The Connotations of Conlangs: Understanding the Orientalist Leanings of Dothraki and High Valyrian in Game of Thrones

A Rahel Rao
Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts
Symbiosis International (Deemed University)


Constructed languages or ‘conlangs’ are staples of the fantasy genre in literature. They contribute heavily to world building, unwittingly admitting language’s role in constructing reality by operating in this manner. Understanding the power structures language creates and upholds can then directly inform our understanding of conlangs and the sociolinguistic reasons behind conceptualising them the way ‘conlangers’ have. This paper is concerned with connecting ideas of orientalism with conlangs and their construction, using the Game of Thrones television series, with its two central conlangs – Dothraki and High Valyrian, — both created for the television adaptation. This paper first lays out the theoretical framework to understand the power of language. It then connects this framework to Game of Thrones to understand how conlangs can reflect power structures. The goal, through close reading, is to examine the role language plays, not only in shaping our reality but also our biases and about studying how these biases reflect back into languages constructed by human beings.

Keywords: conlang, language, constructed language, Game of Thrones, orientalism