Just for Fun

I’m currently in Albuquerque for SWTX PCA/ACA and getting ready to call it a night. Tomorrow, among other things, I’m going to talk about how Dothraki leads a kind of dual existence: One as a language in the extended Universe of Ice and Fire, and the other as a constructed language that exists in our world and can be used to the extent that its grammar and lexicon will allow. In our modern world, though, the lexicon created for the show isn’t as practical as it could be, so I thought it would be fun to try to coin some modern words from existing material. Here are some to try out:

  • airplane
  • train
  • car
  • (cell/tele)phone
  • computer
  • e-mail
  • text message

None of these words, of course, would enter the official lexicon of Dothraki (they’re not appropriate), but they might prove useful for using in other contexts. See what you can come up with! The online lexicon is here. If you need to use a word that isn’t available, just use the English word and I’ll see if I can fill in the blanks.

As a refresher, this is how compounds works.

First, sometimes a prolix expression can become a lexical entry. Consider “The President of the United States of America”. That’s a full noun phrase, but we understand it to be a single entity. You can do the same thing in Dothraki (consider Vezh fin Saja Rhaesheseres), in which case you don’t need anything but the grammatical information needed to form noun phrases.

If you want an actual compound word, there are three different types. The first is a noun-adjective compound. These work by combining any noun with any adjective to form a new noun. Starting with a noun in the nominative case, you add an adjective directly after the noun. If the combination results in a difficult consonant cluster, an e can be inserted after the noun for euphony. The resulting compound is an inanimate noun of Class A if it ends in a consonant; Class B if it ends in a vowel. Here’s an example based on Daenerys’s last name:

  • vaz “storm” + yol “born” = Vazyol “Stormborn”

Next come the noun-noun compounds, of which there are two types. The most common are combinations of a noun stem and a noun in the genitive (if possible). The meaning of a compound like this (if the two nouns are A and B) is “an A of/from B”. To form one of these compound nouns, take the first noun and strip it to its root. If the root ends in a vowel, the second noun is added afterwards. If it ends in a consonant, the second noun is still added, but the same euphony rule detailed above applies (i.e. an e is inserted if necessary). If the second noun ends in a vowel (regardless of what noun it used to be), the resultant compound will likely be an inanimate noun of Class B (sometimes it will be Class A). If it ends in a consonant, an -i is appended to the end of the new stem, and it becomes an inanimate noun of Class A. Here’s an example:

  • zir “bird” + qoy “blood” = zirqoyi “bird of prey, raptor”

The last type of noun-noun compound is the allative compound. Using our nouns A and B, an allative compound creates a word that means “an A (intended) for B”. To form it, the first noun is stripped down to its root, as with a genitival compound, and the second is added after it. If the second noun ends in a vowel, an -n is added to the end; if not, an -an is added to the end. Either way, the resultant compound is an inanimate noun of Class A. Here’s an example:

  • qemmo “cover” + tih “eye” = qemmotihan “eyelid”

One final note. Sometimes a resulting consonant cluster will not need an epenthetic e, but it will change in form. Specifically, when a stop consonant comes before another stop consonant, it becomes a fricative. Stops will become the fricative that’s closest to its place of articulation, sometimes devoicing if necessary. Here’s a chart showing which stops go to which fricatives:

  • t, d > th
  • ch > sh
  • j > zh
  • k, g, q > kh

Feel free to have fun with it! There are no right answers. I’ll have a conference update some time later in the week.

Posted on February 9, 2012, in Vocabulary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Very interesting topic. I would think there are lots of different ways to go about coining these words so I look forward to seeing some creative examples.

    Airplane:

    The obvious example here is perhaps to mirror the word for ship which is “rhaggat eveth” and simply go with “rhaggat asavva”. Though, shouldn’t these words be compounded since “rhaggat eveth” would mean “the cart is water” So perhaps the correct word is something like “rhaggatasavvasi”.

    If I were to be a little less obvious then my suggestion would be “zirniqe”.

    Train:

    I believe this has already been coined in the NY Times article companion piece to be “zhav taoka” which was translated as metallic lizard.

    Car:

    Here I think it would be suitable to stick with a cart since that seems to be a general word they would use for vehicle (based on the existing word for ship). So perhaps something like “rhaggat fin nemo jesa” though I’m a bit unsure if that is correct. What I’m trying to write is “A cart that pulls itself”.

    Cellphone:

    Now we’re getting into things that would be really abstract for the Dothraki. My attempt would be something like “vekhikh astokhhezhahaan”. If we’re talking a smartphone then a possible word could be “vekhikhdavrakhan” perhaps.

    Computer:

    Well, if my word for a smartphone is “vekhikhdavrakhan” then a computer could simply be “vekhikhdavrakhanof” or something like that.

    E-mail, text message:

    These final two are really hard given that the Dothraki don’t even have a writing system. I’m guessing the Dothraki should at least have a word for message so that could be the basis for these words. Then we just need some type of descriptive term so perhaps something like “abstract message”, “strange message”, “magical message” or why not simply “fast message”. Either way I think that text message could simply be the diminutive of e-mail.

    • So perhaps something like “rhaggat fin nemo jesa” though I’m a bit unsure if that is correct. What I’m trying to write is “A cart that pulls itself”.

      For that specifically, I’d say rhaggat fini nemo kartoe. The latter is probably a word that hasn’t come up: kartolat. It means “to pull” when the subject isn’t animate, or to pull with something other than one’s arms. (Note: kartat means “to pull with two arms”.)

    • Oh, one more: rhaggat eveth is a juxtaposition, no different from rhaggat taoka. It inflects on rhaggat, and should the need arise, eveth takes the adjectival endings -a and -i.

      • What are the rules for something like that? rhaggat taoka I can understand in the sense that materials can be seen as both nouns and adjectives hence zhav taoka becomes metallic lizard. But wouldn’t the analogous use with cart and water, “rhaggat eveth”, then mean something like “watery cart” or “cart made of water” rather than “cart intended for water”? Or does it just come down to deciding that a certain construction just means what it’s decided to mean.

        • Juxtaposition is what it is. It only works when it’s obvious (but what’s obvious is culturally dependent, and also largely a matter of chance). These things just happen. :) “A cart made out of water” wouldn’t make any sense; I couldn’t imagine ever having a compound mean that. You’d just have to say: rhaggat fini vivekhera evethoon. Even then it’d probably require further explanation, since it’s hard to imagine a cart being made out of water.

  2. I am not looking at Insgive’s answers so I can see if I come up with something different (or perhaps the same). Now, if I can find the time to work on this…

    Two questions about (mainly) the final paragraph. Throughout your post, you mentioned the need for a ‘euphonic /e/’ in some cases. But in the last paragraph, you referred to an ‘epenthetic /e/’ in a way that suggests that these two /e/’s are the same thing. Is this the case? Second, when you say that when two stops are approximated (I think that is the right term) in this compound building, that one becomes a fricative. Am I understanding that it is the first stop that becomes a fricative, or is it the second?

    • Quick reply to the questions (more replies coming later!), yes, those two e’s are the same, but the deal with the “euphonic” e is that the e isn’t technically required by the phonology; it’s just inserted to make pronunciation easier (not to make impossible pronunciation possible).

      To the second question, yes, the first stop is the one that becomes a fricative, not the second.

  3. Okay, so imagine this:

    In the year 407 AL, as some Dothraki farmers are out tending the crops, there is a mighty roar from the heavens, and as they look up, they see the shadow of what appears to be a great zhavvorsa descending from the sky. Many flee, but those who remain soon see that this does not appear to be a living thing at all; it more resembles a statue or a house, though it falls slowly, as though it were a feather.

    As it draws closer to the ground, its descent becomes slower still. Its roar becomes greater, so that bits of soil and the occasional blade of grass blows in the face of the assembled warriors.

    At last, it touches the ground, its roar gradually but quickly shrinking to a low hum. They can see it clearly, now; a great construct, in shape resembling a great bird, though red and green and with a hue like that of metal and gemstone. As they stand there observing it, shocked and in a state of fearful admiration, they hear another sound, as though a great gate has been opened. Sure enough, an opening has appeared in the side of the object, and now a staircase appears to be extending from it to the ground.

    They remain still, waiting to see what will come next. Soon, the figure of a person appears. He appears human, like them, but as he reaches the end of the staircase, they notice some differences. He has dark skin, almost completely black, but it is known that many do in distant lands. His clothes are strange, as well, but that, too, is expected of travelers. The strangest thing about him is his forehead; it appears distorted – almost as though fitted with horns – in a way that none have seen before.

    Others like him soon follow, and they stand talking in a language that no Dothrak has heard before. One Dothrak, a brave servant of the Khal, steps forward to greet them, as the others look on in anticipation.
    “Athchomar chomakea!” he says, though it is unlikely that they will understand.
    The apparent leader of the foreign group looks to him, and makes what appears to be a salutory hand gesture.
    “Chomokh vojea yeri.” is the response. [I’m hoping this is good Dothraki for “Honor to your people”, but I’m not sure.]
    The Dothrak is surprised, and ask the foreigner how he has come to speak their language. The foreigner chuckles, and then claps his chest. He explains that he can speak all languages.
    A murmur begins to brew among the onlooking Dothraki. Looking around, the one who had approached the foreigners notices that the crowd has grown. No doubt, the Khal himself would soon be there.

    Wishing to know more, he asks whence the foreign men have come.
    “Rhaeshoon vezhven Tlinani. Ma asavvaoon.” is the reply; “From the great land of Tlinan. And from the sky.” [Hope I got that almost right, at least.]

    For a moment, the brave Dothrak stands as though paralyzed with shock. Not sure what he is to do or say, he opts to simply stall for time until the Khal can get there.
    He asks about the sky carriage that has brought them here.
    To this the foreigner says…

    …aaaaand this is where the story ends, because we’ve gotten to my question:

    The foreigners call their flying carriage a zirqoyi. That is, a “bird of prey”, or a “raptor”.
    I suppose that “It’s a raptor” would be “Me zirqoyi.”, and “It’s our raptor” would be “Me zirqoyi kishasi.”
    However, in the future, it won’t do for the Dothraki to refer to these types of ships as zirqoyi; they need to distinguish them from ordinary raptors.

    So, I’m wondering how I best do this.
    I’m guessing “Zirqoyi Tlinani” (“Tlinan bloodbirds”) is okay? Or would it be “Zirqoyi Tlinanea”? Or just “Zirqoyi Tlinan”?

    Now, what if I want to say “a bloodbird:ish skycart”?
    I take it skycart would be “rhaggat asavva”, or “rhaggatasavva” if one wishes to conjoin it.
    So, would then a “bloodbird:ish skycart” be “rhaggatasavva zirqoyi”?

    Can I conjoin three nouns using the same rules as with two, by first conjoining two and using the new stem with the usual rules?
    So, for instance, a Tlinanese skycart would be “rhaggatasavva Tlinan”, and if conjoined, it becomes “rhaggatasavvatlinanan”?
    Would then a “bloodbird:ish Tlinan skycart” be “rhaggatasavvatlinanan zirqoyi”, or – if for some reason one insisted on conjoining it – a “rhaggatasavvatlinanan[e]zirqoyi”? Or would the -an at the end of rhaggatasavvatlinanan be stripped?

    • Finally getting around to responding to this. First, I love it! I think it would be awesome to see the Klingons and Dothraki battle: batleth vs. arakh. (Speaking of which, is that show still on that pits famous warriors against each other…?) Nice interpretation of a historic meeting!

      Now, for your specific questions:

      “Chomokh vojea yeri.” is the response. [I’m hoping this is good Dothraki for “Honor to your people”, but I’m not sure.]

      I’d say Athchomar vojea shafki. Using chomokh in this context seems slightly presumptuous, but maybe that’s just me…

      “Rhaeshoon vezhven Tlinani. Ma asavvaoon.” is the reply; “From the great land of Tlinan. And from the sky.” [Hope I got that almost right, at least.]

      Almost 100%! It should be vezhvena, since it modifies a noun in the ablative. Also, aren’t the Klingons from Kronos? How do you say that in thlIngan Hol?

      As for compounds, yes, you can keep piling them up, but it’s probably neater to separate them out after a certain point (at least in writing).

      • Many thanks for your response :)

        > (Speaking of which, is that show still on that
        > pits famous warriors against each other…?)

        Unless you’re talking about “Celebrity Deathmatch”, I have no idea :P

        > I’d say Athchomar vojea shafki. Using
        > chomokh in this context seems slightly
        > presumptuous, but maybe that’s just me…

        Alright. Dare I take it that it’s something along the line that honor needs to be earned, whereas one starts out with a sort of “default respect level” that one can then increase or lose from depending on one’s actions?
        Nice touch with shafka vs. yer, by the way :)

        > Almost 100%! It should be vezhvena, since it
        > modifies a noun in the ablative.

        Ahna tiholak.

        > Also, aren’t the Klingons from Kronos?

        Aye, Qo’noS [q͡χoʔnoʂ] is the juHqo’ [d͡ʒuxqʰoʔ], or “homeworld”, where the Klingon race evolved. However, most Klingons probably aren’t born there, and a Klingon captain represents the Empire, not the Homeworld.

        > How do you say that in thlIngan Hol?

        It’s actually a bit uncertain how one says “We’re from [place]” in Klingon. Many people go with , but that to me means “We exist in a direction away from [place]”.
        I prefer (“Or origin is [place].”). If it’s still one’s home, one could say (“My home is [place].”) or (“I inhabit [place].”).
        Of course, when one says “I’m from [something]”, what I often mean is “I represent [something]”. “to represent” is (and is “emissary, representative”), so one could perhaps say:
        (“I represent the Klingon Empire. Our homeworld is Kronos.”)

        > As for compounds, yes, you can keep piling
        > them up, but it’s probably neater to
        > separate them out after a certain point
        > (at least in writing).

        A bit like Swedish, then; we can conjoin any number of words (auxiliärspråksblogginläggsdiskussionstråd = “auxiliary language blog post discussion thread”), but one seldom conjoins more than two or three set phrases.

        …though those of us who like language make a sport out of it :P

        Again, many thanks for your answers :)

        • Unless you’re talking about “Celebrity Deathmatch”, I have no idea

          No, I remember: It’s Deadliest Warrior. Klingon vs. Dothraki would be epic.

          Alright. Dare I take it that it’s something along the line that honor needs to be earned, whereas one starts out with a sort of “default respect level” that one can then increase or lose from depending on one’s actions?

          No, rather: the right to bestow honor must be earned. If the Dothraki literally just met these guys, it would seem bizarre for them to presume to bestow honor upon them—would result in a reaction kind of like, “And just who are you?!

          Ahna tiholak.

          Tihok. :)

          Aye, Qo’noS [q͡χoʔnoʂ] is the juHqo’ [d͡ʒuxqʰoʔ], or “homeworld”, where the Klingon race evolved. However, most Klingons probably aren’t born there, and a Klingon captain represents the Empire, not the Homeworld.

          Ahh… True enough.

          • > No, I remember: It’s Deadliest Warrior.
            > Klingon vs. Dothraki would be epic.

            Ah, had never heard of that, actually; interesting concept. …but there’s already “Super Smash Bros.” ;)

            > No, rather: the right to bestow honor
            > must be earned. If the Dothraki
            > literally just met these guys, it
            > would seem bizarre for them to
            > presume to bestow honor upon
            > them—would result in a reaction kind
            >of like, “And just who are you?!”

            Ahna tihok. [See? I’m learning ;)]

            That bein said, if they’d been asked that, I’m guessing they’d’ve responded “Kisha Tlinani. Ma jini nISwI’ HIch anni.” [nISwI’ HIch = disruptor pistol]
            ;)

            • Ahna tihok. [See? I’m learning ;) ]

              While we’re on the topic of learning and correcting mistakes…It’s anha not ahna. And another thing David missed or neglected up there was that you wrote “asavvaoon” when it should be “asavvasoon” with an s in there since asavva is an animate noun.

              A fairly easy way to remember is that most of the time the case suffixes don’t follow directly on a vowel. If the noun is animate you generally get that extra -s- in there and inanimate nouns ending in a vowel drop the vowel before the suffix is added. The exception to this is the accusative case for animate nouns which doesn’t get the extra -s-.

            • > While we’re on the topic of learning and
              > correcting mistakes…It’s anha not ahna.

              Thanks; I’ve looked that upp a million times and yet I keep getting it wrong. Hopefully now that I’ve been “called out” on it I’ll remember :)
              A N H A…
              Arbitrary negligee? How arbitrary!

              > And another thing David missed or neglected
              > up there was that you wrote “asavvaoon”
              > when it should be “asavvasoon” with
              >an s in there since asavva is an animate noun.

              Ah, thank you! I thought it looked odd, but I think I’d somehow gotten the idea that the sky was inanimate.

  4. Its late, so I will keep this brief.

    Airplane
    I came up with three words for this:

    ziretawaki ‘bird of metal’
    vezhasavva ‘stallion of the sky’
    sajasavva ‘steed of the sky’

    car, train
    These are both similar concepts from a motive point of view, although a train is restricted to running on rails. I came up with two words:

    vezhetawaki ‘stallion of metal’
    vezhshiqethi ‘iron stallion’ (mustang car or ‘iron
    horse’ locomotive?) Lots of variations
    possible!

    Cell phone
    This was challenging. I ended up having to combine a verb with a noun, so I don’t know how legal this is:

    vasterqoran ‘converse(er) for hand’

    Computer
    There is not a lot of terms that work well for expressing this concept, but it looks like there are a lot of ways to build a word. The best cgoice I came up with was:

    dirgakhtawaki ‘thinker of metal’

    Email, text message
    From a Dothraki standpoint, there is not a lot of difference. But because messages are seemingly sent without insturmentality, it is definitely a ‘magic’ process. thus:

    asathmovezari ‘words of magic’

    I hope you enjoy these!

  5. Quick comment: I’m just getting back and getting settled now, so I’ll have a look at these. I did see, though, that there were some lengthy replies, and I’m looking forward to reading them!

    • Welcome back!

      For the record, I ended up wrapping up my question in a bit more exposition than I had meant to, so you can pretty much skip to where I’ve written “…aaaaand” without missing a whole lot ;)

  6. Vitteya Zhori, zhey David!

  7. I just saw some of the Spanish language version of episode 7 of Game of Thrones. While all of the English dialogue is dubbed into Spanish the Dothraki parts have been left in for the most part. So while the Spanish audience have to settle for a voice over artist for most of the acting they at least get to hear things like Drogo’s speech as it was done by Jason Momoa. Only small parts like Jorah telling Rakharo to put down the cask was redone by a spanish voice artist doing the Dothraki. It does give some funny moments like when Dany is speaking to Drogo while braiding his hair you hear Emilia Clarke speak Dothraki but then another voice jumps in and says “Trono”.

  8. Thank you so much for this David, and the fabulous presentation! (i was sick that day but told my husband i was not missing Dothraki) Have you started dreaming in Dothraki yet? ;)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *