Monthly Archives: July 2012

Dothraki Ice Cream

I was just up in Chico for a day, and I managed to hit my favorite ice cream store Shubert’s twice. As I was eating my mocha chip, I came to a decision: Dothraki needs a word for ice cream. Not an “in-universe” word, of course, but a modern one that I we can use when I we need it. Consider this a mini installment of our modern terminology series. (Ooh, that gives me an idea: this needs a tag!)

Anyway, if you feel up to the challenge, why not take a crack at coming up with a word for “ice cream” in Dothraki! It may prove instructive to review how compounds work, and you might also need some vocabulary. Here’s everything I can think of that might be relevant:

  • ahesh (n.i.A) snow
  • fish (adj.) cold
  • flas (n.i.A) a layer that forms on the top of soup or a layer of cream that separates and rises to the top
  • gizikhven (adj.) sweet
  • hadaen (n.i.A) food
  • jesh (n.i.A) ice
  • jesho (adj.) frozen
  • jeshoy (adj.) freezing
  • jeshven (adj.) icy
  • lamekh (n.i.A) milk (from a mare)
  • thagwa (n.i.B) yogurt made from mare’s milk
  • thagwash (n.i.A) a dessert made from thagwa and eaten with dried fruit
  • thash (adj.) soft

There might be more that would be useful. If you need something in particular, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I’ve got it. Otherwise, have fun! I’ll probably be eating ice cream in the interim.

Update: It also might be useful to note that adjectives follow the nouns they modify. So actually jeshlamekh should be lamekhjesh. Doesn’t sound nearly as catchy, I’m afraid…

Indefinite Relatives

Or something close to that, anyway. In honor of the Olympics (though not really in honor of the Olympics), I thought I’d go over a very small, very specific bit of Dothraki grammar.

But before I do that, after upgrading OS X Mountain Lion, the weirdest thing is happening in WordPress. Basically (and there’s really no other way to put it), certain punctuation marks are disappearing. They’re there, of course, and they show up in the published post, but I’m not allowed to see them, apparently. There’s no way to demonstrate other than showing you exactly what I mean, so here’s a screenshot of what I’m seeing:

You see! (Oh, how I’m glad you can’t see what that exclamation point was just reduced to on my screen…) True, the parens are mostly there, there are commas galore, and you can kind of make out the periods, but what of the apostrophes?! Where have they gone? WHERE ARE MY APOSTROPHES?! Man, when I get them back, I am so saying dracarys!

Anyway, we’ve already seen how to form a relative clause in Dothraki. That’s actually the tough part. Next comes identifying indefinite relative clauses. These are (by my definition, anyway) relative clauses where the target of relativization is unknown. In English (and in many languages), what happens is the indefinite relative is actually an embedded WH-question. Here are some examples:

  1. I don’t know where he slept.
  2. I saw who ate the sausage.
  3. We’re deciding when to come.

There are a number of sensible reasons for doing things thus (which is why the strategy is common), but Dothraki does things a little differently. Dothraki uses its series of distal demonstrative pronouns in place of WH-words and then forms a sentence very much like a relative clause. Let’s start with a simple example—the second sentence from above. First, here’s a standard relative clause:

  • Anha tih mahrazhes fin adakh ninde.
    “I saw the man that ate the sausage.”

The word mahrazh, “man”, is put in the accusative case, because it’s the object of tih, “saw”. Fin, “that/who”, is put into the nominative case because it acts as the subject of the embedded verb adakh, “ate”. So far so good.

Now for the indefinite relative. Since it’s not revealed who performed the action, we don’t have a noun to hang fin off of. Thus we insert the pronoun rekak. Here’s the sentence above translated into Dothraki:

  • Anha tih rekakes fin adakh ninde.
    “I saw who ate the sausage.”

This basically looks exactly like the first sentence, but now the pronoun rekak, “that one”, stands in place of mahrazh. Additionally, since the pronoun is used conventionally in these contexts, it can often be used without fin—and often in either the case it would take in the embedded clause or the matrix clause.

Now for the new part. There are other types of indefinite relatives that don’t act exactly like standard relative clauses. Consider our first sentence from above: I don’t know where he slept. In this one, the pronoun becomes rekke, and the sentence is translated thus:

  • Anha nesok rekke remek me.
    “I don’t know where he slept.”

Now there’s no need for fin at all (indeed, using it would be ungrammatical [or at least bizarre] at this stage) and rekke acts a lot more like “where” in the English translation. The same can be done with arrek (best translated as “when” in such sentences). For “how” and “why”, there are two constructions that can be used, but are nevertheless rare (usually the sentence is just reworded). Those terms are: kirekhdirgi “why” and kirekosi “how”.

And there you are! Now you should be able to tackle some tougher texts in Dothraki. For those who made it all the way to the end of this post, I shall reward you with a picture of my havzi vezhven:

My cat.

Click to enlarge.

Look at that little pink tongue! What a cat she is!

A Dothraki Alphabet…?

It is known that the Dothraki are illiterate, in that the language has no written form. That need not stop us from imagining what a Dothraki script might look like, though—after all, fun is fun!

I received an e-mail recently from Carlos Carrion Torres from Brazil who, along with his daughter Patricia, created a Dothraki alphabet. We’ve already seen Qvaak’s stylized rendition of the Dothraki romanization system, but that was intended for our use outside the fictional universe the Dothraki inhabit. Carlos and Patricia did something a little different. They imagined how the Dothraki might get a writing system within the Universe of Ice and Fire. Here’s the backstory.

Jorah Mormont, who comes from Westeros, obviously spends a lot of time with the Dothraki, and so he attempts to create a script to encode the language. Coming from a place where an alphabet is used (true, Common is just English, but even if Common were a separate language, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that they’d use an alphabetic writing system), Jorah would naturally think to create an alphabet, as opposed to some other type of writing system. One option when doing so is simply to take one’s own writing system and adapt it to fit the new language. As Carlos and Patricia have imagined it, though, Jorah decided to take the concept of an alphabet and create something new—something more suited to the Dothraki lifestyle. The result is pretty wild.

While it’d be tough to reproduce everything detailed in the document I received here on the page, you can download a detailed description of the entire system here, and you can read a full write-up of the system over at Omniglot. Though alphabetic, the script is better suited to Dothraki than the romanization, for example, because there are single characters assigned to each of the sounds I spell with digraphs (i.e. th, sh, zh, ch and kh). Plus, doubled vowels are spelled with a single character. The glyphs themselves are stylized to look (to my mind, at least) rather like sword slashes, and they’re based on the shapes of culturally-relevant objects. Here’s one example from the .pdf:

I’ve also got a sample phrase to show you. Below is the transliteration of Asshekhqoyi vezhvena! (punctuation included) into Carlos and Patricia’s script, which they call simply “Dothraki”:

Click to enlarge.

And while we’re on the subject of birthdays, check out this picture I got from a fan via e-mail. Apparently Carolyn is a big Game of Thrones fan, so they decide to wish her a Dothraki-style happy birthday on the cake:

A cake with "Asshekhqoyi vezhvena, zhey Carolyn!" written on it.

Click to enlarge.

Athdavrazar! That is tight! So, wherever you are, zhey Carolyn, asshekhqoyi vezhvena! Hope your birthday was not a dull affair. Hajas!

[Note: Just as a reminder, this writing system is not official. Officially, the Dothraki have no writing system, and won't unless George R. R. Martin decides they should have one at some point in time and it's created. I'm sharing this here as, essentially, fan art. And, of course, the existence of one unofficial system oughtn't preclude anyone from creating more unofficial systems—after all, creating writing systems is a lot of fun!]

Comic-Con Again, Off Again

M’ath to all those attending Comic-Con in San Diego! Enjoy. Some of us ’round here still have work to do! (In fact, I spoke with Dan Weiss and David Benioff yesterday, and they’re not making it this year, either [season 3, and whatnot].) A quick note for those visiting from out of state, though: This weather is NOT normal. It straight up rained here in Orange County—poured! That may be humdrum if you’re from New York or Florida, but in Southern California?! I can’t remember the last time.

Anyway, if you’re wandering around the Gaslamp and happen to bump into anyone dressed as Khal Drogo or Daenerys and want to say “boy, howdy!”, here’s a quick and dirty Dothraki primer:

Dothraki English Audio
M’athchomaroon! Hello!
M’ath! Hi!
Hash yer dothrae chek? How are you?
Chek! Good!
Anha garvok! I’m hungry!
Anha fevek! I’m thirsty!
Hash rekak che Oil Oiton che Jonathon Freykis? Is that Will Wheaton or Jonathan Frakes?
Vojosor heme vos ahhimo anna. I’m not into furries.
Finne zhavorsa anni?! Where are my dragons?!
Anha afichak rek h’anhaan ma vorsoon ma qoyoon! I will take what is mine with fire and blood!
Fonas chek! Goodbye!

Listen to the audio for the pronunciation—or just be sure the vowels are pure and you pronounce the Q’s like K’s (they’re not, but that’s close enough). If you’d like more of an introduction, you can check out the other posts on this blog, or head over to YouTube where sunquan8094 has an entire series of Dothraki tutorials. San athchomari to all those that made the trip down! I plan on being there next year. Until then, fonas chek!

[Featured Photo: Me, my wife and my little sister down in San Diego in younger days. The relationship to the topic at hand is...tenuous.]

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