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!

New Dothraki Script

Or, I suppose, a new English script, depending on how you look at it. Way back at the beginning of this year, long-time Dothraki lajak Qvaak put together a new script for writing Dothraki. Those who’ve followed the blog a while will remember Qvaak also put together another script for Dothraki that’s based heavily on the romanization system. That one was pretty cool, but this one is quite a bit different. Take a look.

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Pretty wild, huh? The above is the text from one of Qvaak’s haikus, which says:

Krazaaj osti
m’oltoon sadevesha
os k’athhethkari.

The script itself is actually derived from the roman alphabet (as should be clear with some of those characters, at least), but letters have been enlarged and shrunk and arranged into glyphs (and then into word blocks) in clever ways. Essentially the way it works is the glyph is based around the vowel of the syllable in question (that’s the big boxy part). The initial consonant is put in the middle and the coda consonant is placed on the lower right. The extra lines are either giving you information about word groupings or punctuation, or they’re there for decoration (to get rid of the blank space).

To get a handle on the system, here are all the consonants:

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Here are some ligatures for syllable that start with a consonant and approximant:

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And these are nasal ligatures:

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And now if you’d like a complete introduction to the system, this is Qvaak explaining exactly how it works:

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Also, if you’re going to be in Southern California next week, I’m going to be doing a conlang workshop at WyrdCon. I’m also going to be on a panel with my colleagues from Syfy and Trion, Brian Alexander (writer for Defiance) and Trick Dempsey (creative lead for the Defiance game). Hope to see you there!

Valyrian Numerals

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):

Number Valyrian Number Valyrian
Cardinal Ordinal Cardinal Ordinal
1 mēre ēlie 6 bȳre byllie
2 lanta tȳne 7 sīkuda sīglie
3 hāre saelie 8 jēnqa jēnqelie
4 izula izunnie 9 vōre vollie
5 tōma tōmelie 10 ampa amplie

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:

Adjective Class Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic
Class I -a -ys -on -or
Class II -e -ior
Class III -ie -ior

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:

Number Valyrian Number Valyrian
Cardinal Ordinal Cardinal Ordinal
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):

Number Valyrian Number Valyrian
Cardinal Ordinal Cardinal Ordinal
10 ampa amplie 60 bȳrēpsa bȳrīblie
20 lantēpsa lantīblie 70 sīkudēpsa sīkudīblie
30 hārēpsa hārīblie 80 jēnqēpsa jēnqīblie
40 izulēpsa izulīblie 90 vōrēpsa vōrīblie
50 tōmēpsa tōmīblie 100 gār gallie

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!

Vaes Dothrak Vimithreri

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:

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For a full set of the signs, though, check out this picture that SDMTS put together (along with some more literal translations I provided):

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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:

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The Making Game of Thrones blog also put up a post on the panel with a pretty good picture. You can check it out here.

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!

Valyrian Adjectives

Okay, as I write that title, I’m now thinking I can’t promise I’ll say everything about adjectives, but I’ll say some things. Is that cool?

High Valyrian was primarily head-final, meaning that adjectives usually preceded the nouns they modified. It actually makes more sense to start a discussion of adjectival inflection by looking at adjectives that appear after the nouns they modify, though, as prepositive adjectival inflection can be seen as a reduction of postpositive adjectival inflection. (I’ll explain this in a second.)

Though nouns have a number of different declensions, adjectives comes in three major varieties which I’ll exemplify using these three adjectives below (for expository purposes, the endings are lunar nominative singular):

  • Class I: kasta “blue, green”
  • Class II: adere “sleek, smooth, slippery, fast, quick”
  • Class III: ēlie “first”

Couple semantic notes on the above. Kasta is a word that can refer to anything that’s in the blue-green spectrum. Such words are common in older languages which tend not to have as many lexical color terms as a modern language eventually does. For a more in-depth treatment of this phenomenon, check out this post on Dothraki color terms from a while back. Second note is that adere probably first meant “slippery”, and then went on to develop the other senses.

The adjectives above are grouped the way they are because they inflect differently. Class I adjectives are the most informative, as they will decline differently for every case, gender and number combination—or almost. As with subject-verb agreement, adjectives only display partial number agreement (all adjectives, not just Class I adjectives). While a noun can appear in the singular, plural, paucal or collective numbers, adjectives only have singular and plural forms. In agreeing with a noun, an adjective will show singular agreement with singular and collective nouns, and plural agreement with plural and paucal nouns. The same is true of subject-verb agreement.

With that out of the way, this is what the inflection of kasta looks like in the singular:

Class I
Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic
Nominative kasta kastys kaston kastor
Accusative kaste kasti kaston kastor
Genitive kasto kasto kasto kastro
Dative kastot kastot kastot kastrot
Locative kastā kastȳ kastot kastrot
Instrumental kastosa kastosy kastoso kastroso
Comitative kastoma kastomy kastomo kastromo
Vocative kastus kastys kastos kastos

And here it is in the plural:

Class I
Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic
Nominative kasti kastyzy kasta kastra
Accusative kastī kastī kasta kastra
Genitive kastoti kastoti kastoti kastroti
Dative kastoti kastoti kastoti kastroti
Locative kastoti kastī kastoti kastroti
Instrumental kastossi kastossi kastossi kastrossi
Comitative kastommi kastommi kastommi kastrommi
Vocative kastis kastyzys kastas kastas

Adjectives of Class II and Class III are distinguished by not having declensions that correspond to each gender. Instead, both classes group the solar and lunar genders together and then the terrestrial and aquatic genders together. Thus (and what is, by far, the most exciting part for me) each class can be represented with a single table. Behold!

Class II Solar/Lunar Terrestrial/Aquatic
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative adere aderi aderior aderiar
Accusative adere aderi aderior aderiar
Genitive adero aderoti aderȳro aderȳti
Dative aderot aderoti aderȳro aderȳti
Locative aderē aderoti aderȳro aderȳti
Instrumental aderose aderossi aderȳso aderȳssi
Comitative aderome aderommi aderȳmo aderȳmmi
Vocative aderes aderis aderios aderīs

And now for Class III:

Class III Solar/Lunar Terrestrial/Aquatic
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative ēlie ēlī ēlior ēliar
Accusative ēlie ēlī ēlior ēliar
Genitive ēlio ēlȳti ēlȳro ēlȳti
Dative ēliot ēlȳti ēlȳrot ēlȳti
Locative ēliē ēlȳti ēlȳrot ēlȳti
Instrumental ēlȳse ēlȳssi ēlȳso ēlȳssi
Comitative ēlȳme ēlȳmmi ēlȳmo ēlȳmmi
Vocative ēlies ēlīs ēlios ēlīs

Now Class II has a couple of subclasses which I won’t get into here, but these are the main three declension patterns you’ll need to know to correctly inflect postpositive adjectives.

Now for prepositive adjectives.

Rather than redoing the tables, I’ll just make some comments. For the most part, a prepositive adjectival form will lose its final syllable when the inflection is disyllabic. This means that you’ll lose the -ti in all forms that have it, as well as the -si in instrumentals and -mi in comitatives. Word-final -t is also lost unless the adjective modifies a vowel-initial word. Here’s an illustrative example using the dative:

  • aderot ābrot “to the quick woman”
  • adero Dovaogēdot “to the quick Unsullied”

This does mean that in the nominative and vocative plural you get, for example, kastyz rather than kastyzy (nominative) or kastyzys (vocative). That word-final -z usually devoices to -s unless the following word begins with a vowel or a voiced consonant. Another example:

  • kastys hobresse “blue goats”
  • kastyz dāryssy “blue kings”

Where a disyllabic inflectional form is simply VCV, only the final vowel is lost, not the final syllable. For example:

  • ānogro ēlȳro “of the first blood”
  • ēlȳr ānogro “of the first blood”

You’ll see this most often in singular instrumentals and comitatives, in addition to terrestrial/aquatic genitives of Classes II and III.

Finally, Class III needs some special attention. For forms that modify a solar or lunar word, where a shortening would leave the final syllable with ȳ, that vowel changes to io. The same is not true of the terrestrial/aquatic. Here are some illustrative examples:

  • valosa ēlȳse “with the first man”
  • ēlios valosa “with the first man”
  • daomȳssi ēlȳssi “with the first rains”
  • ēlȳs daomȳssi “with the first rains”

And a couple of final notes. First, as those who’ve been studying High Valyrian nominal declension will know, many paradigms often level the distinction between the instrumental and comitative (some using a comitative m form for both and some using an instrumental s form for both). When an adjective modifies a noun, it will agree with the split. All adjectives, as a result, have distinctive m and s forms, but for a particular paradigm, it may only inflect with one of the two.

Second, High Valyrian is in the process of eliminating word-final m (or, to put that more accurately, High Valyrian’s never liked word-final m), so contracted forms that end in m often only keep that m if the following word begins with a vowel or a labial consonant. Otherwise, that m becomes an n.

That should be enough to get things going with adjectives! To conclude, here are a couple notes on some things that came out in recent interviews. First, while I have provided translations to George R. R. Martin when he requested them (whether he used them or how can only be determined when the books the translations were requested for are published. I still haven’t gotten a chance to look at the maps book to see how those translations worked out), I never said I provided Valyrian translations. That was an assumption on the reporter’s part. Second, I recently did an interview for Entertainment Weekly’s radio program. Somehow my middle name came up, and at the end of the spot, one of the hosts guessed my middle name—or so I thought! When they repeated it at the interview’s close, I could have sworn they said “David Jasper Peterson”. If that is the case, then I’m afraid I misheard them the first time—i.e. they said “Jasper”, but I thought I heard my actual middle name. I hereby go on record to say that my middle name on my birth certificate is not Jasper, though I’d certainly like that name better than my actual middle name, which is terrible. My apologies to EW!

That concludes this initial look at adjectives in High Valyrian. I planned to include adjectives in Astapori Valyrian as well, but this post got too long… Another time.

OH! Almost forgot. The Valyrian section of the Dothraki Wiki is live, and it looks oustanding! Take a look at the High Valyrian vocabulary page, for example. There’s tons of interlinking examples throughout the wiki and a lot of good info. Excellent work!

A lot of hands went into putting the wiki together, but there are a few people who did the most work. Hrakkar did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work (with some help from our old friend Lajaki!) to make sure the wiki works the way it ought and all the links are correct. Then the bulk of the content was generated by Esploranto (a.k.a. Najahho) and Mad_Latinist, who’s rivaling me for the most frequent commenter on this blog. Kirimvose! It looks great!

Some More High Valyrian Inflection

Another season of Game of Thrones is in the books, which means that this blog will go back to discussing grammar—this time with Valyrian added to the usual Dothraki posts (though I will mention that the Dothraki posts have not disappeared. There’s more there yet!).

This week I wanted to talk a little bit more about verbs. I spent a lot of time on the verb conjugation paradigm, and am reasonably pleased with how it came out. We’ve already gotten a look at the present indicative tense, so let’s jump to the past. There are two main tenses that occur primarily in the past: the perfect and the imperfect. Each tense has a stem modification in addition to personal endings, but the stem modification for the imperfect is predictable. The perfect displays patterns of predictability, but is not 100% predictable based on the shape of the root.

To start with, let’s look at the imperfect. The imperfect tense is used primarily to set up action in the past. It focuses on a specific action in the past that is viewed internally (i.e. is viewed as not yet having been completed). In a sentence like “He was talking to some lady when her dragon lit him on fire”, the verb “was talking” would be in the imperfect in High Valyrian. The imperfect tense is associated with the -il suffix (by the way, pay careful attention to my use of the word “suffix” there. I’ve seen “infix” thrown around, but such an analysis is inaccurate) plus the e set of personal endings. Here’s what the imperfect looks like with a consonant-final stem. Below I’ll use the verb pāsagon, which means “to trust” or “to believe”.

Person/Type Imperfect Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person pāsilen pāsilin pāsilon pāsiloty
Second Person pāsilē pāsilēt pāsilō pāsilōt
Third Person pāsiles pāsilis pāsilos pāsilosy

The imperfect has no associated participle, and no stand-alone infinitive or imperative.

When a verb stem with a final vowel is put into the imperfect, the vowel of the suffix -il coalesces with the vowel of the stem to produce a long vowel. As our example, I’ll use the verb bardugon, which means “to write” (coined in honor of Leigh Bardugo, author of Siege and Storm, which just came out [plug!]. You may remember her from such Dothraki words as lei).

Person/Type Imperfect Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person bardīlen bardīlin bardīlon bardīloty
Second Person bardīlē bardīlēt bardīlō bardīlōt
Third Person bardīles bardīlis bardīlos bardīlosy

As you can see, the tense isn’t that difficult to get a handle on. The only wrinkle is figuring out whether a stem is consonant- or vowel-final, and then what the result is if the stem is vowel-final. Here’s a summary (using the first person singular active indicative as an example):

  • pās-agon “to trust” → pāsilen
  • bardu-gon “to write” → bardīlen
  • keli-gon “to stop” → kelīlen
  • mije-gon “to lack” → mijīlen
  • nekto-gon “to cut” → nektēlen
  • penda-gon “to wonder” → pendēlen

The above should be fairly intuitive. Moving on to the next tense, the perfect probably enjoys much greater use than the imperfect. The perfect tense focuses on an act that has been completed. By definition this action will have occurred in the past, but it can often be used with present relevance (what is often called an anterior). In English you can actually use the simple past in just this way. For example, if someone offers you food but you’re full, you can say, “I’ve eaten”. This is the English perfect, and it’s fairly standard. You could also say, “I ate”—even better if you add “already”. Think of the High Valyrian perfect as both of those uses rolled into one, but without needing the word “already”. Using our example above, the verb “lit” would be in the perfect in High Valyrian.

In the perfect, it’s not enough to simply know whether the stem ends with a consonant or vowel to figure out what the perfect will look like. Most of the time it has a -t or -et suffix, but this isn’t always (or exclusively) the case. Here’s what our two example verbs look like in the perfect. First, pāsagon.

Person/Type Perfect Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person pāstan pāsti pāston pāstoty
Second Person pāstā pāstāt pāstō pāstōt
Third Person pāstas pāstis pāstos pāstosy
Infinitive pāstagon

What a tasty verb… And now bardugon.

Person/Type Perfect Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person bardutan barduti barduton bardutoty
Second Person bardutā bardutāt bardutō bardutōt
Third Person bardutas bardutis bardutos bardutosy
Infinitive bardutagon

Again, the endings are fairly simple (the same as the present tense endings), it’s just figuring out the stem. Here are some examples of perfect stems (again using the first person singular) and their associated infinitives:

  • gaom-agon “to do” → gōntan
  • henuj-agon “to exit” → hembistan
  • māzi-gon “to come” → mastan
  • pikīb-agon “to read” → pikīptan
  • pygh-agon “to jump” → pȳdan
  • qanem-agon “to sharpen” → qanēdan
  • rāpūlj-agon “to soften” → rāpūltan
  • rij-agon “to praise” → riddan
  • rȳb-agon “to hear” → ryptan
  • sik-agon “to bear” → sittan
  • tat-agon “to finish” → tetan
  • urne-gon “to see” → ūndan
  • verd-agon “to arrange” → vēttan

A lot of the major patterns are contained in that list along with a couple of the more bizarre ones.

At this point, I think it’s more than possible to put a few sentences together. I’ll see what else I have time to put out in the coming months. Until next time, geros ilas!

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