Monthly Archives: January 2020

Me Ray Jadi Save

The time has come to bring back the Dothraki haiku challenge.

The Dothraki haiku challenge was a yearly competition amongst those who studied Dothraki a bit. Haikus seemed within the grasp of even elementary students, so it seemed like a fun thing to do. I’d post a new competition every year on my birthday, and then decide on winners (one for Dothraki, and later one for High Valyrian) just for fun (no real awards; only virtual).

I can’t remember off hand how many competitions we ran, but it was at least four, I think. They didn’t stop for any important reason. The fact of the matter was, what would have been the next Dothraki competition in 2017 fell on my birthday, January 20th—the same day the 45th President of the United States was inaugurated. It so happens every 4 or 8 years that my birthday falls on inauguration day, and while some are better than others, that one had me feeling like I really didn’t want to celebrate my birthday at all. So I skipped that one, and as things busied up, I never got back to it.

Now I’m getting back to it.

So, if there’s anyone out there who’s still capable of writing a haiku in Dothraki or High Valyrian, this is your chance! Compose on your own, and when you’re ready, post it in the comments. (For those somewhat new to the languages, please make use of the Dothraki wiki, which has detailed grammatical information on both Dothraki and High Valyrian.)

We’ll do challenge words again this year (you don’t need to use the challenge word in your haiku, but if you do, I’ll give yours a little boost when I rate all the poems). The challenge word for Dothraki will be sash, and the challenge word for High Valyrian will be arlie, both of which are adjectives which mean “new”. For the full set of rules regarding the haiku, see below.

(Oh, by the way, I generally don’t choose a winner until submissions stop coming in.)

Guidelines

For the purposes of this contest, a haiku is 17 syllables long, with the syllable counts for each line being 5, 7, and 5, in that order. If you need to fudge, go for it, but I will weight exact syllable counts more highly.

Also (and this is important), since this is Dothraki, we are definitely going by syllable count, not mora count. Regarding syllable-counting, in Dothraki, a syllable is defined as a vowel plus one or more consonants on either side. A syllable cannot contain more than one vowel, which means that a word like kishaan is trisyllabic, not disyllabic.

If it helps, you may or may not contract the various prepositions that contract. So, for example, mr’anha (two syllables) is the usual way of saying “inside me”. For your haiku, if you wish, you can separate the two out, i.e. mra anha (three syllables). You can also drop purely epenthetic e vowels (so the past tense of “crush”, kaffe, can be rendered as kaff’). Feel free to play with word order and drop pronouns, as needed, bearing in mind that such language is figurative, and the reader will still need to be able to figure out who’s doing what to whom.

For Valyrian: Long vowels count as two mora, and a vowel with a coda counts as two mora, but a syllable will not have more than two mora. So a long vowel plus a coda consonant will still be two mora, for the purposes of the poem. If you can’t do the poem using mora, do it with syllables, but I’ll weight those done with mora more highly. This will make it more like a real Japanese haiku. If you need a particular word in a particular number/case combination or a verb in a particular conjugation, please let me know and I’ll give it to you.

Addendum: Falling diphthongs count as two mora (i.e. ae and ao); rising diphthongs count as one (e.g. ia, ua, ue, etc.). Also, word order is certainly freer in poetry than it is in everyday speech, but the rules about adjectives still apply (i.e. you use the short forms if the adjective appears directly before the noun it modifies; otherwise they’d take their full forms). And, finally, word-final consonants are extrametrical. Thus if a word ends in -kor, that counts as one mora, not two.

Shieraki gori ha yerea! Fonas chek!