Category Archives: Vocabulary
Posts devoted to new Dothraki vocabulary.
Rytsas! I’ve busied up nice and good in recent days. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to keep up with this blog. To keep up momentum, I’d be happy to feature user-generated content. If you have any ideas, throw them at me! I’m down.
Today I’m going to briefly discuss the number system in High Valyrian. Valyrian numerals are a bit more complicated than Dothraki numerals, but there are some nice bits in the system that improve its usability. First, all numbers are adjectives. In effect, you could treat them like participles, for those who are familiar with Valyrian grammar (for those who aren’t, I’ll show you how that plays out in a second). Here are the numbers 1 through 10 in High Valyrian in the lunar class (showing both cardinal and ordinal numbers):
As a refresher, all three adjectival endings are utilized in the table above. The nominative endings for each adjective type in the various genders look like this:
Anyway, you’ll notice that with the exception of tȳne, “second”, all ordinals are Class III, which should be helpful. The rest of the numbers split their class membership with one important exception, which I’ll explain in a bit.
Essentially, numbers agree with the nouns they modify in case and number. This should be fairly simple for certain things, but not for others. Let’s start with a couple ordinary examples. First, here’s an example using lanta, “two”, and a noun of each gender (vala “man”; azantys “knight”; dōron “stone”; hāedar “younger sister”) in the nominative:
- Lunar: lanti vali “two men”
- Solar: lantyz azantyssy “two knights”
- Terrestrial: lanta dōra “two stones”
- Aquatic: lantra hāedri “two younger sisters”
As you can see, all these nouns are in the nominative plural, and so the number matches in case and number. As all numbers are adjectives, though, they do display the same agreement that other adjectives do outside of the singular and plural numbers. Here are a couple examples (lentun “community”; mentyr “army”):
- Paucal (Terrestrial): mēriar lentun “one community”
- Collective (Solar): mēre mentyr “one army”
So above, even though we’re only talking about a single community, the agreement on the adjective “one” is plural (i.e. mēriar as opposed to mērior), just as the agreement on “army” is singular. Things are complicated slightly when these terms become words in their own right (falling into Declension Class VI). Some words do indeed jump the shark, so to speak, and become words of a more usual class (I know this was a question that came up before). For example, lentor, originally the collective of lenton, “house”, is now just an aquatic noun of Declension Class III, rather than a collective of Declension Class VI. In that case, lentor (the word for “family line” or “house”, in the Westerosi sense) would behave in the usual manner. A word like tembyr, though (“book”, lunar), behaves differently. Here it is in its two numbers:
- Singular: mēre tembyr “one book”
- Plural: lanti tembyri “two books”
Here even though it’s built off a collective, the adjective “two” gets plural agreement in the plural. Similarly, even though a paucal would ordinarily get plural agreement, it will get singular agreement in the singular if the word is being treated as a separate, relexified word.
All of this, of course, is much simplified when dealing with ordinal numbers. A couple of examples appear below:
- Singular: ēlie vala “first man”
- Plural: ēlī vali “first men”
That latter might look familiar (or its meaning, at least). Anyway, ordinal numbers agree entirely in case and number with the nouns they modify, since the number of an ordinal doesn’t actually determine or interact with the number of a noun in any way.
Now for the slightly more complicated part (although its effect will be to simplify things). Though lanta, “two”, and ampa, “ten”, might look similar, they are different in that ampa is never inflected. Thus:
- Lunar: ampa vali “ten men”
- Solar: ampa azantyssy “ten knights”
- Terrestrial: ampa dōra “ten stones”
- Aquatic: ampa hāedri “ten younger sisters”
The number ampa never changes for any reason, though its ordinal, amplie, does (in the usual fashion). Ampa is not the only number to do so. To see more, here’s another table with the numbers up to twenty:
|11||mēre ampā||kūrie||16||bȳre ampā||byllie ampā|
|12||lanta ampā||ñallie||17||sīkuda ampā||sīglie ampā|
|13||hāre ampā||saelie ampā||18||jēnqa ampā||jēnqelie ampā|
|14||izula ampā||izunnie ampā||19||vōre ampā||vollie ampā|
|15||tōma ampā||tōmelie ampā||20||lantēpsa||lantīblie|
A couple of things to note about the above. First, note the special ordinal forms for “eleven” and “twelve” (holdovers from the old days). Also note that all other forms use a modified version of ampa that ends in a long consonant. This is the result of the standard juxtaposition process of coordination. In short, the final vowel is lengthened, and main stress shifts to the last syllable (as with commands). The result, ampā, is still never modified, and is used in both cardinal and ordinal constructions. The word for “twenty”, lantēpsa, is likewise indeclinable.
Since it’s been brought up, here’s a quick list of the powers of ten up to one hundred (note: none of the cardinal variants decline):
A number like 121 would be (in the lunar) gār mēri lantepsā, so until you get to 200, that should take care of everything. There are numbers that go even higher (including the number naena, which does decline, which just means “too many to count”), but those will have to wait for another day.
Again, I’ve been absurdly busy of late, so I’m not at all sure if I’ll be able to hit even two posts a month, let alone four. I will do my best to keep up, though, I promise.
I’d also like to mention The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics. This is a book I contributed to along with some of the other authors over at SpecGram, the internet’s premiere site dedicated to satirical linguistics. I don’t recall if there’s any Dothraki in there off-hand (there may be), but there are a few conlang-related pieces I wrote for SpecGram that I’m a big fan of (and, in case you’re wondering, yes, there are things I’ve written that I’m not a big fan of). If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, you can do so here. It makes a good gift/bathroom book for anyone who has even the slightest connection to language. As we all speak one human language or another, I think that covers most humans… Anyway, if you’re curious about whether or not you might like it, head over to SpecGram and take a look at some of the articles there. That will give you a fair sampling of the content you’ll find in the book.
Until next time, geros ilas!
I’m mostly recovered from my first trip to Comic-Con this past weekend, and I’ve discovered that June is almost over, and I’ve only got one post for the month. This is my attempt to remedy that.
Something fun that I got to do for Comic-Con was translate some of the trolley signs for San Diego MTS into Dothraki. The signs were up at the station right across the street from the convention center, and I thought they came out pretty well. Here are some pictures:
For a full set of the signs, though, check out this picture that SDMTS put together (along with some more literal translations I provided):
Thanks to Nara Lee for setting it all up! It was pretty cool.
Also, while I was there I got to participate on a panel called “I Can’t Write, I Can’t Draw, But I Love Comics!” put together by Susan Karlin. Here’s a photo:
In Valyrian news, I’ve finished the translations for season 4, so all that’s left is filming and post, and a long wait for the premiere!
The past two Game of Thrones premiere events have been pretty incredible, but this was something different. Going all the way back to the 1920s, if anyone mentioned a big Hollywood premiere, the first place that would come to mind was Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. And lo and behold, that’s where we were.
Of course, I was late, though. I guessed the traffic correctly, for the most part, but I guess when they do a premiere like this, the traffic around the theater is a bit crazy (as I learned when I got there and saw they had lanes blocked off to accommodate the premiere). So we kind of rushed in (it was already dark), and the first thing we saw was this:
Big old line. That was the first indication that things would be different this year. And, indeed, it appears that the “cast and crew” premiere event has outgrown its former venue by leaps and bounds. The theater was packed.
Originally we were escorted to the wrong seats and I ran into Bryan Cogman, who got to sit next to Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (lucky chiftik). But it’s all good. My wife Erin and I had a lot of fun taking a look at the renovated Chinese Theater (I’d been there once before pre-renovation/restoration. Looks great now.)
After some speeches, we got to see the first episode of season 3…about which I’ll have much more to say come April 1st.
Afterwards we got to get our picture taken out front (thank you Sharon!).
Then we walked over to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for the after party (the Dothraki vitteya [props to the HBO folks who got the word right!]). This was my first ever encounter with actual paparazzi. Not that they were looking for me, but we were all walking from the theater in a big group, and there was actually a barricade with police and a whole bunch of guys with cameras shouting at the crowd (the names I heard as I was going by: “George!”, “Nathalie!” [and, in fact, George R. R. Martin did go over to the barricade to sign a few autographs, which I thought was charitable]). It was really bizarre. I really should’ve taken a picture of them (kicking myself now. If there’s a next time, anha astak asqoy: I will get a picture of a wall of paparazzi!).
The party at the Roosevelt was, in a word, opulent. There were a string of performers (a juggler, a belly dancer, two guys doing a sword fighting display, musicians) in the main hall, a place where you could get your fortune read with tarot cards—oh, in fact, I took a picture of the little program they had printed up:
I did, indeed, shoot some arrows (unfortunately the picture was too dark; not worth posting), and my wife got her nails done (and of the choice, she notes: “The dragon has three heads!”):
And to keep an old tradition going, here’s a picture of my dinner:
A quick aside: Are there such things as freshwater shrimp? Is that a modern phenomenon (with shrimp farms)?
Anyway, one thing I was extremely glad of is I got to meet both Nathalie Emmanuel (who plays Missandei) and Dan Hildebrand (who plays Kraznys) at the after party. I saw their work for the first time tonight, and, as I told that, I was extraordinarily impressed. They’re both new to the show and new to working with a constructed language, and the language itself is brand new, so, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Their performances far exceeded my expectations. I could barely sit still in my seat, thinking to myself, “My god! They’re nailing it!” I’ll have some more specific details after the official premiere, but suffice it say they both put a lot of effort into getting the Astapori Valyrian down (for which I’m grateful), and their hard work more than paid off. I couldn’t have hoped for anything better.
Oh, and they were both gracious enough to take a picture with me. Here’s me and Nathalie:
And here’s me and Dan:
Oh, and before I forget, this was the main banquet hall. I couldn’t get a picture to do it justice, but there was a gigantic map of Westeros and some of Essos draping the far wall (more than a story tall). You can see it in the background here:
Probably the number one moment that many are going to wish I was videotaping but which I didn’t occurred when they started playing “Billie Jean”. George R. R. Martin was sitting at a table with most of the child actors (Arya, Sansa, Bran, Hot Pie), when Maisie Williams decided to start singing along, using Sophie Turner’s hand as a microphone. As it moved into the chorus, they all joined in. It was priceless.
My strangest moment was when Dan Weiss’s father and mother came up to introduce themselves to me. They recognized me, and said they were big fans of the show. The show they meant, though, wasn’t Game of Thrones: It was CNN’s The Next List. I guess they watch it all the time, and they’d seen the episode with me on it and they recognized me from it. (Tracey Dorsey, if you’re reading this, you’ve got fans in high places! They love the show!)
But I think the highlight of the night for me was when I achieved something I failed to last year. Jason Momoa was at the premiere again this year, and, like last year, he brought his wife, Lisa Bonet. And though it didn’t happen last year, this time I got a picture with her:
If I could tell you what The Cosby Show meant to me as a kid growing up, it’d take months to read this post. In short, let’s just say I can die happy.
I know there are a lot of fans out there that can’t wait for March 31st—and, believe me, it’ll be worth the wait; they did a terrific job. But now having seen it, I have to say: I can’t wait for April 7th.
If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m at TED in Long Beach right now, and that it’s not likely that I’ll get out three more blog posts before the month is up. That, however (as well as the title to my last post), got me thinking about months.
In the Universe of Ice and Fire, we know there are seasons, because we’re told that there are. Seasons can last months, years—decades, even. We don’t know why, but I’ve heard that there is an explanation, and we’ll learn what it is when George R. R. Martin is done with the series. In the meantime, though, I have absolutely no idea what to do with month names—or dividing up months—in Dothraki, and so I’m going to leave it alone. After all, though summer will be the same every time one experiences it, whether summer lasts three months or three years, there’s no guarantee that a single month (e.g. September) will be the same year in and year out. What, then, would distinguish it? Why even name it?
That, though, doesn’t change the fact that we have months in our world, and that those months have names. So if one were to use Dothraki, we could use the English names and Dothrakify them (though “February” is terrible in any language. What an awful word! I think I’d Dothrakify it as Fevyuweri, which will betray my accent), but I thought it might be fun to come up with Dothraki words for our months—and so I’m throwing it out to you. What would be some good names for our months in Dothraki? You might find it useful to refer to the extant vocabulary of Dothraki in coming up with words, but feel free to be creative. As a reminder, these are the terms for the seasons in Dothraki:
- Spring: Eyelke
- Summer: Vorsaska
- Autumn: Chafka
- Winter: Aheshke
You might also find it interesting to look at how other cultures have named their months. For example, in Ancient Egyptian, the months were called Growth, Harvest and Inundation followed by a number (I always found that amusing). If we can come up with terms we like, we’ll start using them out of world.
Oh, by the way, I think it’d be helpful to come up with a list of out of character Dothraki vocabulary (e.g. some of the modern terms we’ve come up with). Possible expansion for the language wiki…?
I was getting real tired of pulling up this blog and seeing a picture of me, so…new post!
Happy New Year!
For those who have been following this blog for a year, you may remember the resolution I made around this time last year. At the time, Dothraki had about 3,300 words, and I said in one calendar year I’d get Dothraki’s vocab up to 5,000 words. Before addressing my progress on that, let me affirm that this was an achievable goal. It really was! When I started Dothraki, I had 1,700 words in about three months. True, I had a lot of time on my hands, but that was three months: This was an entire year! So I maintain that going from 3,300 words to 5,000 words was a more than reasonable goal.
That said, I came nowhere close. Nooooooooowhere close.
By midnight on January 1st, Dothraki had 3,621 words. So given that I was probably underestimating how many words Dothraki had in that post from January 1st, 2012, I’m guessing that means I coined about 300 words of Dothraki in 2012—or about 18% of the words I resolved to coin.
Of course, in the time-honored tradition of American New Year’s resolutions, I’ve got a whole host of excuses to offer for failing to accomplish my New Year’s resolution. For starters, it was a year that ends in a 2, which is always bad luck (it’s true. Google it). Second, if you add up the number of words I coined for all the languages I was working on, I think I made out pretty good!
- Dothraki: 300
- High Valyrian: 585
- Other Game of Thrones Vocab: 340
- Irathient (for Defiance): 1,927
- Castithan (for Defiance): 1,372
- Other Defiance Vocab: 300
- Other Project: 217
And if you total that up, it comes to 5,041. Not too bad! See, I figure if I have more time on my hands, I can focus and really beef up Dothraki’s vocabulary. Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen any time soon, so I’m going to make a more modest New Year’s resolution. Here it is: I will create more Dothraki vocabulary this year than I did last year. I think I can do it! And if I do, Dothraki will be at 4,000 by year’s end!
In the meantime, my apologies for completely falling flat on my old New Year’s resolution. But look out for this year’s annual haiku competition coming soon!
To those in America, Happy Thanksgiving! To those in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving about a month ago! To those elsewhere, happy day!
Something that may have been asked before but which I didn’t address was a Dothraki word for turkey. It seems to me that there would be no turkeys in Essos, if it was modeled after Eurasia (it seems like Westeros was modeled after North America, and Essos Eurasia, or something close to that), which would mean there would be no native word for turkey. If it were to be borrowed, it’d probably be borrowed from Westeros through one of the languages of the western coast of Essos. And since the Common Tongue is spoken in Westeros, it’d probably come out as “turkey” (or something based on it).
Thanks to Abe Simpson of The Simpsons, though, we do have a handy compound for turkey we can calque: a walking bird. A Dothraki calque for that would be zir ifay. In fact, we can put that together and get zirifay. That works pretty nicely.
So, to one and all, allow me to say: Asshekhi Zirifayi Vezhvena! Stay safe, and may the Cowboys lose (after Miles Austin gets two touchdowns. I need this win in fantasy)!