The Languages in Game of Thrones

HBO’s drama television series, Game of Thrones (GOT) continues to be a global phenomenon. Having just finished airing its seventh series, we look at the global triumph of this fictional story and how the different cultures and languages spoken are significant factors in shaping this incredible fable. Read on for some great facts regarding the many languages spoken in GOT and the interesting ways in which they were developed.

Unless you have been living on the moon for the past six years, you have watched, heard of, or know someone who watches Game of Thrones (GOT). Based on George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels, the television series is set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos and follows a web of alliances and conflicts among the dynastic noble families, either vying to claim the throne or fighting for independence from the throne.

Here are five interesting facts regarding language and the hit TV series:

  • The TV series is translated into 21 languages to meet the demands of its global audiences. GOT has attracted record viewership on HBO and has a broad, active, international fan base. The show has won 38 Emmy awards since it premiered in 2011.
  • To create an authentic experience and to avoid any made-up gibberish to represent the specified languages within the books, HBO and the Language Creation Society held a contest to determine which of its members would develop the Dothraki and Valyrian languages. The winner of which was David J. Peterson, a linguist and co-founder of the Language Creation Society. His blueprint for the Dothraki language, was nearly 2,000 words and was complete with functional grammar. His High Valyrian that appears in the show is a classical language with daughter languages. Peterson says that he took Latin’s evolution into the Romance languages as an inspiration in the creation of this language. Dolthraki has a vocabulary of over 3,000 words.
  • GOT characters speak different languages such as Old Tongue, Common Tongue, Dothraki, High Valyrian, and Low Valyrian, to name just a few. The books and TV series go to great lengths to create an authentic world with characters who exist in the context of their cultures and a large part of culture is, of course, language.
  • The “Common Tongue” is most commonly heard throughout GOT and is the universal language of the aired host country – English in English-speaking countries, French in France or German in Germany.
  • There is such interest in Dothraki and Valyrian languages that Living Language, a respected language-textbook publisher, has already produced a volume for learning Dothraki, while an online language-learning platform, now offers a course in High Valyrian.

Here’s a guide to some of the languages spoken on the Game of Thrones along with the character(s) who are the most prominent speakers:

The Old Tongue of the First Men – The Wildlings
Mag Nuk, The Great Tongue –The Giants
Skroth –The White Walkers
High Valyrian – Daenerys Targaryen
Low Valyrian – Commander of the Unsullied, Grey Worm
Dolthaki – Khal Drogo and any Dothraki
Asshai’I – The chanted incantations of the maegi Mirri Maz Duur are in Asshai’i
Lhazar – The maegi Mirri Maz Duur
Qarth – Xaro Xhoan Daxos, the merchant prince of Qarth who tries to steal Daenerys’ dragons.

We would say “Thank you” for reading Welocalize’s GOT blog in the language of Doltharki but if you are a GOT super-fan, you will know there is no word for thank you in Doltharki.

Emma

Emma Cox is Global Digital Marketing Manager at Welocalize.