Various Updates

I’ve been absolutely swamped working on the second season of Defiance and the first season of Star-Crossed, so I haven’t had the time to devote to maintaining this blog. It isn’t going away, though. It’s just wintering at the moment. (Ha. Just realized that Game of Thrones always premieres in the spring. Gives “winter is coming” a bit of a different twist.) I did want to mention a few things, though.

First, on November 9th, I’ll be speaking at El Ser Creativo: an event held in Madrid, Spain that features speakers from around the globe speaking on a variety of topics. I, of course, will be speaking about sports logos. For the event, though, they had me do a little promo. They said I could do it in English, but I elected to do it in Dothraki. Here it is:

I do not know if the event will be streaming (maybe?). Worth checking out!

Additionally, since the last time I mentioned him on the blog, sunquan8094 has started a series of Valyrian lessons on his YouTube channel! The first lesson is below:

I just got back from WyrdCon, and next week I’m going to the San Diego Comic-Fest. My presentation at the latter will be at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, October 4th. If you’re in Southern California today, though, I’m going to be at the Comic Book Hideout at 5:00 p.m. We’ll be talking about cursing. Heh, heh… It’ll be fun!

Finally, my pidgins and creoles professor from UC Berkeley John McWhorter did a video for TED Ed on conlanging, and I thought it was quite good. Conlangs have really gotten the short shrift from linguists for…decades. But things have started to turn around, and I’m really proud of where we’re at. It was John McWhorter who gave me my first opportunity to do some conlang-related experimentation (undergraduate-quality work, but, well, I was an undergraduate), and it’s really gratifying to see this come full circle. You can check out the video below (a short five minute intro; worth the watch).

…though he stressed the wrong syllable in Hajas!


  1. I’m not a master of language by any means…I can barely master the English language, depending on the day, so this blog has me blown away. I knew about the man behind the languages in theory so it is great seeing you here “in person”.

    Being a huge ASOIAF and GOT fan, I am currently working on an idea for my next tattoo… (Weird? Maybe.) So. If you have time… What are the High Valaryan and Astapori Valaryan translations for “wife” and “mother”? I know “mhysa” is mother in AV, but I wondered if “wife” was as equally pretty a word.

    Keep up the awesome and hard work! You personally are making this a show that stands above and beyond all the rest!

    1. Thanks. :) In High Valyrian, the word for “wife” is ābrazȳrys and mother is muña. In Astapori Valyrian, the word for “mother” is mysa, which itself derives from the Ghiscari word for “mother”, which is mhysa. The word for “wife” is abra, which is the same as the word for “woman” (the same thing is done for the word for “husband”). To distinguish them (at least in certain circumstances), the words meaning “spouse” are terrestrial, not celestial.

      If you get a tattoo, take a picture and let me know! I’ll put it in on the blog. :)

          1. “Low Valyrian” as in AV, or is it LV in general? (And of course you distinguish “Low Valyrian” from “Ghiscari Valyrian” in your San Diego Comic Fest slides… but I assume you’re not using the term that strictly here.)

            Another thing: valzȳrys, ābrazȳrys… any other words with this syffix?

            1. Wow, beautiful! Thanks for the quick responses! So- what is “wife” in ghiscari then? HV might be too long for the space I’m working with, AV might be too short. I just would like a few options when putting it into font.

              I will def send a finished photo! I’m a surgical nurse/assist and spend so much time “scrubbed in” that I don’t get to wear my wedding rings and therefore lose them semi regularly. I wanted to reassure my husband that I’m still devoted to him whether my rings are on or off, so am going to go with a simple band and the words along the side of my finger. As you see, it won’t be incredibly fancy so you may be disappointed. I do have plans for “valar dohaerys” and “valar morghulis” though (eventually), and I plan on those being much more detailed and pretty. :)

    1. I’ll reply anyway ;)

      David hasn’t created much Ghiscari, so there’s a very good chance he can’t answer that (if he wants to prove me wrong, I’m all ears!). But not every word in Astapori Valyrian comes from Ghiscari, and David said the AV word for “wife” is abra (“the wife” is v’abra)

      So in sum:

      • Mother: High Valyrian muñus, Astapori Valyrian (ji) mysa, Ghiscari mhysa

      • Wife: HV ābrazȳrys, AV (v’)abra, Gh ?

      • Woman: HV ābra, AV (j’)abra, Gh ?

    2. No, I wouldn’t touch anything like spouse words from Ghiscari. Just too many questions there; I’d have to give it a full treatment.

      So what do you mean by “along the side of your finger”? This would be your ring finger? I imagined first that it would be taking the two words and actually making a ring around your finger (so you’d always have a “ring” on even when you didn’t). If it’s on the side, though, that can work: just make it bigger. Like this:

      Kind of crude lettering, but you get the idea.

  2. Lol! Excellent! Yes this is exactly what I meant by the inside of my finger… I’ve found quite a few amazing script fonts on Dafont I’m going between… Maybe I’ll leave “mother” out for now and just make it a complete tribute to my husband. I can go full on ASOIAF obsessive with several other tattoos in my future (mhysa related so I don’t have to match languages– I love the ghiscari word, and the “valar” phrases.) :)

    I laughed out when I saw that photo because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all day.

  3. I’d love to get a tattoo that says Shekh ma shieraki anni. <3 I just think that is too cute.

    I was wondering is there any good sayings possibly in dothraki or High Valyrian that could be considered empowering? I've suffered from depression and have had a lot of emotional things happen in the last few months. Game of thrones as strange as it may sound was always something I watched that made me feel better, the books were something I would read at night before I fell asleep. Is there any chance something like Not Today could be put in high Valyrian?

    Sorry for the complete question attack.

    1. I’ve been working on this very translation! If we’re lucky maybe David will offer his own translation, or correct mine, but until then here’s what I came up with:

      Jaes mēre mērī issa: Morgho Jaes. Se mērir mērī Mogho Jaes ivestrassi: “Kesȳ tubī daor!”

      Overly literal, word-for-word translation: “God one only is: Death’s God. And one-thing only Death’s God we-say: ‘on-this day not!'”

    1. Nope. Because ivestragon has that applicative i-, which promotes the indirect object to the direct object. And since the jaes declension class is a subcategory of the third declension, the accusative is identical to the nominative.

      I did, however, mean to say Morgho in the second sentence, rather than ˣMogho. Hopefully that was obvious, but just in case that winds up on a tattoo I thought I shoudl mention it ;)

      BTW, I did ask Mr. Peterson to look at that translation last night. All I managed to get from him on this topic was that he might have translated “not today” differently. So take that as you will.

    1. Two weeks later… here’s what I got:

      M’athchomarawoon! Anha David Peterson m’anha movak lekhis. Anha ev movehak lekhis anhaan, ma jin anha ray mov lekhis ha *tikhikhaan ven ma Game of Thrones haji HBO ma ha *tikhikhaan me akka ven Thor 2: The Dark World. Fin athyofizar amova *te ma(?) lekhoon *tawaka? Jadi attihi(?) anna asshekh Congress of Brilliant Minds she ma fekhak, m’orik, ma qazatak haji November she Madrid, majin ezo. Anha attihak shafka reki.

      1. Brilliant! I think now that the big work is done, I can assist on details:

        M’athchomaroon! Anha David Peterson m’anha movek lekhis. Anha ev movelat lekhis anhaan, majin anha ray mov lekhis ha tikhikhaan ven ma Game of Thrones haji HBO ma ha tikhikhaan me akka ven Thor 2: The Dark World. Fin athyofizar ammova ate ma lekhoon tawaka Jadi atihi anna she Congress of Brilliant Minds she ma fekhak, m’orik, ma qazatak haji November she Madrid, majin ezo. Anha atihak shafka rekke.

        mov and ammova are slightly perplexing, because I thought the e in movelat was very much part of the stem and would be never lost and changed only in the negative grade.

        Also, “ha x ven ma y ma ha x me akka ven z” seems a bit odd syntax, but I can’t hear any fault in the transcription.

        1. Perhaps part “tikhikhaan me akka” is to differentiate TV Show (*tikhikh) from Film (*tikhikh me akka)? Still odd that there’s no “ma” before Thor.

  4. I want Perzys Anogar (Fire & Blood in High Valyrian) tattooed on my chest. Only thing is, the Valyrians wrote in glyphs and no one yet has created Valyrian glyphs. So can one of you geniuses please create some glyphs of Fire & Blood? Peace.

    1. It’s not that hard to create some mock glyphs. I can definitely create some squiggles. I can make them abstract pictograms or even artistic combonations of the latin letters of the words. The real question is, how do you validate them as Valyrian glyphs. If they are fan-made and unofficial, it’s hard to argue for them being “the real thing”. Of course if they were widely used by the fandom, they’d have some magic corroborative mojo, but that’s unlikely to happen as we are hopeful that DJP might actually one day create the real canonical thing.
      I’d say we don’t have enough words or grammar to really nail a cohesive unofficial glyph system if we’re not drawing close to alphabet. The kind of vision DJP has talked about, with pictograms and syllables, is a great work and is IMO not possible for fans to realize well. And DJP probably won’t do anything about it as long as HBO does not ask him to. Well, he might draw up a couple of glyphs (fire and blood being words that might well both have their own glyphs) if he has the general look and functionality clear in his head, but I think it’s more likely he’d rather experiment on general level before nailing any specific glyphs.

  5. I have a bit of an obsession with GOT and I want to get Khaleesi tattooed on my wrist. Is there any way someone could write it in the Dothraki for me? I’ve been trying to figure out how to write it out but I’m terrified I’ll end up with something ridiculous instead.

      1. We have also this, which is the only full alphabet I know independent of latin alphabet.
        And then there is David’s header script, which isn’t really realized or anything, and it’s a fancy font for latin alphabet anyway (at least until it’s developed further), but it’s still the closest thing to DJP-made script.

        That gives us roughly this selection of different kind of adventures on a creating a non-canon writing system aimed specifically for Dothraki.

  6. I am deeply concerned to hear that Mark Stern, head of programming development for SyFy Channel, has been fired by NBC/Universal. Will this affect Defiance? Near as I can tell filming on Season 2 has already begun filming so its too late to turn back now.

  7. So…we had some casting news today:

    I imagine that the “True Tongue” of the Children is actually supposed to be *physically impossible* for humans to pronounce. My understanding was that it literally sounds like running water or leaves rustling in the leaves (I envision the TV show literally using sound effects to portray this – similar to how they eventually decided to use actual ice-cracking sound effects to portray the Skroth of the Others.

  8. Interesting history about the Free Cities from the Princess and the Queen: we’ve never really heard that much about how the course of history went in the Free Cities — other than that generally, for the first hundred years after the Doom of Valyria they were all fighting each other in the Century of Blood, culminating in Volantis attempting to conquer all of the others but failing (after capturing Lys and Myr for a generation, nearly conquering Tyrosh but failing).

    At any rate, the Princess and the Queen is set around 130 AC (170 years before the TV series, ~230 years after the Doom of Valyria and ~130 years after the end of the Century of Blood).

    At this time, it turns out that Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh were all politically unified into a single state known as the “Kingdom of the Three Daughters”. It doesn’t say how it formed – I suspect marriage alliances, which the “daughters” might refer to, or maybe the cities were known as “daughters”.

    The “Kingdom of the Three Daughters” was ruled by a Triarchy — I was initially confused by references to this, thinking it was the Triarchy of Volantis, but it was of this large state (or perhaps, large alliance? Maybe it wasn’t really a “kingdom” but people called it that).

    Rhaenyra Targaryen’s uncle-husband Daemon Targaryen was a veteran of many battles over control of the Stepstones — apparently the Kingdom of the Three Daughters was trying to expand in that direction (what with Tyrosh being at the eastern end of the Stepstones).

    Moreover, it’s repeatedly mentioned that Daemon spent a lot of time in Pentos and has a great many contacts and friends there. Indeed, one of Daemon’s two daughters from an earlier marriage, Rhaena Targaryen, was popularly known as “Rhaena of Pentos” because she was born there.

    The Kingdom of the Three Daughters entered the Dance of Dragons on Aegon II’s side by sending a fleet to attack Dragonstone, resulting in the “Battle of the Gullet” – one of the largest naval battles in history. This proved tough for Rhaenyra’s faction, because these sailors were veterans who had been fighting Daeron and his dragon Caraxes for years, and thus didn’t break and run at the first sight of a dragon but held firm. The battle was phyrric – two thirds of the Triarchy’s fleet was destroyed, as was a third of Rhaenyra’s fleet and one of her dragons. So great were their losses that the “Kingdom of the Three Daughters” soon collapsed in the aftermath of the Dance of the Dragons.

    Now getting back to Daemon, arguably one of the reasons the Triarchy entered the war is because they hated Daemon so much – and yet Daemon had great friends in Pentos, raised one of his daughters there, and the plan at the start of the Dance was to send young Aegon III and Viserys II off to safety in Pentos. So it stands to reason that Pentos was strongly aligned *against* the Kingdom of the Three Daughters. But that makes a great deal of sense: Pentos is on the northern border of Myr — of course they would align with the Targaryens against this rising grand alliance of three other Free Cities on their southern border.

    What surprised me is that in the present day, Lys and Myr hate each other, they’re infamous rivals. I always assumed that this extended back to the end of the Century of Blood, that just as soon as they threw off Volantene control, they started fighting each other.

    …now the other possibility is that they actually entered into this grand alliance, along with Tyrosh. Maybe they fought a bit before that. But the bigger question now is if their rivalry only reached the level of “blood feud” after the Dance of the Dragons.

    At any rate, speculative conclusions I draw from this are that logically, the “Low Valyrian” dialects of Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh should be fairly similar. Compounded by the fact that Lys and Myr spent a generation under Volantene occupation.

    Volantis’s aristocracy prides itself on its ties to Old Valyria, and Lys was founded by the Valyrians “from scratch” instead of conquered peoples (which is why they all look blonde). So shouldn’t they be closer to High Valyrian? I don’t know. The biggest “x-factor” here is how much Rhoynar influence there was…or other local peoples?

    Well this raises more questions than answers.

    But what are speculative ways to render “Kingdom of the Three Daughters” in Valyrian?

    1. This is a nice summary; thanks! This pretty much falls in line with what I had, regarding the southern and northern sprachbunds. The language of Volantis may be “closer” without being very close at all, though. Often speakers of a language will have opinions about their language that are not scientifically accurate. I see Volantis as being closer to Myr/Lys/Tyrosh language-wise than to any of the northern cities, but I can’t see it being close enough to Valyrian to preserve the myriad cases and numbers. But there are a number of ways to make a language seem “closer” to another. It can be closer than the others, for example, or preserve more of the sound of it—or some characteristic feature (e.g. how Romanian preserved the neuter).

      Honestly, this would be a really fun project. It may be something that never happens, though. We do see a bit of Braavosi in the books, but who knows if it’ll be enough to warrant a new language in the show, and outside of that…? My hope is to make High Valyrian complete enough that it can serve as a base for the languages of the Free Cities (though even that’s difficult, seeing as what free time I have is rapidly vanishing). It may not be a project I’ll ever be able to complete. It really does raise a lot of interesting questions about what exactly is going to happen to all of this (not just the languages, but the material) when the books and the show have finished.

      Also, I’d like to again comment on how excellent this Valyrian family of languages was set up by Martin. I swear, no one does that in fantasy. There may be “languages”, but language families? Hardly ever. This is a really interesting family with a lot of potential.

      1. Fascinating thread! Very bad news, though, that you still don’t know about Braavosi! I was certain we were going to get to see it next year, but surely you would have had to do it by now :(

      2. Is Pentos one of the southern or northern Free Cities? They’re sort of on the fence – a coastline on the Narrow Sea puts them in *fairly* easy contact with Tyrosh, Lys, etc…but it has those trade agreements with Braavos, etc.

        I’ve always kind of been fascinated by the northern Free Cities just because we know practically *nothing* about them. Well, Braavos is the “odd duck” founded by slaves, we know a lot about that one – but Norvos and Qohor only get a few mentions, and Lorath? What the heck goes on in Lorath?! (somehow “Lorathi Valyrian” would probably have to have a phonetic structure that would result in a native Lorathi (i.e. Shae) having a German accent.

          1. Oh cool, I haven’t seen that (yes, Norvoshi and Lysene).

            Question: from this chart, isn’t “Ghiscari Valyrian” a branch of Low Valyrian? The tree makes it look separate.

            1. I think it’s just a question of nomenclature, as often happens in linguistics ;)

              BTW, David: still no sign of your Ser Creativo speech on YouTube. In fact, the last post on that channel was abotu a week ago. :(

    2. Oh, ha, ha. I didn’t answer the actual question. My bad! The Kingdom of the Three Daughters is:

      Hāro Taloti Dārion

      It occurs to me that that feud is probably based on Portugal/Spain. I heard that that split dates to a feud between sisters who were princesses in Spain. The younger sister was envious of the older sister, who was in line to be queen, and so she formed her own nation. I don’t know if this is true, and apparently can’t be bothered to go look it up on Wikipedia, but if I heard it, someone else has to have heard it too.

  9. While I’m on the subject, a stupid but related question which may have been asked before, but which I need to formally cite in order to use on the wiki: Why didn’t the TV producers ask you to develop Valyrian for the Pentos scenes in the pilot? I assume it was a simple matter of the *massive* amount of work involved with inventing Valyrian compared to the handful of lines we’d actually hear in a single episode before they leave (and thus we wouldn’t “need” Valyrian until season 3, pushing back the deadline to develop it).

    For that matter, this confused me even in the books: Are the scenes are Illyrio’s mansion…between Illyrion, Viserys, and/or Daenerys…being spoken *in Pentoshi* and the text/episode is just universally translating it for our benefit? Though this ties back into the whole “what language to Viserys and Daenerys speak to each other in private” discussion (whether they’d prefer Valyrian or Common Tongue).

    1. Because…without spoilers…we do *eventually* see Illyrio and Pentos again. So I’m not sure if we’d suddenly see them speaking Pentoshi-Valyrian at a later point. Eh, that’s for later on when various storylines find their way into the Free Cities…

  10. Zhey Devo: Assuming you haven’t been commissioned to develop any Free Cities languages at this point, would there be any harm in divulging a few hypothetical personal opinions on how you might do it, if it came to that? For instance, on what divides the two geographical Sprachbunde, or what the flavor of each city would be…? Or does you NDA cover any potential future work?

    1. Yeah, I know our obsessive questions like “What separates Lorathi from Braavosi?” might sound silly at first, given how little the TV show might actually focus on the lesser known Free Cities….but video game spinoffs *based* on the TV universe, such as the new deal Telltale Games just made, give us cause to hope…

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