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Dothraki creator to teach 'Game of Thrones' linguistics class at UC Berkeley

game of thrones linguistics class uc berkeley s6e3 7
Macall B.Polay/HBO
The Game of Thrones fun returns with season 7 of the HBO fantasy-drama series this summer, but for those who want to double down, UC Berkeley will be offering an intriguing, new course. Inspired by the made-up languages of Game of Thrones, Dothraki and High Valyrian, the class will center on the show’s languages and how to create new ones, Berkeley News reports.

UC Berkeley has enlisted quite the expert to teach the course: David J. Peterson, the creator of both Dothraki and Valyrian. His course, “The Linguistics of Game of Thrones and the Art of Language Invention,” will run four days a week during the university’s May 22-June 30 summer session. Peterson won’t teach students the Game of Thrones languages themselves — for that, he has an official guide to Dothraki — but they will learn how to create a naturalistic one of their own.

“These are languages that attempt as nearly as possible to replicate the quirks and idiosyncrasies of natural languages, those that have evolved naturally on Earth,” he told Berkeley News.

Dothraki, for example, resembles a mix of Arabic and Spanish, Peterson says. He is well-versed in both, including a variety of other languages, including English, French, German, Russian, Esperanto, and American Sign Language. Students don’t need a background that extensive, but they should come equipped with the basics of linguistics.

The teaching gig brings Peterson back to his alma mater, the place where he originally discovered his love of linguistics.

“I’d been taking language courses, but linguistics was the thing that really opened my eyes,” he said. “I decided to create a language for my own use, and was immediately swept up by the process.”

This process has clearly served him well. In addition to developing Dothraki and Valyrian, he has worked on several other shows and movies, from Marvel’s Thor to The CW’s The 100. Peterson created four languages alone for the Syfy series Defiance.

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