en-de  The complex linguistic universe of “Game of Thrones”. Medium
Das komplexe linguistische Universum von "Game of Thrones".

Dothrakisch und Valyrianisch sind die überzeugendsten fiktionalen Sprachen seit Elbish.

By Johnson, The Economist, Books and Arts, August 5, 2017.

38 Emmys zu gewinnen, ist ein gutes Maß für Erfolg. Game of Thrones" sammelte so viele durch die Darstellung einer Welt aus Sex, Gewalt und Politik ein. ... Westeros und Essos scheinen so real zu sein, dass einige Zuschauer sich vorstellen könnten, dort hinzuziehen. Part of that detail has been the creation of the richest linguistic universe since J.R.R. Tolkiens Mittelerde.

Tolkien war ein von Sprachen besessener, der als Kind Griechisch, Latein, Angelsächsisch und Gothisch sprach und mit dem Studium vieler anderer Sprachen weitermachte. Er fing als Teenager an Sprachen zu erfinden und sagte, dass er Mittelerde schuf, um das zu unterstützen, nicht andersrum. Die ausgeprägtesten waren zwei Formen des Elbischen, namens Quenya und Sindarin. Tolkien gab Sinadarin die gleiche Art von historischem Lautwechsel, der die europäischen Sprachen geschaffen hatte, die er so liebte: cw-Laute wurden zu p-Lauten in Sindarin, gerade so, wie es in der frühen walisischen Geschichte geschehen war. He riffled through Old Norse and Old English for inspiration, and Finnish was a particular favourite.

In the field of language-creation for fictional worlds, there is Tolkien, and there is everybody else. Aber David Peterson, der Sprachenschöpfer von "Game of Thrones", kommt gleich an zweiter Stelle, was die Menge der Gedanken betrifft, die er sich über die beiden Sprachen, Dothrakisch und Vayrianisch, machte.

Das Interesse an diesen Sprachen ist so groß, dass Living Language, ein anerkannter Verlag für Sprachlehrbücher, schon einen Band zum Lernen von Dathrakisch herausgegeben hat, während Duoling, eine beliebte Online Plattform zum Sprachenlernen, jetzt einen Kurs ind Hoch-Valyrianisch anbietet.

In his book Mr Peterson describes his bafflement at the fictional languages of his youth. Die "Star Wars" Filme boten fremde "Sprachen" dar, die nichts anderes als eine Serie von seltsamen Lauten waren. He wondered how on the planet of Tatooine the bounty hunter in “Return of the Jedi” could express “50,000—no less” as yotó. Jahrzehnte später, mit einem Magisterabschluss in Linguistik, machte er Dothrakisch und Valyriansich so reichhaltig und realistisch wie möglich, ein Prozess, den er in seinem Buch "The Art of Language Invention" (in Deutsch etwa: "Die Kunst eine Sprache zu erfinden"), das 2015 veröffentlicht wurde, beschreibt.

Creating words is the easy part; anyone can string together nonsense syllables. But Mr Peterson, like Tolkien, took the trouble to give his words etymologies and cousins, so that the word for “feud” is related to the words “blood” and “fight”. To make the languages pronounceable but clearly foreign, he put non-English sounds in high-frequency words (like khaleesi, or queen), put the stress in typically non-English places, and had words begin with combinations of sounds that are impossible in English, like hr.

Armed with a knowledge of common linguistic sound changes, he gives his languages the kinds of irregularities and disorder that arise in the real world. Hoch-Valerianisch ist eine klassische Sprache mit abgeleiteten Sprachen. Mr. Peterson ließ sich von der Evolution des Lateinischen in die romanischen Sprachen inspirieren. Konsonanten werden beim Übergang von Verschlußlauten (bei denen der Luftstrom völlig blockiert wird) zu Reibelauten (bei denen die Luft nur langsamer im Mund strömt) weicher. Somit wird b zu v, g wird zu einem gurgelnden gh, usw: Hochvalyrisches obar ("Kurve") wird zu uvor Astaporis Valyrischem. Words’ meanings—as in real life—drift, too, giving the system more realistic messiness.

The writers also deserve credit for storylines in which language plays a prominent role. Dothrakisch ist eine gutturale Sprache einer auf Pferden basierende Kriegernation, aber die hochgeborene Daenerys Targaarven schaut nicht auf sie herab; methodisches Lernen ist der Schlüssel für ihren Aufstieg. Sie verbirgt auch geschickt ihr Wissen der Sprache, wenn es sich als nützlich erweist. Tyrion Lanniser bleibt es trotz seiner mangelhaften Beherrschung des Valyrianischen überlassen die Stadt Mereen zu verwalten, was zu einigen komischen Momenten führt. Und es erweist sich, dass eine Prophezeihung für einen zukünftigen Helden eine neue Bedeutung hat, wenn ein Übersetzter erklärt,dass das fragliche Wort im Valyrianischen mehrdeutig ist - es könnte "Prinz" oder "Prinzessin" sein.

It might seem odd that a highly sexist society like the one of “Game of Thrones” would have languages where sex roles were not clearly marked: what, only one word for “prince” and “princess” when women are almost always barred from the throne? But Mr Peterson is good on this in his book. Languages are not always (or even usually) perfect and efficient vehicles for a culture; random change can leave them with too many words for one concept, and not enough for another. In this way, the flawed nature of language reflects the foibles of flawed humans and the imperfect worlds they strive to create.

This article appeared in the Books and arts section of the print edition under the headline "Game of tongues”.
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The complex linguistic universe of “Game of Thrones”.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 4 months ago
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Dothraki and Valyrian are the most convincing fictional tongues since Elvish.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 4 months ago
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By Johnson, The Economist, Books and Arts, August 5, 2017.
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WINNING 38 Emmy awards is a good measure of success.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year, 4 months ago
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Westeros and Essos seem so real that some viewers could imagine moving there.
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Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
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The most developed were two forms of Elvish, called Quenya and Sindarin.
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High Valyrian is a classical language with daughter languages.
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Mr Peterson took Latin’s evolution into the Romance languages as an inspiration.
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She also skillfully conceals her knowledge of the language when it proves useful.
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But Mr Peterson is good on this in his book.
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The complex linguistic universe of “Game of Thrones”.

Dothraki and Valyrian are the most convincing fictional tongues since Elvish.

By Johnson, The Economist, Books and Arts, August 5, 2017.

WINNING 38 Emmy awards is a good measure of success. “Game of Thrones” garnered that many for its portrayal of a world of sex, violence and politics. Westeros and Essos seem so real that some viewers could imagine moving there. Part of that detail has been the creation of the richest linguistic universe since J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Tolkien was a linguistic obsessive who spoke Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon and Gothic as a child and went on to study many other tongues. He started inventing languages in his teens, and said he created Middle Earth to help this, not the other way round. The most developed were two forms of Elvish, called Quenya and Sindarin. Tolkien gave Sindarin the same kinds of historical sound changes that had produced the European languages he loved: cw-sounds became p-sounds in Sindarin, just as had happened in the early history of Welsh. He riffled through Old Norse and Old English for inspiration, and Finnish was a particular favourite.

In the field of language-creation for fictional worlds, there is Tolkien, and there is everybody else. But David Peterson, the language-smith of “Game of Thrones”, comes a close second for the amount of thought put into its two languages, Dothraki and Valyrian.

The interest in these tongues is such that Living Language, a respected language-textbook publisher, has already produced a volume for learning Dothraki, while Duolingo, a popular online language-learning platform, now offers a course in High Valyrian.

In his book Mr Peterson describes his bafflement at the fictional languages of his youth. The “Star Wars” films featured foreign “languages” that were nothing more than a series of weird sounds. He wondered how on the planet of Tatooine the bounty hunter in “Return of the Jedi” could express “50,000—no less” as yotó. Decades later, with a master’s degree in linguistics, he made Dothraki and Valyrian as rich and realistic as possible, a process he describes in his book “The Art of Language Invention”, which was published in 2015.

Creating words is the easy part; anyone can string together nonsense syllables. But Mr Peterson, like Tolkien, took the trouble to give his words etymologies and cousins, so that the word for “feud” is related to the words “blood” and “fight”. To make the languages pronounceable but clearly foreign, he put non-English sounds in high-frequency words (like khaleesi, or queen), put the stress in typically non-English places, and had words begin with combinations of sounds that are impossible in English, like hr.

Armed with a knowledge of common linguistic sound changes, he gives his languages the kinds of irregularities and disorder that arise in the real world. High Valyrian is a classical language with daughter languages. Mr Peterson took Latin’s evolution into the Romance languages as an inspiration. Consonants soften from stops (where the airflow is blocked completely) to fricatives (where the air is merely slowed in the mouth). So b becomes v, g becomes a gurgled gh, and so on: High Valyrian’s obar (“curve”) becomes Astapori Valyrian’s uvor. Words’ meanings—as in real life—drift, too, giving the system more realistic messiness.

The writers also deserve credit for storylines in which language plays a prominent role. Dothraki is the guttural language of a horse-borne warrior nation, but high-born Daenerys Targaryen does not look down on it; methodically learning it is key to her rise. She also skillfully conceals her knowledge of the language when it proves useful. Tyrion Lannister is left to administer the city of Mereen despite his ropy command of Valyrian, leading to some comic moments. And a prophecy of a future hero is revealed to have new meaning when an interpreter explains that the word in question is ambiguous in Valyrian—it could be “prince” or “princess”.

It might seem odd that a highly sexist society like the one of “Game of Thrones” would have languages where sex roles were not clearly marked: what, only one word for “prince” and “princess” when women are almost always barred from the throne? But Mr Peterson is good on this in his book. Languages are not always (or even usually) perfect and efficient vehicles for a culture; random change can leave them with too many words for one concept, and not enough for another. In this way, the flawed nature of language reflects the foibles of flawed humans and the imperfect worlds they strive to create.

This article appeared in the Books and arts section of the print edition under the headline "Game of tongues”.