The Rising Tide of Alien Languages

Game-of-Thrones-Episode-3.01-Emilia-ClarkeBe warned, this post contains spoilers for this week’s Game of Thrones episode “And Now His Watch is Ended”.

This morning I sat and watched Daenerys Stormborn finally grow up as she unleashed hell upon Astapor and revealed that she speaks fluent Valyrian, the language of the city’s Masters. This is, of course, no surprise to anyone who has read the books but seeing this dramatic scene was given more power thanks to Emilia Clarke’s use of the constructed language Valyrian.

It was a powerful moment where the Mother of Dragons finally becomes more, she becomes a queen, a ruler in her own right. After several episodes of pretending and speaking through a slave-translator, the ruse is ended with a gold statuette and a chain connected to her dragon’s ankle. Suddenly, she speaks with an authority which, I’m guessing, only the highborn sons and daughters of House Targaryen can muster, warning    Krazyns mo Nakloz that dragons are not slaves. Then she commands Drogon to cook him alive and, as the fires die, Daenerys offers the Unsullied their freedom and they pledge to follow the Queen of Dragons. It’s a pivotal moment and will be as memorable to season 3 as Ned’s execution in season 1 and the Battle of Blackwater in season 2.

Plus the dragons are really, really cool.

Anyhow, conlanging, as it’s known, has come a long way since Klingon was constructed for the Star Trek movies. In this century, conlanging first gained popularity with Na’vi in the run up to the release of Avatar and since Game of Thrones launched, the process of creating and learning fictional languages had become a popular past time. Dothraki, for example, didn’t really exist prior to the TV series and was created by a linguist named David J. Peterson. This week Defiance, another series launched which also includes constructed two alien languages – also created by Peterson.

Dothraki, Valyrian and the other constructed languages, they are an important part of series like Defiance and Game of Thrones because they offer a feeling of validity which makes a fantastical world seem a little bit more real. Westeros and the future terraformed world of Defiance would be too alien, too unbelievable without them. Languages, even made up ones, offer a way in which we, the viewers, can become more deeply invested and for the true nerds and geeks amongst us, a chance to learn a new language which is way cooler than Esperanto.

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