David J. Peterson Says to Learn a Language

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Each year, Comic-Con stages an “I Can't Write, I Can't Draw but I Love Comics” panel to inspire those who want to break into the industry through less traditional means. Who better to take part than David J. Peterson, the linguist who helped put words in Khal Drogo's mouth? Peterson – who sat alongside motion capture artist Derron Ross, previsualization artist Kerry Shea, and weapons maker Tony Swatton – recounted how he got his 'Thrones' gig after a two-month, two-round application process, an opportunity he heard about through the Language Creation Society. Although just one of many members in the Language Creation Society, Peterson is the only person currently creating languages for TV shows. “Hopefully the number of opportunities increase in the future,” he said. “It's on me to do a good job.”

The benefit of having a living language on the show, believes Peterson, is that it's like a prop that fans can use too. “Anyone can use and build on it,” he said. “It's a really neat way for fans to engage in a dynamic way.” For those looking to break into the field, Peterson says to “study as many languages as possible” – it's the best way to “understand what makes a language realistic.”

Peterson told Making Game of Thrones that of the two languages he's created for 'Thrones,' his Dothraki is stronger, but he prefers the sound of Valyrian. He has favorite phrases in each tongue: “A dragon is not a slave,” and “It is known.” His go-to phrase? “Where's the bathroom?” he said. “Everything else is less urgent.”

Leeches, Dragons and a Bear: Behind the Scenes of Episodes 307 and 308

By Cat Taylor

One of the things that I’m always amazed by when I watch the show is how easy it is to forget the amount of work that goes into creating each set. The tent in which Robb learns he’s about to be a father was actually built on ‘A’ Stage, one of two new sound stages at the Paint Hall Studio in Belfast. It was designed by Gemma Jackson and then decorated by Set Dec and the Props departments with fabrics and furniture brought in from as far away as India – each piece was specially chosen to reflect the feel and style of House Stark. The scroll Talisa is writing was actually written in the Valyrian language, translated by our wonderful language creator, David J. Peterson.

In the same way that so many departments are involved in a short scene, many locations are often used to tell a single storyline. By now you will have seen the spectacular Ice Wall climb in Episode 306 and so much of Iceland's stunning scenery in the wildlings' approach to it. But by the time we see Orell and Ygritte in the woods, we are back in Toome, Northern Ireland. The scene was filmed back in September, six weeks before we went north of the Wall.

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How To Survive A Dothraki Hunting Party


By David J. Peterson

In our previous lesson on the Dothraki language, we covered some basic grammar and sentence formation. Now, let’s put your knowledge to practical use.

Though it isn't advisable to travel on the Havazh (Dothraki Sea) unescorted, if one does so, one is more than likely to encounter a Dothraki fonakasar (hunting party). In such a situation, one must not panic: The Dothraki despise the fearful. Provided one is not killed on the spot, one may be fortunate enough to be greeted by the idrik (the leader of the hunt) in a manner as follows:

Achrakh yeroon zireyesee hrazef anni, zhey ifak!

"Your stink offends my horse, foreigner!"

Responding in just the right way is crucial. One should be respectful, yet firm. Offend a Dothraki lajak (warrior), and he is likely to respond with his arakh; come across as weak or submissive, though, and one will likely find oneself taken as a slave. One possible response might be:

Athchomar chomakea, zhey lajaki vezhveni. Anha goshok mehrazef shafki athiroe; me haja lekhaan k'athtihari.

"Respect to you, great warriors. I'm sure your horse will survive; he seems strong enough."

Provided one's head is still attached to one's shoulders at this point, it would be best to offer the idrik, at the very least, a gift (anything but one's sword, unless one has a back up on hand):

Fichi jin hlak kherikhi. Mori nroji ma nizhi. Me azho anni shafkea.

"Take these leather gloves. They are thick and tough. It is my gift to you."

And if this has gone well:

Hash anha laz adothrak shafki, hash ashilok khal shafki.

"As I can ride by your side, so shall I meet your khal."

Pleasantries like "may" and "please" are foreign to the Dothraki: Only respectful demands are heeded.

At this point, the idrak (one hopes) would lead the way to the rest of the khalasar. Whether this will be a stroke of good luck or ill remains to be seen!

Download the below PDF for a full guide to the Dothraki vocabulary and grammar we've covered so far:

Dothraki 101

by David J. Peterson

David J. Peterson, a conlanger (or inventor of languages) worked with the Language Creation Society and the creators of 'Game of Thrones' to design a full Dothraki tongue for use on the upcoming HBO series. The details of his process (which are pretty fascinating) have been reported around the web and picked up by fan sites like Winter Is Coming and Westeros. Here on "Making Game of Thrones," David will be offering a series of crash courses in the Dothraki language, beginning with this introductory lesson:

Dothraki is the language of the nomadic horse warriors who populate the Dothraki Sea: a vast grass plain in the center of the continent of Essos, which lies to the east of Westeros, across the Narrow Sea.

Their language differs greatly from the Common Tongue of Westeros and the languages of the Free Cities, which descend from High Valyrian. In the coming weeks, we'll introduce you to the Dothraki language (or Lekh Dothraki) little by little, but here's an overview of some of the basic facts that lay the foundation for what's to come.


Before delving into the grammar of Dothraki, let's go over some of the basic details. One of the first things one learns about a language is how the basic elements of the language fit together to form phrases and clauses. To begin, let's go over some terminology you'll remember from English class:

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