David J. Peterson Invented the Language the Elves Speak in 'The Christmas Chronicles'


Dec. 22 2021, Updated 2:29 p.m. ET

christmas chronicles
Source: netflix

Two years after Netflix dropped their heartwarming Christmas flick The Christmas Chronicles, the adorable elves made their return to the streaming platform in a sequel titled The Christmas Chronicles 2.

Anyone who tuned into the 2018 movie knows that the elves have a distinct language they use to communicate with their boss, Santa Claus. So, what language are they speaking in The Christmas Chronicles?

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What language do they speak in 'The Christmas Chronicles'?

The language the elves speak in The Christmas Chronicles is called Elvish, but it isn't to be confused with the Elvish languages J.R.R. Tolkien created for the elves in his many novels.

The Lord of the Rings author first created Qenya, the primitive form of Elvish, before creating Sindarin, Avarin, Telerin, and Nandorin, all of which are Elvish languages. The grammar and sound patterns of Qenya are strongly influenced by Finnish, Latin, Greek, and elements of ancient Germanic languages. 

christmas chronicles
Source: netflix
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But The Christmas Chronicles' Elvish is quite distinct from Qenya, and was created by the language creator David J. Peterson, who is best known for constructing the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for Game of Thrones.

When the first Christmas Chronicles came out on Netflix in 2018, the language the elves and Santa spoke was called Yulish. It was described as having a non-past tense, nouns that inflected for definiteness, and a dip in intonation when it came to stressing syllables in a word.

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Now, the language has gotten an update for the sequel, in which Elvish is featured even more prominently than in the first — to the point where some viewers on Twitter wish everyone would just speak in English!

"I had so much fun on the first one that I was delighted to be invited back for the second," David tweeted about his experience working on The Christmas Chronicles 2. 

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Fans, for the most part, appreciated how language was such an intricate part of the movie's world-building strategy.

"Christmas Chronicles 2 does a great job with Elvish, adding a level of depth and realism otherwise missed out on if elves and Clauses were speaking English," one person wrote after watching the Christmas film.

what language are they speaking in the christmas chronicles
Source: getty

David J. Peterson

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Who is David J. Peterson, and what other languages has he created?

David is what linguists call a "conlanger," which means that he creates or constructs languages. He studied linguistics at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, then went on to cofound the Language Creation Society. It was during his time at the Language Creation Society that HBO approached the group looking for a fictional language for Game of Thrones. The Language Creation Society started a contest out of the prompt, which David won.

Since rising to fame with such a high-profile project, David went on to create Castithan, Irathient, Indogene, and Omec for Syfy's show Defiance. He also created the language used by the Dark Elves in Thor: The Dark World, as well as languages for Netflix's Bright, CW's The 100, Showtime's Penny Dreadful, and Netflix's The Witcher.

Check out his YouTube channel, The Art of Language Invention, to learn more about him, his projects, and how languages are created.

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