With the increasing volume of Valyrian we hear in GoT Season Three, and going hand in hand with the still-expanding audience of the show, there has been a slew of articles and features on David J. Peterson’s (@dedalvs) constructed languages.
Here is an older one, an interview with David for Vulture from a few weeks ago. We learn there that everyone’s been pronouncing the title khaleesi the wrong way. Well, almost everyone, since I remember hearing Qotho the bloodrider back in Season One pronounce it the way David describes it should be pronounced.
BBC Radio 4 aired a short segment with David just the other day, while Time ran a nice long feature describing the whole process behind creating languages for the show. It is precise and to the point, giving a good insight into the linguistic considerations taken into account.
The High Valyrian that Daenerys speaks, for example, is different from that of her interlocutors in the slave city of Astapor, whose argot is a latter-day mix of Valyrian with the other tongues of Slaver’s Bay. Peterson stresses that a key part of inventing a language is establishing its own internal historical logic. “I made sure the language was evolved over a period of time, so that it sounded authentic and had the hallmarks of a natural language,” he says. Like any real language, Peterson’s High Valyrian and Dothraki carry in their morphology centuries of change, migration and encounters with new technology.
You can follow David’s own musings and analyses of the language tidbits we hear on the show in regular instalments on his blog. Here is an interesting snippet, pretty much suggesting that a certain prophecy will be included in the adaptation:
That said, it was very important to me that q be different. In fact, when I talked about creating Valyrian with Dan and Dave, I asked them two—and only two—questions: (1) Just how different did they want Kraznys’s dialogue to be from High Valyrian, and (2) how did they pronounce valonqar: valon-K-ar or valon-KW-ar? The answer was vitally important and would have far-reaching consequences for the phonology of High Valyrian and its descendants. Frankly, I was delighted to hear they were going with valon-K-ar.
Hear Me Roar: When it comes to language questions, I am hopeful that the show will establish two things at some point. One, explaining in what sense High Valyrian is the mother tongue of Daenerys (more like a learned common language of the elites, not unlike Latin used to be, as FaB put it concisely in this GOO podcast). Two, mention the High Valyrian versus the low, vernacular varieties that are extant in Essos. I guess both could be tackled in one of the dialogues between Dany and Missandei.