Category Archives: Announcements

Announcements relevant to the Dothraki language.

Book Announcement

I’m pleased to announce today that I have reached an agreement with Viking Penguin to write a book on how to invent a language called just that: How to Invent a Language. Needless to say, this is a dream come true. :) I’m working with editor Elda Rotor, and am basically going to put as much into this book as they’ll let me stuff in there (and if I can’t fit something in, hopefully it will serve as material for future work). There will be some material from the Game of Thrones and Defiance languages—as well as from languages by other conlangers—but the focus will be on the nuts and bolts of language design. No single book can make you an expert, but my hope is that after working through this one, you’ll know where to start if you want to create a language, what questions to ask, and where to research if you need more.

On my end, I’m being represented by Joanna Volpe from New Leaf Literary and Media, Inc., and for that I have to thank Leigh Bardugo, author of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm of the Grisha Trilogy, plus the capper, Ruin and Rising, coming out June 3rd (my mother’s birthday!). Those who’ve been following this blog before it even existed will remember Leigh as having attended the first ever presentation on Dothraki back at WorldCon in 2011, and having a word coined in her honor. She now has two, of course (bardugon is the verb for “to write” in High Valyrian), but it means a lot to me that Leigh has remembered me over the years (lol it’s literally been years. That’s crazy), and was able to help me out here. Leigh is veiled in cascading swaths of fabulousness, but underneath it all, she’s a wonderful and kind person, and I’m happy to have her as a friend. (Of course, she’s wonderful and kind even if you don’t know her, so when it comes to Leigh, it’s really win-win.)

Of direct relevance to this blog is the fact that I’m going to be taking a serious step back—something regular readers may have already noticed, since this process started last year. I’ve got one more major High Valyrian post coming, but after that there may be next to nothing here for several months. I’ve got a big job ahead of me, and I’m going to need to take the time to do it, because I want to give this book my best work. I may come back and do my weekly Game of Thrones recaps depending on how my workflow goes, but I may not. It depends how the next couple months go. Either way, 2015 should be an exciting year—and should be a lot less busy for me—so I’ll definitely return to regular posting here in the future.

I want to say a big thank you to those who read this blog regularly, those who’ve been following me on Twitter and Tumblr and who’ve expressed interest in the Game of Thrones and Defiance languages, and those everywhere who in general have supported the TV and movie franchises that have used created languages. The fact of the matter is this book wouldn’t have become a reality if no one cared. There would be no languages for Defiance or other shows like Star-Crossed and Dominion if the fans weren’t interested in there being any—or worse, if they hated them. I know that a number of people wanted a book from me dedicated specifically to Dothraki, specifically to High Valyrian, specifically to Castithan, etc., and that this isn’t that. This is a first step, though. If this project goes well—if I do a good job and the book sells well—it may open the gates for further work—and not just by me, but by other conlangers. Hopefully this is the start of something big, not the conclusion of a movement.

Either way, I feel incredibly privileged to be in this position. Of course I wouldn’t be here without the Language Creation Society, and the Language Creation Society wouldn’t have been in the position it was without Arika Okrent—but, of course, Arika Okrent wouldn’t have sent Dave and Dan to the Language Creation Society if she hadn’t attended the Second Language Creation Conference, and there would be no Language Creation Conference if the conlang community (and specifically the Conlang Listserv) hadn’t come together to make it happen. This project is dedicated to the community that produced me. I hope I make them proud.

Various Updates

I’ve been absolutely swamped working on the second season of Defiance and the first season of Star-Crossed, so I haven’t had the time to devote to maintaining this blog. It isn’t going away, though. It’s just wintering at the moment. (Ha. Just realized that Game of Thrones always premieres in the spring. Gives “winter is coming” a bit of a different twist.) I did want to mention a few things, though.

First, on November 9th, I’ll be speaking at El Ser Creativo: an event held in Madrid, Spain that features speakers from around the globe speaking on a variety of topics. I, of course, will be speaking about sports logos. For the event, though, they had me do a little promo. They said I could do it in English, but I elected to do it in Dothraki. Here it is:

I do not know if the event will be streaming (maybe?). Worth checking out!

Additionally, since the last time I mentioned him on the blog, sunquan8094 has started a series of Valyrian lessons on his YouTube channel! The first lesson is below:

I just got back from WyrdCon, and next week I’m going to the San Diego Comic-Fest. My presentation at the latter will be at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, October 4th. If you’re in Southern California today, though, I’m going to be at the Comic Book Hideout at 5:00 p.m. We’ll be talking about cursing. Heh, heh… It’ll be fun!

Finally, my pidgins and creoles professor from UC Berkeley John McWhorter did a video for TED Ed on conlanging, and I thought it was quite good. Conlangs have really gotten the short shrift from linguists for…decades. But things have started to turn around, and I’m really proud of where we’re at. It was John McWhorter who gave me my first opportunity to do some conlang-related experimentation (undergraduate-quality work, but, well, I was an undergraduate), and it’s really gratifying to see this come full circle. You can check out the video below (a short five minute intro; worth the watch).

…though he stressed the wrong syllable in Hajas!

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!

Jalan Atthirari Anni

If I may step away for a moment from my regularly-scheduled Dothraki posts, today my wife and I celebrate our four year wedding anniversary (though in November we will have been together ten years). Erin has stood beside me and supported me ever since we’ve been together—and that can’t have been easy. She supported me when I decided to leave graduate school to teach community college. She supported me again when I decided to leave teaching to write, with little to no prospects. She supported me yet again when I left off writing to apply for the Dothraki job, and continued to support me as I had to tell friends and family vague details about my doing “something” that was “work”, though I couldn’t tell them anything about it. It’s not a prototypical path to success (looking back, in fact, it sounds rather like the exact opposite)—and who knows how it’ll pan out five to ten years down the line—but Erin’s steadfast support and encouragement have been instrumental in my being able to muddle my way through a taxing (to say the least) decade—not to mention her linguistic expertise. (It’s great to have someone I can talk to about conlang problems!)

I’ve tried my best to thank Erin along the way however I could (I’ve already mentioned how the word erin, “good, kind”, was coined in her honor, as was alegra, “duck” [her middle name]), but I don’t think I’ve done so publicly, so I figure this is as good an opportunity to do so as any.

Erin: Thank you so much for four wonderful years of marriage, and close to ten wonderful years together. Yer jalan atthirari anni. Every day I get to spend with you is a day worth living. Anha zhilak yera nakhaan, ma hash anha laz et mae, hash anha akemok ma yeroon save. Happy anniversary!

Shierak Qiya Jada

Indeed, season 2 (or series 2, depending on where you’re reading this from) is nearly upon us. This is a small announcement to let regular readers know that during the season I’m going to move away from the regular Dothraki qua Dothraki posts and write up responses to and commentaries on the episodes as we move through the second season (once it’s aired somewhere in the world, the spoiler curtain has lifted. Me nem nesa). Of course, since this is the Dothraki blog, I’ll be focusing on how a given episode relates to the Dothraki language and culture, and I’ll also discuss the Dothraki lines in each episode.

Before moving on, though, I’ve a bit of business to take care of. Last week I did an AMA over at Reddit (you can see the whole thing here), and redditor dopaminer asked the following:

Have you received requests from friends to make their names sound like the word for “awesome” or anything like that? (PS, if you still need to some up with a word for awesome, can it have the sound “rachel” in it?)

Of course, Dothraki has a word for “awesome” (vezhven), but I said I’d come up with something, and I have.

When it comes to flora and fauna vocabulary, I try to research what the Dothraki Sea might be like, but as you read through the Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin’s always throwing wild cards in. I’ve tried to come up with words for all the animals that the Dothraki encounter, and a good percentage of those they would likely encounter (e.g. animals around Slaver’s Bay and surrounding environs). We’ve already seen (and, indeed, already had a word for) the mighty lion, hrakkar, but in A Dance with Dragons we were introduced to the city of Volantis, where there are two major political parties: The Elephants and the Tigers. We’d seen elephants before (or at least in cyvasse), but this was, to my knowledge, the first mention of tigers (or tiger cloaks, for that matter). As it seems only right that the Dothraki would come up with their own words for the mightiest of beasts, “tiger” is a good candidate for a new stem.

While most animate nouns that aren’t humans end in a vowel, there are a number of beast words that are disyllabic and end in a consonant—to wit:

  • hrakkar “lion”
  • noah “bull”
  • qlaseh “deer (archaic)”
  • hlizif “bear”
  • kolver “eagle”

And, since tigers are awesome, it seems only fitting to add a new one to the list:

  • rachel “tiger”

There you go, dopaminer! The word is, of course, stressed on the second syllable, and the vowels are different (and the consonants, a bit), but romanized, you can see the resemblance. And, hey, now we’ve got half of the Volantine political factions in Dothraki! Racheli Volanti. I like it. Now we just need “elephant”…

To everyone else, let the countdown begin! I’ve seen the first episode, and it was damn good. I think everyone will be pleased. Fonas chek!

(Oh, and regarding the featured image, I didn’t have any tiger pictures, so that’s, uh…a murloc. That’s close, right?)

Athahhaqar

That’s the word for “frustration”. This darn blog loads too slowly! I really like my WordPress theme and what I’ve done with it (this blog, essentially, looks just the way I want it to), but, you know what they say: athdikar assila athozhokwazar. As a result, I’m writing this otherwise contentless post to ask: Is there anyone out there that can fix this? I’m looking for a solution that isn’t “Delete these plugins” or “Switch to this theme”, but something like, “I rewrote page.php and moved the JavaScript around”, or, “This plugin is much better than the one you’re using and accomplishes the same function”. A golden dragon for the one who can help! (Or perhaps just a heartfelt thank you.)

Okay, regular content will now resume.

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