Hello, Reddit! This is David (/u/dedalvs) typing, and I'm here with Marc (/u/okrandm), Paul (/u/KaryuPawl), and Christine (/u/linganthprof) who are executive producers of the forthcoming documentary Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues by Britton Watkins (/u/salondebu) and Josh Feldman (/u/sennition). Conlanging is set to be the first feature length documentary on language creation and language creators, whether they do it for big budget films, or for the sheer joy of it. We've got a crowd funding project running on Indiegogo, and it ends tomorrow! In the meantime, we're here to answer any questions you have about language creation, our documentary, or any of the projects we've worked on (various iterations of Star Trek, Avatar, Man of Steel, Game of Thrones, Defiance, The 100, Dominion, Penny Dreadful, Star-Crossed, Thor: The Dark World, Warcraft, The Shannara Chronicles, Emerald City, and Senn). We'll be back at 11 a.m. PDT / 2 p.m. EDT to answer questions. Fire away!

Proof: Here's some proof from earlier in the week:

  1. http://dedalvs.com/dl/mo_proof.jpg
  2. http://dedalvs.com/dl/pf_proof.jpg
  3. http://dedalvs.com/dl/cs_proof.jpg
  4. http://dedalvs.com/dl/bw_proof.jpg
  5. http://dedalvs.com/dl/jf_proof.jpg
  6. https://twitter.com/Dedalvs/status/764145818626564096 (You don't want to see a photo of me. I've been up since 11:30 a.m. Thursday.)

UPDATE 1:00 p.m. PDT: I've (i.e. /u/dedalvs) unexpectedly found myself having to babysit, so I'm going to jump off for a few hours. Unfortunately, as I was the one who submitted the post, I won't be able to update when others leave. I'll at least update when I come back, though! Should be an hour or so.

UPDATE 1:33 p.m. PDT: Paul (/u/KaryuPawl) has to get going but thanks everyone for the questions!

UPDATE 2:08 p.m. PDT: Britton (/u/salondebu) has left, but I'm back to answer questions!

UPDATE 2:55 p.m. PDT: WE ARE FULLY FUNDED! ~:D THANK YOU REDDIT!!! https://twitter.com/Dedalvs/status/764218559593521152

LAST UPDATE 3:18 p.m. PDT: Okay, that's a wrap! Thank you so much for all the questions from all of us, and a big thank you for the boost that pushed us past our funding goal! Hajas!

Comments: 1864 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

-rba-1115 karma

How much does it annoy you that in Game of Thrones, the graffiti in Meereen is written in English even though all the inhabitants of the city speak Valyrian?

Dedalvs2099 karma

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being "not at all", and 10 being "it's the worst thing in the world", 90.

Slyndrr274 karma

How about Missandei's flawed translation of the taunts from the Champion of Meereen?

Dedalvs771 karma

That was intentional. She couldn't translate the jokes directly. Then it wouldn't be an inside joke, so much as a campy homage.

Bur_Sangjun65 karma

This was one of the things I liked about defiance, even if (by your own comments) a lot of the background signage is giberish made to look like the votan languages, at least they tried!

Dedalvs102 karma

Yeah, but all the in-focus signage was 100% accurate. Just the stuff that was way off in the background was gibberish.

ConlangingFilm90 karma

Well, to be fair the slang is written in 'common tongue' which does exist in-verse and is spoken by some in Meereen. I do think it would be cooler in Valyrian though

Dedalvs152 karma

Yeah, but the Meereenese don't really speak the Common Tongue. They can write it, though, apparently! (And read it, I guess.)

DoTheDinosaur799 karma

What languages do you guys ready know individually? How did these affect the creation of the languages that you guys are known for? Do they share the same sentence structure, word formation, etc

salondebu945 karma

Japanese, Spanish, Thai, Mandarin, and bits of French, Cherokee, and many others, even Na’vi. For my language Siinyamda in Senn (sennition.com), I took bits and pieces from all the languages I know, but the biggest grammar hints came from Japanese because it was easy for me and that was the appropriate amt. of investment of time for the project. All of those languages are very different. So where I used DIFFERENT aspects, I went for the outlying elements because they were more interesting for me. That kept the project intellectually stimulating for me.

JebsBush2016546 karma

Do you speak English, as well?

Thassodar721 karma

It depends. Does he live in What?

I hear they may speak English there.

Awotwe_Knows_Best237 karma

What? ain't no country I ever heard of. is the grass green and the girls pretty in What?

Dedalvs85 karma

Man, now I want In-N-Out...

Dedalvs372 karma

Depends what you mean by "know". I'm pretty good with Spanish, which is my mother's family's language, and I've taken one year of high school German, one year of college Arabic, one semester of college French, one semester of college Russian, one semester of college ASL, one semester of college Middle Egyptian, and I've studied over a dozen languages on my own (among them Hindi, Hawaiian, Modern Greek, Attic Greek, Akkadian, Finnish, Japanese, Turkish, Swahili, Latin). It'd be hard for any language I created to share something in common with all of those. Equally, it'd be hard for any language I created to share nothing in common with any of them. Unless the language is a posteriori), though, I don't "base" a new language on any other language. That'd be plagiarism!

Adarain154 karma

A friend of mine has claimed that the High Valyrian noun cases are suspiciously similar to those of Serbian. Is this mere coincidence?

Dedalvs274 karma

Looking at it now for the first time, the names are the same (except that High Valyrian has one additional case), but that doesn't mean much. Tamil has all the cases Serbian does (plus an ablative), but that doesn't mean if you learn how the locative is used in Tamil you'll know how the locative is used in Serbian, and vice-versa.

dsquard50 karma

Equally, it'd be hard for any language I created to share nothing in common with any of them.

Not at all! They all have nouns, don't they?

On a serious note, I know that a universal grammar has yet to be found, but don't all languages share some basic qualities, like word types?

Dedalvs141 karma

There's no universal grammar.

All spoken languages have a lot in common (they all have sound systems, they all have at least two parts of speech, etc.), but that shouldn't be a surprise, since it's not as if as languages evolve we're trying our best to make them as different as possible. Verbs don't agree with the color of the direct object's shoes not because it's impossible for a language to work that way, but because it's so useless, that why would it ever come to exist?

gloubenterder770 karma

I apologize for being so greedy, by I have questions for each of you:

Marc Okrand (/u/okrandm): Hov leng Soch ghe'naQmeyvaD mu'tlheghmey Daqonta' 'ach ghe'naQ wa'maH cha'DIch ghe'naQ wa'maH wejDIch je bertlhammey ghItlhmeyDaq ponglIj tu'lu'be'law' 'ej *IMDb* talIjDaq muchmeyvam tu'lu'be'. meq DaSov'a'? DuyIv'a'?

("You have composed sentences for seven of the Star Journey operas but it seems your name does not appear in the after-texts for the twelfth and thirteenth opera and they do not appear on your IMDb page. Do you know the reason? Does it bother you?")

Paul Frommer (/u/KaryuPawl): Dyeymzkemerenìl kan ngalyop tsìngrelit aruikx teri ayuniltìrantokx. Srake ngal omum vurìl?

("Dyeymz Kemeren intends to make four moving pictures about dreamwalkers. Do you know the story?")

David J. Peterson (/u/dedalvs): Vilajerosh Adori anakhoe qisi ma ase vosanat she timvir. Affin astosor anakho, hash yer avatteri movelat lekh Dothraki ma lekh Valiri?

("Game of Thrones will end soon and the word are few in the books. When the story ends, will you continue to develop Dothraki and Valyrian?")

Christine Schreyer (/u/linganthprof): Mxyzptlk! ... or something! I'd love to write a question for you in Kryptonian, but despite several earnest searches I'm afraid I've been unable to find any learning resources. Are there any you can recommend, or any that will be coming out soon?

Also, for Britton Watkins (/u/salondebu) in case you're reading this:

Grẽ snu ėlìbbyén siinyamda yũ' namdó iilsnoì kad bwøng. Tanya ttyiil ėlìbbyė?

("Siinyamda will survive after the movie, you said two years ago. Does it still live?")

I apologize for butchering several of your languages; the only one I'm fluent in is Klingon. tagha' reDDIt Dapawta'mo' jIQuch, Hol qonwI''a'!

Dedalvs290 karma

Hash anha zin leshitak, hash anha zin vovvahak lekhis anni. Me nem nesa.

Edit: Dang, you guys did pretty darn good with this! The verb ovvahat means to "enhance" or "improve" or "build upon".

Mazuitan428 karma

Have any of your works been influenced by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien?

Dedalvs557 karma

One of the other producers on the film, David Salo, would certainly answer yes. :) (He was the translator on the Lord of the Rings films and created the Orcish language for the Hobbit films.)

CallUponTheAuthor329 karma

Dang. I only just got online to find this amazing AMA on the frontpage. I'm probably late to the party, but I'm going to try and ask something on the off-chance one of you is still answering. This is probably a more unorthodox question, but I'd hate to pass up on the opportunity to have it answered by such giants in the field.

I once graduated as a linguistics major, but I somehow ended up as a game developer. In my spare time, I've been developing a game named Speak, a game about conlanging and language evolution. The main goal is to make the creation of language exciting and accessible to laymen and experts alike. That's a tall order and under normal circumstances I wouldn't dream about communicating about this project in public at this very, very early stage, but the opportunity to get any input at all from the likes of is really invaluable.

I'm afraid the only thing I can show on such very short notice is this little video I made a while ago, which is already outdated again by now. As you can tell, current game functionality is limited to phonological change (and a schematic form of that), because it is easy to model and relatively simple to explain to the player as a gameplay/puzzle challenge. The game should be able to work with any language data, real, historical or fictional. (In fact, a couple of your languages briefly pop up in the video as a selectable option.)

Without further ado, here's a couple of things that would do me tremendous honor if you could shine your light on them:

  • How much of a crazy idea is this? Do any of you play games? In a more finished form, do you think this could be fun to toy around in?

  • Do you think it would be a valid approach to take phonological evolution as a first development stage? (E.g. grammar doesn't really exist yet, just so as to keep development managable.)

  • Do you have any other pointers for me?


Dedalvs121 karma

HA! Wow! Someone upvote this, please! That's the coolest thing I've ever seen! I always thought it made more sense to do a puzzle/Tetris type game with language, but this is pretty tight (reminds me of Spore). Only thing I'd be wary of is it kind of looks like that ride at Ned Flanders' Praiseland (Bart et al. strap in to what looks like an awesome roller coaster only to stop at a talking statue of David who brandishes a sword, and then reveals that they're just going to sit here while he reads them every single one of his psalms). In other words, the character you have there is so sparkly-glowy badass that players may disappointed that he doesn't fight, or something, but instead wanders around slowly gathering things.

MagisterTJL291 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

As a Latin teacher, one of my interests is the historical development of grammar in languages, as well as etymology. With conlangs, that background doesn't really exist, since they don't naturally evolve from a previous language. So, my question is, in the absence of a language that your conlangs evolve from, do you find yourselves being influenced in either phonology or grammar by any particular (non-constructed) languages, and if so, do you do anything to fight against that tendency?

What non-constructed languages has each of you studied?

Dedalvs188 karma

When you're creating the language, you also do your own evolution, which means internal etymologies, sound changes, grammatical changes, etc.

MagisterTJL41 karma

How complicated is that? I can't imagine all the work that just goes into creating a vocabulary and grammar--creating the historical developments must be an additional Herculean task.

Dedalvs60 karma

Helps simplify things later on, though. It's never a question of, for example, "What case should this preposition assign?" If you know where the preposition came from, the case is obvious. Fewer choices like that need to be made.

MattKatt257 karma

What's your favourite real language?

Dedalvs414 karma


manachar136 karma

/u/pulelehua recently compiled this list of learning resources for Hawaiian. Do you have anything to add?

Also did you know The Hobbit has been translated to Hawaiian? Have you had a chance to read it? More details here..

I loko o kekahi lua ma ka honua kahi i noho ai kekahi hopita. ʻAʻole ia he lua i hoʻopailua a lepo a pulu a piha i nā pāpākole o nā koʻe a me ke ea ʻiʻī, a ʻaʻole hoʻi he lua maloʻo i piha i ke one a nele i ka noho a me ka ʻai: he lua hopita ia, a no laila, he ʻoluʻolu nō.

One day I hope to learn Hawaiian to be able to read this after snorkeling at my favorite reef here on Maui.

Dedalvs98 karma

I haven't read The Hobbit in English. Be pretty funny if my first read-through was in Hawaiian!

Great list! All my resources are print, so nothing to add.

hol-lia138 karma

What movie/TV show do you think it should have a conlangs but it doesn't ?

And thank you all for your great work!!

Dedalvs512 karma

Absolutely, 100%, definitely I'd say Avatar: The Last Airbender and then Legend of Korra. Were a language creator working with the creators from the get go, that had the opportunity to be the greatest work ever done by a language creator. The languages could have been evolved from a single proto-language, split into four, evolved into various daughter languages for the first series, and then evolved further for Korra. It could have been dynamite. As it is, though, two of the greatest shows I've ever seen.

salondebu169 karma

In the 2009 Star Trek reboot and in the most recent ST Beyond, I really hate that the Vulcans (when speaking amongst themselves) didn't speak their own language. I was disappointed at the missed opportunity. The "subtitle burden" would have been minimal for the audience.

Dedalvs86 karma

I thought the same thing. It made no sense that when young Spock is undergoing these tests on his own planet he's speaking English! ARGH!

linganthprof55 karma

I agree with Josh. Any show that has aliens who speak perfect English!

AWildBugHasAppeared31 karma

Speaking about this, how would one go about constructing an accent? Surely, not all Klingon's speak perfect Queen's English.

Dedalvs77 karma

When you create a language, you are creating an accent. You're creating one accent, specifically. To create more, you do the same thing you do with our languages: You tweak the phonology. In Game of Thrones, the Meereenese speak the same exact language the Astapori do, but with a different accent.

AWildBugHasAppeared24 karma

Thanks, but I was wondering more about how to create the accent that speakers of one language have when speaking another language. For example, how do you come up with the way a native Dothraki speaker sounds when talking Valyrian?

Dedalvs83 karma

I actually did do this with Dothraki. Created MP3s too of me speaking English with a light, middling, and heavy Dothraki accent. Some day I'll put those online somewhere.

two_off84 karma

Do you work together, or are you all competition to each other?

Do you all still work full-time on the languages you've created?

Dedalvs58 karma

We worked together on the Conlanging documentary! ~:D

In general, it would be nice if there was a property with a huge world to have multiple language creators working on the project together. Unfortunately most of the time you have a big world with everyone speaking English except for one group of non-main characters who end up also speaking English most of the time anyway.

flirt7740 karma

Hey guys, thanks for the AMA! When creating a new language for film or TV, how much control do you have over how lines are delivered (pronunciation wise?)

Do you feel constrained by the range of sounds humans can make?

Dedalvs23 karma

Ultimately it's all on the actors. Some are better at mimicking the MP3s I give them; some aren't. Most of it's pretty good.

Sebastian_R39 karma

How do you respond to people who tell you that conlanging is a waste of time, and that you could be spending your time helping endangered languages instead? I see this said a lot.

el_bomboro38 karma

On Earth, there are 6,500 spoken languages, and Earth is only just one planet.

The Klingon Empire has at least 17 known planets.

How come everyone speaks one Klingon language with Qo'nos dialect exclusively?

Or to put the question in another way, why is it never considered that, perhaps, an alien race would be culturally fragmented, like the human race, and possess several languages and dialects?

Of the most spoken languages on Earth, like English or Spanish, they have different variations (like accents or dialects), and sometimes Spanish speakers from Argentina have difficulties communicating with Spanish speakers from the United States or Spain...

I understand that, for budget reasons it may be impractical to create a profound backstory for all the languages and dialects that could exist, but, the fact that it's just never even explained or considered, as if this problem was impossible to exist, baffles me. In Star Trek The Next Generation, Jean-Luc Picard gets annoyed at Data for suggesting, in English, that French is a dead language, but Worf (a Klingon who is also on the scene) never even comments that such a problem could exist in the Klingon Empire. Naturally, everybody speaks Klingon in the Qo'nos dialect! I mean, really?!

Dedalvs34 karma

You're asking the wrong people. Ask the producers and the writers! If you ask me, there are thousands of language creators all over the world, which means it's possible to create at least a couple dozen languages for a project. Why not? Plenty of people to hire!

xLoloz30 karma

What, to you, makes a conlang sound "fake"? I think there are certain conlang phonetics that rub me the wrong way.

Dedalvs20 karma

Honestly, I think a lot depends on delivery. But controlling for that, a consistent phonology and phonotactic system are a prerequisite. That ensures that you're hearing the same sounds in the same positions and the same intonation from clause to clause.

Chocolatl28 karma

David - what initial consonant sound could make "crafts" worse than it already is?

Dedalvs58 karma

[r̼̊] (voiceless linguolabial trill)

reizoukin26 karma

Do you pre-create grammar and vocabulary, or do you create those things as needed by the story/show/etc.? Would you determine how a language handles something like relative clauses if the world never requires a sentence with relative clauses?

Dedalvs80 karma

If you haven't created the grammar, you haven't created a language. Also, things like relative clauses are so unbelievably common that you can't get through a translation without them. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a "small" request from the writers ("Just one quick sentence!") and it turns out to be something like, "If you would've left him alone we wouldn't have gotten ourselves into this mess!" and I just want to vomit.

cantpissoffmods21 karma

As the languages created by you guys get more attention and people interested in it, do you think its possible and/or necessary to create idioms or slang?

Thank you for the AuA.

Dedalvs28 karma

As people use the languages, they develop their own slang, which is really cool. (Those learning Trigedasleng have gone the furthest with this. They may have created more words than I have at this point.)

Sickmonkey315 karma

Oh wow. This is for everyone.

What are your favorite parts about the process of "designing" an entire language?

Dedalvs32 karma

Writing systems. Love 'em! For shows, I've only gotten to do it on Defiance and Star-Crossed, but I'm working on a new project where I'm designing new writing systems right now, so I'm back at it!

sylvar14 karma

M'athnuqtxìtan!? qtx? What is that, Aymara?

Dedalvs18 karma

Hey, someone asked! It's a combination of the words for "hello" in our four languages:

  1. M'ath-chomaroon (Dothraki)
  2. nuq-neH (Klingon)
  3. Kaltxì (Na'vi)
  4. Sitan (Kryptonian)

hedgehogsinhats14 karma

Was M. A. R. Barker any influence on your choice to take up conlanging?

Dedalvs27 karma

Not for me, but in general, I think his contributions to conlanging are completely invisible to the general public. By this point, everyone has heard of Tolkien, and more than half of those know he created languages, but if you grabbed 10 people on Earth at random, how many will have heard of M.A.R. Barker? Heck, grab 10 paper-and-pen RPG players, and how many have heard of him? It's a shame, because his work is extensive—and in many cases, far better fleshed out than Tolkien's.

Fortunately, he's one of the language creators we feature in the Conlanging documentary. I wanted to make sure his conlang work would find a new audience!

RayGungHo13 karma

How many of you are also musicians? I'm wondering how music informs your process.

Is there a phrase in one of your languages that you are particularly fond of saying or expressing? p/ty

Dedalvs16 karma

I am, but not a good one. (Sad, as I've been playing guitar for 22 years now. How am I not Eddie Van Halen yet?!) Incidentally, one area of conlanging that's little explored is musical languages. There have been a few, but compared to the number of non-musical conlangs, the handful that exist haven't even scratched the surface of what's possible. I did a video on what one might consider in producing a musical conlang here.

TheDR_UK9 karma

Out of all the languages you have have created collectively, which one do you think would be the hardest to learn fluently and why?

Dedalvs15 karma

I suppose Verbis Diablo from Penny Dreadful, technically, since it's impossible to learn unless you bear the Mark of the Beast. For real ones, though, Indojisnen from Defiance. It's polysynthetic and just a pain in the butt. I couldn't imagine learning it.

TenNinetythree7 karma

How does it feel to give up the rights for the creation to film studios who probably care less about artistic integrity and instead see it as means to an end?

Dedalvs9 karma

There aren't really "rights" to be had with a language in the first place. It's a language: No one owns it. It's not possible to own a language. The very idea doesn't make sense.

desreversi3 karma

Hey guys I had a question relating to conlang methodology, how do you go about creating vocabulary? This has always been my biggest turn off from creating a language of my own. Thanks!

Dedalvs4 karma

I did a video on this question here. Hope it helps!