Dune languages

Denis Villeneuve is sparing no expense when it comes to creating a fully-realized world for his big, star-studded Dune movie. In order to create the many otherworldly dialects in the Frank Herbert adaptation, David J. Peterson, who built the Dothraki and Valyrian languages on Game of Thrones, has been hired to create the Dune languages as well.

I hope you’re ready to hear a bunch of far-out languages in Dune, because that’s what you’re going to get. Speaking with io9, David J. Peterson, who helped create the languages on Game of Thrones, revealed he’s also working on Dune:

“I asked [the studio before the interview], especially because it seemed like every day you’re jumping on Twitter and, ‘Oh this person is working on Dune.’ I’m like, ‘Can I say I’m working on Dune?’ They said, ‘Yeah you can say you’re working on Dune, but you can’t say anything about what you’re doing.’”

The only clue Peterson gave as to what he’s doing was to say “It’s more than one thing,” which indicates he’s building several languages for the movie. Galach is the universal language used in Frank Herbert’s Dune universe, described (via Wikipieda) as “Hybrid Inglo-Slavic with strong traces of cultural-specialization terms adopted during the long chain of human migrations.” However, since this is the main language everyone uses, and Herbert wrote the book in English, Galach is technically presented as English. Other Dune languages include Chakobsa, “a hybrid language derived from various ancient Bhotani dialects, especially the Bhotani hunting language” and Islamiyet, “the arcane language of the Tleilaxu. It was never spoken aloud outside a kehl, the Tleilaxu secret council.” There are more languages too, and it’s not clear how many of them will figure into the film.

The fact that Villeneuve is taking care to have various fantasy languages created for his film is both very cool and very nerdy – and I mean that in a good way. It’s obvious the Blade Runner 2049 director wants to craft something big, epic, and full of plenty of world building. “The cool thing about creating a language is that there’s two different parts to it,” Peterson said in a past interview. “There’s a very kind of technical part to it, which is creating the grammar, making sure that it works and making sure you’ve got all your bases covered. It’s very much like programming, puzzle-making or problem-solving. But then there’s a very artistic component, which is the creation of the lexicon: deciding exactly how this language you’re creating is going to encode the vastness of the world. All languages can say everything. The way that they differ is how they say what they say, and that’s what makes language so fascinating.”

Dune has proven notoriously difficult to adapt to the screen, but Villeneuve might just pull it off. He’s certainly assembled one hell of a cast, including Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Stephen Henderson, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem.

Dune opens November 20, 2020.

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