Meet the man behind languages on 'Game of Thrones' and 'The 100'

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CLOSE Hit television show 'Game of Thrones' will bow out in 2019 after 8 seasons with a six-episode final season, HBO has announced. Rollo Ross reports. Video provided by Reuters Newslook
David J. Peterson is a linguist who constructs languages for "Game of Thrones" and other TV shows, movies and video games. (Photo: Special to the Register)
CONNECT TWEET 12 LINKEDIN COMMENT EMAIL MORE DES MOINES — The world is full of more than 7,000 living languages, meaning they’re still spoken somewhere daily .
And we have a hard time hanging onto them: About one-third are endangered.
So I was reluctant to give David Peterson any more publicity for what could be construed as his mad quest: He spends all day, every day dreaming up even more languages for TV shows, movies and video games.
Peterson, 37, is responsible so far for some 40 languages that help make Game of Thrones and the other fictional worlds we love seem that much more richly detailed and believable.
He has amassed a lexicon of at least 30,000 words that wouldn’t be fluttering across our screens and pages if not for his obsessive mind.
I do my best to mangle a single language, English, to earn my keep. But here’s a guy whose job is littering the world with more languages to let people run wild with an even greater variety of mispronunciations and bad grammar.
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And he travels to college campuses — like his visit to Iowa State University in Ames on Monday for a free lecture — to preach the love of linguistics to a digital generation that arguably pays more attention to GIFs and emojis.
David Peterson wrote a guide to speaking Dothraki, one of two languages he created for "Game of Thrones." (Photo: Special to the Register)
"I have not come across a language that I don’t like,” Peterson said, resolute in his mission.
“I would love to learn all of them.”
Just for fun, he’s studying the South African language Xhosa.
That’s not Xhosa. That means “hello” in Irathient, Peterson’s personal favorite among his original languages. He built it for the SyFy series Defiance .
Peterson, who lives in Orange County, Calif., with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter, Meridian, gets pigeonholed as the Game of Thrones guy.
That’s fair, considering he devised two languages for the HBO series: Dothraki and Valyrian. And that fabled realm of Westeros — sprung from the mind and thousands of violently bloody pages of George R.R. Martin — has won a mass audience far beyond the usual sci-fi/fantasy enclave.
But that’s just the tip of the proverbial tongue of Peterson’s work.
His most popular language by far — in terms of fans interested in speaking it and hounding him to cough up new words — is Trigedasleng, a future English heard in the CW series The 100.
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Sometimes he’s a consultant from afar who never crosses paths with the actors who utter his words. (That has been true for Game of Thrones and perhaps his biggest professional disappointment.)
Other times, Peterson lurks on set throughout the filming process to serve as an attentive vocal coach, as he did with the recent Will Smith series for Netflix, Bright.
The technical term for all this is “conlang” — a “constructed language.” Peterson is a “conlanger.”
Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn 'Game of Thrones': Who didn't survive the Season 7 finale Fullscreen Post to Facebook Posted! A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.
Look at this gallery to find out who didn't survive the 'Game of Thrones' Season 7 finale. And we're not talking wights. HBO Fullscreen Lord Petyr "Litttlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen), left, a great 'Thrones' character, is one of the most successful schemers in Westeros. However, his deviousness catches up with him in the Season 7 finale, as Sansa Stark finds him guilty of treason and murder and her sister, Arya, executes him. Helen Sloan, HBO Fullscreen After Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), right, spirited Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) out of King's Landing in the wake of Joffrey's murder, they become constant companions. Helen Sloan, HBO Fullscreen Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), left, and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) head toward Winterfell in Season 5. This is not one of Littlefinger's better plans. Helen Sloan, HBO Fullscreen When Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), right, and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) meet in the Winterfell crypt, he explains he is temporarily leaving her with the Boltons. This did not work out well for Sansa. Helen Sloan, HBO Fullscreen Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), right, kisses Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) before leaving Winterfell. It's hardly a romantic embrace. Helen Sloan, HBO Fullscreen Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), left, and Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), exch...