April 6th, 2012
09:53 PM ET

A history of Hollywood's invented languages

Editor's NoteDavid Peterson is the creator of the Dothraki language used in the HBO show 'Game of Thrones.' Peterson not only created the language but also served as translator/dialect coach for select cast in 'Game of Thrones.' He is also a member of the Language Creation Society.  A 30-minute profile of Peterson will air on The Next List on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on CNN.

The full history of language creation is a fascinating and varied one, but for now, I want to focus on the use of created languages in television and film. As a starting point, it's useful to examine the usage of "foreign languages" in television and film. Though it's hard to imagine at this point a Russian character speaking something other than authentic and grammatically appropriate Russian in a feature-length film, that hasn't always been the case.

Consider, for example, the film adaptation of Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Moviegoers are familiar with the racism inherent in casting the "other" in older films. For the film, if an actor looked "Asian" that was good enough. That same attitude extended to the use of language in the film. Even without knowing Chinese, you can watch Thoroughly Modern Millie and tell that the "Chinese" spoken is complete and utter gobbledygook. That, though, was simply a detail: as long as it sounded "Asian", that was good enough. And mind, this was 1967. FULL POST

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Filed under: Art • Books • Innovation • The Next List • Thinkers • TV • Video
April 6th, 2012
01:35 AM 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.

By David Peterson, Special to CNN

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. FULL POST

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Filed under: Art • Film • Innovation • The Next List