I’m currently in Albuquerque for SWTX PCA/ACA and getting ready to call it a night. Tomorrow, among other things, I’m going to talk about how Dothraki leads a kind of dual existence: One as a language in the extended Universe of Ice and Fire, and the other as a constructed language that exists in our world and can be used to the extent that its grammar and lexicon will allow. In our modern world, though, the lexicon created for the show isn’t as practical as it could be, so I thought it would be fun to try to coin some modern words from existing material. Here are some to try out:
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None of these words, of course, would enter the official lexicon of Dothraki (they’re not appropriate), but they might prove useful for using in other contexts. See what you can come up with! The online lexicon is here. If you need to use a word that isn’t available, just use the English word and I’ll see if I can fill in the blanks.
As a refresher, this is how compounds works.
First, sometimes a prolix expression can become a lexical entry. Consider “The President of the United States of America”. That’s a full noun phrase, but we understand it to be a single entity. You can do the same thing in Dothraki (consider Vezh fin Saja Rhaesheseres), in which case you don’t need anything but the grammatical information needed to form noun phrases.
If you want an actual compound word, there are three different types. The first is a noun-adjective compound. These work by combining any noun with any adjective to form a new noun. Starting with a noun in the nominative case, you add an adjective directly after the noun. If the combination results in a difficult consonant cluster, an e can be inserted after the noun for euphony. The resulting compound is an inanimate noun of Class A if it ends in a consonant; Class B if it ends in a vowel. Here’s an example based on Daenerys’s last name:
- vaz “storm” + yol “born” = Vazyol “Stormborn”
Next come the noun-noun compounds, of which there are two types. The most common are combinations of a noun stem and a noun in the genitive (if possible). The meaning of a compound like this (if the two nouns are A and B) is “an A of/from B”. To form one of these compound nouns, take the first noun and strip it to its root. If the root ends in a vowel, the second noun is added afterwards. If it ends in a consonant, the second noun is still added, but the same euphony rule detailed above applies (i.e. an e is inserted if necessary). If the second noun ends in a vowel (regardless of what noun it used to be), the resultant compound will likely be an inanimate noun of Class B (sometimes it will be Class A). If it ends in a consonant, an -i is appended to the end of the new stem, and it becomes an inanimate noun of Class A. Here’s an example:
- zir “bird” + qoy “blood” = zirqoyi “bird of prey, raptor”
The last type of noun-noun compound is the allative compound. Using our nouns A and B, an allative compound creates a word that means “an A (intended) for B”. To form it, the first noun is stripped down to its root, as with a genitival compound, and the second is added after it. If the second noun ends in a vowel, an -n is added to the end; if not, an -an is added to the end. Either way, the resultant compound is an inanimate noun of Class A. Here’s an example:
- qemmo “cover” + tih “eye” = qemmotihan “eyelid”
One final note. Sometimes a resulting consonant cluster will not need an epenthetic e, but it will change in form. Specifically, when a stop consonant comes before another stop consonant, it becomes a fricative. Stops will become the fricative that’s closest to its place of articulation, sometimes devoicing if necessary. Here’s a chart showing which stops go to which fricatives:
- t, d > th
- ch > sh
- j > zh
- k, g, q > kh
Feel free to have fun with it! There are no right answers. I’ll have a conference update some time later in the week.