Qilōnario Geron

Click to enlarge.

Duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh… THE BEAR AND THE MAIDEN FAIR! Duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh…

All right, I know I work on the show, and it’s outstanding, and I love everybody, and everything is just super 100% awesome, but…seriously, man, ki fin yeni with that outro music? That was one of the most discordant moments of television I’ve experienced in a long, long time. First a scene that must have absolutely shocked viewers unfamiliar with the books, and then cut to spring breeeeeeeeeaaaak! Definitely good for a laugh, though.

There were a lot of magnificent bits in 303. The chair scene was a wonderful bit of absurd theater (and I’ll take anything I can get with Tywin Lannister). If you didn’t see Hot Pie’s wonderful dire wolf confection, here you are:

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

The funeral in the beginning was genius (that would’ve been me shooting the arrows the first time, by the way. If I were any character in Game of Thrones, that is me all over). And despite what they think over at Winter Is Coming, I loved the scene with Pod, Bronn and Tyrion. Boy’s got game, son! If you can’t step to that, best step off, you feel me?

But I’d like to highlight one scene in particular that I thought was awesome: Stannis and Melisandre. Man! That shoulder’s so cold she got Stannis turning on the AC to warm up! Maybe it was just me, but I was mightily entertained by just how much she was obviously not into Stannis at all. Maybe Jorah has some company coming his way in the Friend Zone, because that was brutal. Reminded me of seventh grade. Very, very well played by Ms. van Houten!

Today we had some more Astapori Valyrian. It was a great scene and very well played—including by the new actor who played the fellow sitting next to Kraznys. (Does anyone know his name—both the character and the actor? He’s just referred to as “Master Slaver” in my sides.) EDIT: The character is Greizhen mo Ullhor, and he’s portrayed by Clifford Barry. (Great job, Mr. Barry!) I could not follow precisely how things got broken up. For example, when Kraznys is going over exactly how many Unsullied he’d give Dany for her Dothraki, etc., it was written up as one long speech. That speech, though, was broken up a bit and delivered in bits here and there, rather than a monologue, so I’m not sure if there’s anything that got cut. Here are a few of the lines from the exchange, though (the ones I remember got in). This is a line from Missandei:

  • Ebas pon sindigho uni.
  • “She wants to buy them all.”

Now for a word I had fun inventing: the word for dragon (and, no, it’s not related to drakarys. I already roll my eyes enough at the “drak” in that word). Continuing Missandei:

  • Ivetras sko o tebozlivas me zaldrize.
  • “She says she will give you a dragon.”

And I don’t remember what of Kraznyz’ reply stayed in… I’ll have to watch it again on HBO Go. I do remember he got to say this:

  • Ivetra zer ebi ji rovaja.
  • “Tell her we want the biggest one.”

Yes, I had fun with this language. Ji rovaja is “the biggest (one)”, and if you know my sense of phonaesthetics, a word like that is like David Bowie wearing something like this:

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Pure decadence. I shamelessly wallow in it.

It occurs to me that stress is not nearly as predictable in Astapori Valyrian… I should probably mark the non-predictable stresses, but that’d require some back-tracking. As a general note, though, commands are stressed word-finally (so ivetrá, for example).

Finally, this is Missandei’s last line:

  • Pindas sko ji yn tebila, va me rudhy. Pindas sko gomila kizi sir.
  • “She asks that you give me to her, as a present. She asks that you do this now.”

Above, for example, tebila and gomila are basically the same construction, but tebila has penultimate stress and gomila has antepenultimate stress. The latter is the odd one.

I’d like to close with a couple of comments. First, check out the transcription project undertaken by Mad Latinist over at his LiveJournal. I haven’t been able to do as much this season because of outside commitments (for example, I’m going to miss the Monday Dothraki chat again, but this should be the last one [well, until LCC5, for which I will probably miss the Dothraki chat yet again]). I feel like there’s going to be enough by the end of the season to put together a fair bit on both Valyrian variants, though—certainly enough to beef up a Wikipedia article, I think.

Second, there is something from the books I’d like to address directly, because I’m utterly baffled by the interpretation. The following excerpt comes from A Feast for Crows (note: this may be slightly spoilerly if you know the context; if you don’t, it should be fairly meaningless):

“What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years. […] The dragons prove it.”

Many have taken this quote as evidence that High Valyrian is a language without grammatical gender (and for those who are as baffled by that interpretation as I was, I swear, it’s true! Go to the forums and ask around). This quote proves nothing of the kind.

First, what Maester Aemon is talking about here is not grammatical gender but biological gender. In our own world, there are animals that can actually change their gender from male to female, or vice versa (see, for example, the clownfish). Often this happens to aid reproduction. Presumably, dragons in the universe of Ice and Fire are the same—that is, dragons that are, at the moment, male or female, will switch to another gender if it’s required for some reason (this has yet to be revealed).

The part where language comes into this is that the prophecy referred to is originally delivered in High Valyrian, and it refers to a prince. The translation he’s talking about, though, is the translation to Common (i.e. English) which uses the word “prince”, which is male. The assumption, then, was that if that translation caused confusion, it’s because the High Valyrian word can refer to either gender, and, as a result, High Valyrian is genderless.

Not so. First, grammatical gender need not be tied to biological gender (and, indeed, High Valyrian’s genders are not). Second, think for a moment. English is a gender neutral language. We have gendered third person singular pronouns, but outside of that, English has no grammatical genders the way Spanish, French and Italian do. “Prince” is grammatically gender neutral. Semantically, though, it’s male, just as the words “man”, “bachelor”, “father” and “son” are. That these words exist says nothing about the grammatical gender system of English.

So, all this says about High Valyrian is that the word originally used in the prophecy that was translated as “prince” in Common (i.e. English) can refer to either gender (e.g. the way “scientist” can refer to either gender in English). Maester Aemon, here, is commenting on how the assumption, given the context, was that the one prophesied must be male, because this is something that is presumably common in Westeros society (kind of like it still is in ours. Take a random sampling of 100 people and see how many still first think of a man when they hear the word “scientist”)—but, crucially, that it need not be so. That is all this quote is evidence of; it says nothing whatever about the gender system of High Valyrian.

Okay, I should wrap this up. As one more final note, I like to keep it to Game of Thrones here, but if you have some time tonight (or tomorrow night, if you’re outside North America), see if you can tune into the series premiere of Defiance on Syfy at 9/8 Central. I’ve been working really hard for over a year on the series, and the finished product is something everyone involved is really proud of. I’d be delighted if folks would give it a chance, as I think it has a chance to be something really special.

Fonas chek!

Update: Forgot to mention: I’m doing an AMA over at Reddit tomorrow at 6 Eastern.


  1. Thanks for the plug. And thanks for the new transcriptions: amazing how much I got right and how much I got wrong ;) For instance:

    Ebas pon sindigho uni.

    So it’s ébas not *évas, and my theory about there being an etymological connection to evá “until” is almost certainly incorrect.

    On the other hand, check out that nice -gho infinitive! Pon is interesting… I’ll have to listen if the word I heard as Manarágho is actually pon arágho (plausible, but I kind of doubt it.)

    Úni really caught my attention when I watched the episode, and I did wonder if this was somehow related to what I transcribed as ún sépa … on the one hand, this would explain why Kraznys hits that word so strongly. On the other hand, it would be difficult to fit “all” into the sentence as construed so far.

    Ivetras sko o tebozlivas me zaldrize.

    Aha! So is it maybe *tébastebozlívas and *mejórismejorezlívas?

    Also… sko!!

    Anyway, lots of good stuff in your transcriptions, and in the scenes in general, should I be foolish enough to continue this project of mine ;) Thanks again.

    BTW, according to the show wiki, your “Master Slaver” is one Greizhen mo Ullhor, apparently based on the books’ Grazdan mo Ullhor.

  2. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Benioff and Weiss stated that they specifically chose to play happy discordant music in a jump-cut to the credits, the Bear and the Maiden fair, because they wanted to capture some of the “shock value” of Jaime losing his hand for a book reader.

    As they explained, they felt just fading out to the normal orchestral-music outro wasn’t jarring enough; they were going for shock value to try to capture how shocking that was in the books. It made more sense when they explained it.

  3. How does the article system in AV work? “Ji/vi” for definite and only “me” for indefinite?
    Also, what’s up with the object pronouns? :D “Tell HER sth/ give HER sth” would both require the dative in the languages I know, so how come we have “yn/zer”?
    “Rovaja” is a truly filthy word. And I mean that as a compliment.

    1. There are nominative, dative and accusative pronouns in AV. Regarding the article system, that’s correct for the singular. You understand all of these were evolved. I didn’t decide to do it this way: based on the way things were moving, and the way High Valyrian worked, the system is the one that made the most sense. I suspect other Low Valyrian languages will have a similar system if they evolve articles.

  4. @ ML: «On the other hand, it would be difficult to fit “all” into the sentence as construed so far.» — My guess was that {un} was “any”, and I don’t see a problem with the same word meaning “all”. The sentence in question could mean something like “we can be sure they lack all weakness”.

    As for /ʒi rovaʒa/, yeah, that’s positively… wait for it… phornographic.

  5. So, is there a blog for the conlangs of Defiance? Watching the pilot now (should be sleeping, class tomorrow, but whatever). If I weren’t breaking myself to be a lab scientist, I’d be working towards linguistics. As it stands, my one non-science class (Arabic) is taking up a lot of my time, because my thought process of, “I’ll take a new language! That’ll be a nice filler class! didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.

    1. There isn’t, at the moment. Still not quite sure what we’re going to do with that… I imagine we’ll see as the season wears on. Good luck with Arabic! Wish I’d kept up with it.

  6. Thanks! I figured since I already speak English (well, for technical purposes, “American”), French, and Spanish, and didn’t feel like taking a placement test for Hebrew (took it the first time I went to college; had to abandon it in favor of a Journalism degree, went back to it later, but never really kept it up), I’d just start from scratch with Arabic. I sometimes wonder about my drive to be a scientist; honestly, if I’d started learning foreign languages at say, age 5, I’d probably be something like the Sheldon Cooper of language knowledge now, at 31. Let’s take into account that even as my brain plasticity declines, I’m still lazing my way through Arabic and getting a B average. Imagine what would happen if I didn’t have to throw all my energy into Genetics and Chem II.

    1. Ha, I did the same thing… Took a double BA/BSc at university, studied genetics and physiol in the science half thinking that’s where my career would go, but did language units (German, Russian, Spanish) in the arts half, essentially just for fun.

      Ended up being a high school language teacher, should’ve just done a linguistics degree + a few foreign languages and enjoyed the whole study thing a lot more!

      (For the record, I’m native speaker of English (Australian), but spent a long time in Germany as a teenager and am functionally bilingual English/German).

  7. Speaking of language evolution, David, what materials should I check to learn more about it? I’m a translator and I know a bit of linguistics, but I don’t know much about how things change over time except for the obvious (voicing/devoicing, cases disappearing, regularization of plurals). How does a language like Dothraki end up having a subjunctive?

    1. How does a language like Dothraki end up having a subjunctive?

      Try translating stuff with the current array of Dothraki tenses and you’ll see. :)

      There are two texts I’d recommend. One is general and a bit more accessible, as it’s intended as an introduction, and that’s Lyle Campbell’s Historical Linguistics: An Introduction. It goes into a lot of depth about sound changes, but also discusses semantic change. To get more on the evolution of tense, modality and aspect, check out Bybee et al.’s The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. Those two texts will give you a lot of the foundation you’ll need for tackling language evolution.

  8. Great read! So is dragon ‘zaldrize’ in Astapori Valyrian? I would love to learn corresponding word in High Valyrian.

  9. Finally got around to posting my thoughts on the Slaver’s Valyrian from this episode: http://jdm314.livejournal.com/197069.html. Had to post a bit late at night, so please forgive any editing problems… but please do post suggestions, counterarguments, and theories is you are inclined.

    (And David, if you could please delete my last two comments, which I posted in error, I would really appreciate it.)

  10. Speaking of cultural gender bias, here is a puzzle that took a mixed-gender company of my fellow Russian expatriates several minutes to solve:

    A man dies in a car crash, but his son who was with him in the car, survives and is taken to a hospital ER. Upon seeing him, an ER surgeon says: “I cannot operate on him – he is my son”. How is that possible?

  11. Red Star = Red Keep taken over by the Faith. The seven-pointed star will be used to rename the Red Keep. “When the Red Star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.” Jon Snow will be born as a dragon rider when the Red Star bleeds.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.