The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building

David J. Peterson. Penguin, $17 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-14-312646-1
Peterson, the creator of the Dothraki language for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Irathient and Castithan for Syfy’s Defiance, reveals the steps he takes to invent new languages in this detailed guide. Equal parts fascinating, challenging, and geeky, the book focuses on four key elements every “conlanger”—someone who creates “constructed language”—must consider: sounds, words, language evolution, and written language. Popular phrases from a variety of constructed languages are included, as is a helpful glossary. Peterson (Living Language Dothraki) writes with witty flair, and in a lengthy introduction explains the rapid rise of the conlang phenomenon over the last few decades, with references to Princess Leia, J.R.R. Tolkien, William Shatner, and pig Latin. A shorter postscript explores conlanging’s future. Readers with only a casual interest in Peterson’s unique specialty can satisfy their curiosity just with these two sections. Others who stick with him throughout the entire book will finish it either highly motivated to try conlanging themselves or completely turned off by the idea. Either way, they’ll learn more about linguistics than they ever learned in school. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/2015
Release date: 09/29/2015
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