Tīkuni Zōbrī, Udra Zōbriar

Tonight’s linguistic recap will be short, since there was no Valyrian or Dothraki in episode 302: “Dark Wings, Dark Words.” Of course, I’ve gotten used to this kind of treatment at the hands of Vanessa Taylor… Hee, hee, just kidding. She had some good stuff for me in 204. And the way things work is that stuff always gets moved around after it’s written. I did, in fact, do quite a bit of work for episode 302, but all of it was moved to 301. I wasn’t sure if anything else would get moved to 302, but it looks like it’s been saved for later on.

Some quick comments on 302: Cersei’s line was a crowd favorite (re: Margaery’s dress), and the scene with the Queen of Thorns was wonderful. That scene was a favorite of mine from the books, and I was looking forward to it this season. It did not disappoint. Neither did Brienne fighting with Jaime! That was fun. I could watch that all day. Plus, in that armor, Gwendoline Christie looks like a tank! Truly formidable.

Anyway, since there wasn’t much to discuss language-wise in this episode, I thought I’d go back and fill in a little bit. I’ve been much busier this year than I was last year, and recently, much sicker, so I haven’t been able to do as much as I did in the past. There’s been a lot of discussion about the Astapori Valyrian, though, so I did want to see if I could help out a bit.

Something I thought might help for a start would be just listing the phonology of High Valyrian. This is what it looks like (I’m going to go ahead and use the romanization rather than IPA here):

Manner Place
Labial Coronal Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stops p, b t, d j, lj k, g q  
Fricatives v s, z (th) gh (kh) h
Approximants r, rh, l      
Nasals m n ñ n*  

I’ll try to explain the fuzzy bits as simply as possible. First, if you go to the nasal row, the n with an asterisk next to it simply says that an n will naturally assimilate in place to a following velar or uvular consonant, but that there isn’t a separate velar or uvular nasal. Basically, this means that n works like you would expect it to, and that High Valyrian also has ñ as a separate consonant (and that’s a ñ just like in Spanish, which sounds a little like the “ni” in “onion”).

Next, you’ll see two digraphs in parentheses. These are sounds that aren’t native to High Valyrian, but which have been borrowed in (with greater or lesser success, depending on the speaker). Thus, Dothraki arakh gets borrowed in as arakh, but might get pronounced like arak or arah or maybe even aragh, depending on the speaker. From episode 301, if you hear anything that sounds like either kh or gh, it’s supposed to be gh (Dan’s accent is light on the voiced sounds. I noticed several z’s that sounded like s, a few g’s that sounded like k, and his gh often sounds like kh to my ear).

You’ll also see that three sounds don’t fit in one column and/or row: gh, v and j. These sounds vary in their production. So gh may be strongly velar for some speakers, or strongly uvular for others; the distinction isn’t phonemic. The other two sounds go between approximants and fricatives depending on the speaker and the environment. So v, for example, may sometimes sound like w, and j may sound like a Dothraki j, a Dothraki y or a Dothraki zh, depending on the speaker. In Astapori Valyrian, the j is pretty much always zh. (Oh, and as a side note, the digraph lj is used for the palatal lateral [ʎ]. It’s pretty much always a lateral, but I couldn’t manage the table otherwise.)

At the stage we’re at in the show and the books, though, High Valyrian isn’t spoken as a native language anymore: it’s always a learned second language. As a result, the pronunciation has changed from its purest form. It’s not necessarily important to know how precisely j was pronounced, but that the sound was j (the phoneme) in High Valyrian, if you follow.

Anyway, the vowels are a bit simpler:

Vowel Height Backness
Front Central Back
High ī, i ȳ, y   ū, u
Mid ē, e   ō, o
Low   ā, a

The first thing to note is that vowels with a macron over them (ī, ȳ, ū, ē, ō and ā) are long. Long vowels are held for twice as long as short vowels, and are quite common crosslinguistically (Arabic has them, Japanese, Hungarian, etc.). Words will be distinguished simply by their vowel length in High Valyrian. The vowel spelled y (and ȳ) is pronounced just like i, but with rounded lips (it’s the u in French tu). This sound may not be pronounced in modern High Valyrian (i.e. High Valyrian spoken by non-native speakers), and didn’t survive in all of the descendent languages. So, for example, the y in Daenerys is probably just pronounced like i (the way we pronounce it), even if in High Valyrian it would’ve been pronounced differently.

In looking at the Astapori Valyrian from 301, note that all long vowels have been lost—and most diphthongs (for example, an Unsullied is a Dovaogēdy in High Valyrian; in Astapori Valyrian, it’s Dovoghedhy). Oh, and since I brought it up, Astapori Valyrian dh is pronounced like the “th” in “this” or “the”. The sound doesn’t exist in High Valyrian.

I’m not sure how much this will help in decoding the Valyrian in 301, but hopefully it will help a little. Since most of it isn’t subtitled, I honestly can’t be sure what made it in and what didn’t (when it’s not subtitled, they feel much more free to cut words or sentences if it’s running long). I already heard from Dan that part of at least one of his sentences was cut, but I don’t know what episode he was talking about. Anyway, to work with something I know came through, here’s the last two lines from 301. First, Missandei:

  • Pindas skoverdi Dovoghedhi lis lerraski.
  • “She asks how many Unsullied are for sale.”

The word order should be much more familiar in Astapori Valyrian, as it’s lost the cases of High Valyrian, for the most part. It tends to stick to SVO word order. After that is Kraznys’ line:

  • Ivetra ji live Vesterozia kisa eva vaneqo.
  • “Tell the Westerosi whore she has until tomorrow.”

It was a tough choice, by the way, to go with the name “Westeros” in-universe. I mean, it’s pretty Englishy… I thought of coming up with my own term, but then I relented and decided to just keep it as is: the continent in the west is Westeros, and the continent in the east is Easteros—I mean Essos. Besides, it allowed me to change the w to v, which I thought was fun.

Hopefully this will help you decode what bits remain a bit more easily. Also, though High Valyrian has four genders, Astapori Valyrian just has the two, and in the singular, there are two definite articles: ji and vi.

Anyway, unless things got moved around majorly, there should be a good chunk of Astapori Valyrian next week. Stay tuned!

Geros ilas!

Posted on April 8, 2013, in Episode Recaps, Pronunciation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 65 Comments.

  1. Interesting!

    Some more observations/speculations:

    – The title, presumably meaning “Dark Wings, Dark Words” shows two different plural endings for the adjective {zōbri-}. These could be different plurals (e.g. dual/paucal -i, plural -ar?), or maybe more likely, plural endings for different genders. Since {tikuni} ends in {-i}, I’m wondering whether the {-ra} in {udra} is the {-ra} plural ending that metathesizes next to {d}. In any case, it would seem Astapori Valyrian just took the {-i} ending and ran with it.

    – {Ae} does not stand for a unique phoneme, so it appears to be a diphthong made of /a/ and /e/. I’m wondering whether there’s a reason for its profuse usage in Westerosi Valyrian names. In my own brainstormings (before I realized there would not be another open competition for the Valyrian job), I theorized a word {aes, ae-} “silver; (fig.) everything that is high and noble” that inspired that particular phonaesthetic choice.

    – It seems juxtaposition of vowels (e.g. {ao}, {ia}) is pretty common in HV, though I’m sure there are some phonotactical limitations. AV monophthongizes them all.

    – I originally thought {vi} might be the oblique form of {ji}, but now I’m leaning towards female, with {ji} established as male by “knight”.

    – Overall, I find the sound of HV… surprising. Its flavor is far from Latin or Greek to my ear — if I had to name a flavor, I might even say “orcish”, what with all ubiquitous {gh}, {z}, coronal stops, and dark vowels. It’s almost as if someone had aimed specifically for a… “foreboding”… sound. ;o) I did expect that sound from Ghiscari Valyrian, but pictures HV more, well, silvery. Anyway, it’s a bold and original choice, and certainly more appropriate as a dedicated conlanging product than something that might be mistaken for Greek by most viewers.

    I wonder whether the actors will get the long vowels right…

  2. I also think the choice of phonemes for HV is interesting (una ñ, en serio??). The rounded high front vowel plus the lenght make something like ‘needyssy’ sound positively Finnish. Now, FOUR genders? We know there are at least two plurals and God knows how many cases, so the inflectional paradigm is shaping to be utter hell.
    In AV, why the difference in conjugation between ‘pindas’ (she asks) and ‘kisa’ (she has)? Also, -is is a 3rd person plural marker, right? ‘Las’ vs ‘lis’, ‘zughulis’, ‘dohaeris’, ‘urneebis’, ‘morghulis’ in HV, etc.

  3. I really like that Swedesque [y] made it, but alas! I tuj malkontentiĝis that it had changed into [i] in the spoken vernacular… :-(

  4. Hi David,

    The /y/ changing to /i/ thing is interesting… Not sure about other languages, but in German that is a pretty common change between dialects etc. I don’t have any data in front of me, but I guess it makes sense that vowels getting rounded/de-rounded would be a common linguistic change…

    For example – the first vowel in standard German “spielen” is pronounced as “ü” in numerous Saxon and Austrian dialects. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent is like this. Or is Austria, you might be asked “wås wüllst” instead of standard German “was willst du?”

    It also happens in the opposite direction, ie in some dialects the word “für” is pronounced “fir” (rhymes with English ‘ear’).

    Also, in classical German literature, the phonemes /i/ and /y/ are considered to rhyme. Seriously. So “spielen” and “spülen” would be considered pure rhymes.

    Love your work, looking forward to hearing more Astapori and maybe some Braavosi, Volantene etc in future seasons! If you ever publish a reference work on the Valyrian language family I will be first in line for a copy :)

    • Well, we have a very prominent example in Greek, all Greek y have become /i/ in Latin and the Romance languages.

      • Of course! I should have remembered that!

        In German, the Greek ‘y’ is still pronounced as ‘y’. But in Romance derivations, it’s pronounced as ‘i’, and in English it’s even sometimes turned into ‘ai’

        So take psychology as an example:

        In German, we say Psychologie as /psyçoloˈɡiː/

        But in English, we say /sˈkɒlədʒi/

        And the French say /psi.kɔ.lɔ.ʒi/

        What is the modern Greek pronunciation look like in IPA?

        • If I’m not mistaken, it’s /psixoloˈʝia/.

        • Chinese has /y/.
          in Malaysian Chinese, SOMETIMES /y/ is pronounce as /i/.
          for example, /jy wən/ [language] is more often pronounced as /ji wən/
          but it’s pronounced as /y/ in words /ny ər/ [daughter], /jy/ [fish] , /ɕy jau/…

          maybe because pronouncing /i/ is a lot more easier than /y/. thus people start to pronounce /i/ instead of /y/.

  5. Wow. Thank you for sharing more about High Valyrian. I am intrigued by your choices for phonemes. Is there any specific reason that you chose to make the language sound quite unlike what many people, in my impression, were expecting? For example, a word like “tikuni” which is assume means “wings” intially makes me think more of some kind of African language than I would think of Valyrian. I would really like to know more about your thoughts and reasoning behind this.

    On another note, I love the phrase “geros il as”. Does it mean “fare well” or something else entirely?

    • I am intrigued by your choices for phonemes. Is there any specific reason that you chose to make the language sound quite unlike what many people, in my impression, were expecting?

      Here’s my response to this: All y’all are absolutely crazy. High Valyrian proper sounds so much like Latin that I’m actually embarrassed by it. Tīkuni (note the macron) would be a Latin word if there were a Latin word tīcvnvs (whose nominative and vocative plural would, of course, be tīcvnī, and would be stressed exactly the same way). I think the issue is we haven’t yet heard any High Valyrian in the show. Unless things got moved around, that should change next episode.

      • Is there even one sound of latin? From what I’ve heard (and learned from my brief latin studies), there are quite different pronunciation schemes for latin. Classical latin / historical latin / church latin? Something like that. I was taught to speak in very clear sharp consonants, qu [kv]; all c’s [k]; r [r] …but I’d expect that to be rather scholary dead language way.

        • That’s how I was taught to pronounce Latin too… C always = /k/, G always = /g/ etc. I only ever really learnt it in the choir in high school in Germany and that’s how the Germans have always pronounced it. But I know it varies across Europe.

          Then when I did some choir conducting a few years ago and told the kids “you can pronounce it whichever way you want, as long as you’re consistent” I got yelled at by a choirmaster from the St Pats cathedral in Melbourne because she insisted (without any irony) that the Romans had spoken like all the phonemes were modern Italian (apparently this is how the church do it). Because “that’s how they talk in Rome, and that’s where Latin came from.”

          Ummm… No.

          • Actually, the historically traditional pronunciation in Germany pronounced c as /ts/, like a German z, before front vowels. But I don’t doubt that’s fallen into disuse nowadays.

            What you are describing is the reconstructed classical pronunciation, the same which I use. It is certainly more authentic for classical antiquity, but with the following caveats:

            • Something very much like the Italian-style Church pronunciation was the norm within just a couple centuries.

            • I find that people who use Church pronunciation often have better accents than people who used restored Classical pronunciation. This is, of course, because Church-style speakers are imitating the cadences of Italian, whereas Classical-style tend to be stuck with their native phonemes. I can generally tell much more quickly where someone comes from if I hear them speaking with Classical pronunciation than Church pronunciation. (And I do not exempt myself from this charge.)

            • And of course, whatever its flaws, church pronunciation is totally appropriate for a church.

            • Ah OK, now I’m not sure… I’m pretty sure I can remember singing “benedKimus te”, but my memory’s not what it used to be. It’s entirely possible we did sing /ts/ for c before front vowels and i’m remembering it wrong.

              Your point 3 is, of course, also correct (although in my defence, my choir kids weren’t going to be singing in a church).

      • Don’t be embarassed – blame GRRM for making all the fragments in the book fit into the “ancient languages look like classical Latin/Greek and have lots of y’s” fantasy trope :)

        So… Will the concept of “Valyrian Glyphs” come up in the show?

        • There, of course, ought properly to be a glyph-based writing system for High Valyrian, but if I haven’t been asked to do anything with it yet. I hold out hope, but it’s a slim hope.

          • Well, they’re only referenced in the books later (ie with the horn the Greyjoys have and whatnot…) so maybe next season :)

            So a glyph-based system for an inflected language like HV, do you envisage something like Japanese mixed script, with complex glyphs for the stems/nouns and then separate phonetic symbols for the endings and inflections?

            • No, honestly I was thinking something more like Egyptian’s system of hieroglyphs—not in style, necessarily, but in their functionality. Egyptian had an alphabet, of sorts, a couple of phonetically-based systems, and a logography all layered on top of one another. It’s something I’ve done before in Kamakawi, so I’d look forward to taking a crack at it, but not until there was some official sign off.

      • Tīcvnī is suspiciously archaic. In Classical Latin it would surely be ticinī. But your comparison to the Latin second declension nom./voc. pl. does make that final /i/ long, begging the question* “Why the short /i/ in tīkuni, when the /i/ in zōbrī is long?” Despite your comparison, you have reiterated in your last comment that it is indeed tīkunĭ.

        By the way, what *I* think of when I see tīkuni is the Hebrew word תקון, as in Tikkun Olam.

        * In the colloquial sense of that phrase, of course

      • Sorry for being crazy, haha. I would have expected some kind of Latin influence anyway, because that is obviously what GRRM took as an inspiration. I don’t think you should be “ashamed” at all. On the contrary, I admire your dedication (and as far as I can judge) creativity in creating High Valyrian.

        I can’t wait to hear High Valyrian on the show and I hope Dany (and Missandei) are able to get the pronounciation and intonation as you intended.

  6. Apart from the aesthetics of the ortography, what reasons did you have for going with macrons instead of double vowels? Would ascii-friendly doubling work at all, like “Tiikuni zoobrii undra zoobriar”? Are there Dothraki-style syllabe boundaries between repeated vowels, aa, aā or āa? Can you just be uncooperative and lose macrons, as is commonplace in latin? Would that bring a lot of ambiguity?

    I find it interesting that you say that you take time to meantion that n will assimilate to a following velar or uvular consonant. This sounds like a notion of allophony and I’m still unsure, if we have even all Dothraki allophony mapped out. If I get this right, I’d kinda expect Dothraki to do the same, gango to be pronounced [gaŋgo] and so forth.
    Will n and ñ assimilate in the same way and will they keep distinct from each other?

    • There’s lots of phonological changes in Dothraki that just never come up (e.g. /qr/ > [ql] everywhere). Yes, the Dothraki n assimilates totally in place to whatever is following it (except for h, I guess). In HV, n and ñ aren’t distinguished before consonants.

      I decided to go with macrons first because it was easier for me to keep track of (ae is distinguished from āe, and if I did the double vowels, that would turn into aae, which just looks weird), but also because I intended for the long vowels to be dropped from the language as it evolved. You could very easily replace them with double vowels, but note that they are long vowels, not consecutive vowels like in Dothraki.

      Not all vowels can occur next to one another in HV; there are strict rules about that. You could drop the macrons, but it would lead to ambiguity. I never actually gave it much thought (the macrons) because my standard keyboard layout is set up to add them very easily to all vowels (including ȳ), but I guess that doesn’t really apply to everyone. For the show, I left out all the macrons, but I did indicate the long vowels for the actors with double vowels (something I may end up regretting; we’ll see how they did with it. I left explicit instructions, but if ee ends up getting pronounced [i] and oo [u], we’ll know what happened).

      • I assumed that all forms of modern Valyrian had lost distinctive vowel quantity… which means they would be unlikely to represent the distinction even when speaking HV. Seems risky to try to get the actors to do it, when you have such a good excuse built in.

        Thanks for all your answers tonight, by the way (and for correcting my earlier mistake.)

  7. David, is stress predictable at all in HV? I’m assuming it’s on the antepenultimate syllable, i.e. *tiikuni = /ti:’kuni/, to keep up with the Latin aesthetics.

    • I meant penultimate, next-to-last, sorry!

      • Stress is penultimate unless the penultimate syllable is short and the antepenultimate syllable is heavy, in which case stress is on the antepenultimate.

        • When you say “short” here do you mean it in the sense of “light,” or in the sense of “containing a short vowel?” I assume the former, but I want to be certain. So the stress falls on even a “short” penult, if the antepenult is light?

          Of course in Latin the general rule is that stress falls an the penult if it is heavy, and on the antepenult if the penult is light (Btw, Vaes Leisi, this means that Latin would accent tīcuni on the first, not second syllable)… so, I word like, say, cĕlĕrĭs is pronounced céleris in Latin, but would be *celéris in High Valyrian.

          • When you say “short” here do you mean it in the sense of “light,” or in the sense of “containing a short vowel?”

            I meant “light”. Bleh.

            Of course in Latin the general rule is that stress falls an the penult if it is heavy, and on the antepenult if the penult is light (Btw, Vaes Leisi, this means that Latin would accent tīcuni on the first, not second syllable)… so, I word like, say, cĕlĕrĭs is pronounced céleris in Latin, but would be *celéris in High Valyrian.

            This is exactly correct.

  8. Aha, so at least I guessed the existence of a paucal number right. ;o) I was assuming that {zōbrī} analyzed as {zōbri + i} in concordance with the head noun, but if the paucal never results in long final vowels, maybe the adjectives don’t inflect for number, or have a more limited spectrum of numera?

    As for HV not sounding Latin, count me in among the crazies. {Tīkuni} might be one of the more Latinate words (though I believe final short /i/ is very rare), but then there’s outlandish things like {zūguksy}… all those voiced fricatives, ubiquitous /y/, and even an uvular stop — that’s hard to reconcile with Latin sound.

    David, you seem ashamed even of that superficial similarity to Latin, but I don’t think there’s reason to. IJzeren Jan’s Wenedyk sounds exactly like Polish, and yet I consider it an outstanding feat of conlanging (as I’m sure HV will turn out to be).

    Personally, I rather like /y/, but for some reason it feels weird to me as a word-final vowel. In my short-lived Valyrian brainstorm, /y/ was derived from Protovalyrian /*u/, so it would end up as [o] word-finally. The /y/-thematic noun declension would have endings like {-ys}, {-o}, {-ūn} etc.

    I like the choice of macrons. Nothing says “venerable old language” like macrons. What keyboard mapping are you using? International English?

    • Postpositive adjectives agree fully in number, case and gender.

      The uvular stop and velar/uvular fricative are, of course, completely unavoidable, given valar morghulis and valonqar (which D&D confirmed beforehand will not be pronounced like valonquar). That, of course, is ideal, though, because it leaves room for fun derivations down the line (though in the case of Slaver’s Bay, I felt like they’d retain the back sounds).

      And I use my keyboard layout (which, in fact, I need to update to better accomodate Turkish). I created it with Ukulele, and made it in such a way that I would be able to type most of the languages I use without having to go to the character map. It’s too big for IPA, though, so I have a separate IPA keyboard layout.

  9. Oh, and I finally got round to watching the episodes. I found Missandei’s and Kraznys’ delivery very convincing over all, except that the /γ/ sometimes felt comically emphasizes — I guess it’s a difficult sound to speak casually if you’re not used to it. I still feel that way about my own German [ʁ] — is there a graceful way of saying “mehrere”?

    I bet that Unsullied had a heavy English accent, though. I hadn’t heard aspirated stops from the other two speakers before. I suppose he can blame it on the injury.

  10. I’m not that familiar with the concept of heavy/light syllables, so could someone please instruct me? A syllable with a long vowel or a diphthong would be long, right? And one with a voiced coda too (e.g. “man-“)? If that makes any sense, then Mantarys would be “MAN-ta-rys” (i.e. H-L-L, stress falls in the antepenultimate). How about Daenerys, then, or drakarys?

    • vaes leisi, It sounds like you might already know something about this:

      A “heavy” or “long” syllable ends with a consonant (ANY consonant), contains a long vowel, or a diphthong. A “short” or “light” syllable ends with a short vowel. In languages where this distinction matters, the last syllable is often treated as having an indeterminate “weight” because… well, to take your example, the last syllable of Mantarys will be light if the next word starts with a vowel, and heavy if it begins with a consonant.

      The problem with using examples from the books is that we don’t know if David has decided a vowel is long. Since Mantarys hasn’t been mentioned on the show (to my knowledge), we can’t know if that second syllable is heavy or light:

      *MAN-ta-rys, H-L-?
      *man-TĀ-rys, H-H-?

      But for your other two examples, we do know the show pronunciation, so:

      dæ-NĒ-rys, H-H-?
      dra-KA-rys, L-L-?

      I hope that helps.

      • After I posted this, I realized that, under David’s rules, dracarys could also be:

        dra-KĀ-rys, L-H-?
        drā-KĀ-rys, H-H-?

        The only thing it cannot be is *drākărys, because that would cause the stress to fall on the first syllable.

        • It is drakarys (no long vowels). For Daenerys, I always assumed initial stress for the oldest form of the language, as well as [y] pronounced faithfully. It’s just a name. At this stage, anyone can pronounce it any way they want, including [dǝ.ˈnɜ.rɪs]. Again, no one would use the pronunciation from 5,000 years ago at the time of action of the series. Daenerys would be pronounced the way someone from Westeros would pronounce it (i.e. approximately how it’s done in the series).

          • It’s just a name. At this stage, anyone can pronounce it any way they want, including [dǝ.ˈnɜ.rɪs].

            I would not have assumed that, especially the change in stress. Latin names borrowed into Italian, for instance, generally keep their accent on the same syllable. Ones borrowed into English usually do to, unless the English form drops a syllable (So, for instance, Vincéntius, which keeps the -ius, is accented just as in Latin, but Víncent, which does not, changes the stressed syllable).

            I would have presumed that, while the pronunciation tradition of a particular region might change the vowels (e.g. since the common tongue of Westeros is represented as English, it makes perfect sense to turn */dae̯ˈneːris/ to [dǝˈnɜrɪs], I would not have expected that to happen if the word had initial stress in HV.

            • Let me clarify a bit. First, the official High Valyrian spelling and pronunciation of Dany’s name isn’t completely set in stone. I generally don’t enter names into my dictionary unless I’ve decided what root they’ve been coined from, and I haven’t settled on one for Daenerys.

              I’ve always assumed that Daenerys, in High Valyrian, was stressed on the first syllable. I don’t know why; I just always liked the sound of it (i.e. something like [ˈdae.ne.ɾys], where the first is a diphthong). This would go well with accepting the spelling verbatim as it is in the books. In general, I try not to change the spelling from the books unless I absolutely have to (e.g. “dracarys” > drakarys). In the case of “Valar morghulis”, I absolutely had to, because there’s no way to reconcile the stress unless the “u” is long. Failing to mark a long vowel isn’t so bad, though. Not as immaterial as “c” > k, but still not so bad.

              In order for the stress to land on the second syllable of Daenerys, the “e” would have to be long, as you pointed out. Since I liked the idea of having initial stress so much, I simply didn’t consider it.

              That said, I may consider it. But in considering names borrowed into English, stress gets shifted aaaaaaaall the time. Maybe not from Latin to English, but it happens all the time with Spanish (e.g. consider the name Rocío which always, in my experience, has the stress shift to the first syllable in English) and plenty of other languages (for example, since Italian was brought up, how about all the names that end with word-final stress? That’s never preserved in English). Linguistically, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find a stress shift in Dany’s name (consider how it’s shortened. They don’t call her Nerry).

              But there’s plenty of time. I’m willing to arguments, be they linguistic or sentimental. I’m not opposed to Daenērys (though Dāenērys is out!).

            • But if you consider adding a macron changing the spelling, then effectively *any* name or word given in the books will have all vowels short, yes? Even if we assume I’m over my limit for mentioning Latin (so I can’t mention that long vowels were never regularly marked in that language (and by the way, what I just did is called praeteritio ;) )), I still think it’s in the spirit of things to assume that GRRM simply didn’t bother marking vowel quantity in his transcriptions (so to speak).

              Maybe not from Latin to English…

              Yes, but isn’t Latin-to-English a good analogy for High Valyrian — Westerosi Common? After all, the premise is much the same.

              since Italian was brought up, how about all the names that end with word-final stress? That’s never preserved in English

              Well, I was speaking, again, of Latin to Italian. And in general, from Latin to any European language with free stress (obviously, in languages like, say, French (where there is really no word accent, and the stress falls at the end of the sentence) or Greek (where, at least in earlier phases of the language, the placement of the accent was constrained by a different set of rules) this doesn’t apply).

              But whether or not we’re on the same page here, now I’m curious: what Italian names do you have in mind?

              The avoidance of word-final stress, by the way, is one of the major reasons English ever changes the accent from Latin. Like in my example above: we changed Vincéntius to Víncent, because we couldn’t exactly say Vincént, could we? (OK, to be fair this particular example is probably influenced by víncens “victorious,” occasionally used as a name in place of Vincentius… but my rule still generally applies.)

              I should not be up this late. Especially if I’m going to start obsessing on transcribing the Slavers’ Valyrian from Walk of Punishment this week, like Najahho has been trying to trick me into doing ;)

            • I still think it’s in the spirit of things to assume that GRRM simply didn’t bother marking vowel quantity in his transcriptions (so to speak)

              Oh, certainly—and I agree. But still, I like to try to stick to the absolute letter of the text as nearly as possible.

              But whether or not we’re on the same page here, now I’m curious: what Italian names do you have in mind?

              Niccolò, for one, which almost always gets word-initial stress (sometimes penultimate).

              The avoidance of word-final stress, by the way, is one of the major reasons English ever changes the accent from Latin. Like in my example above: we changed Vincéntius to Víncent, because we couldn’t exactly say Vincént, could we?

              Ah, but this, of course, isn’t a Latin to English borrowing: It’s a French to English borrowing. And, as noted, French lost its stress by lopping off word-final everything, so English pretty much stresses all French borrowings however it wants (even varying by region. Consider the stress of “garage”).

              Tomorrow, though! I’m still writing up tonight’s blog post.

      • As for dæ-NĒ-rys, there’s no /æ/ phoneme as far as we can tell, so it’s either dae- (diphthong) or da-e- (two syllables).

        I’ve always assumed the middle syllables of Drakarys and Mantarys to be long (perhaps the same derivational suffix?), but who knows.

        • Sorry if I was unclear: I didn’t mean ‹æ› to represent the IPA /æ/. I took it to be a diphthong similar (if perhaps not identical) to that in Latin, but that the [dǝ.ˈnɛ.rɪs] used on the show represented the Westerosi pronunciation.

      • It did! Kirimvose :)

  11. I don’t get your blog’s rules for what comments I’m allowed to reply directly to. Had to start a whole new thread here, for what should be a minor comment at best:

    Niccolò, for one, which almost always gets word-initial stress (sometimes penultimate).

    That IS however a good example of Latin-to-Italian, since in Latin it’s Nīcolā́us, and the Italian presumably changes *Nicolào to Nicolò… just like that theory I proposed about zezorkószezorkós.

    Ah, but this, of course, isn’t a Latin to English borrowing: It’s a French to English borrowing.

    Don’t complicate the issue with the facts ;)

    And, as noted, French lost its stress by lopping off word-final everything, so English pretty much stresses all French borrowings however it wants (even varying by region. Consider the stress of “garage”).

    Meaning of course that in the US we pronounce it garáge (with a [ʒ]), but in the UK it’s gárage (with a [d͡ʒ]). My American-born high school French teacher loved to bring up that very example. She said a UK English speaker once mocked her use of that American pronunciation, saying “Well you say /ˈkæbǝd͡ʒ/, not /kǝˈbɑʒ/!”

  12. The Dragon Demands

    While no Valyrian appeared in this episode, it did bring up a major language question: Mance says that the Free Folk clans in his diverse army “speak seven languages” — this line isn’t in the books. In the books, there seem to be only two languages from Westeros: The Common Tongue of the Andals (English), and the Old Tongue of the First Men. So if those are two of the languages in Mance’s list…what are the other five?

    I would guess that some of the more remote, bizarre offshoots of the Free Folk have had such little contact with outsiders that their Old Tongue diversified into distinct languages, part of an Old Tongue family or something. I don’t know. I mean the really fringe isolated ones like the ice-river clans who live *northwest* of the Frostfangs and are cannibals, or the cave people or something.

    Still, how do we reconcile these extra five languages stated to exist on-screen, with the book’s statements that there’s only Common Tongue and Old Tongue?

    Unrelated Defiance questions: what language are the Volge speaking in the pilot episode? I realize you can’t talk about this much, but when their leader says “I don’t like the look of that scaffold” and it’s subtitled, can you at least confirm if he’s speaking a distinct “Volge language”, or if he is in fact speaking in Castithan or Irathient, because a Volge language doesn’t exist yet?

    Also, question about the Castithan liros: episode 2’s previous establishes that Datak is in the Shanje liro:

    1 – Datak is described as from a lower caste, but married up when he wed Stahma, who is from a higher caste. Thus…was Datak always a “Shanje” even before he married Stahma? Or, did he join the Shanje liro when he married Stahma, who was herself a Shanje? Apparently marriage between Castithans of different liros was strictly forbidden in their home star system, so maybe even on Earth, there aren’t formal rules for how to handle inter-liro marriages?

    2 – So the second episode established the Yuke and Shanje castes – do these names actually have inherent meaning in the Castithan language? I.e. does “Yuke” literally translate as “Merchant” or “Untouchable” or something?

    3 – Are there more than two liros? Is it simply upper/lower caste, or a diverse array of different liros based on social roles? Ran into this a bit back in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, turns out the Bajorans actually had a caste system but abandoned it during the Cardassian occupation – they didn’t give a clear explanation of what they all were, fueling fanon explanations (Kira was apparently born into the artisan caste).

    Other questions: the website says that due to their cybernetic implants, the Indogenes can learn any language (human or Votan) perfectly, “without a trace of an accent”…which would seem to imply that other Votans are meant to speak with accents.

    I remember that you actually worked out how a non-native Dothraki speaker would slur Dothraki dialogue, in varying degrees as they got better at it. Thus, did you actually develop a scheme for “how would Irathient-accented English sound?”

    While I’m on the subject, the Irathients in the pilot seem to just use the English work “ark” even when speaking in Irathient; they’re in their roller tracing what they think is an ark-fall, and they call it “ark” or “arko” – why is this so similar to the English base?

    Thanks.

    • Mance says that the Free Folk clans in his diverse army “speak seven nine languages”

      Fixed that for you.

      Still, how do we reconcile these extra five languages stated to exist on-screen, with the book’s statements that there’s only Common Tongue and Old Tongue?

      Very easily. Recall that GRRM’s narration is third person limited, and that the narrator is frequently wrong (e.g. when it’s with a character who believes that another character is dead when in fact they’re alive, the narrator will say things like, “With x dead, y now didn’t know what to do”, or the like, and it’s up to the reader to remember that x is not dead). I never have a hard time believing that there’s more linguistic diversity where there’s said to be less. For example, in Spain, it’s often said (by Castillian speakers) that everyone speaks Spanish, but that there are different “dialects”: Catalán, Galiciano, Basque (yes: there are some that will claim that Basque is nothing more than a dialect of Spanish). Given a name as fanciful as “the Old Tongue”, I’d have no trouble believing that “the Old Tongue” actually stood for four, five, six, ten, twelve languages.

      1 – Datak is described as from a lower caste, but married up when he wed Stahma, who is from a higher caste. Thus…was Datak always a “Shanje” even before he married Stahma? Or, did he join the Shanje liro when he married Stahma, who was herself a Shanje? Apparently marriage between Castithans of different liros was strictly forbidden in their home star system, so maybe even on Earth, there aren’t formal rules for how to handle inter-liro marriages?

      I’ve lost track of what exactly has made it in to which episodes, but I believe this question is answered in the course of the series, and is a plot point. If it’s not, there is an answer and I’ll let you know, but I don’t want to spoil upcoming episodes.

      2 – So the second episode established the Yuke and Shanje castes – do these names actually have inherent meaning in the Castithan language? I.e. does “Yuke” literally translate as “Merchant” or “Untouchable” or something?

      They do have meanings (not those). I was able to design the entire caste system, including all the terminology and symbology. Its explanation may make it into some of the promotional materials that are rolling out…? I’d want to make sure before putting up a full explanation of what the system is.

      3 – Are there more than two liros? Is it simply upper/lower caste, or a diverse array of different liros based on social roles? Ran into this a bit back in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, turns out the Bajorans actually had a caste system but abandoned it during the Cardassian occupation – they didn’t give a clear explanation of what they all were, fueling fanon explanations (Kira was apparently born into the artisan caste).

      I believe there are six I came up with. Let me double-check… Okay, there are five liros a part of the system. There’s a term for one that lies outside the fovásho (liro system) whose members comprise an unofficial “sixth” liro. And then Trion wanted to add another kind of unofficial “liro” that springs up on Earth, but I’m not sure when that’s going to make it into the game (when it does, the explanation for its existence will be provided).

      I remember that you actually worked out how a non-native Dothraki speaker would slur Dothraki dialogue, in varying degrees as they got better at it. Thus, did you actually develop a scheme for “how would Irathient-accented English sound?”

      Yes, for everything. Many of the main actors were naturally speaking with an accent (Stephanie Leonidas and Jaime Murray have distinct British accents, and Tony Curran has a thick Scottish accent—none of which comes through in the show). The kids (Irisa, Alak) don’t speak with an accent (or aren’t meant to). Tony and Jaime developed an accent originally based off what I came up with, but the directors et al. thought it was too thick, so they did something a little different.

      While I’m on the subject, the Irathients in the pilot seem to just use the English work “ark” even when speaking in Irathient; they’re in their roller tracing what they think is an ark-fall, and they call it “ark” or “arko” – why is this so similar to the English base?

      The word is borrowed from Indojisnen via Castithan, and the word is arkonjeza (shortened in Castithan). I did this on purpose, because Trion was just using “ark”, and even had an English acronym for it, and was perfectly happy with aliens coming up with a word that sounds like our word for “boat” that was an acronym for three English words. So I made it an Indojisnen word. And it’s just an incredible coincidence that it sounds like our word “ark”. So it goes.

  13. Regards the multiple languages north of the wall, I also was thinking that if it needed to be clarified in future, it would be a case of multiple dialects/languages of the “Old Tongue”. In keeping with GRRM’s keeping with the “standard fantasy in snow sounds like Welsh” trope (thanks Tolkien) it might be a case of Irish/Manx/Scottish Gaelic.

    Specifically though, one idea that I got excited about for a couple of weeks last year and started fan-conlanging was the tongue of the Giants. Noting that the giants are supposed to speak the Old Tongue “after a fashion”, I thought maybe the Giants could speak a creole, with their own previous language as a substrate, and vocabulary from the Old Tongue plonked on top. And as the Giants dialog/names in the books are all monosyllabic, it could be fun to have a tonal system modelled on something like Mandarin or Vietnamese, but with Celtic sounds like /ð/ and /ɬ/…

    My plan was to create a Giant language along those lines, then create a “human” Old Tongue based around the same vocabulary, but agglutinative and non-tonal, and postulate about mutual intelligibility, plausible realism be damned. I never got very far with that though.

    Oh, and regarding Kamakawi glyphs – I’d totally forgotten you’d done that… I looked it up about a year ago after they were talking about it on the Conlangery podcast, really liked what you did there :) Here’s hoping you get to do something like that for GoT, it would be an incredible visual detail…

    Has anyone done a consistent, linguistically meaningful conscript/orthography for a conlang on TV before? I’m pretty sure that in the case of Klingon etc, the “writing” on-screen has always just consisted of a character set picked for aesthetics, then arranged randomly…

    • I don’t know why people tend to associate Tolkien with Irish/Manx/Scottish Gaelic, when he openly stated he didn’t like Gaelic at all. What he loved was Welsh, that sounds QUITE different from it, apart from being P-Celtic instead of Q-Celtic.

      To me the ‘Old Tongue’ is more reminiscent of Norse than Welsh, skagos, sygerrik, magnar, in fact “sygerrik” could be purely Germanic “Sigeric”, of course the meaning has nothing to do with it.

      Hey! Are you the one who created a fan conlang based on the Giants’ Old Tongue? I’ve seen it in the conlang wiki. Is that yours?

  14. Sorry – now that I re-read it, what I wrote is a bit confusing.

    I meant that the dialects of the Old Tongue could be closely related similarly to Irish/Manx/Scottish, which many people (including native speakers) often simply refer to as “Gaelic”, even though they’re actually separate enough to be different languages.

    Didn’t mean to imply that Tolkien’s languages sound like Irish, which he openly disliked from an aesthetic point of view.

    For the record though, I’ve heard someone postulate that Tolkien based the “evil” language of Mt Doom (can’t remember what it’s called) on Irish.

    I really love Welsh (agreeing with Tolkien about the many “cellar doors”…) but my favourite Celtic language is Breton, which I got into through listening to Alan Stivell records. It makes me think of something like if Welsh and French had a bastard son (though the Bretons might be a bit offended by me saying that).

    And yes, that was me with the Giants’ Old Tongue on the conlang wikkii. I want to get back into working on it at some point :)

  15. Are the vowels with macrons considered to be variants of the vowels without macrons, or are they separate sounds? On one hand, the same IPA appears to be used for both forms, but David remarks that these vowel forms can distinguish words from each other.

    • Depends on what you mean by “separate sounds.” They are the same in that the vowel quality will be more-or-less identical. It’s just that, say, ī is held longer than i (that is what the symbol ː means in IPA).

      This is not a distinction we make in English, but in many languages it is phonemic. Ever watch a movie in Japanese? Notice how their speech seems generally fast, and then other times they seem to drag out a syllable? I know people who do bad impressions of Samurai movies tend to pick up on this ;)

      Closer to home, in most dialects of English, a vowel will be drawn out before a voiced sound, and clipped short before a voiceless sound. Go somewhere private where will no one will laugh at you, and say “beet” and “bead” over and over, and you should be able to hear the difference. In English this is allophonic: to us the real difference is between /t/ and /d/, and the vowel is just a side effect. But in High Valyrian (and many, many real-world languages) it is phonemic: there is a difference between, say, buzdari and buzdarī.

  16. And in an alphabetical listing, do the vowels with macrons come before or after the vowels without macrons?

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