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Me Azho Anni Shafkea


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!).

A hand-crafted dragon egg.

Click to enlarge.

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.


Dear Catherine,

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.

With love.


Zhey Catherine,

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!

I Care!

Happy Wednesday! I thought I’d do a mini-post on a small question that’s come up a couple times and deserves a tiny bit of fleshing out (hashtag little).

More than a few people have asked how to say something along the lines of either “That’s important to me” or “I don’t care”. Our English verb “care” is a mystery to me. It’s so…squishy, if that’s a linguistic term. I’d fully expect it to have a quirky case subject in some language that’s prone to such things. It didn’t seem verb-worthy in Dothraki, so there is no equivalent verb for “to care”.

So how do you do it? Actually you do it with a prepositional phrase, much like the phrase mra qora which was used in the wine merchant scene of episode 107. The phrase is mra zhor, which means “in the heart”. Thus, if you say the following:

Sajo anni mra zhor.

It means either “I care about my mount”, or “I care for my mount”, or “My mount is important to me”. Though it’s an expression now, zhor is inalienably possessed (unless you’re eating it, I guess), so a possessor need not be specified if it’s clear from context. The default context is always the speaker (especially so when you have a possessor like anni right in there). If you want to specify an alternate context (or simply emphasize the one to who cares), all you need to do is add an inalienable possessor to the word zhor, as below:

Sajo anni mra zhor moon.

And that would be “My mount is important to him”, or “He cares about my mount”.

To say something like “I don’t care”, you just have to turn it around a little bit:

Hazi vo mra zhor.

That is literally “That isn’t in my heart” and would mean “I don’t care about that”. Conventionally, you could shorten it up and say Vo mra zhor, and you can intensify it by saying Vo mra zhor vosecchi. Also, though it’s not directly related, if you wanted to say “I don’t care anymore”, you’d say Vo mra zhor ajjinoon. Ajjinoon means “anymore” most of the time in negative contexts (or at least that’s how it’s translated into English. It has other uses in positive contexts).

That said, I hope your day is a good one. Why? Hajinaan meme mra zhor anhoon. Me nem nesa.

Asshekhqoyi Vezhvena Save!

Yes. It’s that time again. No, not time for Week 3 of the NFL season or another NHL lockout: It’s time for our own khaleesi Daenerys’s birthday. Asshekhqoyi vezhvena, zhey khaleesi! I couldn’t get you a dragon, because, well, you have them all, so here are some words (along with audio files) to fill in a few gaps on the Word Groups page you’re working on (note: all nouns below are inanimate):

English Dothraki Audio
forearm qorraya
wrist, ankle hlofa
chin vik
lip heth
shoulder elme
heel vemish
to frown nivat
to swallow ijelat
brain (human) yothnhare
to weave soqat

And though we already know the word, dis (the adjective) is used to refer to plain or unpatterned clothing. Happy birthday again, zhey Dany! I hope it’s a good one.

Fonas chek!

Finnaan Anha Dothrak?

So unlike MiniDisc, apparently turn-by-turn navigation systems aren’t going away any time soon (go figure). Thanks to our very own Hrakkar, though, we’ll soon have the option of getting turn-by-turn directions in Dothraki. Pretty wild, right?

So this is how it works. Hrakkar found a text file used by Garmin to translate its directions into various languages. All you need to do is translate the set phrases and provide audio, and voilà! It won’t translate street names (which is appropriate), or do them in the appropriate accent, but that would be a bit much to expect. Hrakkar got a jumpstart on translating the list of commands, and I helped him fill in the rest. The entire list of commands is presented below, with commentary:

English Dothraki
Proceed to highlighted route. Dothra osaan shovena.
Recalculating. Anha gachak mae ajjin.
Traffic ahead. Hrazefeser hatif shafki.
Continue on route. Vatteri dothralat she os.
Make a U-turn. Idiro.

Above, the word I used for “highlighted” (shoven, suffixed with -a above as it modifies a noun in a non-nominative case) basically means “smudged” or “marked”. It’s difficult to translate English’s “headline language” into Dothraki (the same is true of just about any inflectional language), so that something that renders quite simply in English (e.g. “Recalculating”) requires a full sentence in Dothraki (literally, “I’m figuring it out right now”). There’s no real word for “traffic” (and no concept for it), so I used hrazefeser, which is kind of like a herd of wild horses. Hrakkar gets credit for what I think is the most brilliant translation of the bunch: idiro, which, in this context, means “Make a U-turn”. Idirolat derives from the Dothraki word for “owl”, idiro. It literally means “to owl”, and implies that one has made a full 180° turn quite suddenly, as owls do with their heads. That’s basically what a U-turn is, so in this case Dothraki is more succinct than the English (that doesn’t happen often!).

Here’s the next batch:

English Dothraki
Destination ovvethikh
Via Point eleisosakh
Arrive at… Jado she…
Arriving at… Shafka jadoe she…
Enter roundabout. Emra osfir.
In she
Then majin
Turn noti
Take okki
Take ramp. Okki yathokh.

As you’ll note, we’re using the formal second person throughout (seems like the safest bet). The word for “destination” is just the word for “goal”, which comes from the word for “target”, which is why it’s related to the word for “fly” (ovethat). For “roundabout”, I went with “round road”, which seems close enough. I think it’s a happy accident that, at least for English speakers, you can pluck the word “sphere” right out of the word osfir. Should help one remember the word.

Regarding “in”, you’ll note that the word she is used, as opposed to mra, which means “in” or “inside”. This is because the word here is the English word “in”, and that brings us to a major translation issue in Doing this. The English word “in” could be used by Garmin in a number of ways—most likely in a sentence like, “Turn left in three miles”. There, it’s pretty clear that “in” doesn’t mean “inside”. Rather, it could almost be translated “after” (i.e. “Turn after three miles have passed”) or “at” (i.e. “Turn at the three mile mark from this point”), etc. In Dothraki, she is the most semantically empty locative preposition. As a result, it’s probably our best bet here, even if it doesn’t match up perfectly (and it helps that, in its basic form, she governs the nominative, which will prevent case problems, for which see below).

Here’s the next set:

English Dothraki
Ahead hatif shafki
Keep vatteri dothralat
Exit esemrasakh
Left sindarine
Right haje
Turn left. Noti sindarine.
Turn right. Noti haje.
On left she sindarinekh
On right she hajekh
Navigate off road. Hezhahi she osoon.
Navigate on road. Hezhahi she osaan.

I have absolutely no idea what “Navigate off road” or “Navigate on road” means, but I thought Hrakkar’s use of hezhahat was inspired, so I stuck with his translation. (Also, nice use of she with the allative and ablative!). There is no adverb “ahead” that’s used just like the English word, so hatif shafki means “in front of you”. And a word like “keep” just gives me fits (lousy analytical English!). I decided to translate it as “Keep riding”, reasoning that it’ll probably be used in expressions like “Keep right” or “Keep left”. Unfortunately, it won’t be translated quite right (I think a more appropriate translation for “Keep right” would be Vatteri dothralat she hajekh), but that’s on account of the fact that the basic language here is English. If the initial language had been anything else (say, Russian), it would have had more phrases to translate, rather than words. In English, the form of a word doesn’t change all that often (just pluralization on nouns and minimal verb tense), so you can separate them out and not worry about the context of surrounding words. Not so with Dothraki. As a result, some things will not be combined appropriately. I imagine the same would be true of a language like Russian if it were to translate the program using this script. So it goes.

Here’s the next group:

English Dothraki
Board ferry. Emra rhaggat eveth.
Leave ferry. Esemrasa rhaggat eveth.
At roundabout she osfir
Exit roundabout. Esemrasa osfir.
To destination ovvethikhaan
To via point eleisosakhaan
Feet qorraya
Yards rhaesof
Meters rhaesof Valiri

There isn’t, of course, a large nautical vocabulary in Dothraki: a boat is a boat is a boat is a water cart. For our measure words, I had to create some on the fly to serve. These aren’t to be used in-universe; they’re just for us. So the word for “feet” (or “foot”, as the singular and plural are the same) is qorraya, the Dothraki word for “forearm” (about as long as a foot). A yard, on the other hand, is a bit longer, and so it’s a rhaesof—not a larger foot, in this case, but a stride. And I’m mightily entertained by my word for “meter”, which is, essentially, “a Valyrian yard”. I think of “meters” as basically “British yards” (even though we got our measure from England initially), and so I thought, “What would the equivalent of ‘British’ be in Dothraki…?” I wanted to say Lhazareen, but that didn’t seem very fair to the British, so I went with Valyrian. You’ll see it again in the next group:

English Dothraki
One quarter mile irvosa
One half mile chetira
Three quarters of a mile sen irvosa
Mile karlina
And a quarter ma saccheya
Miles karlina
And a half ma sachi
And three quarters ma sen saccheya
Kilometer karlina Valiri
Kilometers karlina Valiri

And there’s our Valyrian miles (a.k.a. kilometers). There’s no word for “quarter” in Dothraki, so I borrowed over the word saccheya (derived from the word sachi, which means “half”) which actually means something like “part” or “division”. It could mean “half” in the right context, but more often it’s less than that, and conventionally I think it works well as “quarter”. As for the terms for miles and parts of miles (another rare instance where Dothraki proves more economical than English), you can read more about their etymologies in this blog post I did for CNN’s The Next List.

Finally, there are a bunch of numbers. It calls for the cardinal numbers 1 through 10 and also 100, and the ordinal numbers 1 through 9. There’s no call for ordinal 10 or 100, but since it’ll make a neater table, I’ll go ahead and include those too:

English Dothraki English Dothraki
One at First atak
Two akat Second akatak
Three sen Third senak
Four tor Fourth torak
Five mek Fifth mekak
Six zhinda Sixth zhindak
Seven fekh Seventh fekhak
Eight ori Eighth orik
Nine qazat Ninth qazatak
Ten thi Tenth thik
Hundred ken Hundredth kenak

And there you have it! I’m not quite sure what step lies between having this information translated and recorded and getting it onto your own Garmin, but I believe Hrakkar will provide us with that info in time (at which point this post will updated). If you happen to already know what to do, I’ve got audio of me reading all of the above which you can download here (right click on that. I thought about embedding the audio as I’ve done with previous posts, but there’d just be too much, and this page loads slow enough as it is). You can also get the text from above in a handy .txt file by clicking here. If you’d like to record your own version, send it my way and I’ll put it up here.

In other news, if you’re going to be at WorldCon in Chicago at the end of the month, I will be there. Come find me and test my on-the-fly Dothraki fluency! (Then prepare to be disappointed [though I’ve always been much more of a writer than a speaker, when it comes to second languages].) Until next time, fonas chek!

Comic-Con Again, Off Again

M’ath to all those attending Comic-Con in San Diego! Enjoy. Some of us ’round here still have work to do! (In fact, I spoke with Dan Weiss and David Benioff yesterday, and they’re not making it this year, either [season 3, and whatnot].) A quick note for those visiting from out of state, though: This weather is NOT normal. It straight up rained here in Orange County—poured! That may be humdrum if you’re from New York or Florida, but in Southern California?! I can’t remember the last time.

Anyway, if you’re wandering around the Gaslamp and happen to bump into anyone dressed as Khal Drogo or Daenerys and want to say “boy, howdy!”, here’s a quick and dirty Dothraki primer:

Dothraki English Audio
M’athchomaroon! Hello!
M’ath! Hi!
Hash yer dothrae chek? How are you?
Chek! Good!
Anha garvok! I’m hungry!
Anha fevek! I’m thirsty!
Hash rekak che Oil Oiton che Jonathon Freykis? Is that Will Wheaton or Jonathan Frakes?
Vojosor heme vos ahhimo anna. I’m not into furries.
Finne zhavorsa anni?! Where are my dragons?!
Anha afichak rek h’anhaan ma vorsoon ma qoyoon! I will take what is mine with fire and blood!
Fonas chek! Goodbye!

Listen to the audio for the pronunciation—or just be sure the vowels are pure and you pronounce the Q’s like K’s (they’re not, but that’s close enough). If you’d like more of an introduction, you can check out the other posts on this blog, or head over to YouTube where sunquan8094 has an entire series of Dothraki tutorials. San athchomari to all those that made the trip down! I plan on being there next year. Until then, fonas chek!

[Featured Photo: Me, my wife and my little sister down in San Diego in younger days. The relationship to the topic at hand is…tenuous.]

Anha Tihak Yera

Little multiconlingual pun there for you. A while back, I was profiled on the CNN show The Next List. When I was prepping for the show, they asked me if I could get some videos of fans speaking Dothraki—about a minute, they said. I don’t think they understood just how long a full minute is, because the videos (supplied by our own Hrakkar and Daenerys) only show up on screen for a few seconds, and they had to do a lot of work to produce (and pronounce!) a full minute of Dothraki dialogue. It was a lot of work (and hopefully fun!), and since you only get to see a very little bit on the show, I thought I’d put both videos up here.

The first is Hrakkar’s video, which is actually a reading of the LCC4 conlang relay text I did for the Fourth Language Creation Conference. The text is called Dorvi Zichome, or “The Disrespectful Goat”, and here it is:

Right on! Dig the lion décor. (By the way, sorry the still image it starts with is a bit pixellated. No idea thy it’s doing that—or why I can’t embed my own darn videos and have to go through Photobucket. Hope you have flash, if you’re reading this… When is HTML5 getting here?!)

(Update: I believe I fixed the image problem. The funny thing [for me] is that I fixed this problem before this post was ever posted, so no one but me ever actually saw the problem. Ha, ha… Anha nemo allayafak…)

Our next video is from Daenerys, who wrote her own script, which must have taken quite a while!

Thanks so much to Dany and Hrakkar! Anha chomak yeri ma anha vemerak ma athhajaraan ma oakahaan yeri!

In other news, I’m going to speaking at the American Mensa Annual Gathering next week. I believe you have to be a Mensa member to attend, but if you are (and you’re going to be in Reno), stop on by!

Recently, I participated in the Conlangery podcast where we discussed Dothraki and growing a lexicon. You can listen to the podcast here. I also did an interview with Saul Gonzalez over at KCRW today. Not sure when it’ll be going up, but when I get word, I’ll let everyone know. Finally, last weekend I gave a conlang workshop at WyrdCon 2012. The convention was a lot of fun, and I got an INCREDIBLE medallion—just for attending! Everyone who attended got one of these (it was the equivalent of a name badge at other conventions). Check it out:

WyrdCon 2012 Medallion

Click to enlarge.

That’s metal—die cut. I honestly wish I was the type of person that wore necklaces and that I had a reason (and the wherewithal) to wear this around. I’m going to do something with it; just not sure what yet.

Oh, but yeah. The whole reason this came up is because I did an interview (or a couple of them) while I was at WyrdCon, and you can read a post about one of them here. (By the way, shout out to Brittany Hanson, who works for the Garden Grove Journal—my local hometown paper! If you go there right now you can read about my old high school’s baseball team winning the CIF championship this year. Go Mariners!)

Also, I recently started a Tumblr account. Not sure where it’ll go, but if you’d like to follow me there, you can do so here.

The Dothraki lexicon and reference grammar document just ticked over to 300 pages yesterday! The language continues to grow, albeit slowly as I’ve gotten bogged down with other work. Until next time, hajas!