Fantasy TV in the service of science: An open letter to HBO about “Dothraki”

Editor’s note: Joshua Hartshorne is a graduate student at Harvard University’s Psychology Department interested in human behavior and language. He wrote the open letter below because HBO is currently creating a new fantasy language, called “Dothraki,” for an upcoming television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones . At least some fans are guaranteed to try to learn Dothraki, just as thousands have studied Klingon, Sindarin and Na’vi. The letter to Martin, the show’s executive producer David Benioff and Dothraki creator David Peterson suggests a few different elements or structures for the language that could do science a favor by inventing a language that includes exactly those features that researchers would like to test to see if subjects–in this case, the show’s highly motivated fans–can learn. [More]

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