Languages in Game of Thrones

September 7, 2017 10:00 am

Every time a film or a series becomes popular it arouses the interest of people and even more so when a new, invented language is spoken. For example, the very popular Klingon was first presented in Star Trek. Similarly, in Lord of the Rings philologist and author J. R. R. Tolkien created a number of constructed languages for the books called Mannish languages.

Since Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011 it became a cornerstone of popular culture for many people living on planet Earth. Over 16 million people have seen the seventh season of the series and this brings up a linguistic issuehow do these invented languages affect us?

Languages in Game of Thrones banner - Map of the continents

There are many invented languages spoken on Game of Thrones. Until now some of the languages have often been spoken on the series, while some never have been. These languages play out over the three continents presented in the series – Westeros, Essos and Sothoryos.  Here is a list of all languages shown on the series so far.

Languages on Westeros

Westeros is the continent where the most action in the series takes place. It is roughly the same size as South America and is ruled by a single political entity known as the Seven Kingdoms.

The languages spoken on there are:

  • The Common Tongue of the Andals
  • The Old Tongue of the First Men
  • Mag Nuk, The Great Tongue
  • Skroth
  • Hodor

Languages on Essos

Essos is located on the east of Westeros and extends into the far east of the Known World. The Free Cities, the Dothraki Sea and the cities of Slaver’s Bay are located on Essos. Just as in Westeros there is a diverse array of languages spoken in Essos like:

  • Valyrian languages. The High Valyrian and the Low Valyrian.
  • Dothraki
  • Asshi’i
  • Lhazar
  • Quarth

Languages on Sothoryos

There is also a third continent called Sothoryos, but not much is known about its languages. Maybe the story will reveal some of them in the future!

As can be seen, there are a plethora of invented languages spoken in the series. However, there are two that eclipse the rest in terms of fame. These are Dothraki and High Valyrian. Both languages were created by David J. Peterson, who cofounded the Language Creation Society, a society for language creation for film and television. The creators of the show contacted him to create these languages, since Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin had not fully developed the languages in his books.

High Valyrian language

Valar morghulis — “All men must die.” (When used as a greeting, it is answered with the phrase Valar dohaeris — “All men must serve.”)

High Valyrian was once the dominant language on Essos, but ceased to be spoken after the destruction of the Valyrian realm 400 years prior to the events of the show ago. Only one of the mighty families of dragonlords survives in present-day Essos: House Targaryen.

It is easy to see the parallels between Latin and High Valyrian: both are dead languages of a fallen empire and are used by scholars, educated noblemen and for clerical purposes throughout a medieval world. Therefore, it hardly comes as a surprise that author George R. R. Martin stated that the old Valyrian Freehold is his fantasy world’s equivalent of the Roman Republic.

Dothraki language

Dothraki is the language of the nomadic horse warriors who populate the Dothraki Sea: a vast grass plain in the center of the continent of Essos, which lies to the east of Westeros, across the Narrow Sea.

And now we just have to wait until 2019 for the eighth season to come out to see if there are any new languages!  Winter is coming!!


Sources:

  • BU Today (2017), The languages of Game of Thrones. Available at: http://bit.ly/2w60Ejm (Accessed 31 August 2017)
  • Babbel Magazine (2017), Game Of Tongues- The invented languages in Game of Thrones. Available at: http://bit.ly/2wFgFAl (Accessed 31 August 2017)
  • Dothraki wiki (2017). Available  at: http://bit.ly/2gMRarl (Accessed September 2017)
  • Welcome to learn Dothraki and Valyrian (2017). Available at: http://bit.ly/2w60Kre (Accessed 1 September 2017)
  • Wikipedia. Klingon (2017). Available at: http://bit.ly/2xOBAPY (Accessed 1 September 2017)
  • Wikipedia (2017). Languages constructed by J. R. R. Tolkien. Available at: http://bit.ly/2gMdZeM (Accessed 1 September 2017)

Written by Marina Parisaki, Study visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). Graduated from the European Master in Translation (EMT) in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. Marina holds a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration in the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki and she is currently working in the education field.

Proofread by Flora Zempleni – Study visitor in the communication team of the  Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). Flora has a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and French, with a minor in History and a Bachelor  in Journalism, both from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is currently enrolled in the trilingual Master in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Context at the University of Luxembourg.

Prepared by Pedro Ramos – Translator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg).

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