Inventor of languages for Game of Thrones to appear at Rider Nov. 14

David J. Peterson created both the Dothraki and Valyrian languages used on the HBO show
Adam Grybowski

From costumes to special effects, HBO spared no expense in adapting Game of Thrones for television — and that included the creation of entirely new languages.

The main language used in the series was English, but linguist David J. Peterson constructed both the Dothraki and Valyrian languages that were featured prominently throughout the eight-season series based on George R.R. Martin's series of fantasy novels.

Peterson will present “The Art of Language Invention” at Rider University on Thursday, Nov. 14., from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Theater in the Bart Luedeke Center. The event is free and open to the public.

During his presentation, Peterson will offer a captivating overview of language creation, covering its history from Tolkien’s creations and Klingon to today’s thriving global community of language constructors, who are sometimes called conlangers. He will present the essential tools necessary for inventing and evolving new languages, using examples from a variety of languages including his creations, punctuated with references to everything from Star Wars to Michael Jackson.

"Peterson’s presentation shines a light on the creative and transformative power of language learning," says Dr. Maria Villalobos-Buehner, chair of Rider's Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and an associate professor of Spanish.

Peterson will tell behind-the-scenes stories to lift the curtain on how he built languages like Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones and Shivaisith for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. His presentation is an inside look at a fascinating culture and an engaging entry into a flourishing art form.

Peterson has also worked as a language creator on numerous television shows and films, including Syfy’s Defiance and Dominion, the CW’s The 100 and Star-Crossed, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, the upcoming Emerald City on NBC, and The Shannara Chronicles on MTV. In 2014, he published Living Language Dothraki, a best-selling guide to the Dothraki language. His newest nonfiction work is The Art of Language Invention from Penguin Books.

Peterson has a background in academic linguistics, having earned a bachelor’s in English and linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s in linguistics from the University of California, San Diego. He is a co-founder and original board member of the Language Creation Society, and he served as its president from 2011 to 2014.

“The Art of Language Invention” is co-sponsored by the Division of Academic Affairs; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the College of Education and Human Services; the Center for International Education; the Center for Diversity and Inclusion; the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures; and the Department of Communication and Journalism.