Happy new year everybody!
For this episode, we will talk about language invention! We are delighted to welcome two of the world’s most renowned conlangers, Jessie Sams and David Peterson.
Jessie Sams is a Professor of Linguistics at Stephen F. Austin State University at the Department of Languages, Cultures and Communication. She generally teaches linguistic courses such as English grammar and the history of English, but she also established a course on language invention at the University where students get to create their own languages throughout the semester. Her research primarily focuses on syntax and semantics, constructed languages, and English etymology. And funnily enough, she actually started studying Physics, until she was introduced to Linguistics, and she never looked back!
Our other guest is David J. Peterson. David is one of the most famous Conlangers in the world today. With a background in English and Linguistics, he has created the languages in Game of Thrones such as Dothraki and High Valyrian, Syfy’s Defiance, the CW’s The 100, Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Thor, and Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon.He also co-founded the Language Creation Society and served as the president from 2011 until 2014. David is also a published author of the books Living Language Dothraki, the best-selling guide to the Dothraki language from Game of Thrones. In the fall of 2015 David published his nonfiction work The Art of Language Invention.
David and Jessie work together on several projects now, for example Motherland: Fort Salem and Netflix’s The Witcher. They also teased some projects they currently have lined up that they can’t quite talk about yet – so there’s definitely more to come!
The both of them also started a youtube channel, LangTimeStudio, where they stream and take you through the steps of creating a new language.
Listen to the episode here!
Read the transcript here!
[Eva-Maria] Valar Morghulis everybody. Some of you might recognize this phrase from Game of Thrones. That is a language called Valyrian, High Valyrian to be specific. And it’s a so called conlang, a constructed language just like Klingon from Star Trek or Elvish from Lord of the Rings. In this episode, we will be talking to two of the biggest Conlangers in the world that have worked in this field for a long time. We will talk about the inspiration for the languages they invent, the struggles they might face and the experiences with big franchises such as Game of Thrones, so please keep on listening to learn more.
Click to continue reading…
[Eva-Maria] First of all, happy New Year, everybody. We at Much Language Such Talk hope you had a great start to the new year and we are very excited to be back. It’s me yet again, Eva-Maria. Thank you so much for tuning in especially for today’s episode. I’m beyond excited because I don’t know about you, but I was obsessed with Game of Thrones and although I have not learned Dothraki, I did enjoy the language aspect of the show. Granted, I might be a bit biased. But we are delighted to welcome two of the world’s most renowned Conlangers Jessie Sams and David J. Peterson to today’s episode. Jessie Sams is a Professor of Linguistics at Stephen F. Austin State University at the Department of Languages, Cultures and Communication. She generally teaches linguistic courses such as English Grammar and the History of English, but she also established a course on language invention at the University where students get to create their own languages throughout the semester. And as someone who studied linguistics, I wish I had had the opportunity to do such a course because how cool is that? Her research primarily focuses on syntax and semantics, constructed languages and English etymology, and funnily enough, she actually started studying physics until she was introduced to linguistics and she’s never looked back since. Our other guest is David J. Peterson. David is one of the most famous conlangers in the world today. With a background in English and Linguistics, he has created the languages in Game of Thrones such as Dothraki and High Valyrian as I’ve mentioned before, but also on Syfy’s Defiance, The CW’s the 100, Netflix’ Shadow and Bone, Marvel’s Dr. Strange and Thor, and the latest adaption of Dune that came out just a few months ago. He also co-founded the Language Creation Society and served as the president from 2011 to 2014. David is also a published author of the books Living Language Dothraki, the bestselling guide to the Dothraki language of Game of Thrones. And in the fall of 2015, David published his nonfiction work, The Art of Language Invention, which I highly recommend to anyone who’s interested in this. Not only is it informative, but it’s highly entertaining. And in 2020, he published Create Your Own Secret Language, a guide to invent your own code, ciphers, and hidden messages. David and Jessie work together on several projects now, for example, Motherland: Fort Salem, and Netflix’s The Witcher. The both of them also started a YouTube channel, LangTime Studio, where they stream and take you through the steps of creating a new language. And before we start, this episode contains spoilers for Game of Thrones, we will talk about the last season so if you haven’t watched it, or if you’re emotionally triggered by it like I am, be careful towards the end of the episode. So to quote David, as the Dothraki would say, Dothralates. Let’s ride.
[Eva-Maria] Hello, Jesse. And David, Happy New Year, first of all, and thank you so much for being here. Hello!
[Jessie] Hey, and Happy New Year to you too!
[David] Thank you, Eva.
[Eva-Maria] We really appreciate that you took the time to join us. And I already told you that I am beyond excited to talk to you to have you on the podcast. So thank you so much. But let’s not lose any of your precious time. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
[Jessie] Sounds good.
[Eva-Maria] Sounds good. Perfect. So the first question we usually ask is: how did your interest in languages start? And how did that then transition into constructing languages? Like were you fans of like Lord of the Rings? Or were you, you know, fascinated about Tolkien’s work? Or did you like Star Trek and Klingon? Jessie, do you want to maybe start?
[Jessie] Oh sure, I actually… I really became more interested in languages at the college level. I took German in high school. And then when I went to college, I ended up taking Latin and then I got back into German, and studied a year in Germany. So
[Eva-Maria] Well, where did you study exactly?
[Jessie] Oh, University of Trier.
[Eva-Maria] Oh, wow. That’s a beautiful area, too.
[Jessie] Yes, yes, it is. I loved it. And so it was really through studying those languages that I ended up needing to take an intro to linguistics class, and that was where I became interested in linguistics, ended up never quitting it. So all the way through PhD everything, because I loved it so much. And I honestly the first real constructed language I had done was while I was working on my dissertation, and I say real because when I was a kid, I thought I created a language but really all I did was create a code for English but you know, like I was 10.
[Eva-Maria] For a ten year old that’s not bad.
[Jessie] That’s something uhm and so when I was in grad school, though, I needed sort of a respite from writing my dissertation. And so I needed a creative outlet. And so I created a language. And it was so much fun that I never stopped that either.
[Eva-Maria] Nice, great, David. Well, how was it for you?
[David] I mean, roughly similar, actually. Except that I didn’t create any languages at all or anything when I was younger. I really had no interest in language whatsoever. Until I was 17, when I suddenly wanted to learn every language on the planet.
[Eva-Maria] oh, wow, how did that go?
[David] I mean, I’m still going, I’m still working at it. I very much enjoy learning. It’s so much easier and cheaper to learn a language at a university though. I mean, not, you know, cheaper in the macro sense. But you’re already there. Right? It doesn’t cost you extra to learn a language. Whereas once you’re outside, it costs you money and then cost you time, which you don’t have anyway. Really, just it’s a wonderful thing learning languages at the university level. There’s just nothing better that was… that was a lot of fun. But But yeah, before that, no, I think I think even the only minor interest I would have displayed in language before 17 years old was in sixth grade, we did a unit on Egypt. And we looked at hieroglyphs in a very non professional way. I would later study middle Egyptian hieroglyphs at the university level. And so I was fully able to appreciate what a poor introduction I had in sixth grade. One easy way to tell is when they refer to it as hieroglyphics, which isn’t a word. It’s either hieroglyphs or hieroglyphic, the act of writing it so if somebody is calling in hieroglyphics, you know, then that’s…
[Jessie] no good
[David] Yeah, you’re you’re in sorry, shape.
[Eva-Maria] They don’t know what they’re talking about. Yeah. I’ve never looked at that. That’s, that’s super interesting.
[David] Oh, it’s it’s worth your while very fascinating spelling system. Among the very interesting spelling systems, right? There’s there’s English, there’s, you know, Irish/Gaelic, there’s French, there’s Tibetan. And then there’s middle Egyptian. And I really think it’s one of the most interesting spelling’s I’ve ever come across. Very, very fun. And I mean, like, the actual way that things are spelled, there’s just so much redundancy built in. It’s like, “and here’s another letter in case you forgot how this is pronounced. And then another one, in case you forgot how that one is pronounced”. It’s just amazing. And so if you were to read it straight off, it’d be like, you know, “What? what is this? This is like, you know, Mar, R, E. E, like, why is it saying that?” Like, nah its just Maree [laughs]
[David] But anyway, what were we talking about?
[Jessie] You were supposed to get to how you started creating languages based on, you know,
[Eva-Maria] I mean, that kind of gives good gives a good introduction of how you got interested in that. Yeah. But how did that transition into creating languages yourself?
[David] Well, I took a linguistics course to fill a breath requirement because my mother wanted me to.
[Eva-Maria] Well, there you go.
[David] It didn’t sound very interesting to me, because I was interested in learning languages. And it sound like in linguistics, you did anything, but which is true. But nevertheless, I found it quite fascinating. And very easy. I really like especially that first class, I think it’s designed that way it basically if you find the introductory linguistics class hard, you are not meant for linguistics. [laughter] It’s, it’s supposed to be just just gum drop lane. And so I just ate that right up. I decided to start creating a language, just for fun. I heard of it from Esperanto. That was the first place I’d heard of creating a language. But I thought if I created a language for fun instead of international communication, I might enjoy it. I did. And yeah, so that was that was 22 years ago now.
[Eva-Maria] Oh, wow.
[David] Yeah. I’ve enjoyed it.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah. I mean, obviously, if you’re still doing it, and you’re still having fun doing it
[David] Oh yeah
[Eva-Maria] So that was a good choice doing it, I guess. Nice. But yeah, the amount of times and I mean, you’ve probably heard that a couple of times, like “oh, you studied linguistics, How many languages do you speak?” I was like, “No, that’s actually not what we’re doing.” Which is a shame. Yeah. But
[David] Yeah, should be both.
[Jessie] And I will say cuz in your question you had asked if either of us had gotten into it because of Tolkien or any of the larger known conlangs now and like pop culture, I think, but no, cuz yeah, I think my first introduction to a conlang was also Esperanto. And that was in like a middle school exercise that we did for school where it was like, here’s Esperanto, and you have to figure out how to translate a passage or something. Yeah, that was my introduction to conlangs. And I honestly didn’t even know about Tolkien and his languages until a lot later in life than you may expect [laughs]
[David] Yeah, me too.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, me too.
[David] I also had no interest really in fantasy at all. I thought it was silly. And so I was aware of Tolkien but I wouldn’t have read it. I did try to read The Hobbit once I got three quarters the way through it in fourth grade. And then I read nearly a full page of the First Lord of the Rings book twice.
[Eva-Maria] A full page?
[David] Yeah, almost.
[Eva-Maria] I mean, that’s more than me.
[Jessie] I like the Lord of the Rings trilogy better than the Hobbit. So I’ve actually read that.
[David] You’ve read the whole thing?
[Jessie] I read the whole thing, but I’ve never made it through the Hobbit successfully.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, I can relate to that. I would never call myself a fantasy fan. But then now when you ask me, like, “what shows do you watch?” or “what movies we watch?” It’s mostly science fiction. I was like, well, maybe, maybe I should update my [laughs] you know, what I what I talked about
[David] Now that they’re really on point with those – with that CGI, I mean, you can actually do the stuff, you know, they’re doing all right. And so I’m, I’m fine with anything even that, even that Wheel of Time, which has to be the least interesting book series I’ve ever heard of. I mean, it’s fine. You know, on the screen, they’re doing it. Things are happening. That’s fun.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, yeah, it must be must be part of that, for sure. Cool. So um, speaking of like, creating the languages, how, where do you even start? Because I remember that for Dothraki, I think, you you got the the only suggestion you got was that it was meant to sound harsh. And that’s a very subjective thing to demand in the first place. And I think like for The Witcher, and I also for Game of Thrones, there were already words and phrases that existed in the books right, if I’m not mistaken? So do you get input from the writers and the authors as to what the languages should sound like should look like? Or where do you even start, if you don’t have that kind of input?
[David] I don’t think we’ve ever had any specific input beyond the general stuff, like it should sound about like this. And I mean, that that includes the stuff that we’ve worked on together and the stuff that I’ve worked on on my own. And the the only explicit things that we get, that I’ve ever gotten from authors, it’s just with whatever’s in their books. I did talk to George RR Martin a little bit in the beginning. And that was nice. You know, it became clear it’s not wasn’t like he was going to be a collaborator or anything, he was happy for me to go about it.
[Eva-Maria] And run with it.
[David] Yeah, it’s very nice if you can take all of the old material and incorporate it perfectly. Which I was able to do with the languages for Game of Thrones. It’s not always possible. So it didn’t work out for for Shadow and Bone and didn’t work out for The Witcher. And then anything else book-y?
[Jessie] Not that we talked about yet [laughs]
[David] Right, yeah. That’s right.
[Jessie] Eventually come back to that question, and we will have more answers. But for now, that’s it.
[David] Stuff needs to come out
[Eva-Maria] Out, oh, there’s a nice teaser for us. We’re gonna we’re gonna talk about like, inspiration and everything later on. But I can imagine, I guess for like, shows you don’t really, you can’t really anticipate that much of how big of a success it’s going to be, especially for Game of Thrones, like, who knew at the beginning where it was going to go. But I can imagine that there’s lots of pressure behind it. Right? You said that you talk to George RR Martin. And then he said, “Okay, you know, just do whatever you got to do.” Don’t you feel a bit of like the responsibility of like, “okay, now I have his works. It’s his life’s work. And now I have to make something of it.” Or do you just not think about that? For myself? No. But that is because I’m generally very overconfident. [laughs] Well, good for you.
[David] Otherwise, the things, the stuff that we’ve worked on, it’s been pretty lower key, yeah.
[Jessie] Lower key. And I think too, because we are not in charge of creating the world, we are not in charge of actually, you know, changing the storyline. Because what we do supports the believability of the world. And it’s not even like every line from every episode is translated. So it’s really just, you know, key moments where you even get the snippets that you do get. And so I think there’s a lot less pressure than like…because I am I do not suffer from overconfidence, like my partner here. [laughter] But, but like, even I will say, like, I haven’t felt the pressure from that angle, as long as we feel good about what we’ve created. And you know, like when you send it and you get good feedback in terms of, you know, “yeah, this is in line with what we wanted,” then at that point, it’s, it’s all good. Like, it’s not I think I would feel very different if they were like, “well, now we need you to write this scene.” In the language, but like write it and create it or something.
[David] I think that if there was any of those, I’m thinking about potential projects here. If there’s anything I’d feel pressure for it would be something like Avatar The Last Airbender, because if you got a chance to do it right, then you really, you really want to do it right. Because it’s such a good series. But like other than that, I don’t know.
[Jessie] A lot of it just feels more like, “we want you here to support.”
[David] Mmhmm (agreement)
[Jessie] You know, to hope to help flesh out the world and make it more real to the people watching.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, yeah, it surely does. 100% adds to… like, you get a sense of the culture, you get a sense of the the personalities that speak the language. It’s it’s hard to imagine a world like The Witcher or Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, without these languages in it once you’ve been introduced to them. Right? It’s an essential part, at least for me it is. But then again, I’m a linguist, so maybe I’m a bit biased, I guess. Okay, coming from someone who maybe does not have a linguistic background, it can maybe seem like an impossible undertaking to construct the language from scratch and for films for shows, is it less work? Or is it easier to construct the whole language rather than just the dialogue that might be used for the show? Where’s that maybe like an unwritten rule amongst conlangers to actually like, sit down and create more than just the phrases that are needed?
[Jessie] You kind of have to because to even translate as soon as you hit the point where like, you’ve got a full clause structure, anything coming close to a sentence-like thing, you have to have a grammar in place to support it, which means like, you need to know how are things going to be inflected? Like, are they going to mark plural? Are they going to have you know, past tense, present tense, what are they going to have on verbs? Are they going to agree? So it’s like, you have to have that whole system in place, even if all they want is, you know, like, the shortest little littlest phrase like “they went home,” it’s like you, you have to have a whole system in place to support something like that. And so and I think that is something we come up across quite a bit, when we do talk to people who are, you know, wanting to work with us, one of the first things we will often hear is, “Well, we don’t actually need much, so it’s just gonna be a line.” And it’s like, nah, like, just the line requires, you know, language support. And so it’s like, we still have to create the whole language, whether you only want this one tiny little sentence, or whether you want, like one project we work with had something ridiculous, where it’s like five pages of lines that had to be translated. And it’s like, well, you know, they’re going to use what they’re going to use, but they at least… they got their worth. [laughs]
[David] Yeah, I mean, you know, in theory, we can all speak the languages that we speak without a book or anything written down, we just do it. And it’s correct, right? You could do that with a created language as well. Even doing it on the fly. It’s just that you’d have to be creating and memorizing at the same time. And perhaps there’s a theoretical person that can do that. But it’s not me, certainly. And so it’s like, if you’re, if you’re going to do it, right, you have to write this stuff down and work it out. And that takes time. So the it’s like, theoretically, yeah, you could just do it and have it all hang together and be consistent. Or you could do it on the fly and have it not be consistent. But that is really painfully obvious. The more dialogue that there is. If it’s just one line, it’s fine, whatever. But like, you know, if it’s two lines, there’s that much more that can go wrong. If it’s three, it’s even more kind of raises exponentially.
[David] And casual viewers can pick up on it, because it just doesn’t sound right.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah. And that’s where maybe the pressure that I mentioned, not even from the show makers, but from the people that watch the shows and the movies that go like, “whoo, they said it differently in the singular.”
[David] Yeah, they do that.
[Eva-Maria] They do that. [laughs] I’m not one of them. Because I usually don’t… I’m not quick enough to pick up on these things. And well, maybe I don’t pay enough attention. I don’t know. But I know that online they are there definitely are people that talk about these things.
[David] That drives me nuts, because I do tend to make a lot of very silly errors like that. And translation drove me nuts because in Valerian, for example, the third person singular ending was the same, or roughly the same as an -S was like the second person singular ending for Spanish. And so sometimes I would mix those two up. It was supposed to be second person singular, but I put an -S on there because I was just thinking Spanish. And I would flip those two up, and they always catch it, the fans with Valerian. They they always catch it. They caught one recently, ugh, from Season 5, I think it was, there four different numbers. One of them is a collective number and the collective take singular agreement. And they spotted that I had done plural agreement and it’s just, ugh, destroys me. It’s kind of like it would be like an English saying, “my family are very happy”, as opposed to “my family is very happy.” It’s like it’s a plural entity, but it’s actually a singular word.
[David] That’s, that’s, that’s essentially what I did. And it’s like, “Come on, man. Leave me alone. I get it? All right.”
[Eva-Maria] Do you, do you get messages about this?
[David] Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. All the time.
[Eva-Maria] And people say like, “How dare you? It’s your language?”
[David] No, they’re they’re like, “I didn’t know if this was an error. Like, is this right? Maybe the actor misspoke.” It’s like, “Oh, you’re so kind.” [general laughter]
[Eva-Maria] Oh, wow. And you still get well, then it’s it’s a never ending story, I guess.
[Eva-Maria] With Yep. Okay. Wow, that’s intense. But then again, fans can be quite intense. You should have seen us watching Game of Thrones. So yeah.
[David] sehr gut
[Jessie] sehr gut
[Eva-Maria] Oh, Jessie, how was your German now, by the way?
[Jessie] Very rusty. [laughs]
[Eva-Maria] I can imagine.
[David] I have a special relationship with German. I studied it for one year in high school after I had become very interested in language. And it’s the only language I’ve ever studied, that I feel no shame about getting completely wrong. And so I’ve been to Germany a couple times. I love speaking German, but I don’t really have much vocabulary. Or speak it very well.
[Eva-Maria] But did the people appreciate the effort? Because I always do.
[Jessie] Oh, yeah.
[David] Yeah, ein bisschen
[Eva-Maria] ein bisschen
[Eva-Maria] Well you could also say “ein büschen” If that’s…”‘n büschen’, I guess. That’s more colloquial.
[David] [practicing] ein büschen…
[Eva-Maria] Exactly. Yeah. I always appreciate especially people learning German, because if it wasn’t my native language, I for sure would have not chosen that language to learn because that is Nope. Anyway,
[David] It makes it a lot easier if you just “de” for der, die, and das. [general laughter]
[Eva-Maria] And then some dialects they do. So you could just blend right in. Yeah.
[David] I was once at a cafe and it was so embarrassing. I was trying to translate something in German. So I went up and said “Was ist ein Mann der reit ein Pferd oder ein Motorcycle, oder ein Mann…es ist ein Wort für das?”. And she’s looked me. I don’t even know how you say ‘you mean’ in German, but it’s like “Reiter”?. I’m like, Oh, just like English. Yeah, “rider.” I was like, how do you turn “reit” into somebody that does that. She’s like, “Reiter”?
[Eva-Maria] Its too obvious. I make that mistake all the time when I can’t think of an English word. And I’m just like, you know, trying to find my way way around it and describe it. And then it’s the exact same in both languages. And I’m like, well that’s just stupid. But yeah, happens all the time. So I feel, I feel the pain. Okay, so, um, I don’t know what we were talking about, we were talking about German. And before that we were talking about…
[Jessie]Oh, fans of the show and the pressure and like, how much of the language needs to be developed. And I will say there are projects where we don’t need to do a full language. But those are projects where all they require are like place names, or something like that. Like, these will not be used in you know, sentences, or they’re not going to be like a full clause structure. It’s like, we literally just need, you know, legit sounding names that work together and create a cohesive feel for the world. So
[Jessie] Those are the ones that you don’t need to create a whole language where you just need enough of a structure to be able to put together you know, words that should belong together.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, yeah, that’s that makes sense to me. But when do you stop? Like, when do you think like, “Ah, now, I have enough like”
[David] You don’t stop.
[Eva-Maria] You don’t you never stop? It’s a never ending process. Do you always go back to the language and like add to like the lexicon?
[David] Yeah. Like, when is the language done? Like think about a natural langauge
[David] Yeah, never. Just when there’s a when all the speakers die, same thing. So yeah, there’s no end. That’s what makes it fun.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, that is such a cool thing. Do you also take I’m just I’m just spit balling I can come up with like so many more questions. Do you then also take into account what maybe fans have fed back to you? Or is that something where you go like, “Well, excuse me? No”
[Jessie] There’s an example.
[Jessie] From Dothraki, where Rainn Wilson playing Dwight on The Office came up with a a word that shouldn’t like it wasn’t a word in Dothraki, and it was like a kind of compound that he created. And [David] was like, but that totally works in the language. So he created what he called Schrutian compounds, which is Dwight Schrute. in The Office
[David]Oh yeah! Yeah that was fun
[Jessie] So yeah, see?
[Eva-Maria] I didn’t know that made it into the language!
[David] Yeah. Oh, yeah. No, it’s a it’s a cool structure. So I was like, Yeah, you could, you could probably build verbs that way… is it was a kind of noun incorporation, but it like it made sense. So
[Eva-Maria] That is, I love crossovers, that is so cool!
[David] Other than that, for me, I think the biggest one was, was Trigedasleng because ordinarily, like, when I create a language, you know, I would say, for most of our projects there, you know, a posteriori, which means that the words and stuff are just created whole cloth. Or if they’re, I’m sorry, a priori, or if they’re a posteriori, meaning that they’re derived from other roots. They’re, they’re derived from like, different languages, I did a language for Dominion that worked with proto-AfroAsiatic, and, and a couple like that. Trigedasleng was one where it was an evolution of modern American English. And so it was something that the fans of the language could really kind of, actually get a hold of, and do. And so they created a ton of vocabulary. And, and I’ve incorporated a lot of it, because, you know, they had relatively the same intuition that I did, and so and the same source material. And so that was a lot of fun. Otherwise, though, if it’s just like, a priori, and we’re creating it and then I like doing that myself.
[Jessie] But I think it’s also, by the time fans get a hold of the language, it’s like, we’ve already done the dialogue for the whole season. And so it’s also kind of a weird feedback loop, because it’s like we’re working on things that people may not see for another 2, 3, 4, 5 years.
[Jessie] And so there’s not much feedback, especially the beginning of projects.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, I get that. But it must also be quite, I don’t know, if you want to use the term satisfying to then see them go about their stuff, and you just sit there like, just you wait. Just you wait. That is, That is really cool. So in my head, I imagine creating a language being very similar to composing music. And I don’t know if that’s too abstract kind of way of thinking about it. But for me, composing music is unimaginable, because I mean, I love music, and I would consider myself to be rather musical. But I for the life of me could never come up with a melody that has not been played before, I would always fall back into patterns that I like, or that I’ve heard before. So how do you, you know, how do you go about this? I know that you’ve mentioned that you both studied several languages, including my beloved German, of course. But how do you avoid falling into the languages that you already know? Whether it be real or constructed languages, especially regarding the vocabulary? Like how do you avoid that?
[Jessie] So I will say one great thing about language in general, though, is that there are only so many patterns. When you break it down and look at individual features, there are only so many patterns you’re gonna find in languages anyway, it’s a matter of how you mix and combine them and utilize them. And so it’s like, that takes a lot of the pressure off, because it’s like, well, we’re using, you know, the same building blocks, but it’s not going to be a recreation of a single language, because we’re just taking the blocks and putting them together differently.
[Jessie] And then, as far as vocabulary goes, that’s actually I think we both rather enjoy coming up with the vocab. I don’t know, like, it’s just like, what sounds do we have? What kind of syllable structures are we dealing with? And let’s start putting together potential words.
[David] Yeah, especially with derivation, you just kind of follow where the language is leading you, you know. And so it’s like, even if you started off with, like, you know, something basic, like, everybody’s got some sort of word for rock. But if you start building and then you come up with derivations that you never have seen yourself, it’s like, well, that’s pretty much it doesn’t really matter if it exists in some other language that they’ve done the same derivation that’s just like, oh, wow, cool. We both did the same thing for the same reason. That’s that’s just a neat thing. But yeah, there’s, it’s such a big sandbox that you’re not going to run into the same exact elements of any specific language unless you’re doing it on purpose. Yeah.
[David] And I think just as long as you’re honestly going down the trail, and not like purposely shutting out what the language is trying to tell, you’ll get some more good.
[Jessie] I think it’s also too, like, I know with a lot of beginning conlangers, one thing they are very concerned with, with this exact problem. And so like, they get very kind of nervous about like creating a thing. So like, Oh, I know Spanish does that. Yeah, so do like 80 other languages. I think, at some point, you will create a word that you will maybe not at first realize, but later go, oh, that totally sounds like an English word. Or like, that’s totally also a Spanish word, but they mean completely different things. But that is also something that happens across you know, natural languages, again, all the time, like, you could come across a really random language, where maybe they have the same string of like, “tree” and it, you know, they just happen to have “tree” in their language, but it means something totally different. It’s not related. It’s just, they had these sounds available to them. And they did the same thing we did, we put them together in a word. And so it’s like, that too is like just something to remember that, yeah, you’re gonna accidentally create a word that matches the same string of sounds from an existing language, but it’s gonna mean something different.
[Eva-Maria] And it’s not a bad thing.
[Jessie] Yeah, it’s gonna mean something different. It’s gonna behave differently because of how, you know, you built up the the other parts of the language. So, so it’s all good.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah. You’re not reinventing the wheel basically, it’s fine to to have the similarities. Yeah. Yeah, that does that does take the pressure off, for sure.
[Jessie] Yes, and you can’t for language, you can’t really reinvent the wheel. Otherwise, it won’t read as a language to the people, you know, watching or listening to it. And that’s like, the whole purpose is to like, make it feel grounded and to go with the same patterns and to have the same kind of things that you can find in languages.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, that’s what I really enjoyed about The Arrival like the movie, because that was something that I had never even thought about. So really like the that approach, but yeah, so now that you mentioned that you really enjoy coming up with the vocabulary. [David], I watched an interview recently, I think it was a Wired interview, when you mentioned that verbs are your least favorite. Is that because they’re the hardest? Or is because you don’t like the morphology? If that’s not the most difficult part? What would be the most difficult parts?
[David] Both of those things are true. Yes, I mean, I don’t like any part of it. But also, that’s also the biggest point of pressure for language, because the entire verbal system is really the biggest part of the grammar. It’s where… it’s how the entire language is going to run. And that is the only place where I feel pressure to do something that is unique. And something that is both functional and natural. And it’s extraordinarily difficult. I don’t know, I think maybe maybe a lot of it is just internal pressure, I think, because it’s just, it’s just really intimidating to get it just right. I’ve had a lot of, I think I’ve had the most luck with systems that were simple, because otherwise it just gets to be too much. And it’s too much to keep in your head. I don’t know. I just hate it. I wish that we could do languages without verbs. It would be nice.
[Eva-Maria] That’s my, that’s my next question. Could you if you’re I mean, you’re in charge, right? Could you not just I don’t think there’s a language on earth that does not have verbs as far as I’m aware. But if you’re in charge, can you not just create a language without verbs?
[David] You sure could, people have done it. It’s very difficult because that that stuff has to show up somewhere, right?
[Eva-Maria] Somewhere else? Yeah.
[David] And so you have to find a way to do it without having a unique class of verb. But it’s certainly possible to end up with a lot of nouns that mean things like running, jumping.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah. Or languages that don’t conjugate. Just always in the infinitive.
[David] I mean, that doesn’t, that only buys you so much. Because that’s that’s kind of like saying, “Well, then learning learning Chinese or Vietnamese must be simple.” Yeah. Then it’s like, yeah, then it’s like there’s all this other stuff that you need to learn like… it does, it absolutely does buy you something not to have to learn any inflection, but just winds up somewhere else. Yeah, so if you’re really going to do that without verbs, it’s, it’s it’s work.
[Jessie] More work than I think just creating the verbs.
[David] Yeah, it’s just then it’s like, you know, you want to create something good. And that’s where I’m really proud of a lot of the nominal systems that I’ve personally done. Verb systems, I always look at them and see something I did wrong.
[Eva-Maria] Is that the perfectionist in you or?
[David] Maybe, maybe, but I think it’s also just verbs, what’s your what’s your favorite verbal system that you’ve done? Because like, I can think of one for me
[Jessie] Of your favorite?
[Jessie] Um, I don’t know that I have a favorite verbal system? I don’t know, I’d have to think about that. I’d have to think. So I don’t know. Like, what makes it a favorite.
[David] Just that you thought that you you carry it out very well.
[Jessie] Well, the hard part about that is like, you don’t really know if you carried it out well, until you do a lot of translation. And so yeah, I don’t know. What was your favorite?
[David] It was it was very simple. But it actually worked and worked exactly the way I intended. And was not, I mean, there are… the languages has other problems, but it was not too unrealistic, either.
[Eva-Maria] Oh, that must be so satisfying to see like that actually working.
[David] Yeah. And I have done a lot of translation with that. So yeah, that was that was nice. Yeah, lots of other things. It’s just I just look at it. And like, “I don’t know about that.” I don’t know if I should have done that. Oh, man for that, for the show that we are working on tha’ts based on that book series. That verbal system. Oh, my God. And I. And we did that because we thought it would make you think our lives easier, didn’t we with the whole auxiliary. It didn’t.
[Eva-Maria] And now you’re knee deep and can go back.
[Jessie] And it rounds back around to… well, it’s easier to not actually conjugate on the verbs, right? So let’s just do this auxiliary that’s going to carry that weight. And it’s going to be the same for like the majority of verbs except for very irregular verbs.
[David] That was the theory, yeah
[Jessie] And so in our head, yeah, in our heads, we’re like, this is going to be so much easier and make certain aspects of translation just go faster, and indeed did not at all, because it’s, it’s still really difficult to make sure you have the right auxiliary, then we realize that we don’t need just one, we actually have to have an auxiliary to cover all of these things. And so
[David] I don’t think we are done either, I think we need more, don’t we?
[Jessie] Yeah, we do.
[David] Yeah, we do.
[Jessie] So. So it’s one of those things where, you know, again, you start out thinking, this feature is gonna make it easier, because in my English brain, if we didn’t have to do this, that would be so much simpler for language. And then you do that, and then you realize, actually, no matter what language is complex
[Eva-Maria] But yeah, the I’m just, you know, thinking about the process. Where do you get those ideas? I mean, it can’t just be like, “Oh, I really don’t like verbs. Let’s try to make it as easy as possible.” Like, there must be other
[David] Ones for us. Yeah.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah. I mean, yes, of course. But is it also that you may be? I don’t know, once came across a language spoken somewhere in rural Kenya, where you thought like, “oh, wow, that’s something that I’ve never seen before. It would be cool to integrate into a language someday.” Does that happen, too, or?
[Jessie] Oh, definitely getting inspired by…
[David] You can get it from anywhere, really?
[Jessie] Yeah. And sometimes it’s sometimes on the outset of a project, one or both of us will go into the language saying, like, “I really want this feature to be a part of it.” And not because like the project inspired it, but just because it’s like, “there’s this cool feature, and we want to do it,” and so we can totally be inspired that way. But there’s also quite often it really just comes out of as we’re putting things together, you make one major decision, and that sort of helps narrow down what other decisions you’re going to make, including, like, once you like, decide, “well, this is gonna have this kind of word order.” And so “Okay, now we’re probably gonna have, I don’t know, nouns in this position.” And so you just start sort of like making one decision leads to the next. And eventually, you just may have an off the wall idea that gets put in. And so,
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, I can see how these decisions would impact further decisions that that would make sense. Yeah.
[Jessie] And also, sometimes it’s just batting around ideas, you just land on something that so it’s, it’s fun to have a partner because then it’s you know, like one person throws something out. And it sounds so crazy that there’s no way it’s gonna work and the other person’s like, “but wait, what if we tweak it and do it this way?” And then it totally does work. And so yeah, that’s fun.
[Eva-Maria] It does sound fun! Yeah. Cool. So are there like when when you’re speaking about like creating these like rules for grammar, for example. Are there restrictions in terms of difficulty or complexity that you’d rather not cross? Is there something where you say, for example, not having verbs? Probably not the best idea because it will show up somewhere and it’s going to have been complicate things further, like other things where you draw the line and say, like, “Yeah, let’s not try that.”
[David] I don’t think so.
[Jessie] Yeah, I dont think so.
[David] Like winking in Morse code or whatever.
[Jessie] I mean, that would be hard to document I would think, without video, but no, I don’t think there is a line though. We have drawn. I know like right now, through… we do LangTime Studio together, which is a live stream on YouTube. And right now we’re working on a language where we are doing a lot on the verbs with like noun incorporation, and like building these really huge, huge verbs that carry a lot of the weight of the clause structure. And for me, like right now mentally mapping out, “well wait, if this element goes here, how does this you know, do the rest?” I think that is one of the most complicated things we are currently working on in terms of
[Jessie] And I, if we had drawn the line somewhere, I think that would have been where I would have drawn the line in terms of just being able to like mentally keep up with it, because it’s so different from any language I’ve studied. And so it’s really getting me into features I’m not otherwise familiar with. It is fun. But challenging.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, I mean, challenging for sure. But for me, the entire prospect of coming up with my own languages, is quite challenging to think about
[David] It’s one little bit at a time.
[Eva-Maria] So Jesse, you teach as well at the university, and you have taught classes on conlangs. Right?
[Eva-Maria] So aside from the intro to linguistics, that is probably part of it, like introducing the students to phonology and morphology and grammar and everything, what else is part of the course? Like, can you teach students the creativity that is needed?
[Jessie] I mean, yes, and no. You can teach them, you can teach people like, Here, again, like laying out here are patterns. And if you choose this one, you’re most likely going to choose these. So helping narrow down decision making in a way where they can then make this one decision, and a cascades into eight decisions, can really give them more room for flexing their creative muscles in other ways as they work on the project. A lot of times, though, people go into the class, and that’s the number one thing like you get, like, half the class is like creative writers. And they’ve built this huge world, and they totally know where they want the language to go. And then the other half the class is like, “Well, I’m here, because I’m a linguistic student, and I don’t have any creativity,” you know, like, you get those students who are like, “I’m not creative at all.” And then just by asking them simple questions, you, you kind of like, start to realize no, actually, they’re very creative and coming up with some really cool concepts. And sometimes, sometimes, okay, more than sometimes, I quite often get some of the best, most linguistically creative work out of the people who start the class thinking they’re like, not super creative. Because I think it’s like, the kind of creativity that’s needed in language creation is so different from what society has obviously labeled creative. And so like, I think there’s like a personal roadblock for people when they use that word like, “oh, well, I don’t create things. I don’t do this, I only follow the recipe book, or I only do this.” And so, so yes, I can help those people get past that barrier. But no, I can’t otherwise, like instill or teach creativity in the way that a student’s going to end the class being more linguistically creative than when they started, if that makes sense.
[David] Makes sense to me.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah. Like over over the last years, because you’ve been doing this for quite a while. How is your creativity changed? Can you even pinpoint that?
[Jessie] That’s a really good question. And I honestly, I think a big part of it is just the more you learn about language in general, the more fodder you have, the bigger the area. But also some of my, what I think would get labeled as creative ideas just come out and nowhere. It’s just like, you know, it’s just like, “boom, let’s try this.” And it’s like, “why did you think of that?” “I don’t know.” And it’s not even based on like, an existing language. And so, yeah, I think I’ve grown in my creativity in the conlanging art by teaching and by participating in it so much. But I couldn’t, I couldn’t for the life of me pinpoint. And I also, a lot of times, I’ll look at a language and I’ll be proud of like this aspect. And he’ll look at the language and be like, “Oh, my gosh, this thing right here is so creative.” And I had no idea it was creative. Like, I was so proud of this other thing that I wasn’t even realizing I was doing something cool.
[Eva-Maria] How about you, David, can you say how that’s kind of developed over the last? What? 22 years?
[David] Oh, I’ve gotten a lot better at stuff, I think.
[Eva-Maria] I mean, that makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. With experience
[David] But I don’t know, the creative drive is roughly the same. It’s always like, you know, I have an idea for something and then I try to, to carry it out. It’s just I’m better at doing it in a much more interesting way now. I don’t know.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, it’s kind I hard to pinpoint creativity in the first place, but find it very interesting to think about.
[David] It’s still the same feel, you know, I get an idea for something and then that leads to something else.
[Eva-Maria] And you get just as excited?
[David] Oh, yeah. And sometimes it leads to really, you know, exciting results. And sometimes it leads to a string of auxiliaries that you don’t know what to do with. But it’s like, like with this one that we’re doing with LangTime Studio right now, like that we’re finally really getting into the verbs. And it’s, it’s, it’s coming together. I’m super excited about it. It’s really shaping up now. And it’s shaping up the way that I hoped. And so I’m super excited about it.
[David] Feeling good about it?
[Jessie] Oh, definitely. But yeah. And also, like, some of, I don’t know, some of like, the coolest things we’ve come up with have also been like, challenges between, you know, like, “oh, you couldn’t make this work” or something. And it’s like, “want to see?” And so then you like, find connections and make these connections that you maybe otherwise wouldn’t have tried, except for the fact that someone challenged you. And that happened in the last LangTime language when we were creating the demonstrative system. And it needed to, we were trying for a four way distinction. And I believe I was challenged that I could not make different routes that were totally unrelated be the sources of these demonstratives. And it happened. [general laughter]
[David] I will tell you that that moment, was one of the greatest demonstrations of Conlang creativity and skill that I have ever seen.
[Jessie] Excuse me while I blush
[David] And it’s just like, and it happened live. I set the whole thing up because like, you know, I really, I didn’t want to do it. And I didn’t think it could be done. And I thought it was a bad idea. And then she just did it.
[Eva-Maria] That’s not a good prerequisite. Yeah.
[David] And it wasn’t, it wasn’t like she just did it. She did it so well. And so beautifully, that it was just immediately 10 times better than any idea I had. It was an absolutely magical moment
[Eva-Maria] You should see Jesse’s face right now
[David] And it’s on film. And it’s on film.
[David] Wow, that was really something. I think that I think that may have been the best thing that’s ever happened on that live stream.
[Eva-Maria] Very nice.
[David] Yeah. That was something.
[Eva-Maria] Are you as proud as he, as he makes it out to be?
[Jessie] It was definitely a good moment. If for no other reason, then it’s fun to prove him wrong. [general laugther]
[Eva-Maria] I was about to ask, are you competitive?
[Jessie] You know, in the best ways possible
[Eva-Maria] Very good. So I’m for the, for the shows, in particular, for the actors speaking the languages on screen. Like, do you give them like an actual course? Like, do you actually sit them down and explain the language, the grammar and everything? Or do they just learn what’s in the script?
[David] How much fun that would be?
[Eva-Maria] Wouldn’t it?
[David] No, we just record all the lines
[Eva-Maria] Okay. And then they, they basically memorize them, but I’m guessing that they do pick up on certain patterns, or I mean, I guess maybe not always?
[David] They do pick up on patterns, but sometimes those patterns aren’t and what they think they are.
[Eva-Maria] Hmm, that would be me.
[David] You can imagine if somebody had a bunch of dialogue, and in English, the might, you know, you might hear it and think that you know…
[Eva-Maria] Oh, I see like, an ‘S’ at the end is plural or something. And then you hear the third person singular verb and…
[David] Or they might think that like, you know, “isthe” is a word, because they hear the sequence “is the” a lot. They might go around saying “isthe, isthe, isthe”, not knowing that it’s, you know. Yeah, cuz I know, that’s that that stuff has happened a little bit. It was it was so funny. There was like, I didn’t even get what they were doing at first. But for Defiance, there was a loop group. And they and what they do is they record what’s called background “wala.” Wala is w-a-l-a. And I don’t know what it means or where it comes from. But what it means is, when there’s a big crowd scene, they talk to each other so that you can hear it in the background. And so that’s what background wala is, and they had, you know, come to do a lot of background wala in the languages that I had created. And evidently, they picked up on something from one of them. And so they they called the background wala done in my languages “wazala” and then they made shirts that said “wazala” for themselves. And I’m looking and its like, I don’t get it. Like I don’t get it. This is not what you think it is. But evidently they thought they heard like, you know, z’s in the middle of things a lot. And so they just thought, “Oh, get it. It’s ‘wazalla'”. Okay, good for you.
[Eva-Maria] That is so cool. Yeah, that’s nice. Of course. So they created something that wasn’t there. But
[David] Yeah Yeah. That’s hilarious. They thought of it as like an, like an homage. And they were so proud to show it to me like, I would get it.
[Eva-Maria] And you didn’t? That’s hilarious. [general laughter] But you don’t you don’t sit them down and tell them like, “so in this language we have.” Okay, now, oh, that would be cool though.
[David] If they want to, like, I’d be happy to teach them that. But there’s not much interest.
[Eva-Maria] At first maybe
[Jessie] I think it would also be difficult, maybe difficult too because, you know, even though Yeah, the language is created, there’s a whole system in place. Really, the vocabulary that’s there is driven by what needs to be translated. And so it’d be really difficult because essentially, to teach them the language, you would just be teaching them their lines, in every, you know, like, every formation possible, because otherwise you have to keep creating more words to be able to actually have any sort of conversation or anything. And usually the lines that are translated can have off the wall vocab that you wouldn’t otherwise use in your daily life.
[David] Yeah. And also, like, if you were really to teach in that language, you probably start off pretty simple. “Hello, my name is” and so on
[Eva-Maria] That’s true
[David] “where’s the bathroom?” And then like, none of that would show up on the show. Like, they’d be because they’d all be advanced speakers, just saying what they’re gonna say, you know, not “where’s the library?” [general laugther]
[Eva-Maria] Just imagining imagining in the, in The Witcher, in like Elder Speech. “Hello. Where’s the train station?”
[Jessie] “I see a book.” “The book is red.”
[Eva-Maria] One of the first sentences I learned in French was “Arthur is a parrot.”
[Eva-Maria] That’s not gonna get me anywhere. No Arthur est un perroquet
[David] That’s not even a French word. A French name. Why Arthur?
[Eva-Maria] Arthur? Arthur est un perroquet. Yeah, that’s, that has helped me a lot.
[Jessie] I would imagine.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, but yeah, no, I can see how how it would be difficult to actually like start a language class with with just the phrases that are needed without overcomplicating things and confusing them more than they might already be by hearing sounds that they’re not familiar with. Yeah.
[Jessie] I think the only benefit if we could actually teach them aspects of the language would come through in delivery of the line as a whole, to understand that, “oh, you know, this is a content word. So you’re going to stress it more than these function words around it” kind of situation, which, if they look at the full files they’re given, we do map it out for them, so they can kind of see what each element means. So they can do just that.
[Jessie] But I think that’s really the only thing would be a more natural delivery, if you had, you know, the opportunity to kind of explain some of the linguistic structures, you know, not teaching them language, but really just explaining like, this is, this is where you’re hitting this, this is a suffix, it’s not going to get the stress this is, you know, like things like that.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah. But that’s, that’s cool. So it’s not just the actors on screen. Obviously, it’s a lot of people, we’d already talked about how intense fans can be. But how, how does that feel to see fans running with it? And now people are learning Dothraki and are using Dothraki online and maybe even in real life? But how does how does that feel? You must be quite proud. No?
[David] I mean I guess. Wow [laughter] “Maybe I don’t know. It’s just you know”
[David] It’s I mean, it’s really cool that they’re enjoying it, but they don’t give me nearly enough praise. So.
[Eva-Maria] [laughter] Okay, everybody listening to this. David needs more praise.
[Jessie] Because your confidence isn’t boosted enough.
[Eva-Maria] You’re not overconfident enough.
[David] I mean, no, but it’s like, it’s you know, it’s a really cool thing that if people can use a language and enjoy it, you know. And if it’s a language that we created, that’s that’s really cool. I don’t know. It doesn’t compensate us financially.
[Eva-Maria] I think really cool is I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna go into that. But I think it’s really cool. It is the it’s only the third of January, but it’s the understatement of the year. It’s amazing, I think
[David] It’s it’s a lot of fun.
[Eva-Maria] I’d be bursting with pride if I were you
[David] I don’t know.
[Eva-Maria] But maybe that’s just me. I don’t know
[Jessie] As overconfident as he is he also judges his work unnecessarily roughly
[Eva-Maria] Overcritical as well?
[David] Unnecessarily you think?
[David] But if I don’t it who will?
[Eva-Maria] Oh, online people will.
[Jessie] Very true, very true
[Eva-Maria] They… if you give them the chance, they will have something to say about everything.
[David] So, but it’s really not well informed though, so who cares?
[Eva-Maria] That’s a good approach. That’s a very healthy approach.
[Jessie] Yes, yes.
[Eva-Maria] But still I find it like I had a my the phone before this, I had a phone case that said Valar Morghulis. I’m not joking.
[Eva-Maria] Like, yeah!
[David] Oh, I didn’t get any money for that.
[Eva-Maria] Well, sorry.
[David] Did it, did it have a macron over the U? That’s how you know if it was mine or not.
[Eva-Maria] I don’t remember. I have a photo somewhere. I could probably check. But
[David] All right. All right.
[Eva-Maria] Actually, I can I can look it up right now. Because I know that I posted it on Instagram.
[David] There we go. Yeah, I basically I kind of had to do long vowels in order to get the stress in the right place for that language. Because otherwise, it should have been, you know, a Valar Morhulis. And that, and that’s not the way anybody said it. And so I wanted to get it the way people said it. So that was what necessitated having long vowels in the language is the only way to get weight on that penultimate syllable.
[Eva-Maria] Oh, wow. That’s interesting. It’s interesting that you had to change it to to adapt it. And in the meantime, I found the photo and it doesn’t have the macron on it.
[David] Yeah. So I mean, because so without the macron that’s just what George RR Martin created. I didn’t create that.
[Eva-Maria] Oh, my. Just look at my… I’m just looking at the hashtags. Well, Game of Thrones, Valar Morghulis, Valar Dohaeris, and then hashtag don’t kill Jon Snow. Okay, that was in 2015. So anyway, I’m sorry, I interrupted you. What were you saying?
[David] No, it’s all good. It’s all good. By the way, I think Jon Snow had the absolute perfect ending on the show, in my opinion.
[Eva-Maria] Can you talk about the last season?
[David] I don’t know. Why not-
[Eva-Maria] Did you sign an NDA or anything? I don’t know.
[David] I certainly did before it aired.
[Eva-Maria] Well, yeah.
[David] But then it’s aired ready.
[Eva-Maria] So now you can you can voice your opinions.
[David] Yeah, and I was really really happy with what happened to Jon Snow. I thought it was perfect. Like, he saves everybody and his reward – back to the wall [laughs] I thought that was great I thought that was outstanding
[Jessie] spoilers much
[David] He saved everybody. He actually is, you know, the, the whatever. And his and his payment, his reward for this is essentially life in prison.
[David] No, and I thought that was just perfect.
[Jessie] I think he needs to have a spoiler alert.
[Eva-Maria] No, I can I can I can edit that in. That’s fine. I wasn’t gonna ask about the last season. But did you like the overall ending?
[David] I did. Yeah.
[Eva-Maria] Were you – Yeah?
[David] It was… I thought it was the perfect. I thought it was the perfect wrap up to the overall theme of the entire series, which is that prophecies are bullshit. And so is primogenitor.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, I I didn’t mind the whole Daenerys being like going old Mad Queen. Like I actually kind of saw that coming, but Bran on the throne…
[David] That was perfect. Because he’s not going to do anything. He’s just a figurehead. It’s the step towards essentially representative government, which was the entire point of the series! That came to and I loved it.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, I guess. I’m happy you were happy [general laughter]
[David] Honestly, I didn’t get a lot of the whole people they like “oh” it to me it felt like you know a bit of a little bit like Kathy Guise. And it’s like what they wanted was Kiss Kiss kiss and you’re kind and queen. And everybody’s happy now
[Eva-Maria] Happy ending
[David] They were happy because they found the best absolute monarch. It’s like no, no, that wasn’t the entire point of the series. Bullet point of the series was that absolute rule is ridiculous!
[Eva-Maria] Yep. No, from that perspective, I do understand why they chose to do it. But I cannot… it really ruined my day.
[David]It ruined a lot of people’s day. I didn’t get it. But no, I that was why I think you know, that was why because you know, I’ve read the books right? And so I think that’s why Varys characters was so important
[Eva-Maria] Oh, one of my favorites.
And that’s why he keeps saying he’s doing everything for the realm. He’s doing everything for the small focus. That’s the whole point, when you’re just have all of these, you know, essentially rich people with not just wealth, but you know, government handed down from one to the other. Ultimately, people suffer. And so that was the system that had to be destroyed.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, that I’m completely on board with. But we watched it in the middle of the night.
[Eva-Maria] And or actually, I think early morning, it doesn’t even matter. But we watched it very early in the day, and I showed up to work. And I ran into a friend who had not seen it. And she just saw my face and knew, like I just from my face, you could just tell like, “oh, no,” And I was like, “don’t ask”. Yeah. But yeah, overall, I think it’s, it’s a, it’s just one of the most brilliant things on TV for a long time to come. And you were part of that. So congratulations. And I give you the praise that you deserve.
[David] Thank you
[Eva-Maria] There you go. So since we’re talking about, you know, pop culture and fandoms and everything, just can you tell us a bit about the experiences and working with these kinds of big franchises such as The Witcher, but also the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which I’m also a big fan of, and of course, Game of Thrones, like what was what was that like? Like can you let us peek behind the curtain a little bit of their glamorous Hollywood Life? [laughs]
[David] I got very, honestly, very little with Game of Thrones, like, the only time I went on set was because I had a rerouted flight, to drop by and visit there. And then I didn’t get to take any pictures, because that was during the last season. And since somebody leaked an episode early the previous year, they just completely, completely locked down the set. So they had, they have a photo booth in the office that said Game of Thrones season eight. So like, you could go in the photo booth. And I did that. That’s nice. Take a picture with a couple of the assistants. That was fun. But that was it. That was my, that was my onset photo. Like before that they would be like, you know, oh, yeah, they would just have people go up and sit on the Iron Throne and take pictures and everything. And that all ended season eight because somebody leaked an episode, the previous season. And so they ruined my experience. That was the result. And also also, like, who cares? If you see an episode early, you’re gonna see it anyway!
[Eva-Maria]Oh, I love spoilers.
[David] Like it’s so silly.
[Jessie] I think that was also you had mentioned because they had really shut down on season eight, like you would get just random lines, like with no context, because they didn’t want to give, you know, full scripts.
[David] And your names changed.
[Jessie] So Right. And like who even was speaking the line would change which could influence the words you choose to translate it, especially with no context.
[David] Yep, yep
[Jessie] So it’s like you’re trying to base it on the character at that point.
[Jessie] And so there are some I like, I wonder if you go back to season eight, in terms of like, “well, I would have translated this differently had I know that this was actually what was going on” Yeah. But yeah, they
[Eva-Maria] Oh, that is difficult.
[David] Yeah. So that was, that was a bummer. But like, the cool thing was, I did get to go to almost almost every premiere event for Game of Thrones. So that was nice. And those are very fancy. They’re very fancy house parties. And so that was neat. Got to go to one for The Witcher, got to do a lot of stuff for Defiance that was nice.
[Eva-Maria] Oh, nice
[David] And then you know, since COVID, I haven’t gotten to do anything! Jesse’s gotten to do nothing. And I mean, with the way that Omicron, it’s going they’re probably not going to do any stuff this year, either. Just lousy
[Eva-Maria] I know, that is very lame.
[David] Yeah, there’s been less of that. The the final, we used to get together for the 100 at a small bar in LA too, so it wasn’t it was a Hollywood party, definitely, but it wasn’t big and fancy. But we used to get together for the first episode and the last episode of the season. And then that was gone for the last season, which was a shame because it was the last season. You know, none of us knew that the last time was the last time. Yeah, but But yeah, that’s that’s nice. I don’t know. What kind of Hollywood stuff do you want?
[Eva-Maria] I don’t know. I just wanted to know about like, the experience of like, I don’t know, talking to the writers talking to the actor. I don’t know if you have ever really talked to the actors if you just record it and send it to them.
[David] Yeah. I’ve, I’ve…I mean, it’s It’s sporadic, right. Have we ever done anything with the actors over zoom?
[Jessie] Not as on any of our projects, no
[David] Yeah. Um, I mean, that might be different, you know, if if there were no COVID. So we’ll see in the years to come. But yeah, I’ve met and worked with a lot of the actors, I only really had one negative experience. And it was with an actor that nobody knows. So, didn’t matter.
[Eva-Maria] And I mean, that’s bound to happen. Like, it has to happen somewhere. Right. So
[David] Yeah. I think working on Bright was the most fun because it was it filmed here in LA. And so I was on onset almost every single day.
[David] Food was wonderful! Just wonderful
[Eva-Maria] Just the catering was great.
[David] I’ll never forget the day I showed up in there making lobster tails.
[Eva-Maria] Oh, well, that sounds fancy.
[David] I was on the upper end of my weight at that time, though. So I was trying to, you know, not, not do as much because otherwise. I was like, you know, they always have cheese and stuff. You could have made a little sandwich with lobster tails, like one on top of the other put like cheese or lettuce inside. That would have been…
[Eva-Maria] A lobster tail sandwich.
[David] Oh, wonderful. Yeah, that was the one where like, I met a lot of the actors and I worked with them. I met and talked to Will Smith, and he was very nice. So that was that was probably the most fun. It’s a movie probably I think a lot of people didn’t see, its Bright on Netflix. But you know, that was a lot of fun working on that.
[Eva-Maria] Cool. Great. Cool. So our last question, because we’ve been talking for a while. Our last question is usually, what are future projects, the ones that you can talk about? That you are very excited about? Or what what do you have lined up?
[David] House of the Dragon is a prequel for Game of Thrones, and that should be coming out this year. Working on that should also be done. But you never know. I’m always surprised sometimes. We have the third season of Motherland Fort Salem, which we are working on right now. It’s the third and final season at least at present, unless its picked up by something else.
[Eva-Maria] Yeah, two of our podcast members are massive fans of Fort Salemn. So
[David] Oh, so that was our first project.
[Eva-Maria] And I had never heard of before until they started talking about it. I was like, what it what is this? So yeah, they they love it. Shout out to Carine and Brittany.
[David] Well, that’s wonderful. Because that’s our first project and we love it.
[David] Yeah. And then the next season of Shadow and Bone working on that right now. And then, is everything else? NDA?
[Jessie] I think so. Yeah.
[David] Okay, so we’re working on another television show. And then another television show. And then a movie. And then another television show.
[Jessie] Yeah. So there you go. [general laughter]
[Eva-Maria] That sounds exciting.
[Jessie] Yeah, we definitely have some things that we’re very, very excited about and can’t wait for them to be released. So we can actually talk about them.
[Eva-Maria] And share it with the world.
[David] A coulple of them are pretty big. Yeah.
[Eva-Maria] So I’m excited. Lots of things to come, then.
[Eva-Maria] We’ll be hearing from you.
[Jessie] Sure hope so.
[Eva-Maria] I hope so to, I really do. Cool. Well, that’s fantastic. There’s lots more, lots more to come. This has been one of my favorite episodes so far. So of course, because I’m a big fan girl myself. But it’s also been very educational. Fascinating, very inspiring. And who knows, maybe we now get some more people thinking about their first conlangs. So that would be quite cool. So this Yeah, this really has been wonderful. And on behalf of the entire podcast team, thank you so much. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time. I really appreciate that. And all the best for 2022.
[David] Thank you.
[Eva-Maria] May we continue to see your creations on the screen for a long time to come. It sounds like it. But all the best for that. And I can’t wait to see what’s next for all the NDAs you’ve been dropping. So yeah, thank you so much.
[Jessie] And thank you for having us. This has been great.
[Eva-Maria] Great thank you. As always, you can find the links to the website sources, and all the conlangs that we mentioned in the episode description and on our website in case you want to watch Jesse and David’s YouTube streams for example. And don’t forget that we have transcripts for the episodes on a website as well. To our listeners, we thank you for tuning in. Make sure to subscribe on our websites to never miss an episode again. Until next time, as always, stay safe, stay healthy and…
[Eva-Maria] Geros Ilas (High Valyrian, Game of Thrones)
[Jessie] Súlènò (Méníshè, Fort Salem)
[David] Zyeshostash (Ravkan, Shadow and Bone)