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.
Pretty wild, huh? The above is the text from one of Qvaak’s haikus, which says:
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:
Here are some ligatures for syllable that start with a consonant and approximant:
And these are nasal ligatures:
And now if you’d like a complete introduction to the system, this is Qvaak explaining exactly how it works:
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!
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 time has come to call a close to this year’s Dothraki haiku competition. Nice job this year! Too good, in fact. It was really hard to choose a winner. I’d feel more conflicted if winning came with any sort of prize. Thank goodness it doesn’t!
I received eleven haiku, all intriguing. Since there were so many, I’m going to choose one from each author to discuss. First, from our newest Dothraki reader, Meghan, we have a haiku from which came the title for today’s post. Here it is:
Ez qoy asshekhi.
Which translates to:
The palomino gallops.
Found today’s blood.
Very, very nice! Meghan basically just started working with Dothraki, like, a few weeks ago, and already she’s putting together long strings of text—and using one of my favorite words (qahlan) that rarely sees the light of day. Athdavrazar, zhey Meghan! The best haiku paint a picture, and this one paints a good one.
Next we have a haiku from Hrakkar:
Fonat ma adakhalat
And the intended translation is:
The lions are ready
To hunt and to eat
This is close, but there are two issues (one my fault. Sorry!). Here the verb hethkat should be used, in which case it should be hethki not hethke. Next, though I gave everyone the adjective hethke, I never gave the verb, and never said how you’d say “ready to” or “ready for”. That’s my bad there. In fact, you say hethkat ki. So if you wanted to say “they’re ready to hunt and eat”, you’d say hethki k’athfonari ma k’athadakhari. Of course, the last three words would be way over seven syllables, so that wouldn’t work. I really like this idea, though. After all, the Dothraki Sea is a place where horses and lions roam. It stands to reason that the lions would hunt those horses the way lions in our world hunt zebras. That’d be pretty cool to witness.
Next we have a poem from ingsve:
“Hethkas she oakah” ma
“Hethkas she khado”.
And my attempt at a translation is:
The scouts’ motto
“Be ready in your soul” and
“Be ready in your body”.
Very clever! It took me forever to figure out what was intended by the first line, and I eventually needed to seek out ingsve’s help. Turns out he was using an off-brand word for “scout”. I’ve got tihak for “scout” (in the literal sense: someone who serves as a lookout), and I’d probably use that for the “boyscout” version of “scout”. Using oakah for this version of “mind” is interesting (I translated it as “soul”, but the original calls for the English word “mind”). Nice work!
Next is a haiku from Zhalio, which is brilliant:
Vo sanneyos vort
Zhavvorsoon fin nem azh.
And this is the translation:
Don’t count the teeth
Of the dragon that was given (you).
Say “thank you”.
In High Valyrian. Ha! I gathered he’d try to work that in, and he did it well. This is a great version of the English phrase “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, and works perfectly. I was also quite pleased to see the correct usage of the negative imperative. And, adding to its worth, I think it sounds better in Dothraki than any translation I can muster in English, which is just awesome. You can hear Zhalio reading it aloud here (brother got some bass in that voice! Nice reading!).
Alas, there can be only one winner, and this year, as with last year, our winner is Qvaak. He did it again. Here’s his winning haiku:
Rhaesh ath hethka.
Oqoe ven vash memof
And my translation:
The dry land is ready.
A great noise reverberates like a stampede
From the sky.
Worthy of Eliot. An initial draft of this poem had a grammar error, and when he fixed it, it called for a radical reorganization of the syntax of the second line. The result harkens back to the old days of Dothraki, with the verb in initial position. Furthermore, by putting memof, the subject of the sentence, at the end, there’s a curious type of enjambment (if that’s even the right term in this case) which allows one to read memof asavvasoon as a single noun phrase. In fact, memof is the subject, and the phrase asavvasoon modifies the verb phrase. Semantically, though, the great noise (memof) actually is coming from the sky (asavvasoon), so it’s still semantically felicitous. Just awesome. There’s been a decent amount of material written in Dothraki, but this may be the best thing ever composed. And for that, Qvaak has earned this year’s Mawizzi Virzeth: The Red Rabbit!
That’s two years in a row, zhey Qvaak! I think we’re going to need to start giving you a handicap of some kind…
Thanks so much to everyone who submitted haiku! It was a tough choice this year, and you did incredible work. I’m already looking forward to next year. I also think that (regarding the experiment) I’m going to keep the challenge word as optional only. If it were a requirement, we wouldn’t have seen some incredible haiku (e.g. Zhalio’s), and I wouldn’t want to inhibit that. So I’ll include a challenge word as a possibility to get folks jumpstarted, but it won’t be a requirement. Thanks again for the incredible work!
It’s been a year, and I’m now 32 years old. Among other things, this means I’m halfway to 64. It certainly has been a heck of a year, and I feel physically sound, so I can’t complain.
Enough about me, though. It’s time for the annual Dothraki haiku competition! Last year, Qvaak took home the coveted Mawizzi Virzeth: a prize which comes with no money, no reward, and next to no recognition. Who will take home the prize this year!
But first, in keeping with the semi-tradition I semi-started last year, here’s a haiku of my own:
Oleth rami hoshora
All of those words should be either available in the Dothraki.org dictionary or figure-out-able (if ramasar is a collection of plains, then ram would be…?). Post your translation in the comments, and we’ll see who can get it right first!
As for your haiku, I have an idea, but it is just an idea. For those who might have trouble coming up with a topic, I have a challenge/suggestion: In your haiku, use the word hethke, “tight” (adjective) or “ready, prepared” (adjective). If this works out well, I may start having a challenge word for all successive competitions, and only considering those with the challenge word for the prize. For this one, though, just try it out, and let me know if we should consider making this a permanent change. To repeat: The winning haiku for this year’s competition will not need to use the word hethke.
Otherwise, entries need to be in Dothraki, and I’ll call the competition when it looks like I’ve stopped receiving entries. Leave your entries in the comments, or e-mail them to me at “dave” at “dothraki” period “com”. Below are some instructions I wrote up for last year’s competition which I will repeat here verbatim. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment!
For the purposes of this contest, a haiku is 17 syllables long, with the syllable counts for each line being 5, 7 and 5, in that order. If you need to fudge, we’ll set up a separate category for haiku that are 17 syllables, but maybe don’t hit the right line numbers.
Also (and this is important), since this is Dothraki, we are definitely going by syllable count, not mora count. Regarding syllable-counting, in Dothraki, a syllable is defined as a vowel plus one or more consonants on either side. A syllable cannot contain more than one vowel, which means that a word like kishaan is trisyllabic, not disyllabic.
If it helps, you may or may not contract the various prepositions that contract. So, for example, mr’anha (two syllables) is the usual way of saying “inside me”. For your haiku, if you wish, you can separate the two out, i.e. mra anha (three syllables). You can also drop purely epenthetic e vowels (so the past tense of “crush”, kaffe, can be rendered as kaff’). Feel free to play with word order and drop pronouns, as needed, bearing in mind that such language is figurative, and the reader will still need to be able to figure out who’s doing what to whom.
Shieraki gori ha yerea! Fonas chek!
Update: Added audio for my haiku.
A fellow conlanger (Scott Hamilton, creator of the Riddlesbrood language) sent some pictures my way of some new Dothraki jewelry. Sunnie Larsen and Marcos Duran got each other a joint anniversary present pictured below:
The bracelets say “zhey jalan atthirari anni” (hers) and “zhey shekh ma shieraki anni” (his). Very nice! They came from Etsy designer rubybliss (I should get me one of them one day…).
In other news, I’m going to be traveling to the following events in the next few months. If you’re nearby, come say M’ath!
- SWTX PCA/ACA Conference, Albuquerque, NM, February 13-16
- TEDActive 2013, Palm Springs, CA, February 24
- TED 2013, Long Beach, CA, February 25-March 1
- ConDor 20, San Diego, CA, March 8-10
- NorWesCon 36, Seattle, WA, March 28-31
- UCSD, San Diego, CA, April 19, 25
- LCC5, Austin, TX, May 4-5
- BayCon 31, Santa Clara, CA, May 24-27
- Comic-Con, San Diego, CA, July 18-21
- El Ser Creativo, Madrid, Spain, November 7-9
There may be some others that come up within this time period, so revisit this post periodically; I’ll update it. Until then, davralates asshekhi yeri!
Did you hear that? Why…it sounds like the gentle rustling of the hoary beard of Winter Goat! No, he’s not here yet, but the goating hour draws nigh! Indeed, it is December, which means the grand nearly year-old Goatmas tradition here at the Dothraki blog is near at hand! And what better way to ring in this glorious goatish season than to begin with a tale of giving.
Today’s story comes from the Netherlands, where Dothraki forum member Pej made a special request. Her sister-in-law recently had a baby, and as a present, she made her a hand-crafted dragon egg (see below. It’s outstanding!).
To accompany the dragon egg, she wanted to include a dedication in Dothraki, so she went to the forum for help. As the request required some vocabulary not yet revealed, I did my own translation, shown below.
This is my gift to you, dragonborn. Always as fierce as fire; always as strong as flames.
This egg might contain your destiny.
You recently became the mother of Julia, and she needs your guidance.
Keep this gift close to you. It brings warmth and comfort.
Jini azho anni yeraan, zhey zhavorsayol. Ayyey ven ivezh ven vorsa; ayyey ven haj ven vorsakh.
Jin gale’sh losha fasqoy yeri.
Yer ray mai haji Julia ajjin, majin me zigeree athvillaroon yeri.
Aqqisis jin azh yeraan. Me yanqoe ma athafazhizar ma athdisizar.
Here are some notes on the translation:
- As they’re proper names, I left “Catherine” and “Julia” as is. I think their most natural Dothraki versions would be Kathrin and Yolia. (Note that as Pej and her sister-in-law are from the Netherlands, the “j” in “Julia” is most likely pronounced like an English “y”, not like an English “j”.)
- Another way to do the third main sentence would be Jin gale losha fasqoy yeri ishish. This seemed more natural to me, but I went ahead and used the auxiliary version to preserve the English word order.
- I recast the beginning of the fourth main sentence so it probably most closely translates as, “You’ve now come to be the mother to Julia”. The folks on the forum had some clever ideas for rendering “become”, but this makes the most sense to me, given the context.
- Athvillaroon is specifically wisdom that comes from experience (as opposed to innate intelligence or talent).
- “Bring” in the last main sentence is colloquial in English. In Dothraki, the closest equivalent is to use the verb yanqolat, which means “to gather”. The form of the verb itself was inspired by Janko Gorenc from Slovenia, who’s spent the past who knows how many years collecting the numbers 1-10 in literally thousands of languages—including over 1,000 conlangs. Also, you may recognize the root of the word athdisizar, which I’ve used here for “comfort”.
- The word athfiezar is used for love between siblings or friends (not between a parent child; that’s a different root). The word that you may know, athzhilar, is used for the love between lovers exclusively. It’s a private word that isn’t used in public.
My best to Catherine and her baby Julia! That’s a pretty incredible gift, and I hope it indeed brings you warmth and comfort. Also, san athchomari to Pej! That’s quite a job you did! Very well done!
And for those who follow the Dothraki blog, the time has come. Where are those goat pictures? Let’s get some dorvi up in here!