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):
|Stops||p, b||t, d||j, lj||k, g||q|
|Fricatives||v||s, z (th)||gh (kh)||h|
|Approximants||r, rh, l|
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:
|High||ī, i||ȳ, y||ū, u|
|Mid||ē, e||ō, o|
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!
[WARNING: There are spoilers from the premiere below. If you haven't yet seen the premiere and don't want to suffer through any spoilers, come back to this post after you've seen it.]
The long awaited season three premiere of Game of Thrones has arrived, leaving fans wondering: How long till season four? Heh, heh…
I hope you enjoyed the premiere! I was quite taken with it. In particular, I liked watching socially awkward penguin Jon Snow flub it up beyond the wall (seriously, if I were Mance Rayder, I would’ve killed that tokik). Absolutely loved Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell getting down and dirty with the common folk. She’s tearing that role up. And seeing Joffrey in his little cage was priceless. He looks so consternated—like my cat when she brings me her string, and I remain sitting at the computer. “Wha—what are you doing?! Don’t you see the string? And me? And me and the string?!” Poor kitty! She remains ever hopeful.
One thing I’ve always liked is that Benioff and Weiss are never shy about including meta moments in the series. If you’ll recall, in my review of the season finale of last season, I commented on Tyrion’s scar. In the book, Tyrion’s scar is described as being horribly disfiguring (like, half his nose is missing). They couldn’t really make Peter Dinklage hideous, though. So what would they do? As I commented last time, I thought the scar was well done: Not too bad, but by no means insignificant. Lest there be any complaints, though (was there? Were there any fans of the books complaining that Tyrion’s scar wasn’t bad enough?), D&D had Cersei comment directly on his scar—saying herself that it’s not that bad.
Of course, my favorite scene from the show was Tyrion and Tywin. I’m not sure how widely known it is, but Tywin Lannister is, far and away, my favorite character from the book series. Every scene with him in it is outstanding, but the scenes with him and Tyrion together are the best the book series has to offer. The scene in yesterday’s premiere lived up to the hype (well, hype probably only generated and felt by me). Just wonderful. Tyrion is always so self-assure, and is always quite smart (on display with his brief meeting with Cersei in this one), but he is absolutely flummoxed by Tywin. Tywin is Tyrion’s kryptonite, and Charles Dance is playing him beautifully. I can’t wait to see more of this as the season progresses!
But back to the point of this blog, let us talk about the Dothraki in this episode. The Dothraki on Dany’s boat did some wonderful Dothraki groaning and retching as they lurched about the rhaggat eveth. That was all me.
Seriously, though, be prepared for almost no Dothraki whatsoever this season. It’s not gone (there’s at least one short scene with at least one full line of Dothraki), but Dothraki is last season’s news (well, and the season before that. I wish English had a dual…). This season we get to see the one language that fans of the book series actually wanted to see: High Valyrian.
But not yet.
In fact, the only High Valyrian in the premiere was the title (a call back to the title of last year’s finale). The language spoken in the scene with Daenerys, Kraznys and Missandei is a descendant of High Valyrian which I call various things: Astapori Valyrian, Ghiscari Valyrian, Low Valyrian, Valyrian… The name doesn’t matter so much as what it is, which I’ll endeavor to explain here.
According to ancient lore, the Ghiscari Empire fell some 5,000 years prior to the time of action in A Song of Ice and Fire. The empire warred five times with the Valyrian Empire, ultimately falling each time because the Valyrians had dragons. After the fifth war, the Valyrians decimated the old city of Ghis, burning down the buildings and salting the earth so that none would ever return.
So what happened then? Well, Ghiscari had been the language of the empire. As the diaspora spread, the Valyrian Empire took over (until its untimely fall several thousand years later), and the High Valyrian language supplanted the Ghiscari language.
Naturally, what would have happened is that the residents of Slaver’s Bay who spoke Ghiscari would have gradually moved over to High Valyrian, creolizing it along the way. It seems likely that an aristocratic class would have maintained a working knowledge of actual High Valyrian to use with emissaries from the Valyrian Empire, but the day-to-day language would have evolved in a way similar to French or Spanish (i.e. not like either of those languages, but evolving in the way that those languages evolved from Latin). I contend that this evolution would have been separate from the independent evolution of Valyrian in the Valyrian Freehold.
Of course, when it comes to a name, it seems likely they all would have referred to this as the same thing: Valyrian. It wouldn’t matter that denizens of Slaver’s Bay spoke in a different from those in the Valyrian Freehold—or that neither group spoke the same way as their ancestors: They’d all just be speaking Valyrian, if you asked them. (Recall that there was no such thing as High Valyrian until there was a Low Valyrian.)
Whether the varieties of Valyrian spoken in Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen are different enough to be considered separate languages or dialect of a single language is a bit academic. It seems to me that they would likely be able to communicate with one another, but that the language systems will have grown apart. Even if they were different languages, they could probably meet at some middle ground to communicate. Out of world, this could be referred to as Ghiscari Valyrian, but I think it’d be more accurate to refer to each one separately (i.e. Astapori Valyrian, Yunkish Valyrian and Meereenese Valyrian).
This explanation has served to produce the following point: What you hear in the premiere is Astapori Valyrian. It’s descended from High Valyrian, with the old Ghiscari language serving as a substrate or basilectal influence. It’s not mutually intelligible with High Valyrian, but it is close to some of the languages of the Free Cities, on account of separate but similar evolutionary changes (which we didn’t talk about here [and by "we" I mean "I"]).
To give you an example, here’s a line from last night’s episode (one of Missandei’s):
- J’azanty ivetras ji vali nedhinki sizi zughilis vi murgho.
- “The knight says that even the brave men fear death.”
And here’s what that sentence looks like in High Valyrian:
- Morghot nēdyssy sesīr zūgusy azantys vestras.
This post is getting a bit long, so I better bring it to a close, but if you’d like to see some Dothraki, go check out the @GameOfThrones Twitter account today (edit: tomorrow at the time of publication. Oops!). Happy April Fools’!
[Edit: Bleh. I made a baby typo (should've been zūgusy not zūguksy, which is what it was originally. Unfortunately zūguksy is, in fact, a licit form of the verb, which was really throwing me for a loop, but it's also one letter off from the correct form in this case, so it was obviously just a typo (was probably looking at the wrong field).]
A while back, frequent commenter Esploranto mentioned that it would be nice if some of the posts on the Dothraki blog could be translated into Spanish. I agreed, but didn’t feel up to the task (my writing style is too idiomatic and idiosyncratic for my Spanish to handle!), so Esploranto offerred to give it a go. He translated a couple of the early blog posts before I realized that there was no simple way to host translations. What would be perfect is if there was a button that you could click on to easily switch between the English and Spanish translations of a given blog post.
That’s when my old friend from elementary, junior high and high school stepped in. Ian Byrd (founder of ByrdSeed.com and a gifted education instructor) saw the problem and took it upon himself to create a custom WordPress plugin (which, if you’re me, sounds like nothing less than sorcery). As a results, translations can now be handled pretty much just as I described: You go to the top and click on the translation you want, and it automagically appears! (Wow. WordPress doesn’t think “automagic” is misspelled? No, wait, hang on: It thinks “automagically” is fine; “automagic”, though, gets a big fat red underline. Crazy!)
Anyway, to see it in action, you can go to my very first post and see the translation provided by Esploranto, upon whom I have conferred the Dothraki name Najahho: the victorious one. Kirimvose, zhey Najahho!
Of course, there’s no reason that the Dothraki blog need be translated only into Spanish. Any and all translations are welcome—including conlang translations! It’s pretty easy to add a language to the plugin, so I can expand the list to include whatever I want. If you’d like to translate a Dothraki blog post, just send the translation in a plain text e-mail to me (or attach a .txt file). If possible, please keep the HTML in tact (it will simplify my job greatly). Provided it looks okay, I can just paste it right in and we’ll be set! Oh, but do include the phrase “Translated by [your name]” in your language to append to the end, and if you’d like me to link to your website, include a link for me and I’ll add it.
Just one note before leaving the topic: Right now the plugin has one kink in it which has broken the right-hand navigation slightly. All the options are there, but they’re not as neat as they were. Ian’s working on a fix, and when we get it, we’ll be sailing.
If it’s morning where you are when you’re reading this, it means that I’m on a plane headed to Seattle for NorWesCon. Can’t wait! If you’re in the Seattle area, come give me a shout. Otherwise…three days. Tick tock.
So this one kind of slipped under the radar.
If you point your browser over to JoinTheRealm.com, you’ll be able to create a custom sigil à la Game of Thrones for your own house. You can choose your colors, your sigil, your house name, your house motto—the whole bit—and share it with friends.
But if you take a moment, you may notice something else. If you go to the upper left-hand corner of the screen and select “Change Language”…
Yep. You can go through the entire app in Dothraki. I translated the whole thing—even the copyright info down at the bottom.
In fact, if you want to try to include some salty language in your sigil, you’ll even get to see a custom “Nah, you can’t do that” message.
I could literally sit with something like this all day and never get tired of coming up with custom sigils, but this is my first:
Those who remember this discussion may know what that means at a glance.
I don’t know if the comments will allow you to post images, but if there’s a way you can share, let’s see some sigils! I’ll probably be doing more as the weeks, months and years progress.
Update: And one just for me:
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.
I’ve just recently come back from ConDor (which was wonderful), and ran into a wall of work. While I negotiate that, though, I’d like to do a couple of things here.
First, Dothraki regular Esploranto has started translating posts on this blog into Spanish! I can’t tell you how excited I am (and, by the way, if anyone else is interested in translating these posts, go for it!), but I’ve run into a technical issue—specifically, how to add these translations to the blog. It’d be odd to post them as new posts (since they’re translations of old posts), and odder still to post them directly after the posts they’re translations of (if I get more translations, there could be, e.g., a single day with like eight posts). What I think would be ideal is if I could add a button to each post that would automatically swap out the original content with the translation. Anyone have any idea how I might accomplish this?
If I can’t come up with a clever solution, what I may do is assign all these posts to some older year (say, a hundred years prior to the original post) and provide a link on each post to the other, plus a note on the translation telling readers when the original post was posted. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’ll allow me to host the content without cluttering up the original run of posts.
Oh, and as a note, I really wouldn’t like to maintain two blogs with the same content, if I can avoid it. I’ve been having enough trouble keeping all my WordPress blogs up to date; I’m loathe to start another.
Second, I got a comment a while back from Aniko asking for the Dothraki translation of the following phrase: Dare to live; it’s easy to die. Let me take some time to translate that.
Step 1 is taking care of the word I didn’t have: dare. Turns out, the English word “dare” goes all the way back to Proto-Indo-European with its meaning mostly in tact (not many words do that). I would’ve been on solid footing to simply coin a new root for Dothraki meaning “dare”, but it didn’t feel right. Right now the word I’d use for “brave” or “courageous” is vezhven. The word has other uses, but it also covers those areas of English’s vocabulary. The idea behind “dare” is to invest one’s courage (whether wise or not) in some enterprise. Many languages have a word related to “brave” they use for “dare”. I wanted to include that tie with Dothraki, but could have done it in a number of ways.
While vezhvenat is a verb, it’s really stative in nature. “To dare” is more of an activity, and I didn’t like any of the options available to me to make vezhvenat more active. In browsing the vocabulary, I came across one item I’d use before to turn vash, “stampede”, into a verb: lanat ki vashi, “to stampede”. I really like this construction, and want to use it more. Thus was born: lanat ki vezhi, “to dare” (and also “to be brave”).
I’m not sure quite how to explain it, but ki is used here to mean “like” or “as” instead of ven, which we’d ordinarily expect. Ven seems more utilitarian, more concrete (it’s certainly a younger preposition), while ki makes the connection seem closer. I think one could actually say lanat ven vezh, to literally say something like Me lan ven vezh, “He ran like a stallion”, but lanat ki vezhi means “to dare”.
Having settled that, this is how I would translate the phrase:
- Lanas ki vezhi thirataan; me disie, jin drivolat.
Obviously do what you will with the punctuation. That said, there are different options here, so let me walk you through them one by one:
- The first verb (lanas) is in the informal imperative. If you’d like it to read more formally, you can change lanas to lani.
- The first clause is “Dare to live”. You can change it up, though, and say Lanas ki vezhi athiraraan, which is saying the same thing in a slightly different way (maybe something like “Dare to go towards life”?). Either construction is acceptable.
- There are a number of ways to say this last bit. One way is to say Athdrivozar disie, which is literally “Death is easy”. (Note: In the original, you can switch out drivolat for athdrivozar if you like the original construction but prefer the verbal noun.)
- Another way to say that same thing is to use the infinitive: Drivolat disie. That would be like saying “To die is easy”.
- And, of course, there are two slightly different words for death at play here. Drivat (and its verbal noun form athdrivar) means “to be dead”. This is a stative verb and describes the state of being dead. Drivolat (and its verbal noun form athdrivozar) means “to die”. So which verb or verbal noun you use depends on what you want to say: Is being dead easy, or is dying easy? Now that I look at it, it’s probably the former, not the latter, in which case you’d want to switch to drivat/athdrivar.
That, though, should give you an idea of what the issues are, and should help you decide what direction you want to go in. Either way, when your tattoo is done, take a picture and send it my way! I’ll put it up here on the blog.