Today is my 31st birthday, which seems like a much more frightening prospect than my 30th… But at least I have two years until my 33rd. If you’re wondering about the featured image for this post, the explanation is quite simple: Since I’m writing this post before my actual birthday, I don’t have any pictures from my birthday, which led me to go back to photos from my previous birthday, when my wife took me to Vegas, where many hotels featured displays inspired by Chinese New Year (at the time, the Year of the Rabbit), and, as a big fan of rabbits (and topiary), I, naturally, had to take some pictures. And, yes: I do have more pictures. Many more.
I was trying to figure out something fun to do for my birthday, and then…I figured it out. (I couldn’t think of a snappy way to finish that sentence. Then I started writing the last one. And now this…) Back on December 17th, I did an interview with Monique Stander for a South African radio station. The interview was at midnight, and I got a call from a station assistant a half hour beforehand to make sure I was there and ready. Once that had been ascertained, he also asked if I’d write a haiku, since they were talking about haikus on the show that day. I asked him if he wanted one in English or Dothraki, and he said English, so we hung up and I started writing a haiku in English (kind of tough to come up with a good one, but I did my best).
He then called back at 11:55 p.m. and said that, in fact, it was in Dothraki they wanted the haiku, not English. He asked how much time I had, and he said three minutes. So we hung up again, and in three minutes, I came up with this:
Sajo anni ma
Haja ma ivezhofa.
Sek. Me nem nesa.
Which is (approximately): “My horse is / Strong and fierce. / Yes. It is known.” It’s not Bashō, but at least it has the right number of syllables in the right places (something I wasn’t sure of when I went on the air!).
Since we’ve got all the time in the world here on the internet, I thought a Dothraki haiku might be a fun (and relatively manageable) translation challenge! So the gauntlet is cast. If you’re interested, write a haiku in Dothraki. 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, we’ll set up a separate category for haiku that are 17 syllables, but maybe don’t hit the right line numbers.
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.
So, there it is! Good luck! Feel free to post responses in the comments to this post, or e-mail them to “dave” at “dothraki” dot “com” (feel free to include audio!). I’ll discuss the responses in a future post, and will possibly give my favorite some sort of (likely virtual; definitely rabbit-related) prize. If you need any help, head over to Dothraki.org, and you should find what you need.
Here is my first attempt.
Here is another one.
The meaning isn’t exactly what I wanted it to be but it’s close enough I think.
Ajjin anha ray
This was fun so here is another one.
chisen ma at halahi
Happy birthday! I turned 41 just a week ago, and it also bothered me more than turning 40. It’s that +1, I think.
The zero year is like being at the top of the roller coaster. The 1 is what comes after that…
It’s like the old debate about whether the new millenium started January 1st 2000 or January 1st 2001.
I’ve seen no bird from the Citadel. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still the 20th century.
Four seasonal poem attempts. I’ll probably notice a lot of errors (and/or weaknesses), if I look back a couple of hours later… but why wait.
Ikh dozgosoon anni;
ahesh sash qisi.
Kash shekh vervena,
kash hranna veltoroe;
Halah she sorfo;
negwin nem eyyelie.
Dani vekh hazze.
Hrazhef vos govo.
Chaf ish atthasa okre,
Some questionish stuff:
You mention mora. I does make sense to me to approach Dothraki poetry from purely syllabic direction, but since Dothraki have light and heavy syllabes, I’m guessing mora is still linguistically relevant concept Dothraki-wise?
Breaking words into syllabes.. as far as haikus are concerned, it’s enough to count vowels, and so we should be fully capable there, but as far as my knowledge goes, we only nearly understand, what (two-consonant) clusters can be fitted to onset and what to coda of a syllabe. Is this a thing that can be easily clarified? And does ..VyV.. always break into ..V.yV.. or can Vy be a fixed diphthong?
The look on the poetic freedoms that Dothraki take (or might take if they did have a suitable poetic tradition) was cool. Dropping epenthetic vowels, using unelided adpositions, dropping pronouns… those all seem very natural departures from natural Dothraki speech.
Yes, the mora is still relevant to Dothraki. In particular, it helps to explain where one must have an epenthetic e in the accusative or past tense (but you end up having the epenthetic e in more places than simply where it’s required). If you completely remove h from the language for the moment, the syllabic structure of Dothraki can be explained entirely by the sonority hierarchy. For onsets, you go from least sonorous to most sonorous, with a maximum of 2, and noting that fricatives can’t precede nasals. Codas work the same way, but in reverse. (This might warrant its own post…)
Returning to h, it behaves strangely, in that it can appear before or after approximants and nasals. Also, you’ll never see a word that begins with an affricate plus some other consonant, even though the cluster occurs internally (e.g. achra is syllabified a.chra).
As for the last question, VyV will always break down as V.yV.
Asshekhqoyi erin, zhey David!
This must be birthday week! My birthday was on Monday.
I’ll try my hand at a haiku this evening or over the weekend.
And my birthday is next thursday.
And this one we won’t miss!
And we missed it?! Asshekhqoyi davra, zhey Hrakkkar!
I had the day off, besides, so I was able to have an extended IRC session. I was hoping you would show up! At least, we can celebrate yours (and maybe Insgive’s) on Monday!
For ‘happy Birthday’, I have been using ashekhqoyi erin. How is that different from asshekhqoyi davra, seeing both are adjectives, that can mean ‘good’?
Anha zalak asshekhqoyi vezhvena, zhey David! Sorry for it being belated! And I wish you many, many wonderful more…not belated of course!
I am sorry I am late submitting my haiku. They have been keeping me very busy at work with a major new equipment installation.
Without reading anyone else’s entry, here is my offering:
Mem haj hrakkari
Hrazef ma oqet lani
Affin me zori
I hope you like it!
I love it! Here is my translation:
There are only two things that need fixing in line 3:
But those are just grammatical bits, and the changes don’t affect the syllable count. Nice job!
Zhey David, you did a good job capturing my intended meaning!
Why would you arrek, ‘then’ in place of affin, ‘when’? The other change appears to make the verb root zor third person singular, which is certainly better than the second person indicated by /-i/.
I am guessing line rhyming is not necessary in a haiku, and this is how we wrote them in grade school (a very long time ago!)
This haiku is actually my first attempt to write something in Dothraki!
It’s actually a different type of “when”. When you use WH-words in an interrogative content clause, you switch from jin to rek.
Oh, ha. Yeah, haiku don’t need to rhyme. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one that rhymed. They can, certainly, but they don’t need to.
Better late than never…
Vaz verven laqa
Ma kash krazaaj remek
This was too fun. Here’s another one!
Ez qoy asshekhi.
I figured I’d keep this one with my other two, even though they’re all in the wrong thread XD
Fekh vojjori virsae.
Mai vos laqo.