Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, numerous cultural and regional dialects are discussed. These dialects form the world's spoken tongue, and help define its people.
Unlike J. R. R. Tolkien, who created entire languages with grammar, syntax, and tenses, George R. R. Martin has created only a few words from each language in his world, and his languages are not conveyed in any great detail. Instead, the tongue in which they are speaking is noted but rendered in English, with added characteristics and flavor portrayed through out the text. As Martin explained,
Tolkien was a philologist, and an Oxford don, and could spend decades laboriously inventing Elvish in all its detail. I, alas, am only a hardworking SF and fantasy novel, and I don't have his gift for languages. That is to say, I have not actually created a Valyrian language. The best I could do was try to sketch in each of the chief tongues of my imaginary world in broad strokes, and give them each their characteristic sounds and spellings.
David J. Peterson developed spoken Dothraki and High Valyrian for HBO's television adaptation, Game of Thrones. The languages expand greatly from Martin's few created words. A website, dothraki.org, helps teach and spread the constructed tongues. The popularity of the Dothraki language has led it to be called "the new Klingon".
Languages of Westeros
The Old Tongue was the language of the First Men, who dominated Westeros for thousands of years. Today, the Old Tongue is still remembered by giants and some free folk who live beyond the Wall, but most people within the Seven Kingdoms know no other language than the Common Tongue. Although the Common Tongue has minor variations and regional accents, Dornishmen can communicate with northmen without difficulty. Foreign tongues are taught in the Citadel and by maesters, or are brought from other lands by immigrants, merchants, sellswords, and the like.
Languages of Essos
- High Valyrian, the language of the old Valyrian Freehold, is now spoken in bastardized dialects across its remnants, including the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay. Each Free City's dialect is on its way to be a separate language, but someone who is fluent in High Valyrian can communicate well enough.
- The Dothraki language is the tongue of the Dothraki, the indigenous inhabitants of the Dothraki sea.
- Old Ghiscari is a largely extinct tongue. It was spoken five thousand years ago by the Ghiscari people of the Old Empire of Ghis, which was destroyed by the Valyrian Freehold. Ghiscari was supplanted by a "mongrel" blend with High Valyrian, though it is still spoken by some, and engraved Ghiscari glyphs can be found on various old objects.
- The people of Asshai have a language which is used in spells.
- Lhazareen is described as singsong.
- The Summer Tongue is used in the Summer Isles.
- The trade talk is a coarse argot that has developed using words from a dozen languages (many of them insults) and hand gestures.
- The unnamed Ibbenese language is a "guttural, grunting tongue" spoken by the Ibbenese in Ibben and northern Essos and is possibly related to the tongue of the ancient Hairy Men.
- The children of the forest speak and sing in the True Tongue, and have taught it to some ravens.
- The Others' language is described as sounding like cracking of ice on a winter lake. In Game of Thrones it is named Skroth.
- So Spake Martin: Yet More Questions (July 22, 2001)
- Entertainment Weekly: Is Dothraki the new Klingon? (April 17, 2015)
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 51, Jon VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
- So Spake Martin: Cyvasse, Accents, Historical Mysteries, and Dornish Nationalism (April 18, 2008)
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 26, Jon IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 1, Tyrion I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 6, The Merchant's Man.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14, Tyrion IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 60, The Spurned Suitor.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 23, Daenerys II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 61, Daenerys VII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 34, Cat Of The Canals.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 47, Tyrion X.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ib.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
- A Game of Thrones, Prologue.