Monthly Archives: August 2012

Chiftikh

That’s my nearest approximation of “quick hits”. A chiftikh is a word for a strike (with a blade) that we might describe as a “glancing blow” in English—a nick. Only a flesh wound.

A friend of mine—and one of the Old Guard conlangers—Barry Garcia has taken recently to conscripting (minus the conlanging), and this past week he wrote up a version of the numbers one through ten (and also one hundred) in Dothraki. Here’s what they look like:

Barry Garcia's Dothraki numerals 1-5.

That’s 1-5. Now for the rest:

Barry Garcia's Dothraki numerals 6-10 and 100.

The numeral glyphs above are from his own script, and the writing below is a transliterated form of the Dothraki words (i.e. at, akat, sen, etc.) The glyphs at the beginning and end are used to demarcate paragraphs or set off quotes. If I know my modern “literary” press publications right (Vintage, I’m looking at you), the English equivalent would be:

Since I introduced one at the beginning of this post, now might be as good a time as any to discuss sword fighting (or arakh fighting) terminology in Dothraki. While there are basic words like “to cut” and “to stab” in Dothraki, there are also a series of specific terms used for types of sword strikes one employs in a fight. They’re all derived in the same fashion from native animal terminology. Since we’ve already seen chiftikh, I’ll use that as my example.

A chiftikh is a weak or glancing blow with a sword—something that was intended to hit, but missed the mark (or, perhaps, was too weak to do much damage). It derives from the word chifti, which means “cricket”. To use it in a sentence, you use the verb ildat, “to strike”. The direct object, then, is the type of strike, rather than the one struck. To indicate the one who is struck, you include an allative object (optional), and if you wish to mention the weapon used, you can include an ablative object (also optional). Thus, if you wanted to say the equivalent of (I think this is the best way to word this in English), “I fetched him a glancing blow with my arakh”, you would say:

  • Anha ilde chiftikh maan arakhoon anni.

And there you have it. Below I’ll list the various ildo (i.e. “sword strikes”), along with the animal they’re associated with and their meaning:

Animal Term Ildo Meaning
chifti “cricket” chiftikh A weak hit or glancing blow.
gezri “snake” gezrikh A feint (a strike intended to throw the opponent off and disguise one’s true intent).
hlizif “bear” hlizifikh A wild but powerful strike (effective if it lands, but relatively inaccurate).
hrakkar “lion” hrakkarikh A quick, powerful and accurate strike.
kolver “eagle” kolverikh A straight sword thrust (middling and relatively uncommon).
ver “wolf” verikh A defensive strike intended to back an opponent off, but not necessarily to land.

As a framework, this isn’t intended to encompass swordsmanship (or arakhsmanship) in any way. These are just older terms that are intended to be employed in discussing a sword fight. They’re not meant to run the gamut of sword fighting terminology, or to dictate a particular style: they’re just there to make discussion move along a bit more easily.

And you may also notice that the word for “eagle” up there drew its inspiration from Stephen Colbert. I felt I needed a word for “eagle”, and in searching for a phonological form to fit it, I decided that Stephen Colbert embodied eagleness quite well. As his last name fit Dothraki’s syllable structure rather nicely, the word for “eagle” became kolber—or, at least, in the oldest form of the language. In modern Dothraki, it, of course, comes out as kolver, with the older b changing to v, but if the t can become silent on account of a historical sound change, I figure a change from a stop to a fricative shouldn’t be all that alarming.

I’m off to Chicago on Thursday! If I get any good pictures, I’ll be sure to post them here. Fonas chek!

Finnaan Anha Dothrak?

So unlike MiniDisc, apparently turn-by-turn navigation systems aren’t going away any time soon (go figure). Thanks to our very own Hrakkar, though, we’ll soon have the option of getting turn-by-turn directions in Dothraki. Pretty wild, right?

So this is how it works. Hrakkar found a text file used by Garmin to translate its directions into various languages. All you need to do is translate the set phrases and provide audio, and voilà! It won’t translate street names (which is appropriate), or do them in the appropriate accent, but that would be a bit much to expect. Hrakkar got a jumpstart on translating the list of commands, and I helped him fill in the rest. The entire list of commands is presented below, with commentary:

English Dothraki
Proceed to highlighted route. Dothra osaan shovena.
Recalculating. Anha gachak mae ajjin.
Traffic ahead. Hrazefeser hatif shafki.
Continue on route. Vatteri dothralat she os.
Make a U-turn. Idiro.

Above, the word I used for “highlighted” (shoven, suffixed with -a above as it modifies a noun in a non-nominative case) basically means “smudged” or “marked”. It’s difficult to translate English’s “headline language” into Dothraki (the same is true of just about any inflectional language), so that something that renders quite simply in English (e.g. “Recalculating”) requires a full sentence in Dothraki (literally, “I’m figuring it out right now”). There’s no real word for “traffic” (and no concept for it), so I used hrazefeser, which is kind of like a herd of wild horses. Hrakkar gets credit for what I think is the most brilliant translation of the bunch: idiro, which, in this context, means “Make a U-turn”. Idirolat derives from the Dothraki word for “owl”, idiro. It literally means “to owl”, and implies that one has made a full 180° turn quite suddenly, as owls do with their heads. That’s basically what a U-turn is, so in this case Dothraki is more succinct than the English (that doesn’t happen often!).

Here’s the next batch:

English Dothraki
Destination ovvethikh
Via Point eleisosakh
Arrive at… Jado she…
Arriving at… Shafka jadoe she…
Enter roundabout. Emra osfir.
In she
Then majin
Turn noti
Take okki
Take ramp. Okki yathokh.

As you’ll note, we’re using the formal second person throughout (seems like the safest bet). The word for “destination” is just the word for “goal”, which comes from the word for “target”, which is why it’s related to the word for “fly” (ovethat). For “roundabout”, I went with “round road”, which seems close enough. I think it’s a happy accident that, at least for English speakers, you can pluck the word “sphere” right out of the word osfir. Should help one remember the word.

Regarding “in”, you’ll note that the word she is used, as opposed to mra, which means “in” or “inside”. This is because the word here is the English word “in”, and that brings us to a major translation issue in Doing this. The English word “in” could be used by Garmin in a number of ways—most likely in a sentence like, “Turn left in three miles”. There, it’s pretty clear that “in” doesn’t mean “inside”. Rather, it could almost be translated “after” (i.e. “Turn after three miles have passed”) or “at” (i.e. “Turn at the three mile mark from this point”), etc. In Dothraki, she is the most semantically empty locative preposition. As a result, it’s probably our best bet here, even if it doesn’t match up perfectly (and it helps that, in its basic form, she governs the nominative, which will prevent case problems, for which see below).

Here’s the next set:

English Dothraki
Ahead hatif shafki
Keep vatteri dothralat
Exit esemrasakh
Left sindarine
Right haje
Turn left. Noti sindarine.
Turn right. Noti haje.
On left she sindarinekh
On right she hajekh
Navigate off road. Hezhahi she osoon.
Navigate on road. Hezhahi she osaan.

I have absolutely no idea what “Navigate off road” or “Navigate on road” means, but I thought Hrakkar’s use of hezhahat was inspired, so I stuck with his translation. (Also, nice use of she with the allative and ablative!). There is no adverb “ahead” that’s used just like the English word, so hatif shafki means “in front of you”. And a word like “keep” just gives me fits (lousy analytical English!). I decided to translate it as “Keep riding”, reasoning that it’ll probably be used in expressions like “Keep right” or “Keep left”. Unfortunately, it won’t be translated quite right (I think a more appropriate translation for “Keep right” would be Vatteri dothralat she hajekh), but that’s on account of the fact that the basic language here is English. If the initial language had been anything else (say, Russian), it would have had more phrases to translate, rather than words. In English, the form of a word doesn’t change all that often (just pluralization on nouns and minimal verb tense), so you can separate them out and not worry about the context of surrounding words. Not so with Dothraki. As a result, some things will not be combined appropriately. I imagine the same would be true of a language like Russian if it were to translate the program using this script. So it goes.

Here’s the next group:

English Dothraki
Board ferry. Emra rhaggat eveth.
Leave ferry. Esemrasa rhaggat eveth.
At roundabout she osfir
Exit roundabout. Esemrasa osfir.
To destination ovvethikhaan
To via point eleisosakhaan
Feet qorraya
Yards rhaesof
Meters rhaesof Valiri

There isn’t, of course, a large nautical vocabulary in Dothraki: a boat is a boat is a boat is a water cart. For our measure words, I had to create some on the fly to serve. These aren’t to be used in-universe; they’re just for us. So the word for “feet” (or “foot”, as the singular and plural are the same) is qorraya, the Dothraki word for “forearm” (about as long as a foot). A yard, on the other hand, is a bit longer, and so it’s a rhaesof—not a larger foot, in this case, but a stride. And I’m mightily entertained by my word for “meter”, which is, essentially, “a Valyrian yard”. I think of “meters” as basically “British yards” (even though we got our measure from England initially), and so I thought, “What would the equivalent of ‘British’ be in Dothraki…?” I wanted to say Lhazareen, but that didn’t seem very fair to the British, so I went with Valyrian. You’ll see it again in the next group:

English Dothraki
One quarter mile irvosa
One half mile chetira
Three quarters of a mile sen irvosa
Mile karlina
And a quarter ma saccheya
Miles karlina
And a half ma sachi
And three quarters ma sen saccheya
Kilometer karlina Valiri
Kilometers karlina Valiri

And there’s our Valyrian miles (a.k.a. kilometers). There’s no word for “quarter” in Dothraki, so I borrowed over the word saccheya (derived from the word sachi, which means “half”) which actually means something like “part” or “division”. It could mean “half” in the right context, but more often it’s less than that, and conventionally I think it works well as “quarter”. As for the terms for miles and parts of miles (another rare instance where Dothraki proves more economical than English), you can read more about their etymologies in this blog post I did for CNN’s The Next List.

Finally, there are a bunch of numbers. It calls for the cardinal numbers 1 through 10 and also 100, and the ordinal numbers 1 through 9. There’s no call for ordinal 10 or 100, but since it’ll make a neater table, I’ll go ahead and include those too:

English Dothraki English Dothraki
One at First atak
Two akat Second akatak
Three sen Third senak
Four tor Fourth torak
Five mek Fifth mekak
Six zhinda Sixth zhindak
Seven fekh Seventh fekhak
Eight ori Eighth orik
Nine qazat Ninth qazatak
Ten thi Tenth thik
Hundred ken Hundredth kenak

And there you have it! I’m not quite sure what step lies between having this information translated and recorded and getting it onto your own Garmin, but I believe Hrakkar will provide us with that info in time (at which point this post will updated). If you happen to already know what to do, I’ve got audio of me reading all of the above which you can download here (right click on that. I thought about embedding the audio as I’ve done with previous posts, but there’d just be too much, and this page loads slow enough as it is). You can also get the text from above in a handy .txt file by clicking here. If you’d like to record your own version, send it my way and I’ll put it up here.

In other news, if you’re going to be at WorldCon in Chicago at the end of the month, I will be there. Come find me and test my on-the-fly Dothraki fluency! (Then prepare to be disappointed [though I've always been much more of a writer than a speaker, when it comes to second languages].) Until next time, fonas chek!

Vekhikh Fishi

There’s a fun multilingual pun referring back to the last post. We had some good suggestions for “ice cream”—too many, in fact. I think there’s only one thing to be done: We need to start up several different Dothraki ice cream chains, each one using a different word for “ice cream”. One year later, we’ll see which word has caught on, and that will be our word for “ice cream”. As it is, though, I liked Qvaak’s suggestion of jeshokh lamekhi. As I see it, a jeshokh could be a word for any frozen treat, with jeshokh lamekhi being ice cream specifically. Good suggestions all! Makes me want to eat ice cream (though, of course, most things do. Mmmmm… Ice cream…).

Those who follow me on Twitter probably will have already seen some of what I’m about to share, but if you don’t, I wanted to spotlight a couple of cool things that have found their way onto the internet recently.

It started back on July 7th when @MattTheHuman_ tweeted this awesome photo of a tattoo of Shekh ma shieraki anni:

A tattoo of "Shekh ma shieraki anni" by @MattTheHuman_.

Click to enlarge.

That. Is. Awesome.

And the awesomeness continued when @NuhTarian tweeted this photo of his new tattoo (this one for shierak qiya, the Bleeding Star):

Photo of a tattoo by @NuTarian.

Click to enlarge.

And just yesterday I saw something really cool. @jamyjams_ posted the picture below of a couple of engraved bracelets she’d just received:

A picture of bracelets posted by @jamyjams_ to Twitter.

Click to enlarge.

Check those out! On the outside they say Shekh ma shieraki anni and Jalan atthirari anni, and then on the inside you see their translations in English. Apparently she got them from Etsy (see this tweet) from Lauren Elaine Designs (she does custom hand-stamped jewelry). Pretty cool! May have to get me one that says Hash yer laz tihi jin, hash yer dothrae drivolataan. Heh, heh…

Oh, man, and I just saw a couple new ones over on Tumblr—check it out!

Now, in the case of all the above, I didn’t actually come up with the phrases (i.e. I didn’t invent the phrase “my sun and stars”), but I did invent most of the words (George R. R. Martin gets credit for shierak and qiya). Having the language spoken on Game of Thrones has been pretty cool. But to think that someone actually tattooed those words onto their body… Wow. That, to me, is beyond incredible. It means a lot to know that someone would actually like the phrases in Dothraki enough to have them become an indelible part of their own body (after all, they very well could have gone with the English as is written in the books). You guys are awesome! If I ever get a chance to meet you in person, I’m going to buy you an ice cream (or a non-dairy equivalent, if you prefer).

If you happen to spot anything cool with some Dothraki on it somewhere out on the internet, let me know and I’ll throw it up here. The fan art inspired by Game of Thrones has been awesome to see.

Hajas, zhey eyak!

Update: Oh, duh. Right after I sent this I thought, “Oh, I should have included the word for ‘tattoo’ in Dothraki.” My head isn’t with me at present.

Tattoos are about as old as humans are, so I figured the Dothraki needed a word for it (though they also need a word for whatever kind of body art is used in the show. Those aren’tattoos, but what are they, exactly? Racing stripes?). The root for the various tattoo words is lir, with the word lir (inanimate noun) being the word for “tattoo”. To give someone a tattoo, you use the verb lirat (e.g. “He put a tattoo on me” would be Me lir anna). The image or symbol depicted in a tattoo is the lirikh; the one who gives a tattoo is the lirak; and all of one’s tattoos taken together is one’s lirisir (think of it like a “body of work” [pun intended if you thought it was funny]).

So, there you go! Now you can talk about your Dothraki tattoos in Dothraki. Fonas chek!

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