A lot of people have been asking me over the years, “When will there be a book on Dothraki?” My response to this has always been, “Yeah! When will there be a book on Dothraki?!” Because I’ve long wanted for there to be a teach yourself guide on Dothraki—maybe something with exercises, grammar explanations, dialogues, vocabulary, etc., even some audio files to go with it. That would be awesome! But while I’m a language creator, it’s not like I’m a publisher. I can’t of a sudden decide that a teach yourself guide will exist, even if I wrote one. I’m just one guy: I need help!
Now, thanks to a partnership between Living Language and HBO Global Licensing, I got the help I need.
I’m happy to announce that Living Language is going to be publishing an official guide to Dothraki. Living Language Dothraki will come in three forms: a printed book; an online course; and an app for iOS devices. I’ve worked on every aspect of the course, and added some new vocabulary unique to the Living Language series. It’ll help get newcomers up to speed in the language, and will provide long time learners with an official resource to keep and refer to for years to come.
This book would not be a reality if there weren’t already a fanbase place—not just for Game of Thrones, but for the languages themselves. I especially want to thank the Dothraki fans that were there from the very beginning: Hrakkar, Dany, Crown of Gold, Lajaki, Najahho, Ingemar and Qvaak. If you’re wondering what I’ve been so busy with this year, this was a big part of it. San athchomari shafkea! I can’t wait for you to see it. October 7! Mark your calendars!
Preorder Link: http://livinglanguage.com/dothraki
I was getting real tired of pulling up this blog and seeing a picture of me, so…new post!
Happy New Year!
For those who have been following this blog for a year, you may remember the resolution I made around this time last year. At the time, Dothraki had about 3,300 words, and I said in one calendar year I’d get Dothraki’s vocab up to 5,000 words. Before addressing my progress on that, let me affirm that this was an achievable goal. It really was! When I started Dothraki, I had 1,700 words in about three months. True, I had a lot of time on my hands, but that was three months: This was an entire year! So I maintain that going from 3,300 words to 5,000 words was a more than reasonable goal.
That said, I came nowhere close. Nooooooooowhere close.
By midnight on January 1st, Dothraki had 3,621 words. So given that I was probably underestimating how many words Dothraki had in that post from January 1st, 2012, I’m guessing that means I coined about 300 words of Dothraki in 2012—or about 18% of the words I resolved to coin.
Of course, in the time-honored tradition of American New Year’s resolutions, I’ve got a whole host of excuses to offer for failing to accomplish my New Year’s resolution. For starters, it was a year that ends in a 2, which is always bad luck (it’s true. Google it). Second, if you add up the number of words I coined for all the languages I was working on, I think I made out pretty good!
- Dothraki: 300
- High Valyrian: 585
- Other Game of Thrones Vocab: 340
- Irathient (for Defiance): 1,927
- Castithan (for Defiance): 1,372
- Other Defiance Vocab: 300
- Other Project: 217
And if you total that up, it comes to 5,041. Not too bad! See, I figure if I have more time on my hands, I can focus and really beef up Dothraki’s vocabulary. Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen any time soon, so I’m going to make a more modest New Year’s resolution. Here it is: I will create more Dothraki vocabulary this year than I did last year. I think I can do it! And if I do, Dothraki will be at 4,000 by year’s end!
In the meantime, my apologies for completely falling flat on my old New Year’s resolution. But look out for this year’s annual haiku competition coming soon!
I was just up in Chico for a day, and I managed to hit my favorite ice cream store Shubert’s twice. As I was eating my mocha chip, I came to a decision: Dothraki needs a word for ice cream. Not an “in-universe” word, of course, but a modern one that
I we can use when I we need it. Consider this a mini installment of our modern terminology series. (Ooh, that gives me an idea: this needs a tag!)
Anyway, if you feel up to the challenge, why not take a crack at coming up with a word for “ice cream” in Dothraki! It may prove instructive to review how compounds work, and you might also need some vocabulary. Here’s everything I can think of that might be relevant:
- ahesh (n.i.A) snow
- fish (adj.) cold
- flas (n.i.A) a layer that forms on the top of soup or a layer of cream that separates and rises to the top
- gizikhven (adj.) sweet
- hadaen (n.i.A) food
- jesh (n.i.A) ice
- jesho (adj.) frozen
- jeshoy (adj.) freezing
- jeshven (adj.) icy
- lamekh (n.i.A) milk (from a mare)
- thagwa (n.i.B) yogurt made from mare’s milk
- thagwash (n.i.A) a dessert made from thagwa and eaten with dried fruit
- thash (adj.) soft
There might be more that would be useful. If you need something in particular, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I’ve got it. Otherwise, have fun! I’ll probably be eating ice cream in the interim.
Update: It also might be useful to note that adjectives follow the nouns they modify. So actually jeshlamekh should be lamekhjesh. Doesn’t sound nearly as catchy, I’m afraid…
I got a question from Hrakkar which begins:
This thread brings up a good question: What is ‘lexical form’ for Dothraki?
To read the full question, go here. Basically, I think there’s two questions here:
- What is the citation or dictionary form of a given Dothraki word?
- What is the bare stem in Dothraki?
I’ll try to answer both questions.
To begin to answer both of them, first I’ll go over how the language is built. There are many different ways to build a language (and by “build” here I don’t mean construct so much as build up, or flesh out), and I’ve used different methods for different languages. Two different methods can be illustrated by glancing at the dictionaries of two of my other languages: Kamakawi and Zhyler.
Kamakawi is a language that is largely isolating with some agglutination. There’s no stem-internal alternation, and its writing system is glyphic and isolating (somewhat akin to Egyptian hieroglyphs). As such, each word kind of stands on its own. There are relationships between words, of course, but since many word forms can be used as verbs, nouns or adjectives, listing words separately makes more sense than listing them together. Here’s a sample of a page from my Kamakawi dictionary:
As you can see, in Kamakawi’s dictionary a single word is used as the head of each entry, and related words that differ in form get a new entry.
Zhyler is quite different. The script is alphabetic (and was meant to approximate the appearance of Latin), and Zhyler words (both verbs and nouns) are built off of a number of noun classes. Consequently, a single root will have somewhere between 3 and 17 forms associated with it whose phonological form is predictable, and whose meaning is often partially predictable. Here’s a sample of the dictionary that’s about the same size as the Kamakawi sample:
Each root, then, gets its own entry, and words derived from that root (usually via noun class suffix) is listed under that entry. The idea for this type of dictionary came from Arabic, whose dictionaries are ordered alphabetically by triconsonantal root (which, if you know Arabic, makes a lot of sense).
As I think I mentioned somewhere, Dothraki is built in the same way Zhyler is (I like to think of Dothraki as being run on a Zhyler engine). Even though the languages are radically different, I flesh Dothraki out in the same way I flesh Zhyler out: by starting with a root and deriving words from it.
The reason this works well for me is that even though Dothraki doesn’t have noun classes the way Zhyler does (Zhyler has 17; Dothraki nouns, rather, fall into one of two broad classes: animate or inanimate), separate word forms tend to look different from one another, and are built in unpredictable ways. This is on account of Dothraki’s “pseudo-classes”, as I like to call them. Final vowels in Dothraki often serve no function other than to distinguish words from one another (one can easily imagine them dropping off some time in the future, as many word-final central vowels did previously).
Here’s one quick example using the root em:
- emat (v.A) to smile
- eme (ni.A) smile
A smile is, undoubtedly, related to the verb “smile” in some logical way. The final vowel -e though doesn’t define a process that takes one from a verb to a noun that describes an instance of a particular verb: It’s just a vowel used with this particular root for that function. Here, for example, are two other roots where this pattern doesn’t hold. First, the root yanqo:
- yanqolat (v.A) to gather, to collect
- yanqokh (ni.A) collection
That latter is a particular collection of something, not the act of collecting something. The next root is gach:
- gachat (v.A) to figure out, to solve
- gache (ni.A) place, environs
Many of these final vowels for inanimate nouns, then, form these pseudo-classes that have nothing in common with each other other than form (though there are patterns that hold if one considers a subset of the lexicon). By grouping such words under a single root, one can see how a given root has been fleshed out, and a single word will often make more sense in the context of its root than outside that context.
Another reason grouping words together by root makes more sense for Dothraki is that often words are not derived from one another, but derived directly from the root. As such, related words may have definitions that don’t look anything alike. By grouping them under the root, it’s easy to see that, ultimately, they come from the same source.
In my response to Hrakkar‘s comment I said this was going to be quick, so I’d better wrap this up. So now that we’ve seen what the dictionary looks like, more or less, I can answer the first question I posed above. In Dothraki, the various word types have the following citation forms:
- Nouns: nominative singular.
- Adjectives: singular uninflected.
- Verbs: infinitive.
- Other: maximal form.
That latter really only applies to prepositions like ma which can appear as m’ if they occur before a word that begins with a vowel. Anyway, those are the citation forms for each word, but they don’t tell the whole story. It’s important that (in my dictionary, at least) words are listed with their associated roots. Consider the following verbs (in their infinitive forms):
- hoyalat (v.A) to sing
- indelat (v.A) to drink
One of these roots ends in a vowel; the other ends in l. Can you tell which is which? Absent of some other mechanism (like a hyphen or a period), there’s no way. However, if you know the root of hoyalat is hoyal and the root of indelat is inde, then by simply having the infinitive, one can fill out the rest of the verbal paradigm.
Aside from that, the reason I chose the infinitive as the citation form for verbs is that it’s fairly stable. In most cases, the singular past tense of a verb will be the simplest form of the verb, but it will often look like another word form (for example, haqe is an adjective which means “tired”; it’s also the past tense singular of the verb haqat, which means “to be tired”). For that reason, it makes more sense to use the infinitive which will (almost) always be unique.
Other languages, though, do things differently. In Arabic, for example, the citation form of the verb is always the third person singular masculine past tense. That may seem downright absurd unless you know what verbs in Arabic look like. Here’s a partial paradigm of kataba, “to write”:
|Present Tense||Past Tense|
|‘aktub||“I write”||naktub||“we write”||katabtuu||“I wrote”||katabnaa||“we wrote”|
|taktub||“you(m.) write”||taktubuun||“you(m.pl.) write”||katabta||“you(m.) wrote”||katabtum||“you(m.pl.) wrote”|
|taktubiin||“you(f.) write”||taktubna||“you(f.pl.) write”||katabti||“you(f.) wrote”||katabtunna||“you(f.pl.) wrote”|
|yaktub||“he writes”||yaktubuun||“they(m.) write”||kataba||“he wrote”||katabuu||“they(m.) wrote”|
|taktub||“she writes”||yaktubna||“they(f.) write”||katabat||“she wrote”||katabna||“they(f.) wrote”|
Bearing in mind that the non-finite forms for a verb in Arabic often look radically different going from verb to verb, the third person masculine singular past tense form (which, given Arabic’s writing system, is written with just the three consonants of the root) is the obvious choice for representing the verb—plus, that form (CaCaCa, where C stands for a consonant) doesn’t occur anywhere else in the language (say, as a noun). It was made for dictionaries.
For Dothraki (to finish up the discussion of verbs), if you don’t list the root, it’s probably best to set off the infinitive suffix from the root (e.g. inde.lat and hoyal.at). Since Hrakkar brought up the Dothraki vocabulary list on the wiki, though, one can achieve the same effect by also listing the past tense singular form of the verb. The reason is that the past tense will be either the bare root, or the bare root plus -e. By comparing the infinitive and the past tense, then, one will know for sure what the root is.
For nouns, in addition to knowing whether a noun is animate or inanimate, one will also need to know a couple pieces of extra information (for some nouns, at least). For inanimate nouns ending in a vowel, there are two broad classes which I call A and B. Class A nouns lose their final vowel in the accusative; class B nouns take an -e in the accusative. Certain other nouns will have a modified accusative form (so the accusative of tolorro, “bone”, is tolor).
And (a bit of new information), there are also a very small number of irregular animate nouns. These nouns all end in i (actually a vowel followed by i). These take vowel-final animate noun case endings in all cases, but in the accusative, the i becomes a y. One noun like this is mai, “mother” (so the nominative plural is maisi, but the accusative plural is mayes).
All right, this short response has gotten unruly and taken up much more space than I intended, so I will cut it off here. If you have questions about any of the above, feel free to ask in the comments. If you’ve read this far, you’re a real davrasok. Hajas!