Dothraki on The Office

If you happened to be watching NBC’s Thursday night line-up yesterday, you will have seen Dwight Schrute teaching Erin Hannon Dothraki on The Office.

For real!

I’d heard a rumor about this before the episode aired, but didn’t realize the extent to which it’s used in the B-story. If you missed it, you can (provided this link works right) watch the episode on Hulu here. (If the link doesn’t work, you can just go to Hulu and poke around; you should be able to find it without too much trouble.)

Someone asked if I’d been consulted, and no, I wasn’t, but whoever was creating the Dothraki for this certainly did some digging. I didn’t even recognize the word aggendat (had to look that up). Actually they did something kind of interesting. Before the first commercial break (around the 7:30 mark on the Hulu video), you see that Dwight has written this on a paper pad:

  • FOTH AGGENDAK
  • FOTH AGGENDI
  • FOTH AGGENDA

This is defined (in order) as “I throat-rip”, “you throat-rip”, “he/she/it throat-rips”. First off, the word for throat is fotha, meaning that the accusative is foth, meaning that they declined this noun correctly (props all around!). What they created here, though, is something I haven’t done (yet) in Dothraki: a noun-verb compound. In particular, this is a form of noun incorporation. Noun incorporation happens in many (if not most) languages. In this instance, it takes the characteristic object of the verb and adds it to the verb stem, making the new object something connected to the incorporated noun. An easy example to think of is “sideswipe”, in English. If someone sideswipes you in a car, they have hit the side of your car. “Side”, though, is incorporated, and “you” is treated as the direct object.

Back to Dothraki, this is something I actually avoided and never did, because I didn’t want to bother to think of how it would work (and it never came up in translation). But you know what? That works pretty well (i.e. putting the noun in the accusative and attaching it to a transitive verb), so I’m canonizing it. In my mind, I’ll think of it as a Schrutean compound. (Though, of course, I’d probably delete the space between the two words.)

Of course, this isn’t the first time The Office has mentioned Dothraki. For last year’s Emmy’s, The Office folks put together an Office-style montage which featured Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope doing some fake Dothraki. Before that, though, there was an actor done up as a Dothraki from Game of Thrones who didn’t a different kind of fake Dothraki—specifically, French. I thought that was a hoot. Fast forward to today’s episode of The Office, Erin is trying to learn a language to impress Andy’s family. The language? French. Dwight then convinces her to switch to Dothraki—only this time they did actual Dothraki. Nice.

Anyway, that kind of made my day. (Though I’m still going to have the quote from The Simpsons etched on my tombstone.) Yera chomo anna, zhey liraki haji Office!

Fonas chek!

Posted on October 5, 2012, in Announcements and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Very cool indeed!! I don’t watch The Office, didn’t much like the UK version, but I will defiantly check this out. I love the Dothraki language! Now if only I could speak it fluently. :^)

  2. Maybe this will result in a flood of new learners!

    Very interesting on the incorporated nouns. This happens in Klingon as well, and they actually do a lot of things in a pronominal prefix. Klingon can indicate both subject and object in that prefix, to the point where a verb with the right prefix can be a complete sentence.

    In any case, this is a perfect example of how culture changes a language– something you have extensively taught on :-)

  3. Considering that our vocab and dictionary had throat without the -a and having an unknown animacy, there’s a fair chance the writers did not actually think about the accusative case. Cool nevertheless.

  4. If this were true noun incorporation, the incorporated noun wouldn’t inflect for case anyway. Perhaps this is something like the Hungarian ‘pseudo-incorporation’ construction where a non-referential accusative object can be placed in front of (and form a phonological unit with) the verb?

    Could the order in Schrutean compounds be a sign that proto-Dothraki was an OV language?

  5. I think it was stated elsewhere that Proto-Plains was VSO?

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