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The Real-World Origins of Invented Languages: From Quenya to Dothraki
December 21, 2021 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm EST
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Many celebrated works of speculative fiction over the last hundred years have involved elaborate world-building, often to the extent of having whole languages or families of languages created for the project. Think of Quenya and Sindarin from The Lord of the Rings, Klingon from Star Trek, Na’vi from Avatar, or Dothraki or High Valyrian from A Game of Thrones. Each of these languages was created by a linguist to enrich the fictional world – but the inspirations for these languages lie firmly in the real world.
In this salon, we’ll delve into the real-world sources of these constructed languages. We’ll see how Tolkien used features of Welsh to make Sindarin, how Avatar‘s Na’vi took inspiration from Māori, and how Dothraki incorporated a bit of Georgian. We’ll also see how Klingon achieved its “alien” feel by looking at how human languages operate and then doing things the opposite way. We’ll also talk about how you might get started making languages of your own.
- David J. Peterson. Create a language in just one hour. Talks at Google. (1hr video)
- The ‘Game of Thrones’ language that 1.2M people are learning. CNN Style.
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