When Game of Thrones released, its manufactured languages High Valyrian and Dothraki became all the rage, more so because people realised the characters were not speaking gibberish, and that real efforts had been made to create and speak these languages.
David Peterson, the man behind the painstaking job, speaks about the importance of languages and of keeping them alive in this Tedx talk.
“Languages — the most important thing in the entire world. All of our civilization rests upon it,” he says. Explaining the job of a linguist, he says linguists are people who devote their lives to studying how language emerged, how human languages differ, how they differ from animal communication systems. “Formal linguistics is a relatively young field, and it’s uncovered a lot of really important stuff. Like, for example, that human communication systems differ crucially from animal communication systems, and that all languages are equally expressive,” remarks Peterson.
“Despite this, there are a lot of people who just love to pop off about language like they have an equal understanding of it as a linguist, because, of course, they speak a language,” he jibes.
Towards the end of the speech, he highlights the disturbing fact that languages are actually dying, because “a child is born to a family that speaks a language that is not widely spoken in their community and that child doesn’t learn it. That language is not valued in their community, because it is not useful, because the child cannot go and get a job if they speak that language, because if language is just a tool, then learning their native language is about as useful as learning high Valyrian, so why bother.”