How the Languages in Game of Thrones, Defiance, and Thor Were Created – Facts So Romantic

A still from the television show Defiance, showing a pair of Irathients, an alien race. Their language, Irathient, was created by David J. Peterson and currently stands at a 2,000-word vocabulary.Syfy

David J. Peterson is perhaps the most well known linguist in Hollywood. Since 2011, he has created numerous languages for television and films, including the HBO dramatization of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, the hit sci-fi show Defiance, and the language of the dark elves in both Thor films. If you need a language, Peterson is your man.

But unlike the nonsense script of the Ewoks of Star Wars, Peterson isn’t just trying to create something that sounds alien enough. His languages are all functional—they can be learned, spoken, and they can evolve, just as a “natural” language can.

Peterson sat down with Nautilus to explain how to create a language, and how the patterns that develop naturally from the act of meaning-making reveal an aspect of our humanness that we normally take for granted.

When did you first start creating languages?

While I was taking linguistics as an undergraduate, it occurred to me that I could probably create my…

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