Cambridge language conference marks Game of Thrones lingo

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Sky Atlantic

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Dothraki is the language of a nomadic warrior race in Game of Thrones

The brains behind some of science fiction’s most popular invented languages are gathering for a conference to showcase their skills.

The San Diego-based Language Creation Society has brought together “conlangers” – or people who “construct” languages – in Cambridge.

Among the languges represented is Dothraki, as used in Game of Thrones.

UK organiser Dr Bettina Beinhoff said the convention would enhance the network of language creators worldwide.

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PA Archive

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Klingon is a constructed language created for Star Trek and has its own institute

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CBS

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A language was created for the Klingons in the Star Trek films, although it was never heard in the original TV series

The society – which has 185 members in 27 countries – was created in 2007 to “promote the art, craft and science of language creation”.

It came to recent prominence after the producers of Game of Thrones got in touch to find a language creator to develop Dothraki, from the few words and phrases in the original books by George RR Martin.

Linguist David J Peterson, a member of the society, was then chosen to devise an entire language for the series.

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Langauge Creation Society

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An excerpt of Dothraki, one of the languages devised by David Peterson for Game of Thrones

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PA Archive

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Ludvic Zamenhof (right) invented the language of Esperanto

Dr Beinhoff, of the Anglia Ruskin centre for Intercultural and Multilingual Studies, said most conlangers derived inspiration from Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien, who developed languages for much of his work.

“For many language creators, Tolkien was the starting point, many want to recreate his sense of aesthetics,” she said.

“I hope the conference will inspire conlangers to learn from each other, as well as get ideas and solutions to any dilemmas they face.”

Other constructed languages, such as Klingon, from Star Trek, have developed their own cultural appeal.

Esperanto, invented in the late 19th Century as a “universal second language to foster peace and international understanding”, is spoken by about two million speakers worldwide, according to language database Ethnologue.

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University of Zurich

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Dr Oliver Mayeux’s love of languages led him “down a rabbit hole” to study linguistics

Society president Joseph Windsor, said: “When you hear Klingons speaking Klingon, or the Dothraki speaking Dothraki, it adds a sense of believability to a fictional world.

“I’ve heard from different conlangers who engage with the craft as catharsis after a stressful day, or who use their languages to be able to keep a completely private journal.

“You can’t Google Translate a conlang that no-one else knows.”

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Language Creation Society

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Members of the society at the 2017 convention in Calgary, Canada

Dr Oliver Mayeux, who has a PhD in linguistics from Cambridge University, said building a language from scratch is an “incredibly personal thing”.

“It’s like poetry or painting – people who do it have a natural expressiveness and admiration for language,” he said.

“We don’t do it for fame or notoriety, we’re a rather eccentric tribe of language nerds, coming together to discuss their creations.”

The conference takes place at Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge campus from 22 to 23 June.