06.05.2017
The alphabet according to David J. Peterson
We've known from the start that a conversation with linguist David J. Peterson won't be a typical interview. His unique job prompted us to ask him to create a new alphabet, trying to uncover what drives the Hollywood's top language specialist.
The alphabet according to David J. Peterson
David J. Peterson
źródło: Ewa Ferdynus

Our guest at NETIA OFF CAMERA and Canal+SerialCon David J. Peterson is a linguist and languages afficionado, who's worked on 'Game of Thrones," 'Doctor Strange,' and 'Thor: the Dark World.' He has created new, unique languages, brought to life by orcs, witches, and aliens. At our request he's created a vernacular of a language creator: an A to Z (or some arbitrary collection of letters) of David J. Peterson's work:

A - 'Arrival' (2016)

I've watched 'Arrival' on the plane on my way to Poland and I have to say, I was disappointed. Visually stunning, with an interesting take on time travel, but in the area of linguistics it was rubbish, and an absolute disappointment.

B - Blockbusters

There are two kinds of big productions. Recently I've worked on Netflix' 'Bright', with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. The set felt as if we were making a little tv show, but it was a blockbuster movie. It was a completely different case with Marvel films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or Warcraft, attached to the video game. The difference lies mostly in whom you go to to ask about the production details. Sometimes you need to go through an entire host of people, who always send you to somebody else. On such productions the end result of your work is a compromise. Still worthwile, but different when you only ask one person directly connected to the film.

C - Conlangs.

It's difficult to choose my favourite artificial language. Some of the favourites would be Skerre, created by Doug Ball, Kēlen y Sylvia Sotomajor and generally anything she's created. I love languages connected to alternate history, like Jan van Steenbergen's Wenedyk, which combines Polish and Latin.

D – „Defiance” (2013-2015)

For this series I've created my absolutely faourite language, L'Irathi. It contains a numer of elements I've created with pleasure. I love its unique sound.

E – „Emerald City” (2016-)

As a child I was a great fan of 'The Wizard of Oz," which 'Emerald City' is based on. L. Frank Baum's books are one of the very few completely American fantasy series. For this show I've created two languages: Munja'kin and Inha. The second was completely unique: constant, unchanging, and used by the series' witches since they were born. The greatest challenge was to translate spells into Inha, as they were written in a very weird, idiomatic English, full of homophones and gramarless phrasing. It was a nightmare, but came out really well!

F – Fans

It's great to know that there are people interested in the linguistic side of the stories I've worked on. The more engaged, the better. In my case the most devoted are the fans of 'The 100" (2014-), for which I've created the Trigedasleng language. It's a very engaged, educated, and joyful fandom, whose members sometimes study and use the language of the show's Earth dwellers.

                                                        fot. Michał Lichtański

H - Hawaii 

I like all Polynesian languages, but Hawaiian is my favourite, possibly my favourite language in general. I would love to speak it fluently, if I had the chance. Sadly, it's difficult to achieve outside of the islands.

L - Languages: Polish

Polish is a Slavic language, so if you understand the grammar, you know what to expec. I've studied Russian, so a lot of things sound familiar, the difference lies in declination and conjugation. A language's morphology is a very interesting suject. Before I came to Poland I've read a work of a german linguist perfectly summarising Polish conjugation and declination, it's very logical.

P – „Penny Dreadful” (2014-2016)

I'm delighted with this series, though I haven't seen it until I was invited to join it in the second season. I got the first season on DVD and decided to watch it immediately with my wife to get it over with. But right from the very first episode we were stunned, fascinated, hypnotised. We couldn't watch it all in one go, because every episode was intense, to the point of being exhausting. We had to ration it. It's one of the best things I've seen on television.

                                                        fot. Michał Lichtański

T - Tolkien

Growing up, I had no idea about Tolkien. I knew he existed, but I hadn't read his books, nor had I known that he created his own languages. I've learned the craft online, from other fans and experts, and that's where my skills come from (though I did study linguistics). I've really started to learn how to create languages when I met other language creators in the internet communities.

W – „World of Warcraft”

I've played Warcraft since its beginning. When I started working on the orc language for "Warcrcaft: The Beginning" (2016), I started by collecting all the words appearing in the game, which are well known to the players, and then created the language on that basis. Unfortunately, the producers didn't like the sound of it, so I had to start from the beginning. They were right, because the new version sounds much more 'orcish,' but that meant losing the connection to the game. As a player myself, I was dissapointed.

Kaja Łuczyńska