Words are everywhere in cinema. From those carefully chosen by screenwriters to those that emerge from teen culture (see: Valley Speak) to spelling bees and crossword puzzles to the world’s vanishing languages. But try consulting a dictionary when you meet a Horse Lord on the plains of Westeros (see: you may be out of luck).
In creating a science fiction or fantasy world, storytellers face the unique challenge of devising its native tongue. Once consisting of gibberish, film and television’s ultra-foreign languages have become robust, complex inventions, frequently crafted by bona fide linguists to enhance the story world (see: Klingon, Na’vi, Sindarin, Dothraki). If you think writing dialogue is tough, try inventing an entire language for those lines.
We delve into the world of language creation with David J. Peterson, linguist and language builder, whose dictionaries include Dothraki and High Valyrian (Game of Thrones), Castithan (Defiance) and Shiväisith (Thor: The Dark World) and whose recent book (in English, thankfully) is The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building.
Library Foundation Member reception to follow.
Presented as part of the Library Foundation’s project, Hollywood is a Verb: Los Angeles Tackles the Oxford English Dictionary.
This program is generously funded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.