Blog Archives

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!

Some High Valyrian Inflection

As many will have noticed, there’s no new episode of Game of Thrones this week. There’s also no new episode of Defiance, for fans of the Syfy show. In fact, there’s not much on TV this weekend except for sports. The reasons is evident, though it seems that networks are only catching on this year. This Monday is Memorial Day in America.

Now ordinarily, one would think that since it’s a long weekend, people would be gearing up to go home and watch TV—and that’s often true. But as a holiday, Memorial Day is all but guaranteed to have the best weather of any American holiday throughout the year. The weather may be nice on certain holidays in certain parts of the country on any given year, true, but Memorial Day is just about guaranteed to have great weather in every part of the country every single year. As a result, families use this time to get together and go outside. And while sporting events work great for such weather (you can drop in and drop out, catch a play while getting something to drink, etc.), sitting down for a serious drama seems to be at odds with the gorgeous weather outside. Consequently, American networks decided to bow to the weather and take a week off.

Personally, I couldn’t be happier! This time of the year I often find myself out of town on the weekends (maybe not every weekend, but some weekends), which means that I have to miss a live airing of Game of Thrones, which is just not cool. This year I don’t have to worry! As with last year, I traveled up to the Bay Area for BayCon and also to visit with family (and with Shubert’s). And since there’s no Game of Thrones or Defiance, I can really enjoy the weekend!

While we take a breath as we prepare for the final two episodes of Game of Thrones, though, I thought I’d put up a couple of inflectional paradigms from High Valyrian. The hope is that these can be used as a general reference for the future. There’s been some excellent and fruitful discussion in the comments section of this blog, but as anyone who’s a regular commenter is well familiar with, it’s kind of hard to keep track of who said what when, and so I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes (misreading comments, saying comment x is incorrect when I really meant comment y, etc.). These paradigms I promise will be 100% correct (unless they need to be changed in the future [joking (kind of)]).

Starting with the verbs, those who’ve been following along will know that there are basically two types of verb stems in High Valyrian: those that end in a consonant and those that end in a vowel. In High Valyrian, a stem can end with any consonant or vowel, but those that end in vowels have paradigms which are quite similar to one another, and those that end in a consonant have paradigms that are quite similar to one another (in both instances, though, there will be variation in the perfect, which is the part of the paradigm most likely to be irregular). Here I want to give you the most regular versions of each paradigm so that you’ve got a base line to go off of. Let’s start with the easy one: consonant-final stems. As an example, I’ll use manaeragon, which means “to raise” or “to lift”.

Person/Type Present Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person manaeran manaeri manaeron manaeroty
Second Person manaerā manaerāt manaerō manaerōt
Third Person manaerza manaerzi manaeros manaerosy
Imperative manaerās manaerātās  
Infinitive manaeragon
Participle manaerare, manaerarior

A couple of comments on the table above. The (dark) grayed out part of the table are forms that don’t exist (there are no subjunctive participles or infinitives or imperatives). Where one form stretches across singular and plural, it means there’s no distinction. In the case of the participles, those are adjectives with regular adjective endings, and the first is used with a lunar or solar class and the latter with a terrestrial or aquatic (i.e. those specific adjective endings conflate lunar and solar into one class and terrestrial and aquatic into another). You’ll undoubtedly be able to glance at the table and pick out some patterns. Bear those in mind as we move to the next paradigm—this one for limagon, which means “to cry”.

Person/Type Present Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person liman limī limaon limaoty
Second Person limā limāt limaō limaōt
Third Person limas limasi limaos limaosy
Imperative limās limātās  
Infinitive limagon
Participle limare, limarior

Aside from the subjunctive, the tables should look quite similar (probably because the stem ends in -a), so it may prove instructive to do another vowel-final paradigm that should help to describe the rest of it. Here’s sōvegon which means “to fly”.

Person/Type Present Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person sōven sōvī sōvion sōvioty
Second Person sōvē sōvēt sōviō sōviōt
Third Person sōves sōvesi sōvios sōviosy
Imperative sōvēs sōvētēs  
Infinitive sōvegon
Participle sōvere, sōverior

And with that, one should be able to figure out the rest. If you’re looking for something to hang your hat on, if you have a consonant-final stem, the first person plural present active indicative will always end in -i, and for a vowel-final stem, it will always end in , regardless of the vowel in the stem. If you’re trying to fill out the rest of the vowel-final forms, yes, the first person plural and second person singular are identical with i-final stems, and in the subjunctive, the final o and u of o– and u-final stems both become v.

Since we’ve devoted a lot of space to verbs, I’d like to wrap up with a couple common noun paradigms. You’ll notice that a lot of names of Valyrian origin end in -ys. This is how nouns and names of that type decline. I’ll use the word loktys, “sailor” as an example (a solar noun of the second declension class. Most [but not all] words of this class are solar).

Case Singular Plural Paucal Collective
Nominative loktys loktyssy loktyn loktyr
Accusative lokti loktī loktyni loktyri
Genitive lokto loktoti loktyno loktyro
Dative loktot loktoti loktynty loktyrty
Locative loktȳ loktī loktynny loktyrry
Instrumental loktomy loktommi loktyssy loktyrzy
Comitative loktomy loktommi loktymmy loktyrmy
Vocative loktys loktyssys loktyssy loktyrzy

It might prove instructive to refer to the first declension lunar paradigm revealed last week and compare it to this one. Pay particularly close attention to the singular and plural numbers, and note where cases are conflated and where they aren’t. This is what defines declension classes in High Valyrian.

Oh, and since it doesn’t fit anywhere else but I feel like mentioning it, verb stems never end in a long vowel or diphthong, and you’ll run into the following diphthongs in High Valyrian: ae, āe, ao and āo. There are also some on-glide diphthongs which can serve as the nucleus of a single syllable: ia, , io, , ie, , ua, , ue and .

I hope you enjoy the week off from Game of Thrones! Come next week, things are going to start to get messy. Geros ilas!


Welcome to the late edition of the Dothraki blog! Today’s post is late because I was away in Austin, Texas for the Fifth Language Creation Conference. I did see this week’s episode of Game of Thrones over there, but I saw it on Monday shortly before my flight home and didn’t have time to get a post up until now.

This week’s episode got dark, huh? Poor Ros: The invented character that nobody liked (or none of the fans of the books, anyway). But why am I wasting words on her when Tywin Lannister was in this episode? Dude did it again! After the Queen of Thorns took down Tyrion, it looked like she was just warming up: Matching wits with Lord Tywin and besting him! But, oh, how he did have the last laugh…! While I don’t think it can be properly appreciated in isolation, that was one of my favorite scenes of the series. What a clash! If only their characters could be transported to Downton Abbey

Elsewhere, I really did enjoy both climbs (i.e. the climb up the wall and Littlefinger’s “climb” speech) and was amused by the awkwardness of Loras and Sansa. As a book reader, I am also genuinely curious just how Theon’s storyline is going to work. If this season is only half of book 3, and this part of the storyline comes from book 5, with absolutely nothing in between… I mean, how long can they (and he) keep this up?

And, as promised (finally, since I never seem to be able to remember what order things happen in), we had some High Valyrian being spoken by different characters! This time we got to see Carice Van Houten and Paul Kaye take to it, and they did a pretty darn good job, I must admit! They had a grand little priest-off there, and I loved how the High Valyrian was sprinkled in. Language-wise, a very well-written set of scenes.

First, Arya spies Melisandre’s party in the forest, and after initial greetings, Melisandre and Thoros greet each other with the traditional greeting which we know well. By the way, though, to my ear, Carice Van Houten did speak High Valyrian with a bit of a Dutch accent, I didn’t actually hear a velar fricative in morghūlis—surprising, given that you can’t get through “good morning” without pronouncing three of them in Dutch!

Anyway, then Thoros busts out his fluency:

  • Olvī voktī Rulloro Qelbriā ūndessun daor.
  • “I don’t see many priestesses of R’hllor in the Riverlands.”

Here I had to make a choice. I’d always assumed that R’hllor came either from Asshai’i or from some other language way out east. As such, I figured the word would be mangled in pretty much any common language it’s spoken in—including High Valyrian. But how to mangle it? High Valyrian is fine with geminates, and figuring that George R. R. Martin based this word on Arabic Allah, I decided to keep that in. But rather than dealing with the apostrophe and the h, I figured I’d do what I expected to happen anyway, if the name were pronounced in common, and just pretend like they weren’t there, inserting a vowel to make it pronounceable. This is why R’hllor gets respelled in High Valyrian. I imagine that one could still spell it R’hllor and then just decline the end of the word, but for the sake of the actors, I thought I’d use the respelled version.

A couple of other things worth noting here. Voktī (citation form: voktys) is translated as “priestesses”, but just as with the word for “prince”, the word is epicene, and may refer to either a priest or a priestess.

I’d also like to take a minute to discuss q. The voiceless uvular stop makes an appearance in both High Valyrian and Dothraki, but its status in High Valyrian differs from that of Dothraki. In Dothraki, it’s an honest-to-goodness phoneme, and for the native Dothraki-speaking characters, I expected (or hoped) they would pronounce it correctly (obviously not so for the foreign characters [e.g. Dany and Jorah]). In High Valyrian, though, I didn’t—and, in fact, outside of Kraznys’s and Missandei’s lines, I didn’t even pronounce the q when recording the lines (substituting k instead).

That said, it was very important to me that q be different. In fact, when I talked about creating Valyrian with Dan and Dave, I asked them two—and only two—questions: (1) Just how different did they want Kraznys’s dialogue to be from High Valyrian, and (2) how did they pronounce valonqar: valon-K-ar or valon-KW-ar? The answer was vitally important and would have far-reaching consequences for the phonology of High Valyrian and its descendants. Frankly, I was delighted to hear they were going with valon-K-ar.

So why is it so important if, essentially, it’s just a different k (which is what it is for all but the Astapori speakers)? Because of the potential it holds for the future descendants of Valyrian. With two different back consonants, it’s possible to have a sound change that affects one that doesn’t affect the other in certain environments. English speakers should be well familiar with the phenomenon because of the letter “c” ([k] in “car”, “crown”, “cough” and “cut”, but [s] in “cent” and “cilia”). Additionally, it meant that Valyrian didn’t have to be glutted with [kw] sounds (and also probably [gw] and even [ɣw])—a prospect I wasn’t looking forward to.

Anyway, this comes up because of the word Qelbriā (citation form: Qelbria). It’s a modern (perhaps spur-of-the-moment) neologism from High Valyrian qelbar, which means “river”. Hence, the Riverlands are Qelbria. How pretty… I want to hit it like a piñata.

Back on track, Melisandre responds:

  • Thoros hen Myrot iksā.
  • “You are Thoros of Myr.”

I was curious how “Thoros” would be pronounced. If I didn’t mishear, she pronounced it “Toros”, yes? That would be the traditional High Valyrian pronunciation.

  • Voktys Eglie aōt gaomilaksir teptas: Roberti Dāri zȳhi nekēpti se Āeksiot Ōño jemagon. Skorion massitas?
  • “The High Priest gave you a mission. Turn King Robert away from his idols and toward the Lord of Light. What happened?”

Then Thoros:

  • Qringōntan.
  • “I failed.”

To which Melisandre:

  • Aōle rūda, nūmāzma issa. Quptyssy pōntālī johegzi se jomōzū.
  • “You quit, you mean. The heathens continue to slaughter each other and you continue to get drunk.”

Oh, ha, ha. Just spent like fifteen minutes looking at that form jomōzū thinking, “That can’t be right…” But, duh: It’s the active, not the subjunctive! Why would it be? Anyway, Thoros replies:

  • Aōhoso ziry rijībia, se ñuhoso ziry rijībin. Quptenkos Ēngoso ȳdrassis?
  • “You worship Him your way, and I’ll worship Him mine. Do you speak the Common Tongue?”

If you’re glossing, it might help to know that there is no reflex for the word “way” in that translation. By the way, as a general rule, I kind of expect those whose first language wasn’t English to do a better job with the created languages than native English speakers (mainly because, in general, this has been true). But Paul Kaye did admirable work! He didn’t cut any words, and it sounded pretty much like a drunkard speaking High Valyrian. Nice job, Paul!

Next we shift scenes to Melisandre inspecting Beric. (Anyone else feel a kind of bizarre sexual tension in that little scene?) After appraising, she says:

  • Konir sagon kostos daor.
  • “That’s not possible.”

Thoros then says:

  • Āeksio yne ilīritan.
  • “The Lord has smiled upon me.”

Melisandre responds:

  • Kesys ondor avy sytilībus daor.
  • “You should not have these powers.”

And Thoros, being the good Red Priest he is, corrects her:

  • Ondor emon daor. Āeksiot zȳhon vaoreznon jepin, se ziksoso udlissis.
  • “I have no powers. I ask the Lord for his favor, and he responds as he will.”

And for a bonus, he was also originally supposed to say this short bit afterwards, but the line was cut:

  • Kesir gīmī.
  • “You know this.”

And that’s the Valyrian for episode 306. Who knows if these characters will be speaking Valyrian again, but hats off to both the wonderful Carice Van Houten and Paul Kaye! They were a short couple of scenes, but I greatly appreciate the work you put in. Kirimvose!

Next week there’s a little bit of material. And now I’m left wondering if they left that line in… Guess we’ll all find out at the same time!

Sesīr Urnēbion Zȳhon Keliton Issa

Grow strong.

It’s hard to compare episodes when you haven’t seen them in a while, but I think “And Now His Watch Is Ended” was easily one of the best of the series—certainly the best of the season. Some comments before getting to the language bits.

The story with Varys was an invention (him finding that sorcerer), but I liked it. As my wife said, it’s been evident in the show that he’s really good at getting information and managing tense social situations, but he’s never felt as threatening as he feels in the book—always a little bit softer. This is tangible evidence of his potential for malice.

And, good lord, my Tywin Lannister! I honestly can’t decide which I like best: Tywin from the books, or Tywin on the show. They’re appreciably different, and equally incredible. And this time his top highlight was a single word: Contribute. The thing I love about Tywin as a character is how intractable he is. Everyone manages to manipulate everyone else, and everybody makes mistakes, but no matter what he does, it was always the right decision—and it’s always everybody else that screws up. It would be monstrous to have him as a father—or really to have any dealings with him whatsoever—and I think that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable to watch him be so tyrannical—especially with those who get away with murder elsewhere in the series.

The dust up at Craster’s had both me and my wife running to the web, because neither of us remembered Jeor Mormont getting stabbed. And yet, there it was, just as in the books. The bits north of the wall almost remind me of a horror movie—where the Night’s Watch start out taking every precaution as they venture northward, and tiny almost insignificant mistakes end up seeing these guys drop dead one by one.

Oh, and Jack Gleeson had me cackling the whole time, with his awkward excitement at Margaery’s patronizing him. And looking like he’s never waved before! What an actor that guy is!

But anyway, there was quite a bit of Valyrian this episode, including our first High Valyrian of the series (outside of valar morghūlis and drakarys). It begins with a long speech by Kraznys that kind of gets cut up a bit as Missandei translates; I don’t know if you hear a lot of it. After the short exchange, Dany passes off Drogon and asks if it’s done. Missandei relays this:

  • Pindas lu sa sir tida.
  • “She asks if it is now done.”

Then Kraznys tells her that it is:

  • Sa tida. Pelos ji qlony. J’aspo eza zya azantyr.
  • “It is done. She holds the whip. The bitch has her army.”

And then thinks get messy.

So when I was originally reading the books, I kind of foresaw what happens next. First, I always imagined that the dragons would be bigger, and so shortly after she agrees to the deal, I thought, “You can give someone a dragon the way you can give them a lion.” Seriously, what’s he going to do? And it’s not like anyone alive has ever seen a dragon except those directly connected to Dany—and certainly no one other than her has ever managed to tame one. Just how did he think he was going to “own” it?

And then the Unsullied! I mean, sure, I guess he might think that she would honor their agreement, but if she has an 8,000 person trained army that’s 100% loyal to her and no one else has anything but guards…? It doesn’t take a military genius to calculate the possibilities here.

Anyway, even though I kind of saw that coming when I was reading the books, by now, I, of course, have read all the books, so I actually know what’s coming; it’s just a matter of how it will look on screen. There are a large number of folks that haven’t read the books and only know the story from the show—and I’ve been following their chatter on Twitter. A lot of people were upset with how callous and insulting Kraznys is—especially when he’s insulting the Dothraki. I’d love to know what it was like to watch this episode if you really didn’t know what was coming. That experience must’ve been incredible.

As it was, the scene was outstanding. I was delighted by Emilia Clarke’s performance. She really does speak High Valyrian like a natural. She missed a word or two here or there, but such will happen. Overall, I’m extraordinarily pleased. I’m going to try to go through all the lines, but it’s going to take me a bit (Final Draft doesn’t allow characters with macrons, so there are no long vowels in the script. I’ll have to do a bit of back and forth to get it right). Anyway, Dany gives the following orders to her new army:

  • Dovaogēdys! Naejot memēbātās! Kelītīs!
  • “Unsullied! Forward march! Halt!”

Of note here is that High Valyrian distinguishes between singular and plural commands. The commands here are plural, as Dovaogēdys is plural, rather than collective.

Then we have a little more Astapori Valyrian from Kraznys, who evidently hasn’t been paying much attention (#distractedbydragon):

  • Ivetra j’aspo zya dyni do majis.
  • “Tell the bitch her beast won’t come.”

And then Dany’s comeback:

  • Zaldrīzes buzdari iksos daor.
  • “A dragon is not a slave.”

Of note here: the word for dragon, zaldrīzes. Also, buzdari is stressed on the second syllable even though the a is not long because this isn’t actually a High Valyrian word: It’s an Astapori word that Dany is using on purpose. The High Valyrian word for slave is dohaeriros (whose root you may recognize), but the word they use in Astapor is buzdar, which has its roots in Ghiscari. Dany uses his own word so he’ll know that she knows. (And, by the way, since it’s a borrowing, it goes into the borrowed declension class, which means its accusative ends in -i.) And, indeed, Kraznys now gets it:

  • Ydra ji Valyre?
  • “You speak Valyrian?”

And then we get, perhaps, my favorite Daenerys line:

  • Nyke Daenerys Jelmāzmo hen Targārio Lentrot, hen Valyrio Uēpo ānogār iksan. Valyrio muño ēngos ñuhys issa.
  • “I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria. Valyrian is my mother tongue.”

(Note: Those who were participating in a previous discussion may want to look at the precise spelling of Daenerys. I guess it has been decided! Forgot about that.)

Then comes quite a long bit of High Valyrian for Dany:

  • Dovaogēdys! Āeksia ossēnātās, menti ossēnātās, qilōni pilos lue vale tolvie ossēnātās, yn riñe dōre ōdrikātās. Urnet luo buzdaro tolvio belma pryjātās!
  • “Unsullied! Slay the masters, slay the soldiers, slay every man who holds a whip, but harm no child. Strike the chains off every slave you see!”

And then we get Kraznys’ last lines of the show:

  • Nyk skan jiva aeske! Zer sena! Zer sena!
  • “I am your master! Kill her! Kill her!”

And then Dany says one of the High Valyrian words we already knew, and then comes the sweet, sweet carnage.

From IGN

Hit “Escape” to pause.

What a scene… My hat is off to Dave and Dan. They’ve done great work, and continue to raise the bar.

At the end, Dany says most of the following:

  • Jevo glaesoti rȳ buzdari istiat. Kesȳ tubī jemot dāervi tepan.
  • “You have been slaves all your life. Today I give you freedom.”


  • Henujagon jaelza lua vala mirre henujagon kostas, se daorys ziry ōdrikilza. Jemot kivio ñuhe tepan.
  • “Any man who wishes to leave may leave, and no one will harm him. I give you my word.”


  • Yne sytivīlībilāt? Hae dāero valoti?
  • “Will you fight for me? As free men?”

I don’t think I missed any long vowels above, but I may have (and if so, I’m sure we’ll get them sorted eventually).

I hope you enjoyed the episode as much as I did. It was an absolute joy to work on High Valyrian, and now that I’ve heard Emilia speak it, I can say that I’m really pleased with the results. I’m also greatly appreciative of the talents of Dan Hildebrand: the latest fallen soldier from Game of Thrones. When I was imagining Kraznys, I was imagining a coarse, revolting, unmannered oaf of a slave master. Dan did the exact opposite of this. His Kraznys is well-cultivated, and speaks with an easy almost callous casualness. It makes his insulting behavior that much more shocking, in my opinion. He seems like a guy who would do well in mixed company, so the fact that he can be so horribly insulting to someone standing right in front of him gives you a totally different picture of what it means to be a slave master in Astapor. He’s so powerful that he simply doesn’t need to care what anyone thinks of him, and it probably never occurs to him that anything he does could be wrong. You did a remarkable job, Dan, and I couldn’t be happier with the way you tackled Astapori Valyrian. Kirimvose!

So now there’s a good batch of High Valyrian (and Astapori Valyrian) material there to work with. When looking at High Valyrian—especially the sentences with relative clauses—bear in mind that, in most important respects, High Valyrian is head-final. Relative clauses are a bit tough—or backwards—for anyone speaking a Western language.

Four down and six to go! Plenty of Valyrian yet to come. Thanks for reading!

Qilōnario Geron

Duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh… THE BEAR AND THE MAIDEN FAIR! Duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh…

All right, I know I work on the show, and it’s outstanding, and I love everybody, and everything is just super 100% awesome, but…seriously, man, ki fin yeni with that outro music? That was one of the most discordant moments of television I’ve experienced in a long, long time. First a scene that must have absolutely shocked viewers unfamiliar with the books, and then cut to spring breeeeeeeeeaaaak! Definitely good for a laugh, though.

There were a lot of magnificent bits in 303. The chair scene was a wonderful bit of absurd theater (and I’ll take anything I can get with Tywin Lannister). If you didn’t see Hot Pie’s wonderful dire wolf confection, here you are:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The funeral in the beginning was genius (that would’ve been me shooting the arrows the first time, by the way. If I were any character in Game of Thrones, that is me all over). And despite what they think over at Winter Is Coming, I loved the scene with Pod, Bronn and Tyrion. Boy’s got game, son! If you can’t step to that, best step off, you feel me?

But I’d like to highlight one scene in particular that I thought was awesome: Stannis and Melisandre. Man! That shoulder’s so cold she got Stannis turning on the AC to warm up! Maybe it was just me, but I was mightily entertained by just how much she was obviously not into Stannis at all. Maybe Jorah has some company coming his way in the Friend Zone, because that was brutal. Reminded me of seventh grade. Very, very well played by Ms. van Houten!

Today we had some more Astapori Valyrian. It was a great scene and very well played—including by the new actor who played the fellow sitting next to Kraznys. (Does anyone know his name—both the character and the actor? He’s just referred to as “Master Slaver” in my sides.) EDIT: The character is Greizhen mo Ullhor, and he’s portrayed by Clifford Barry. (Great job, Mr. Barry!) I could not follow precisely how things got broken up. For example, when Kraznys is going over exactly how many Unsullied he’d give Dany for her Dothraki, etc., it was written up as one long speech. That speech, though, was broken up a bit and delivered in bits here and there, rather than a monologue, so I’m not sure if there’s anything that got cut. Here are a few of the lines from the exchange, though (the ones I remember got in). This is a line from Missandei:

  • Ebas pon sindigho uni.
  • “She wants to buy them all.”

Now for a word I had fun inventing: the word for dragon (and, no, it’s not related to drakarys. I already roll my eyes enough at the “drak” in that word). Continuing Missandei:

  • Ivetras sko o tebozlivas me zaldrize.
  • “She says she will give you a dragon.”

And I don’t remember what of Kraznyz’ reply stayed in… I’ll have to watch it again on HBO Go. I do remember he got to say this:

  • Ivetra zer ebi ji rovaja.
  • “Tell her we want the biggest one.”

Yes, I had fun with this language. Ji rovaja is “the biggest (one)”, and if you know my sense of phonaesthetics, a word like that is like David Bowie wearing something like this:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Pure decadence. I shamelessly wallow in it.

It occurs to me that stress is not nearly as predictable in Astapori Valyrian… I should probably mark the non-predictable stresses, but that’d require some back-tracking. As a general note, though, commands are stressed word-finally (so ivetrá, for example).

Finally, this is Missandei’s last line:

  • Pindas sko ji yn tebila, va me rudhy. Pindas sko gomila kizi sir.
  • “She asks that you give me to her, as a present. She asks that you do this now.”

Above, for example, tebila and gomila are basically the same construction, but tebila has penultimate stress and gomila has antepenultimate stress. The latter is the odd one.

I’d like to close with a couple of comments. First, check out the transcription project undertaken by Mad Latinist over at his LiveJournal. I haven’t been able to do as much this season because of outside commitments (for example, I’m going to miss the Monday Dothraki chat again, but this should be the last one [well, until LCC5, for which I will probably miss the Dothraki chat yet again]). I feel like there’s going to be enough by the end of the season to put together a fair bit on both Valyrian variants, though—certainly enough to beef up a Wikipedia article, I think.

Second, there is something from the books I’d like to address directly, because I’m utterly baffled by the interpretation. The following excerpt comes from A Feast for Crows (note: this may be slightly spoilerly if you know the context; if you don’t, it should be fairly meaningless):

“What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years. […] The dragons prove it.”

Many have taken this quote as evidence that High Valyrian is a language without grammatical gender (and for those who are as baffled by that interpretation as I was, I swear, it’s true! Go to the forums and ask around). This quote proves nothing of the kind.

First, what Maester Aemon is talking about here is not grammatical gender but biological gender. In our own world, there are animals that can actually change their gender from male to female, or vice versa (see, for example, the clownfish). Often this happens to aid reproduction. Presumably, dragons in the universe of Ice and Fire are the same—that is, dragons that are, at the moment, male or female, will switch to another gender if it’s required for some reason (this has yet to be revealed).

The part where language comes into this is that the prophecy referred to is originally delivered in High Valyrian, and it refers to a prince. The translation he’s talking about, though, is the translation to Common (i.e. English) which uses the word “prince”, which is male. The assumption, then, was that if that translation caused confusion, it’s because the High Valyrian word can refer to either gender, and, as a result, High Valyrian is genderless.

Not so. First, grammatical gender need not be tied to biological gender (and, indeed, High Valyrian’s genders are not). Second, think for a moment. English is a gender neutral language. We have gendered third person singular pronouns, but outside of that, English has no grammatical genders the way Spanish, French and Italian do. “Prince” is grammatically gender neutral. Semantically, though, it’s male, just as the words “man”, “bachelor”, “father” and “son” are. That these words exist says nothing about the grammatical gender system of English.

So, all this says about High Valyrian is that the word originally used in the prophecy that was translated as “prince” in Common (i.e. English) can refer to either gender (e.g. the way “scientist” can refer to either gender in English). Maester Aemon, here, is commenting on how the assumption, given the context, was that the one prophesied must be male, because this is something that is presumably common in Westeros society (kind of like it still is in ours. Take a random sampling of 100 people and see how many still first think of a man when they hear the word “scientist”)—but, crucially, that it need not be so. That is all this quote is evidence of; it says nothing whatever about the gender system of High Valyrian.

Okay, I should wrap this up. As one more final note, I like to keep it to Game of Thrones here, but if you have some time tonight (or tomorrow night, if you’re outside North America), see if you can tune into the series premiere of Defiance on Syfy at 9/8 Central. I’ve been working really hard for over a year on the series, and the finished product is something everyone involved is really proud of. I’d be delighted if folks would give it a chance, as I think it has a chance to be something really special.

Fonas chek!

Update: Forgot to mention: I’m doing an AMA over at Reddit tomorrow at 6 Eastern.