with skepticism. "What's the big deal?" many ask. "All you have to do is make up words." And, indeed, one could proceed as follows:

a = blork
abandon = glurg
abate = plurfle
abattoir = gluff

And so on until there was a unique form for every word in an English language dictionary (in fact, with a computer program, one could produce dozens of "languages" like this in a matter of minutes). And while the resultant language would look different from English, functionally and semantically, it would be identical-a mere notational variant.

The reason, of course, is that language doesn't exist in a vacuum. While one can mix up the sounds of an existing language, by copying its vocabulary, one unconsciously duplicates the culture of that language's speakers along with it.

In building up the Dothraki language, I paid special attention to the cultural information a reader is able to glean from George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire." At the most basic level, we see a nomadic race of warriors tied inextricably to their horses: they ride horses, they give horses as gifts, they eat horse meat, they worship a horse god-even their alcohol comes in the form of fermented mare's milk. The word dothraki itself translates to "riders". As horse riding is so central to Dothraki existence, it seems natural that the concept would crop up in their language in a variety of ways.

For example, the basic way to inquire after someone's state is, Hash yer dothrae chek? That translates literally to, "Do you ride well?" or, "Are you riding well?" In English, though, an appropriate translation would be simply, "How are you doing?"

In another area of the grammar, Dothraki expresses immediate pasts and futures using the same verb: dothralat, "to ride". Here are some illustrative examples:


Documentary reveals career fair at Comic-Con
Holly Conrad, center, and her "Mass Effect" cosplay team in "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope."
April 9th, 2012
12:53 PM ET

Documentary reveals career fair at Comic-Con

How exactly does one make a documentary about an event that attracts hundreds of thousands to San Diego, with dozens of events going on at one time?

"We had a 150-person crew over the course of filming," said director Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me"), who took on the challenge of shooting a movie about San Diego Comic-Con in 2010, his biggest film yet.

Lucky for him, geek icons Stan Lee, Joss Whedon and Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles soon signed on to produce the documentary, "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope." After an arduous casting process, Spurlock chose to follow several attendees, all of whom had a goal to accomplish at the convention.

“I love Anthony Calderon, racing to Comic-Con just to get the 18-inch Galactus he can only get at Comic-Con," Spurlock told CNN Geek Out. Another favorite of Spurlock's is Mile High Comics owner Chuck Rozanski, whose struggles to sell comic books at Comic-Con are chronicled in the film.

"(He) represents this crossroads of the old guard and the new guard. How do you remain relevant and parlay that into this next generation?" he said.

However, the thing that stood out the most to Spurlock was that Comic-Con also functioned as a "geek job fair." He followed artists Skip Harvey and Eric Hanson and costume designer Holly Conrad, who sought to break into the world of comics, film and gaming.

“Originally, you think (Comic-Con is) a geek shopping mall," Spurlock said. "There’s so much more going on, with the panels where people can go and learn about breaking into the business, to the portfolio reviews, where you can show your work and get hired to work on comic books, to and creating costumes for the masquerade, and people in the costume business could hire you to work in the costume department."

"I love that whole side of Comic-Con. I think 90% of the world has no idea that actually exists there," he said. FULL POST

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