Rytsas! I’ve busied up nice and good in recent days. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to keep up with this blog. To keep up momentum, I’d be happy to feature user-generated content. If you have any ideas, throw them at me! I’m down.
Today I’m going to briefly discuss the number system in High Valyrian. Valyrian numerals are a bit more complicated than Dothraki numerals, but there are some nice bits in the system that improve its usability. First, all numbers are adjectives. In effect, you could treat them like participles, for those who are familiar with Valyrian grammar (for those who aren’t, I’ll show you how that plays out in a second). Here are the numbers 1 through 10 in High Valyrian in the lunar class (showing both cardinal and ordinal numbers):
As a refresher, all three adjectival endings are utilized in the table above. The nominative endings for each adjective type in the various genders look like this:
Anyway, you’ll notice that with the exception of tȳne, “second”, all ordinals are Class III, which should be helpful. The rest of the numbers split their class membership with one important exception, which I’ll explain in a bit.
Essentially, numbers agree with the nouns they modify in case and number. This should be fairly simple for certain things, but not for others. Let’s start with a couple ordinary examples. First, here’s an example using lanta, “two”, and a noun of each gender (vala “man”; azantys “knight”; dōron “stone”; hāedar “younger sister”) in the nominative:
- Lunar: lanti vali “two men”
- Solar: lantyz azantyssy “two knights”
- Terrestrial: lanta dōra “two stones”
- Aquatic: lantra hāedri “two younger sisters”
As you can see, all these nouns are in the nominative plural, and so the number matches in case and number. As all numbers are adjectives, though, they do display the same agreement that other adjectives do outside of the singular and plural numbers. Here are a couple examples (lentun “community”; mentyr “army”):
- Paucal (Terrestrial): mēriar lentun “one community”
- Collective (Solar): mēre mentyr “one army”
So above, even though we’re only talking about a single community, the agreement on the adjective “one” is plural (i.e. mēriar as opposed to mērior), just as the agreement on “army” is singular. Things are complicated slightly when these terms become words in their own right (falling into Declension Class VI). Some words do indeed jump the shark, so to speak, and become words of a more usual class (I know this was a question that came up before). For example, lentor, originally the collective of lenton, “house”, is now just an aquatic noun of Declension Class III, rather than a collective of Declension Class VI. In that case, lentor (the word for “family line” or “house”, in the Westerosi sense) would behave in the usual manner. A word like tembyr, though (“book”, lunar), behaves differently. Here it is in its two numbers:
- Singular: mēre tembyr “one book”
- Plural: lanti tembyri “two books”
Here even though it’s built off a collective, the adjective “two” gets plural agreement in the plural. Similarly, even though a paucal would ordinarily get plural agreement, it will get singular agreement in the singular if the word is being treated as a separate, relexified word.
All of this, of course, is much simplified when dealing with ordinal numbers. A couple of examples appear below:
- Singular: ēlie vala “first man”
- Plural: ēlī vali “first men”
That latter might look familiar (or its meaning, at least). Anyway, ordinal numbers agree entirely in case and number with the nouns they modify, since the number of an ordinal doesn’t actually determine or interact with the number of a noun in any way.
Now for the slightly more complicated part (although its effect will be to simplify things). Though lanta, “two”, and ampa, “ten”, might look similar, they are different in that ampa is never inflected. Thus:
- Lunar: ampa vali “ten men”
- Solar: ampa azantyssy “ten knights”
- Terrestrial: ampa dōra “ten stones”
- Aquatic: ampa hāedri “ten younger sisters”
The number ampa never changes for any reason, though its ordinal, amplie, does (in the usual fashion). Ampa is not the only number to do so. To see more, here’s another table with the numbers up to twenty:
|11||mēre ampā||kūrie||16||bȳre ampā||byllie ampā|
|12||lanta ampā||ñallie||17||sīkuda ampā||sīglie ampā|
|13||hāre ampā||saelie ampā||18||jēnqa ampā||jēnqelie ampā|
|14||izula ampā||izunnie ampā||19||vōre ampā||vollie ampā|
|15||tōma ampā||tōmelie ampā||20||lantēpsa||lantīblie|
A couple of things to note about the above. First, note the special ordinal forms for “eleven” and “twelve” (holdovers from the old days). Also note that all other forms use a modified version of ampa that ends in a long consonant. This is the result of the standard juxtaposition process of coordination. In short, the final vowel is lengthened, and main stress shifts to the last syllable (as with commands). The result, ampā, is still never modified, and is used in both cardinal and ordinal constructions. The word for “twenty”, lantēpsa, is likewise indeclinable.
Since it’s been brought up, here’s a quick list of the powers of ten up to one hundred (note: none of the cardinal variants decline):
A number like 121 would be (in the lunar) gār mēri lantepsā, so until you get to 200, that should take care of everything. There are numbers that go even higher (including the number naena, which does decline, which just means “too many to count”), but those will have to wait for another day.
Again, I’ve been absurdly busy of late, so I’m not at all sure if I’ll be able to hit even two posts a month, let alone four. I will do my best to keep up, though, I promise.
I’d also like to mention The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics. This is a book I contributed to along with some of the other authors over at SpecGram, the internet’s premiere site dedicated to satirical linguistics. I don’t recall if there’s any Dothraki in there off-hand (there may be), but there are a few conlang-related pieces I wrote for SpecGram that I’m a big fan of (and, in case you’re wondering, yes, there are things I’ve written that I’m not a big fan of). If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, you can do so here. It makes a good gift/bathroom book for anyone who has even the slightest connection to language. As we all speak one human language or another, I think that covers most humans… Anyway, if you’re curious about whether or not you might like it, head over to SpecGram and take a look at some of the articles there. That will give you a fair sampling of the content you’ll find in the book.
Until next time, geros ilas!
David, you’re a dang legend for all the work you’ve done in Thrones and I know this work will continue in consistent quality through every season. I’m looking forward to next season already. Perzys Anogar.
Rytsas hen GenConī jemot vestran!
Thanks for this post! A major rewrite of [[High Valyrian Number System]] is in order.
Question: does a word like lentun still take plural adjectives and verbs when it is being thought of as (and given the meaning of) the singular of lentuni rather than the paucal of lenton?
Also a couple of errors, no doubt caused by having to rush this out between more pressing concerns:
• “… that ends in a long consonant” you mean “vowel.”
• You mean “multiples” of ten, not “powers.”
What is your word for yes, if there is one? I’d always wondered this but had not gotten around to asking.
In my understanding, High Valyrian doesn’t have words for yes and no. You would generally repeat the verb to answer a question, e.g. “Is the grass green?” “It is.”. But the word for yes in Volantene Valyrian is something like “ga” or “da”, if we are to trust Talisa…
See https://dothraki.com/2013/05/gryves-se-rina-litse/, especially:I didn’t actually intend for there to be a simple word for “yes” in High Valyrian, but of course there ought to be in Volantene. So whatever it was that was said, let’s say that’s it.I draw comparisons to Latin in the comments, others to Chinese, Celtic, and so on.
Hello. I was just wondering if you or someone else could point me to a pronunciation guide to the diacritics and maybe another website or forum that goes in-depth on how to learn and speak. Thanks.
Currently the best we have is http://wiki.dothraki.org/High_Valyrian_Phonology… hope that’s enough to help.