Dothraki Writing System…?
Periodically I’ll spotlight cool stuff being done by Dothraki community members here on the blog. Today I want to take a look at something really cool done by Dothraki.org member Qvaak.
That was pretty much the end of the story, until recently, when I got a tweet about the existence of a possible orthography for Dothraki. The tweet linked to the following image:
Check that out! That’s the text of my leg of the relay written in a modified romanization designed for Dothraki by Qvaak. Pretty cool! Here’s a summary of the changes that were made with commentary:
- y > j: Probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to English speakers, but this is common enough in European languages (e.g. German, Dutch, Finnish, etc.).
- ch > c: It seems that one of Qvaak‘s goals here was to remove all the digraphs, which is a good idea, generally, but something I didn’t want to do for (primarily) English-speaking actors. For example, if chomat was spelled comat, no English speaker would pronounce it correctly.
- sh > ſ: Now we didn’t see any examples of a capital sh, so I’m not sure if Qvaak uses a different character for the upper case version, but this one (kind of like a barless “f”) is used for a lower case long “s” in some languages. If you want a whole character and not an “s” with a diacritic, this is a good choice. (Update: The actual character is ʃ, which is the same as the phonetic character, and also what you see in older English texts and elsewhere for lower case “s” in certain places.)
- kh > x: When I create romanization systems for my own languages, I always use “x” for [x]. I couldn’t do it here, though, because “x”, to an English speaker, is [ks]. This is a good, uncontroversial change.
- th > δ: Qvaak, you’ll have to forgive me if I got the wrong character, but that looks like a Greek lower case delta, as opposed to ð, which is a lower case eth. This change is rather controversial, in my opinion—and it’s always tough to choose a glyph when you need to represent [θ] in a romanization. In the history of English, we used þ, which looks an awful lot like p. The character used here looks an awful lot like d—which, at least, will get you closer to the correct sound, but may be confused by readers without a d to compare it to. Looks neat, though!
- zh > ʒ: Love it. One of my favorite sounds, and one of my favorite Latin characters.
- j > ʒ̇: I like the way this character looks a lot, but unless I’m missing something, it can’t be represented by a single Unicode character. What I had to do was use ʒ with a combining dot above (so if you see a strange box or something after the ʒ, it’s supposed to be a dot above it). Too bad, because I think the look of the character is just right. (Update: According to Qvaak, this character is actually ǯ [an ezh with a caron], which is used in the world’s languages; the caron just becomes a dot in the calligraphic form.)
- ‘ > Ø: Of course, the apostrophes to indicate contractions are optional, anyway, so removing them helps to make the text look less cluttered. Good decision.
- Geminate > Ligature: Some of the absolute coolest characters in this text are the geminate ligatures (geminate s is my favorite, with geminate g a close second). Very cool! Makes me wish I’d included more in the relay text so we could see what they look like. (No double vowel ligatures, though?)
Now, of course, this wouldn’t work for Dothraki in the Song of Ice and Fire universe, since: (a) we know the Dothraki have no written form for their language, and (b) it’d be too incredible a coincidence for an orthography to develop naturally using the exact same glyphs that are used in the roman alphabet in our world. But in our universe, I have to say, it looks pretty good!
So, perhaps the question we should ask now is: Where’s the font, Qvaak?
Great job! Totally love it.
Update: Qvaak has provided us with another image of the characters in the font in a more typographic style. It’s shown below:
And here’s the calligraphic version of the script:
Also, for some feedback from Qvaak himself, check out his lengthy comment below.