Tonight’s linguistic recap will be short, since there was no Valyrian or Dothraki in episode 302: “Dark Wings, Dark Words.” Of course, I’ve gotten used to this kind of treatment at the hands of Vanessa Taylor… Hee, hee, just kidding. She had some good stuff for me in 204. And the way things work is that stuff always gets moved around after it’s written. I did, in fact, do quite a bit of work for episode 302, but all of it was moved to 301. I wasn’t sure if anything else would get moved to 302, but it looks like it’s been saved for later on.
Some quick comments on 302: Cersei’s line was a crowd favorite (re: Margaery’s dress), and the scene with the Queen of Thorns was wonderful. That scene was a favorite of mine from the books, and I was looking forward to it this season. It did not disappoint. Neither did Brienne fighting with Jaime! That was fun. I could watch that all day. Plus, in that armor, Gwendoline Christie looks like a tank! Truly formidable.
Anyway, since there wasn’t much to discuss language-wise in this episode, I thought I’d go back and fill in a little bit. I’ve been much busier this year than I was last year, and recently, much sicker, so I haven’t been able to do as much as I did in the past. There’s been a lot of discussion about the Astapori Valyrian, though, so I did want to see if I could help out a bit.
Something I thought might help for a start would be just listing the phonology of High Valyrian. This is what it looks like (I’m going to go ahead and use the romanization rather than IPA here):
|Stops||p, b||t, d||j, lj||k, g||q|
|Fricatives||v||s, z (th)||gh (kh)||h|
|Approximants||r, rh, l|
I’ll try to explain the fuzzy bits as simply as possible. First, if you go to the nasal row, the n with an asterisk next to it simply says that an n will naturally assimilate in place to a following velar or uvular consonant, but that there isn’t a separate velar or uvular nasal. Basically, this means that n works like you would expect it to, and that High Valyrian also has ñ as a separate consonant (and that’s a ñ just like in Spanish, which sounds a little like the “ni” in “onion”).
Next, you’ll see two digraphs in parentheses. These are sounds that aren’t native to High Valyrian, but which have been borrowed in (with greater or lesser success, depending on the speaker). Thus, Dothraki arakh gets borrowed in as arakh, but might get pronounced like arak or arah or maybe even aragh, depending on the speaker. From episode 301, if you hear anything that sounds like either kh or gh, it’s supposed to be gh (Dan’s accent is light on the voiced sounds. I noticed several z’s that sounded like s, a few g’s that sounded like k, and his gh often sounds like kh to my ear).
You’ll also see that three sounds don’t fit in one column and/or row: gh, v and j. These sounds vary in their production. So gh may be strongly velar for some speakers, or strongly uvular for others; the distinction isn’t phonemic. The other two sounds go between approximants and fricatives depending on the speaker and the environment. So v, for example, may sometimes sound like w, and j may sound like a Dothraki j, a Dothraki y or a Dothraki zh, depending on the speaker. In Astapori Valyrian, the j is pretty much always zh. (Oh, and as a side note, the digraph lj is used for the palatal lateral [ʎ]. It’s pretty much always a lateral, but I couldn’t manage the table otherwise.)
At the stage we’re at in the show and the books, though, High Valyrian isn’t spoken as a native language anymore: it’s always a learned second language. As a result, the pronunciation has changed from its purest form. It’s not necessarily important to know how precisely j was pronounced, but that the sound was j (the phoneme) in High Valyrian, if you follow.
Anyway, the vowels are a bit simpler:
|High||ī, i||ȳ, y||ū, u|
|Mid||ē, e||ō, o|
The first thing to note is that vowels with a macron over them (ī, ȳ, ū, ē, ō and ā) are long. Long vowels are held for twice as long as short vowels, and are quite common crosslinguistically (Arabic has them, Japanese, Hungarian, etc.). Words will be distinguished simply by their vowel length in High Valyrian. The vowel spelled y (and ȳ) is pronounced just like i, but with rounded lips (it’s the u in French tu). This sound may not be pronounced in modern High Valyrian (i.e. High Valyrian spoken by non-native speakers), and didn’t survive in all of the descendent languages. So, for example, the y in Daenerys is probably just pronounced like i (the way we pronounce it), even if in High Valyrian it would’ve been pronounced differently.
In looking at the Astapori Valyrian from 301, note that all long vowels have been lost—and most diphthongs (for example, an Unsullied is a Dovaogēdy in High Valyrian; in Astapori Valyrian, it’s Dovoghedhy). Oh, and since I brought it up, Astapori Valyrian dh is pronounced like the “th” in “this” or “the”. The sound doesn’t exist in High Valyrian.
I’m not sure how much this will help in decoding the Valyrian in 301, but hopefully it will help a little. Since most of it isn’t subtitled, I honestly can’t be sure what made it in and what didn’t (when it’s not subtitled, they feel much more free to cut words or sentences if it’s running long). I already heard from Dan that part of at least one of his sentences was cut, but I don’t know what episode he was talking about. Anyway, to work with something I know came through, here’s the last two lines from 301. First, Missandei:
- Pindas skoverdi Dovoghedhi lis lerraski.
- “She asks how many Unsullied are for sale.”
The word order should be much more familiar in Astapori Valyrian, as it’s lost the cases of High Valyrian, for the most part. It tends to stick to SVO word order. After that is Kraznys’ line:
- Ivetra ji live Vesterozia kisa eva vaneqo.
- “Tell the Westerosi whore she has until tomorrow.”
It was a tough choice, by the way, to go with the name “Westeros” in-universe. I mean, it’s pretty Englishy… I thought of coming up with my own term, but then I relented and decided to just keep it as is: the continent in the west is Westeros, and the continent in the east is Easteros—I mean Essos. Besides, it allowed me to change the w to v, which I thought was fun.
Hopefully this will help you decode what bits remain a bit more easily. Also, though High Valyrian has four genders, Astapori Valyrian just has the two, and in the singular, there are two definite articles: ji and vi.
Anyway, unless things got moved around majorly, there should be a good chunk of Astapori Valyrian next week. Stay tuned!
I’ve just recently come back from ConDor (which was wonderful), and ran into a wall of work. While I negotiate that, though, I’d like to do a couple of things here.
First, Dothraki regular Esploranto has started translating posts on this blog into Spanish! I can’t tell you how excited I am (and, by the way, if anyone else is interested in translating these posts, go for it!), but I’ve run into a technical issue—specifically, how to add these translations to the blog. It’d be odd to post them as new posts (since they’re translations of old posts), and odder still to post them directly after the posts they’re translations of (if I get more translations, there could be, e.g., a single day with like eight posts). What I think would be ideal is if I could add a button to each post that would automatically swap out the original content with the translation. Anyone have any idea how I might accomplish this?
If I can’t come up with a clever solution, what I may do is assign all these posts to some older year (say, a hundred years prior to the original post) and provide a link on each post to the other, plus a note on the translation telling readers when the original post was posted. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’ll allow me to host the content without cluttering up the original run of posts.
Oh, and as a note, I really wouldn’t like to maintain two blogs with the same content, if I can avoid it. I’ve been having enough trouble keeping all my WordPress blogs up to date; I’m loathe to start another.
Second, I got a comment a while back from Aniko asking for the Dothraki translation of the following phrase: Dare to live; it’s easy to die. Let me take some time to translate that.
Step 1 is taking care of the word I didn’t have: dare. Turns out, the English word “dare” goes all the way back to Proto-Indo-European with its meaning mostly in tact (not many words do that). I would’ve been on solid footing to simply coin a new root for Dothraki meaning “dare”, but it didn’t feel right. Right now the word I’d use for “brave” or “courageous” is vezhven. The word has other uses, but it also covers those areas of English’s vocabulary. The idea behind “dare” is to invest one’s courage (whether wise or not) in some enterprise. Many languages have a word related to “brave” they use for “dare”. I wanted to include that tie with Dothraki, but could have done it in a number of ways.
While vezhvenat is a verb, it’s really stative in nature. “To dare” is more of an activity, and I didn’t like any of the options available to me to make vezhvenat more active. In browsing the vocabulary, I came across one item I’d use before to turn vash, “stampede”, into a verb: lanat ki vashi, “to stampede”. I really like this construction, and want to use it more. Thus was born: lanat ki vezhi, “to dare” (and also “to be brave”).
I’m not sure quite how to explain it, but ki is used here to mean “like” or “as” instead of ven, which we’d ordinarily expect. Ven seems more utilitarian, more concrete (it’s certainly a younger preposition), while ki makes the connection seem closer. I think one could actually say lanat ven vezh, to literally say something like Me lan ven vezh, “He ran like a stallion”, but lanat ki vezhi means “to dare”.
Having settled that, this is how I would translate the phrase:
- Lanas ki vezhi thirataan; me disie, jin drivolat.
Obviously do what you will with the punctuation. That said, there are different options here, so let me walk you through them one by one:
- The first verb (lanas) is in the informal imperative. If you’d like it to read more formally, you can change lanas to lani.
- The first clause is “Dare to live”. You can change it up, though, and say Lanas ki vezhi athiraraan, which is saying the same thing in a slightly different way (maybe something like “Dare to go towards life”?). Either construction is acceptable.
- There are a number of ways to say this last bit. One way is to say Athdrivozar disie, which is literally “Death is easy”. (Note: In the original, you can switch out drivolat for athdrivozar if you like the original construction but prefer the verbal noun.)
- Another way to say that same thing is to use the infinitive: Drivolat disie. That would be like saying “To die is easy”.
- And, of course, there are two slightly different words for death at play here. Drivat (and its verbal noun form athdrivar) means “to be dead”. This is a stative verb and describes the state of being dead. Drivolat (and its verbal noun form athdrivozar) means “to die”. So which verb or verbal noun you use depends on what you want to say: Is being dead easy, or is dying easy? Now that I look at it, it’s probably the former, not the latter, in which case you’d want to switch to drivat/athdrivar.
That, though, should give you an idea of what the issues are, and should help you decide what direction you want to go in. Either way, when your tattoo is done, take a picture and send it my way! I’ll put it up here on the blog.
It’s now February 20th, and this is the first Dothraki post of the month. Given that it’s a short month, this may very well be the last, as well. I feel obliged to offer up some sort of explanation, given that (most months) I’ve been pretty good about living up to my unwritten (until now) four posts per month goal.
As it has turned out, this month has been pretty busy. In addition to the SWTX PCA/ACA Conference from last week, I’m giving a TED University talk at TED this month (a whole 6 minutes on the 28th!), and have been busy doing a lot of prep work for that and for TEDActive, where I’m giving a workshop. If you want to talk any Dothraki, the best place to catch me these days is on Twitter or at our weekly Dothraki chat on IRC.
I didn’t want this post to be completely devoid of Dothraki, though, so I thought I’d address an issue that came up on Twitter. Our latest (and quite prolific!) Dothraki speaker Tyene Sand was trying to translate a sentence using the Night’s Watch (that is, the name “the Night’s Watch”). That can be translated in a number of ways (I offered Vitihiraki Ajjalani), but the translation called for the phrase to be declined in some way. This is where one runs into a dilemma.
In Turkish, if you take a foreign noun and try to decline it, the word behaves a little differently from native (or assimilated) Turkish nouns. Turkish names take a number of case suffixes (similar to Dothraki), but these suffixes participate in vowel harmony. Here’s a small example:
|mağaza||store||mağazada||at the store|
|göl||lake||gölde||at the lake|
As you can see, in the Turkish forms in the third column, there’s a suffix that’s either -da or -de. Which suffix you get depends on the character of the previous vowel (for more, see this article on Turkish vowel harmony), but they both mean the same thing.
That’s fine and good. What happens, though, when you add these suffixes to a foreign word? Turkish, as it turns out, does a couple of things differently. First, the suffix is always attached with an apostrophe (kind of like how sometimes in English, acronyms are pluralized with an ‘s as opposed to just s [e.g. DVD’s rather than DVDs]). Second, unless the quality of the vowels is quite apparent, Turkish just uses one of those two suffixes—specifically, the -da suffix. Here’s an example:
So, now that we know what Turkish does, what does Dothraki do?
First, Dothraki noun phrases are often declined on the head noun. This is the rough equivalent of “passerby” vs. “passersby” in English (the latter being the formal plural of the former). Take, for example, the phrase asavva evomen, which has various meanings depending on context (for now, let’s say “afterlife”). If one wanted to pluralize this phrase, the appropriate plural would be asavvasi evomeni (the latter adjective taking an -i on account of concord). That is, asavva is the head noun, so it takes the plural; one doesn’t treat the whole thing as a single noun and attempt to add some sort of inflection to the end of evomen.
That said, one may want to write in Dothraki and talk about modern people, companies, products, places, etc. For something like “Google”, one option would be to try to translate the concept (good luck) or to render it in Dothraki (Gogol?). This might end up making things more confusing than necessary, though. As a result, the kind of catch-all repair strategy used in Dothraki is the preposition haji. Haji means something like “because of” or “on account of” or sometimes “with respect to”. In Dothraki proper, its meanings are a bit more specific. When used in conjunction with foreign names or terms, though, it stands in for any preposition and/or the genitive, allative or ablative cases. Thus, one might say something like:
- Anha tih mae haji Reddit.
- “I saw it on Reddit.”
Technically haji there could be standing in for she, ma, irge, hatif, vi, ha, ki—or the ablative, genitive or allative cases. Really, though, given the context, it seems likely that it’s standing for she (a general locative. Not sure if anything more specific would be used to refer to something one sees on a webpage. Mra, maybe?). One might be able to supply a context that would force another reading, but the most obvious reading suggests that whatever was seen was seen on Reddit.
Though the solution is pretty simple, the drawbacks are that there could be confusion or ambiguity, so it behooves one to supply the proper context so that only the correct interpretation is plausible. If more specificity is absolutely required, one can always use the proper preposition. If a case is needed, it’s probably best to attempt to render the noun in Dothraki, as below:
- Anha dothrak Disneylandaan!
- “I’m going to Disneyland!”
To make it clear, one may (in the Turkish style) separate the case ending from the root with an apostrophe, but personally I prefer it without.
I hope your February’s going well and that it’s not too cold where you are! It rained today, so California will get a bit chillier for the next couple of days, but otherwise I can’t complain. For those of you who speak or are familiar with other case languages, what do those languages do with foreign proper terms? How would “Google” come out in the instrumental in Russian? Or the translative in Finnish?
In recent months there’s been some new interest from various quarters in Dothraki, so I thought what I’d do is write up a short post introducing you to some of the basic concepts behind Dothraki grammar and show you where to go for more detailed information. As such, this’ll be a good place to start if you’d like to learn how to read and write in Dothraki. (Note: You can get much of this information on a .pdf I wrote up which you can download here.)
Spelling and Pronunciation
Something I’ve neglected doing thus far on the blog is a post just on spelling and pronunciation. Oops! The spelling system is pretty much phonetic, though (i.e. each letter is pronounced the same way every time it appears), so it shouldn’t be too bad. For a quick rundown of each letter and digraph, go to the transcription section of the Dothraki Wiki.
If you’d like to perfect your pronunciation, I recommend clicking on the audio tag of this blog. That will bring up all the posts in which I’ve included a Dothraki recording. In addition, I’d like to recommend a few posts specifically that go over some trickier aspects of Dothraki pronunciation:
Of course, if you ever have a question about how something is pronounced, drop me a line! I like to practice, so I’m always happy to do recordings (though it may take me a while to get around to it).
|Second||Familiar||yer||you||yeri||you, you all|
|Formal||shafki||you||shafki||you, you all|
|Third||me||he, she, it, one||mori||they|
Some things to notice about the table above:
- Though most varieties of English don’t distinguish between “you” when addressing one person or “you” when addressing more than one, Dothraki does.
- Dothraki also distinguishes between familiar and formal address, much like Spanish or German or French. The formal pronoun shakfa, though, does not distinguish between singular and plural (the same pronoun is used for both).
- Dothraki makes no gender distinction. Thus, me serves for “he”, “she” or “it”—and is also the pronoun used in impersonal constructions (e.g. “One shouldn’t run with scissors [even though it’s a lot of fun].”).
In Dothraki, there are two important things one needs to know about a noun in order to use it properly: What its gender or noun class is, and what case it’s to be used in. We’ll discuss those two things separately.
In Dothraki there are two types of nouns: Vekhikh Hranna (Grass Nouns) and Vekhikh Asavva (Sky Nouns). The two types of nouns differ in how they decline—that is, the forms they use in a sentence. The noun type is something that simply must be learned and memorized, though there are some clues that help one determine how likely a noun is to be a Grass Noun or a Sky Noun. For more information on this, see the section on noun animacy in the Dothraki Wiki.
For translation purposes, the main difference between Grass and Sky Nouns is that Grass Nouns don’t distinguish between singular and plural; Sky Nouns do.
Now to discuss nominal declension. In English, we say “He saw the dog” and “The dog saw him”. We don’t say “Him saw the dog” or “The dog saw he”. Ever wonder why? It’s because (most) English pronouns decline for case. Dothraki nouns are like English pronouns, except they have more forms than (using “he”) just “he”, “him” and “his”. These forms correspond to different roles the nouns play in a sentence. These roles are summarized below:
- Nominative: A case associated with the subject of a sentence.
- English Example: The hunter saw the dog.
- Dothraki Version: Fonak tih jan.
- Accusative: A case associated with the direct object of a sentence.
- English Example: The dog saw the hunter.
- Dothraki Version: Jano tih fonakes.
- Genitive: A case associated with the possessor of some other noun.
- English Example: The hunter’s dog is loud.
- Dothraki Version: Jano fonaki lavakha.
- Allative: A case associated with the goal or destination of the action of the sentence.
- English Example: The dog ran to the hunter.
- Dothraki Version: Jano lan fonakaan.
- Ablative: A case associated with the point of departure of the action of the sentence.
- English Example: The dog ran from the hunter.
- Dothraki Version: Jano lan fonakoon.
Basically in comparing Dothraki to a language like English or Spanish, rather than using a preposition like “to” or “of” or “from” (or a or de in Spanish) followed by a noun, the noun itself is modified to incorporate the meaning of the preposition. If you’d like to use a noun of Dothraki, you’ll likely need to make use of a noun in one or more cases (note that plurality is encoded by the case suffix). In order to decline a noun correctly, head over to the section on noun cases in the Dothraki Wiki.
The key thing to keep in mind about verbs is that they inflect for person, number and tense (and also polarity, but that can be ignored for those just starting out). This means that if you look up a verb in the online dictionary of the Dothraki Wiki, the form of the verb you find there will need to change.
For our purposes, let’s focus on two different verbs and two different tenses. One verb we’ve already seen is tihat. That’s the citation form for the verb “to see”. Another common one is dothralat. That’s the citation form of the verb “to ride”. These verbs differ in their stems: the first ends with a consonant (the stem is tih), and the second ends with a vowel (the stem is dothra). Most of the time, you simply strip off the suffix -at or -lat to get the stem of a verb (though be careful to note verbs whose stem ends in l!).
Once you have the stem of the verb you want to inflect, you have to know whether the subject of the sentence is first, second or third person singular or plural, and what tense the sentence is going to be in. Let’s start with the present tense. Start with the stem (we’ll do tih first), and then modify them in the following ways to conjugate a verb in the present tense:
|First||tihak||I see||tihaki||we see|
|Second||tihi||you see||tihi||you see|
|Third||tiha||s/he/it sees||tihi||they see|
Now here’s how you conjugate a verb whose stem ends in a vowel:
|First||dothrak||I ride||dothraki||we ride|
|Second||dothrae||you ride||dothrae||you ride|
|Third||dothrae||s/he/it rides||dothrae||they ride|
The future tense is identical to the present tense, save you prefix a- to the front of stems that begin with a consonant and v- to the front of stems that begin with a vowel. Thus atihak is “I will see” and adothrae is “they will ride”.
The past tense is simpler than the present and future. In the past tense, there’s no person distinction whatsoever, so both stems are shown below:
|Tihat||tih||I/you/she, etc. saw||tihish||we/you/they, etc. ride|
|Dothralat||dothra||I/you/she, etc. rode||dothrash||we/you/they, etc. rode|
For more information on verbs, check out the following pages in the Dothraki Wiki:
In Dothraki, adjectives follow the nouns they modify, as shown below:
- dothrak haj “the strong rider”
- dorvi erin “the kind goat”
- dothrak haj “the strong rider”
- dothrakaan haja “to the strong rider”
- dothraki haji “the strong riders”
- dothrakea haji “to the strong riders”
- Anha hajak. “I’m strong.”
- Dothrak haja. “The rider is strong.”
- Chiorisi haji. “The women are strong.”
To augment the Dothraki case system, a variety of prepositions are used. In order to use a preposition appropriately, one needs to know what it is, what it means, and what case it assigns to the noun it modifies. A couple of common examples are shown below:
- she okre “on the tent” (assigns the nominative)
- ha okraan “for the tent” (assigns the allative)
- oleth okri “over the tent” (assigns the genitive)
Some prepositions can alter the case they assign to affect the meaning of the preposition. Consider ha from above:
Here are some instructional materials that have been posted around the web (if you find more, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them):
- Tutorials at the Dothraki Wiki
- Audio/Visual Dothraki Tutorials on YouTube
- Step-by-Step Tutorial Based on the YouTube Videos Above
- Dothraki Flashcards at Quizlet
- Dothraki Subreddit
And, of course, there’s plenty more material here and scattered around the web that goes into more detail. If you ever have questions, just drop a line. Fonas chek!