Title: Under the Animal Belly of HBO: Conceptual Metaphor in Created Languages

David J. Peterson* (Conlang)
Tuesday October 22, 2013
California Room


Metaphor is not merely a literary device used by poets. Indeed, metaphor can be found even in everyday language (for example, in that last sentence [and that one]). The theory of Cognitive Metaphor, pioneered by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, holds that a series of pervasive conceptual metaphors ground our understanding of abstract concepts in concrete experiences, such that we use the language of a fundamental physical experience or sensation to describe concepts and ideas with which we can have no direct physical contact. For example, emotions and states are often conceptualized as locations, so that we can describe being “in” love, “at” peace or “near” death. And just as it’s nearly (if not entirely) impossible to avoid using metaphors in speech, so is it impossible to avoid metaphor in creating a language. Unlike the languages we speak, though, a language creator has the opportunity to actively create the fundamental conceptual metaphors that guide users of their language. In this talk, David Peterson will discuss the use of conceptual metaphor in his languages from HBO’s Game of Thrones, Syfy’s Defiance and the CW’s Star-Crossed, as well as comment on their use in other created languages, and their use in potential languages.


David J. Peterson received a BA in English and Linguistics from UC Berkeley in 2003, and an MA in Linguistics from UC San Diego in 2005. Since 2009, he’s served as the language creator for HBO’s Game of Thrones. More recently, he’s worked as the alien language and culture consultant on Syfy’s Defiance and the CW’s Star-Crossed, as well as creating a language for Thor 2: The Dark World. He also currently serves as the president of the Language Creation Society, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the art and science of language creation.