A Brief Guide to Fictional Languages in Literature

This week, we were treated to a great article on the creation of the Dothraki language, as it is spoken in the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Inspired by this new insight into the culture of Khal Drogo, we decided to take the opportunity to look into some other interesting fictional languages, from complete universes with many dialects to what amounts to English augmented by very creative slang. Before you rise up in righteous fury, this is only a guide to languages either solely or originally conceived of in books, so nerd-favorites Na’vi and Klingon are excluded — but you’ve already heard too much about them anyway. Click through to read our brief guide to fictional languages in literature, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments.

Dothraki, A Game of Thrones

Though there is no word for “book” in the language of the nomadic Dothraki warriors, there are, of course, more than fourteen different words for “horse.” Or so has decreed David J. Peterson, the 30-year-old who expanded on the snippets of Dothraki in George R.R. Martin’s acclaimed fantasy series to create a full, speakable language for HBO’s adaptation. To do this, he first ruled out words that wouldn’t exist (not only “book” but “toilet” missed the cut — yikes), then formed “native and basic” words before building the grammar rules, starting with the “18 noun classes in Swahili and the negative verb forms in Estonian… He [then] scribbled sample sentences and added suffixes and prefixes to expand the vocabulary.” Eventually, Peterson hopes to grow the language to at least 10,000 words, which will definitely please the already-blossoming group of fans who’d like to be able to communicate with their favorite horse-lord. If you’re one of them, go here to begin your studies.

Essential Phrase: “Vezh fin saja rhaesheseres vo zigereo adoroon shiqethi!”

Translation: “The stallion that mounts the earth has no need for iron chairs!”