I had a friend in college who spoke Klingon. He had a segment on his weekly talk radio show (a program that surely annoyed the vinyl-toting indie rockers who also worked at the college radio station) in which he shared the Klingon word of the week. Like most of the languages I studied at various periods of my life, I have forgotten all of the Klingon that I absorbed over a semester. I can only assume that Klingon is a dead language (that is until the reboot of the Star Trek franchise includes some of those horseshoe crab-faced aliens), but linguistic geeks are in luck, as there’s a new fake language that’s all the rage: Dothraki, the tongue spoken by one of the tribes on Game of Thrones.
The Dothraki tribe speak a language full of actual grammatical rules rather than a bunch of gibberish, and the team behind the HBO show went to David Peterson, a "conlanger" who incorporated linguistic qualities from Swahili, Estonian, Turkish, and Russian. The invention of Dothraki is representative of a new trend in film and television that follows J. R. R. Tolkein’s efforts to create new languages for The Lord of the Rings.
In Game of Thrones, Dothraki-speaking characters greet each other by saying “M’athchomaroon!” (hello) give each other commands like “Azzohi haz khogare” (put down that cask) and occasionally utter sentiments like “Vezh fin saja rhaesheseres vo zigereo adoroon shiqethi!” (the stallion that mounts the world has no need for iron chairs!) that don’t seem to make sense in any language. And this being an HBO show, there’s also a fair bit of “athhilezar” (sex).
“The days of aliens spouting gibberish with no grammatical structure are over,” said Paul R. Frommer, professor emeritus of clinical management communication at the University of Southern California who created Na’vi, the language spoken by the giant blue inhabitants of Pandora in Avatar. Disney recently hired Mr. Frommer to develop a Martian language called Barsoomian for John Carter, a science-fiction movie to arrive in March.
Nerd alert! Apparently there are real-life people speaking Dothraki at Game of Thrones watching parties. It looks like the Klingons have been replaced by a sexier race of people!
Game of Thrones enthusiasts can head over to the New York Times‘ Arts Beat blog to pick up some Dothraki phrases to use in modern-day New York City. If you’re feeling brave tonight, you can ask your cabbie, "Hash yer laz addothrae anna Vroklinoon?" There’s no guarantee, however, that he’ll actually drive you to Brooklyn.