Asshekhqoyi Vezhvenagain!

Looks like it’s my birthday again. I’ve had 35 of these things now and they show no signs of stopping. Bleh. So be it!

For those who follow me elsewhere, you’ll know that the last year has brought some major changes and challenge. The short version: new house, new shows, new book, and new child. Erin and I welcomed our first child Meridian Victoria Peterson last month, and the level of effort required to maintain her comparatively spartan lifestyle is as advertised. It’s stretched us to our breaking point and left us little time for anything else.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t do us a proper Dothraki haiku competition!

It does mean, though, that I don’t have any haikus of my own to share, or new rules to debut. It’s too much. Per last year, though, there will be a Dothraki competition and a High Valyrian competition, and each competition will have its own winner.

We can certainly still do challenge words, though. Always time for challenge words! The challenge word for Dothraki will be haf (an adjective meaning “quiet” or, with respect to pain, “dull”). For High Valyrian, the challenge word is the noun lāra, which means “crow” (lunar noun, regular Class IA declension). For the full set of rules regarding the haiku, see below.

(Oh, by the way, I generally don’t choose a winner until submissions stop coming in. Some time in February. Winners will be announced February 15th!)


For the purposes of this contest, a haiku is 17 syllables long, with the syllable counts for each line being 5, 7, and 5, in that order. If you need to fudge, go for it, but I will weight exact syllable counts more highly.

Also (and this is important), since this is Dothraki, we are definitely going by syllable count, not mora count. Regarding syllable-counting, in Dothraki, a syllable is defined as a vowel plus one or more consonants on either side. A syllable cannot contain more than one vowel, which means that a word like kishaan is trisyllabic, not disyllabic.

If it helps, you may or may not contract the various prepositions that contract. So, for example, mr’anha (two syllables) is the usual way of saying “inside me”. For your haiku, if you wish, you can separate the two out, i.e. mra anha (three syllables). You can also drop purely epenthetic e vowels (so the past tense of “crush”, kaffe, can be rendered as kaff’). Feel free to play with word order and drop pronouns, as needed, bearing in mind that such language is figurative, and the reader will still need to be able to figure out who’s doing what to whom.

For Valyrian: Long vowels count as two mora, and a vowel with a coda counts as two mora, but a syllable will not have more than two mora. So a long vowel plus a coda consonant will still be two mora, for the purposes of the poem. If you can’t do the poem using mora, do it with syllables, but I’ll weight those done with mora more highly. This will make it more like a real Japanese haiku. If you need a particular word in a particular number/case combination or a verb in a particular conjugation, please let me know and I’ll give it to you.

Addendum: Falling diphthongs count as two mora (i.e. ae and ao); rising diphthongs count as one (e.g. ia, ua, ue, etc.). Also, word order is certainly freer in poetry than it is in everyday speech, but the rules about adjectives still apply (i.e. you use the short forms if the adjective appears directly before the noun it modifies; otherwise they’d take their full forms). And, finally, word-final consonants are extrametrical. Thus if a word ends in -kor, that counts as one mora, not two.

Shieraki gori ha yerea! Fonas chek!


  1. First, おたんじょうびおめでとうございます and happy birthday! As a Japanese teacher, I cannot stop myself from putting in my oar (quickly) on two things:

    (o) As with geisha, samurai, ninja, or Pokémon, “haiku” is a noun singular in formation, but may be plural in number; whether there is one or a dozen Pikachu, for example, a plural form does not exist

    (o) While everyone knows that haiku number 17 in syllables, a frequently forgotten aspect is the seasonal one: in true haiku, there must be reference, somewhere or somehow, to the seasons

    Thank you for letting me put in my two cents and, again, happy birthday!

      1. Fair point but not, though, with Pokémon. The day “Pokémons” gets past my desk, sir, is the day I am out of a job, sir. (^_^)

  2. Alright then, I’ll make a start. :) Is this grammatical?

    havondo lentrot

    May many a bird
    at thy gen’rous feeding house
    alight and tarry

  3. Athdavrazar, zhey David! I’m glad to see you found some time to get the winter haiku contest underway. I do plant to enter at least one haiku. BTW, all the goats at the zoo say ‘hi’! :)

  4. Great to see that the contest has returned! I will take the chance to ask a question. Is there an adjective meaning “distant” or “far”? We know of “tolmiot”, but that is an adverb.

  5. Hoping I got the grammar correct, here comes my entry.

    mērī iōrtes

    Pār pȳdza
    va bantī

    Se elēna
    lāruno tolmiot

    …and the English translation:

    In the mist
    alone it had stood
    still waiting

    Then leapt
    the prey
    into the night

    And the voices
    of some distant crows
    were screaming

    I opted for the -za form instead of the -as one in “pȳdza”, even though I haven’t seen it used in the past tense, simply because I like it so much. Also, I hope I got the instrumentive prefix right, since it’s a such cool feature that I wanted to include.

  6. Here’s my first try:

    Zir zhokwa kazga
    Ovetha oleth olti
    She felde kafi

    Large black bird
    Flies over hill
    On quiet wings

  7. Sikis lāra
    Gār qringaomna

    The crow’s old burden
    Countless necessary sins
    For a livelihood

    (As always, the translation is very loose such as to keep the Haiku format.)

    This one is inspired by a scene I witnessed yesterday: Four crows were stalking around a buzzard on the ground, trying to steal its fresh kill. After a brief kerfuffle, one crow flew away with what looked like the prize. It was only an old glove, though. The crow looked somewhat resigned. Here’s an image:

  8. First:

    Layafas kash yeri asshekhqoyi!!

    (I hope that my grammar is not so bad :S)

    I like to try with a Dothraki haiku:

    Oskikh yer dothra,
    Tih anni tih shierak.
    Fozy, dothras mori.

    Yesterday, you had an erection,
    My eyes looked to the stars.
    You are old, ride with them.

  9. This one’s a bit experimental in terms of usage. Let’s see if it works. I also had to cheat a bit with an ellipsis, since Valyrians apparently can’t talk about eating with fewer than three mora. :Þ

    Zoklo iā kēlio —
    Lār’ ipradis

    Whether it be wolf
    Or lion who lies fallen —
    The crow shall eat well

  10. Trying my hand at Dothraki once more. Could someone in the know check my grammar…?

    Az yera ahhaf.
    Fin vahhafa athnithar
    mra zhor anhoon?

    A blade silenced thee.
    Who shall now silence the pain
    left inside my heart?

    1. Oh, I seem to have mixed up Dothraki’s and HV’s word order. Please change that first line to Az ahhaf yera.

  11. I have started a blog:
    I am taking a pure linguistic approach–using Dothraki to teach phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. What a fun way to teach linguistics. Might even get some Chomsky into the program.

  12. Never done this before, and my Valyrian is probably horrible, but here’s my attempt:

    Sōno jelmiot

    Little crow
    On winter wind
    Will fly

  13. Here’s my Dothraki attempt. :

    charo ! chaf chafki
    hola hoyale hafa
    ha haqakea

    “Listen! autumn’s wind
    is blowing a quiet song
    for those who are tired”

    heavens! there simply must be an [q~k] assimilation rule to pronounce “haqakea” (and I’m also not sure about it, as an agentive of “haqat”?)

  14. Here’s my Valyrian attempt. It is my first time. I call it “Fate” – “Vējes”

    Zōbrivē lāri.
    Dȳñesse lenton zālzi.
    Ossȳngnon vējo.

    Ānogri iārza
    skorī prūmie kelīlaks.
    Ossȳngnon vējo.

    Crows in the dark place.
    The monsters burn my space.
    I will fear my fate.

    Blood running away
    when my heart stops the beating.
    I will fear my fate.

  15. Hey there,
    I’m wondering if you are able to provide the lyrics or translations of the song “Winds of Winter” (the Season 6 closing song)? It’s a lovely song and trying to sing it is driving me crazy. I know you might not be able to because maybe there are spoilers in there :)
    Thanks for whatever insight you can provide into the song!

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