I haven’t watched any of the HBO series Game of Thrones (though jamessal tells me it’s a must-see), but I found this Boston Globe piece by Britt Peterson, about the guy who invents its languages, quite interesting:
In the past, the people writing [languages for Hollywood] have been mostly academic linguists. But David Peterson, the inventor of Dothraki and Valyrian, is something of a new breed. The creator of 12 languages before he wrote Dothraki in 2010, Peterson is not just the first major language creator in Hollywood to identify primarily as a “conlanger,” or maker of constructed languages. He’s also probably the only professional language creator ever. [...]
Peterson [...] began inventing languages when he was an undergrad at Berkeley before going on to a master’s in linguistics at UC San Diego. In 2007, he helped form the Language Creation Society, a conlangers group. When the producers of “Game of Thrones” needed someone to write a language for the warlike, horse-loving Dothraki tribe in season one, Arika Okrent, a linguist and author of the book “In the Land of Invented Languages,” suggested they ask the LCS. Peterson rose to the occasion, and his Dothraki, with Russian, Turkish, Estonian, and other influences and a lot of words about horses, was the result. “It’s a native conlang conlang,” Okrent said.
Peterson argues that there are crucial differences in having a conlanger write your language, as opposed to an academic linguist. Conlangers are more aware of the history of other created languages, he says, a study that improves their artistry and tends to create languages that are less evocative of natural languages: “If you’re hiring a conlanger specifically as opposed to a linguist, what you’ll see is sources that can’t be as easily defined.”
If I ever get around to watching it, I’ll definitely keep my ears alert for those hints of Estonian!