There have been a few questions about how adverbs work in Dothraki, but the topic is actually larger than one might expect. For that reason, I decided to break it down by category.
Those who grew up with English may be surprised (or, at least, I was at first) to learn that there are actually three types of adverbs, and they behave differently from language to language. The three types are: manner adverbs; temporal adverbs; and spatial adverbs (I’d like to link the other two, but I can’t find a nice description for either online). The type of adverb that most of us think of when we hear the word “adverb” is the manner adverb, so I thought that would be a good place to start.
Manner adverbs modify the verb by specifying the manner or way in which the action is performed. Most common adverbs that end in “-ly” in English are manner adverbs. In fact, most derivable adverbs in English are manner adverbs (“crazily”, “jerkily”, “monetarily”, “mockingly”, etc.), though we do have a couple ways of creating others (e.g. “-ward(s)” to make spatial adverbs, such as “homeward”, “store-wards”, “computer-wards”, etc.).
In Dothraki, I liked the idea of manner adverbs being a closed class, for the most part. There are a few manner adverbs that are derived in a regular way (or were derived in a regular way some time in the past), but that derivational process is frozen. Here are a few examples:
- alle (adv.) farther, further (cf. ale, “more”)
- atte (adv.) first (cf. at, “one”)
- disse (adv.) only, just (cf. dis, “simple, plain”)
- yomme (adv.) across (cf. yom, “crossing”)
Most old adverbs work this way, though there are one or two that don’t (the prime example being chek). If you want to make a conventional manner adverb out of a modern adjective, then, you have to do something a little different.
If you want to say, “That colt is running with a limp” or “That colt is running lamely”. First thing you do is take the word for “lame” or “limp”, darin, and turn it into a noun: athdarinar, “lameness”. Next you prepose it with the preposition ki. Since ki assigns the genitive, you put athdarinar in the genitive, and since the word begins with a vowel, ki gets shortened to k’-. Then you put it at the end of the sentence and you get:
- Rek manin lana k’athdarinari.
Literally, that would be something like, “That colt runs by lameness”. The idea is that ki preposes the cause of the action. Since the action, in this case, is running that looks painful or unnatural, the suggested cause is lameness. And that’s the story behind the construction.
(Note: One can imagine that, a century or so later, this construction might give birth to a new circumfix that could be used to form adverbs productively.)
Regarding placement, adverbs of manner usually occur sentence-finally. They can be fronted for emphasis, but the construction would be marked (i.e. the adverbs would be noticeably out of place, and so could only be there for some pragmatic purpose). If there’s more than one post-verbal phrase, the adverb could occur in a non-final position, but usually it’d only be on account of what’s known as heavy shift. Here’s an example:
- Me dothrae chek rek hrazef fin azh anha yeraan oskikh hajinaan m’anha vo zigerok mae.
That is, “She rides well that horse I gave you yesterday because I didn’t need it.” Ordinarily you’d put chek at the end, but since there’s so much material in the object clause, you can shift chek closer to the verb so that the hearer (and the speaker!) don’t forget what it’s referring to.
I think that covers manner adverbs. If I’ve missed anything (or mistyped anything), I’m sure Qvaak will let me know (heh, heh!). If anything’s unclear, feel free to ask about it!