Valshe Vinesera

Kisha ray essash!

For those who were able to watch the season 2 premiere of Game of Thrones, I hope you enjoyed it! (And for those who have yet to watch it in their home markets, I hope you enjoy it!) I saw the first episode about a week ago, and everyone there (myself included) was mightily impressed.

In fact, I think it’s worthwhile to meditate on that experience a little bit. For each of the first two seasons, HBO had this premiere event for cast and crew and their +1’s, and the events were pretty much the same in structure, but the atmosphere was quite different. The first time around, of course, George R. R. Martin was there, which was awesome, but overall, there were fewer people in attendance. The crew, of course, knew the show, but outside of that, I got the impression that a lot of folks there didn’t know what the books were all about, and didn’t know what to expect. They were there to support their friends and families, and to get a glimpse of a new show.

For the second premiere event, the place was packed. Not only that, but you could tell that everyone there was a fan of the show. We were allowed to invite one person, and I’m sure the first time around, guests were probably like, “Well, I’m not doing anything else, so that could be neat. Sure, I’ll come.” This time they were fighting over who would get to go. Plus, everyone knew every character, and knew all the ins and outs of the first season, and reacted appropriately to the action on screen. It was like going to a midnight showing for a blockbuster movie—not with Hollywood types, but with actual fans. That was really cool.

Back to the show, I love how the first thing we see is Peter Dinklage’s name—and his entrance is wonderful (as is his quip about Cersei’s cheekbones [which is true!]). Before his return, though, I wonder: Did anyone else think of the pit stage on Mortal Kombat seeing the Hound topple Ser Red Shirt over the edge? Because that’s the very first thing I thought of.

Other favorite bits of mine: The scene where Maester Cressen attempts to poison Melisandre; Cersei playing Simon Says with her guards at Littlefinger’s expense (“Power is power.” Ha!); Grey Wind menacing Jaime; and, of course, Joffrey getting slapped.

But, of course, we’re here to talk Dothraki, so talk it we shall!

First, a new character is introduced: Kovarro. As mentioned before, this was a name that the writers came up with (or perhaps Bryan Cogman specifically…?) based on the information I included about how to come up with Dothraki names (which, by the way, is a post that’s seriously overdue. Remind me if I forget). Dothraki makes a distinction between single and double consonants (e.g. ige “bowl (accusative)” vs. igge “bucket”), but I decided very early on that this wouldn’t necessarily be the case with names. Instead, consonant doubling is stylistic. It can also be functional, because a trisyllabic name like Hadoro would be stressed on the first syllable, even though the word hador, “gust of wind”, is stressed on the last. By doubling the last consonant, we get Hadorro, which keeps the stress on the same vowel as the original word, making the tie between the name and word more recognizable.

Our new name Kovarro, then, derives from the verb kovarat, which means “to stand”. Kovarro, then, is kind of like “stander (who is male)”: a tough guy who stands his ground. Of course, the name always reminds me of the wedding episode of Home Movies, which features one of Brendan’s films Landstander, with the main character, Landstander, whose key ability is that he can “stand on the land”.

Oh, and, of course, we also see Bitey! (I’ve named the little shoulder-standing dragon “Bitey”. Seems appropriate.) That’s really exciting. Can’t wait to see more dragons!

Back to Dothraki, we find Dany and Jorah et al. wandering the Athasar Virzeth, the Red Wastes, looking mighty dusty and bedraggled. And then, sadly, we lose another horse: Dany’s present from Drogo, her silver. To honor the poor horse’s memory, here’s a line from season 1 that never saw the light of day, but which readers of the book will remember:

  • Vizhadi vizhadaan norethi shafkoa. “Silver for the silver of your hair.”

This is what Drogo says to Dany on giving her his present. In the show, Drogo ends up not really saying anything to Dany until, like, episode 3, so, naturally, this line had to be cut—and, quite frankly, it’s a good thing it was, because in the original script I sent, I made a mistake: I wrote shafki when I should have written shafkoa. Oops! I was still a beginner when it came to Dothraki grammar at that point, though, so I hope the gaffe can be overlooked.

As things become more desperate, Dany gathers her bloodriders together (Zhey Rakharo, zhey Aggo, zhey Kovarro), and says the following:

  • Fichi hrazef zinayi kishi. “Take our remaining horses.”

A short bit, but we see a couple of rare things in here. First, if the form zin looks familiar, it’s probably from a sentence like the second one below:

  1. Anha adakhak. “I’m eating.”
  2. Anha zin adakhak. “I’m still eating.”

Zin is one of those post-subject particles that acts like certain auxiliaries do in English. Now we see a bit of its history in the word zinay, which is itself in a rarely seen form: the Dothraki active participle. (In case you’re wondering, no, there is no [longer a] verb associated with this word.) And, also a bit rare, the adjective zinay agrees with the inanimate noun in plurality, even though the inanimate noun can’t display number. And rarer still: the sequence yi, which is quite rare in Dothraki (e.g. no word begins with yi). So a small phrase, but some fun stuff going on.

Once Dany has her bloodriders’ attention, she tells them what to do:

  • Ma yer adothrae tith; ma yer heshtith; ma yer valshtith. “You ride east; you southeast; and you northeast.”

Never thought the ordinal directions would ever see the light of day. Glad I’d already coined them, though! After this, it’s Rakharo, I believe, who asks:

  • Fin kisha fonoki, zhey khaleesi? “What do we seek, khaleesi?”

Fonat means “to hunt”, and by adding the suffix -(s)o, you get fonolat, which focuses on the beginning of the event: the event’s inception. This translates in various ways in English (e.g. “to track”), but in a non-hunting context, it means something like “to seek” (i.e. to search for with an uncertain chance of success).

After this, Daenerys delivers one of her longer Dothraki speeches—perhaps her longest to date. Here’s the whole thing:

  • Vaes, che thiri che drivi. Ma verakasaris ma voji. Che ashefaes che tozaraes che Havazzhife Zhokwa. Ezo athchilar Athasaroon Virzetha hatif kishi, ma reki vekha yomme moon. “Cities, living or dead. Caravans and people. Rivers, or lakes, or the Great Salt Sea. Find how far the Red Waste extends before us, and what lies on the other side.”

In fact, there was actually one more line after this that got cut. I looked at that the first time and thought, “Are you sure? That’s pretty long…” And, indeed, it was. Better to have more to choose from than less, though.

I had to ponder what the Dothraki might do with the concept of “caravan”. Certainly caravans would be known to them: they travel all over and caravans exist. I came up with verakasar, which ultimately derives from the root e (heh, heh) which is used in the verb elat, which means “to go”. Through regular derivation, we get verat from elat, the former of which means “to travel”. One who travels, then, is a verak, and a group of them is a verakasar. And, ultimately, that’s what a caravan is: a group of travelers. Many are commercial in nature, but the Dothraki don’t trade, so probably would have little interest in that aspect of it (well, save that a traveling merchant would probably make a good target for sacking and pillaging).

In the third sentence we see two of my favorite words that I wasn’t sure would ever see the light of day: ashefa “river” and tozara “lake”. Both were created at around the same time, and were created very early. I was looking to create vocabulary sets that fit together, and so both of these (bodies of water, trisyllabic, ending in -a) helped to establish a semi-regular pattern for animate nouns. There are a number that fit this description, and it also says a little bit about the Dothraki worldview (i.e. the agency present in natural forces like a river or the wind).

The last sentence was actually quite difficult. I had to think for quite a bit how it would make sense to express that sentence in Dothraki. A more literal translation will give you a better idea for how exactly it works:

  • Ezo athchilar Athasaroon Virzetha hatif kishi, ma reki vekha yomme moon. “Find the extent of the Red Waste before us, and that which lies beyond it.”

Athchilar there might also be translated as “limit”. It derives from chilat, a verb that means “to be prostrate”. A closer English expression might be “the lie”, in…huh. Having trouble coming up with an English expression. Well, there’s also “the lay”, as in “the lay of the land”, but I’m sure you can also say something like, “Give me the lie of your proposal and I’ll tell you what I think of it”. We also see an indefinite relative clause in the second part of this sentence (I mentioned these initially here, but never discussed them—and there’s certainly no room to discuss them here. I’ll get to it, though). That single example may be enough to help the folks to figure out the rest.

Finally, Dany approaches Rakharo individually and says:

  • Yer athzalar nakhoki anni, zhey qoy qoyi. “You are my last hope, blood of my blood.”

Or at least that’s what I have written down. Thinking back, doesn’t she start out with zhey qoy qoyi? I need to hit up HBO GO and watch it again (though maybe someone will remember). Whichever order it is, athzalar should look familiar. The verb zalat is both “to want” and “to hope”, and here it’s fulfilling the latter function. The word nakhok is actually very similar to an ordinal number in its behavior. It derives from the same stem that gives us nakhat, which means “to stop”, and nakholat, which means “to finish”. In order to modify a noun with an ordinal like “first”, “second”, etc., you put the ordinal after the noun and put it in the genitive. That’s what you see here.

Finally, Rakharo replies with:

  • Anha vos oziyenek shafkea, zhey qoy qoyi. “I will not fail you, blood of my blood.”

The verb there is ziyenelat, derived from the same stem that gives us yeni, “failure”, which features in the Dothraki translation of “WTF?” (i.e. Ki fin yeni?). The circumfix zi(r)- -(s)e is something like “mis(o)-” in English (borrowed from Greek), and indicates some sort of a value judgment—i.e. that whatever happened happened and it was bad. That seemed appropriate for this type of failure.

And, there you have it! Just a short scene in episode 1, but a good chunk of Dothraki. I can’t at present recall if Elyes Gabel’s ad lib made it in (it was such a short thing), but perhaps those who have it fresh in their minds can let me know. Did you hear the mysterious word gwe?

Great to have Game of Thrones back on a weekly basis! There’s some really cool Dany/Dothraki scenes on the horizon, so stay tuned!

Update: Whoops! Missed a line. Nice catch, zhey ingsve!


  1. When Daenerys is about to but Drogon back into his cage she says something like “e” or “eh” and the person leading the horse stops. Was that suppose to be a line of dialogue of some sort? It almost sounds like someone mixed up “go” and “stop” since “e” is the formal imperative of elat.

  2. The word athasar for wastes, I assume that is a collective noun for ath? We have ath as an adjective meaning dry, does that mean that ath is also a noun? Or is athasar a nominalisation of some unknown word “as”?

    1. Ath doesn’t mean anything as a noun. Athasar is a collective formed off an imaginary noun ath. We kind of have the same thing in English (e.g. “news”, “blues”, etc.).

  3. Will watch the episode tonight, very excited about it. :) I did see Daenerys saying |e| in a trailer, though, and thought it was just a nicely evocative interjection. It makes even more sense as an imperative…

    I doubt |yi| is really that rare in Dothraki, what with every other vocabularly item containing |qoyi|. ;o)

    And I like the derivation of |athchilar|, feels very organic.

    |Anha ayok astosores ajjalani k’athgarvozari!|

    1. Ha, ha! Yeah, I guess I meant “rare” in the sense of individual words, not necessarily word frequency (in which case qoyi would beat up the statistics).

      Btw: k’athgarvozari is my new favorite adverb. Going to start using that all over the place.

  4. There is another line in the episode that you didn’t mention. After Dany says to Rakharo “Yer athzalar nakhoki anni, zhey qoy qoyi”, he replies something like “Anha vo oshinek shafka, zhey qoy” which is translated as “I will not fail you, blood of my blood”

    Is that what he said and what was the exact verb he was using?

  5. I can’t see the show, so that makes your analysis of the Dothraki all the more interesting. It also helps one understand haow to build sentences, etc; something I am very weak in right now.

    I, too like k’athgarvozari! It rolls off the tongue nicely, and describes how I fee about 5 PM each day!

  6. Small question day!
    1) I would have expected the ordinal directions to be in allative. Are ablative and allative used for directions and how does allative differ from accusative then?

    2) All the words in Daenerys’s list of what to search seem to be in accusative (unsurprisingly), except voji. What’s the idea with voji, then?

    3) Havazzhife is a slightly surprining accusative. Where does that -e come from? It not that all genitively built compouds get the -e, is it?

    4) Is reki in “reki vekha yomme moon.” in nominative or genitive? And is it always rek (not fin or haz or jin) with indefinite relative clauses?

    “Ultimately derives from the root e” made me literally laugh out loud … and, figuratively, roll on a floor.

    1. 2) All the words in Daenerys’s list of what to search seem to be in accusative (unsurprisingly), except voji. What’s the idea with voji, then?

      THis is a very good question, and it will be interesting to see what Daenerys has to say about that. I checked both the wiki and the dictionary, and the word listed there is indeed voj.

      1. Ummm. Sorry to confuse, Hrakkar. That’s not the Daenerys I meant, and consequently not the list I meant.

        I meant the list “Vaes, che thiri che drivi. Ma verakasaris ma voji. Che ashefaes che tozaraes che Havazzhife Zhokwa.” from the above episode.

        It kind of makes sense to use plural on the word group headlines of Daenerys: it’s about people, not about a person. Of course rhoa, khogar, visshiya etc. should then also be in plural, but those are (though some just presumably) as far as I can see all inanimate nouns; so just stuff, not really singulars. Khado is animate, but it makes sense that’s singular.

    2. Sorry for the late response! Didn’t see these questions till you pointed them out today.

      (1) I suppose you could treat them as nouns, but they basically function as adverbs. Directions are tied to motion rather than location, initially, so the basic sense is, e.g. “eastly” or “northly”, etc. You could say something like Me dothra jimmoon, “He rode from the west”, but the basic functions are adverbial.

      (2) Properly it should be vojis. Periodically I drop something ungrammatical into Dany’s speech to keep her sounding not 100% native. This was one of those cases. (She was treating voji as a term [kind of like a proper noun] as opposed to declining voj properly.)

      (3) In this case, havazzhifi is a class B inanimate. It’s not always the case, but since it usually comes with an adjective following, the accusative gets an -e so as not to disrupt the intonational pattern unnecessarily.

      (4) Reki here is an inanimate noun in the nominative. Notice how in the recent post title I used me reki? Having me there allows it to take the case it would ordinarily in the matrix clause (the accusative), because reki (the indefinite pronoun—and, to your second question, yes) always takes the case it would in the embedded clause, not the matrix clause. So reki should be in the nominative, and you have the option of adding me before it to take the matrix case (the accusative, in this instance). I didn’t since ma was already there, and it was clear enough.

      “Ultimately derives from the root e” made me literally laugh out loud … and, figuratively, roll on a floor.

      If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it. ;)

      1. Adding an -e as not to disturb the intonational pattern! That’s a new one. Argh. hehh.

        “Reki vekha yomme moon” has actually ‘vekhat’ as a verb, so I guess it’s in genitive after all… though I did not notice that when I posted the question. Things are getting clearer anyhow.

  7. “I call the big one ‘Bitey’…” — The Simpsons, Season 4 episode 12, “Marge vs the Monorail”. Classic.

  8. Over on the Game of Thrones wiki, our functional assumption was that “Kovarro” was renamed from “Jhago” because it sounds too much like “Jhaqo”, and because TV viewers hear it instead of seeing it written in print, they’d easily confuse the two — is this accurate? Seeing as Khal Jhaqo became a major enemy for Daenerys.

    Moreover, it seems like the descriptions of Rakharo and Jhago/Kovarro were switched; in the books, Jhago is the younger one who is good with a whip, and Rakharo is the older one who uses an arakh.

    1. I wasn’t privy to the decision-making process here, but I’m fairly certain that they felt they weren’t able to include all of her bloodriders as major characters (or as major as they are in the book). An early version of the pilot script I saw had all three of her original bloodriders, and they were later removed. There’s really only so many speaking parts you can have in a show, and there are so many in Westeros (where much of the action takes place), that they probably felt it’s easier to cut a minor character in Essos than Westeros. Characteristics from all of Dany’s bloodriders seem to be rolled into whoever happens to have screen time—and that would go for both the late Rakharo and current Kovarro.

      Also, my guess is they wanted a new name because it would be odd if there were, e.g., no Jhago or Cohollo for the entirety of season 1, and then he suddenly appears in season 2.

      All of the above, again, is conjecture. You’d have to talk to D&D for the real answer.

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