Yesterday was George R. R. Martin’s episode for season 3 of Game of Thrones. Many wondered if Martin would write the episode from season 3 (if you don’t know which that is, you will by the end of the season), and in case you didn’t find the information elsewhere, he specifically did not want to. He said it was tough to write once, and he didn’t want to go through that again.
There was quite a bit of character development this episode, which was important, but which, I gather from the internet, might have seemed not as exciting to some. Not every episode can have wall-to-wall action (though I would note that the dragons were quite entertaining this episode!), but I really liked some of the conversations and developments from this episode. For example, a short scene, but the conversation between Sansa and Margaery was great (“Yes, dear. My mother taught me.” Rolling). Tywin’s little lecture to Joffrey was priceless, of course. It was also nice to see some vulnerability and passion from Melisandre (something we see in the books, albeit later on).
I would also like to draw a comparison that I don’t believe anyone else has ever drawn. In fact, if someone has drawn this comparison already and you can show me the link, I’ll coin a word for you in either Dothraki or High Valyrian (depending on what makes the most sense). Ready for this? Here it is. The rise and fall of Theon Greyjoy (and what will eventually become of that once we get into his book 5 arc) reminds me a lot of Willie Loomis from the original Dark Shadows. The parallels are many. Not that I think George Martin was inspired by the character (they’re not that much alike in the particulars), I just find it to be a fitting comparison. If you have Netflix, I recommend giving the series a try. It’s way over the top, and the effects are terrible. It’s delicious.
(UPDATE: It has been noticed! I wasn’t the first! Check out this post on Tumblr. Props go to Atrox for being the first to point it out!)
There wasn’t a whole lot of Valyrian in this episode, but there was some. It first comes up with Robb and Talisa. Talisa’s writing a letter to her mother and Robb asks her if it’s in Valyrian. There she replies with something I didn’t write, and which Robb repeats as ga (sounded to me like she actually says dha. Anyway have good ears?). I didn’t actually intend for there to be a simple word for “yes” in High Valyrian, but of course there ought to be in Volantene. So whatever it was that was said, let’s say that’s it. Later she says “hello” in Valyrian: rytsas. Robb is then supposed to mispronounce it, but he actually mispronounced it better than I intended (I intended ristas). The vowel change, though, probably sounds amusing enough.
Regarding the letter, the text of it was written by Cat Taylor (Dave and Dan’s assistant) and translated by me. The shot of it is quite pretty; the art department did an awesome job! Ideally it should be in Valyrian glyphs, but I guess it didn’t seem worthwhile to create an entire writing system for what ultimately is kind of a throwaway shot. Though I do have the text of it (in both English and High Valyrian, which is what it’s written in), I don’t think I should put it up right now. I’ll put it up when the season’s done with, but there’s been a lot of creativity amongst fans regarding Talisa, and so I think this should remain a mystery for the time being. It isn’t gibberish, though, I can assure you.
Later in Yunkai we get some more Valyrian from Dany, but none from conlang demigod Jacob Anderson! When I was first doing the scripts, it was like, “Yeah, whatever.” Now, though! They should have him narrate the entire series in Valyrian! What a linguistic adonis!
Anyway, Dany gives some orders to Grey Worm (who does not respond! What a missed opportunity! He could’ve at least said, “By your royal leave, my gracious queen and valorous liberator, of whom the heavens shall sing for a million shining eternities!”). These are they:
- Va oktio remȳti vale jikās.
- “Send a man to the city gates.”
- Belmurtī ivestrās kesīr pōnte jiōrinna se pōjon obūljarion mazōrīnna. Lodaor hēnkos vējose hae Astaprot Yunkai botilza.
- “Tell the slavers I will receive them here and accept their surrender. Otherwise, Yunkai will suffer the same fate as Astapor.”
And that actually does it.
Oh, except for one thing. When Grazdan mo Eraz wanders away from Dany et al., he mutters something. For this, D&D asked me to just come up with something—anything that sounded particularly vile. And so I came up with this (which I won’t translate):
- Inkan undagho buna gundjabo jorydrare evi rungo pulgarinko…
I don’t know how much of that he actually gets through (I made it extra long so it would sound like he was trailing off and saying more). That’s Astapori Valyrian, in case you’re wondering; I didn’t have time to do a complete treatment of Yunkish Valyrian just for this line. There’s at least one word in there that could be unique to Yunkai, though.
Also, an important note for regular commenters on this blog. A couple days ago something happened (unfortunately, I still don’t know what) that resulted in one of my blog posts being deleted along with all its comments—plus a dozen or so others. It wasn’t a post I was editing or working on, nor was it the most recent post. The comments, though, were recent comments. I worked with someone to restore an earlier version of the database, and the post is back, along with most of its comments. There are still a number of comments that aren’t back, though. We are working to restore them exactly as they were. Even if that doesn’t work, though, I do have a record of every comment, so at the very least I will be able to restore them myself (likely under my own login, but I’ll give the appropriate credit along with the original post date). I apologize for the mishap—especially since some of the best material on this blog has been in the recent batch of comments. I’d love to say that it won’t happen again, but since I don’t know what caused it and failed to replicate the problem, I just don’t know if I can say that. At the very least, I now know I can restore the blog, and that it appears to be backed up regularly.
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?”
- “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.”
- 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!
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:
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:
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.
Tonight’s linguistic recap will be short, since there was no Valyrian or Dothraki in episode 302: “Dark Wings, Dark Words.” Of course, I’ve gotten used to this kind of treatment at the hands of Vanessa Taylor… Hee, hee, just kidding. She had some good stuff for me in 204. And the way things work is that stuff always gets moved around after it’s written. I did, in fact, do quite a bit of work for episode 302, but all of it was moved to 301. I wasn’t sure if anything else would get moved to 302, but it looks like it’s been saved for later on.
Some quick comments on 302: Cersei’s line was a crowd favorite (re: Margaery’s dress), and the scene with the Queen of Thorns was wonderful. That scene was a favorite of mine from the books, and I was looking forward to it this season. It did not disappoint. Neither did Brienne fighting with Jaime! That was fun. I could watch that all day. Plus, in that armor, Gwendoline Christie looks like a tank! Truly formidable.
Anyway, since there wasn’t much to discuss language-wise in this episode, I thought I’d go back and fill in a little bit. I’ve been much busier this year than I was last year, and recently, much sicker, so I haven’t been able to do as much as I did in the past. There’s been a lot of discussion about the Astapori Valyrian, though, so I did want to see if I could help out a bit.
Something I thought might help for a start would be just listing the phonology of High Valyrian. This is what it looks like (I’m going to go ahead and use the romanization rather than IPA here):
|Stops||p, b||t, d||j, lj||k, g||q|
|Fricatives||v||s, z (th)||gh (kh)||h|
|Approximants||r, rh, l|
I’ll try to explain the fuzzy bits as simply as possible. First, if you go to the nasal row, the n with an asterisk next to it simply says that an n will naturally assimilate in place to a following velar or uvular consonant, but that there isn’t a separate velar or uvular nasal. Basically, this means that n works like you would expect it to, and that High Valyrian also has ñ as a separate consonant (and that’s a ñ just like in Spanish, which sounds a little like the “ni” in “onion”).
Next, you’ll see two digraphs in parentheses. These are sounds that aren’t native to High Valyrian, but which have been borrowed in (with greater or lesser success, depending on the speaker). Thus, Dothraki arakh gets borrowed in as arakh, but might get pronounced like arak or arah or maybe even aragh, depending on the speaker. From episode 301, if you hear anything that sounds like either kh or gh, it’s supposed to be gh (Dan’s accent is light on the voiced sounds. I noticed several z’s that sounded like s, a few g’s that sounded like k, and his gh often sounds like kh to my ear).
You’ll also see that three sounds don’t fit in one column and/or row: gh, v and j. These sounds vary in their production. So gh may be strongly velar for some speakers, or strongly uvular for others; the distinction isn’t phonemic. The other two sounds go between approximants and fricatives depending on the speaker and the environment. So v, for example, may sometimes sound like w, and j may sound like a Dothraki j, a Dothraki y or a Dothraki zh, depending on the speaker. In Astapori Valyrian, the j is pretty much always zh. (Oh, and as a side note, the digraph lj is used for the palatal lateral [ʎ]. It’s pretty much always a lateral, but I couldn’t manage the table otherwise.)
At the stage we’re at in the show and the books, though, High Valyrian isn’t spoken as a native language anymore: it’s always a learned second language. As a result, the pronunciation has changed from its purest form. It’s not necessarily important to know how precisely j was pronounced, but that the sound was j (the phoneme) in High Valyrian, if you follow.
Anyway, the vowels are a bit simpler:
|High||ī, i||ȳ, y||ū, u|
|Mid||ē, e||ō, o|
The first thing to note is that vowels with a macron over them (ī, ȳ, ū, ē, ō and ā) are long. Long vowels are held for twice as long as short vowels, and are quite common crosslinguistically (Arabic has them, Japanese, Hungarian, etc.). Words will be distinguished simply by their vowel length in High Valyrian. The vowel spelled y (and ȳ) is pronounced just like i, but with rounded lips (it’s the u in French tu). This sound may not be pronounced in modern High Valyrian (i.e. High Valyrian spoken by non-native speakers), and didn’t survive in all of the descendent languages. So, for example, the y in Daenerys is probably just pronounced like i (the way we pronounce it), even if in High Valyrian it would’ve been pronounced differently.
In looking at the Astapori Valyrian from 301, note that all long vowels have been lost—and most diphthongs (for example, an Unsullied is a Dovaogēdy in High Valyrian; in Astapori Valyrian, it’s Dovoghedhy). Oh, and since I brought it up, Astapori Valyrian dh is pronounced like the “th” in “this” or “the”. The sound doesn’t exist in High Valyrian.
I’m not sure how much this will help in decoding the Valyrian in 301, but hopefully it will help a little. Since most of it isn’t subtitled, I honestly can’t be sure what made it in and what didn’t (when it’s not subtitled, they feel much more free to cut words or sentences if it’s running long). I already heard from Dan that part of at least one of his sentences was cut, but I don’t know what episode he was talking about. Anyway, to work with something I know came through, here’s the last two lines from 301. First, Missandei:
- Pindas skoverdi Dovoghedhi lis lerraski.
- “She asks how many Unsullied are for sale.”
The word order should be much more familiar in Astapori Valyrian, as it’s lost the cases of High Valyrian, for the most part. It tends to stick to SVO word order. After that is Kraznys’ line:
- Ivetra ji live Vesterozia kisa eva vaneqo.
- “Tell the Westerosi whore she has until tomorrow.”
It was a tough choice, by the way, to go with the name “Westeros” in-universe. I mean, it’s pretty Englishy… I thought of coming up with my own term, but then I relented and decided to just keep it as is: the continent in the west is Westeros, and the continent in the east is Easteros—I mean Essos. Besides, it allowed me to change the w to v, which I thought was fun.
Hopefully this will help you decode what bits remain a bit more easily. Also, though High Valyrian has four genders, Astapori Valyrian just has the two, and in the singular, there are two definite articles: ji and vi.
Anyway, unless things got moved around majorly, there should be a good chunk of Astapori Valyrian next week. Stay tuned!
[WARNING: There are spoilers from the premiere below. If you haven’t yet seen the premiere and don’t want to suffer through any spoilers, come back to this post after you’ve seen it.]
The long awaited season three premiere of Game of Thrones has arrived, leaving fans wondering: How long till season four? Heh, heh…
I hope you enjoyed the premiere! I was quite taken with it. In particular, I liked watching socially awkward penguin Jon Snow flub it up beyond the wall (seriously, if I were Mance Rayder, I would’ve killed that tokik). Absolutely loved Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell getting down and dirty with the common folk. She’s tearing that role up. And seeing Joffrey in his little cage was priceless. He looks so consternated—like my cat when she brings me her string, and I remain sitting at the computer. “Wha—what are you doing?! Don’t you see the string? And me? And me and the string?!” Poor kitty! She remains ever hopeful.
One thing I’ve always liked is that Benioff and Weiss are never shy about including meta moments in the series. If you’ll recall, in my review of the season finale of last season, I commented on Tyrion’s scar. In the book, Tyrion’s scar is described as being horribly disfiguring (like, half his nose is missing). They couldn’t really make Peter Dinklage hideous, though. So what would they do? As I commented last time, I thought the scar was well done: Not too bad, but by no means insignificant. Lest there be any complaints, though (was there? Were there any fans of the books complaining that Tyrion’s scar wasn’t bad enough?), D&D had Cersei comment directly on his scar—saying herself that it’s not that bad.
Of course, my favorite scene from the show was Tyrion and Tywin. I’m not sure how widely known it is, but Tywin Lannister is, far and away, my favorite character from the book series. Every scene with him in it is outstanding, but the scenes with him and Tyrion together are the best the book series has to offer. The scene in yesterday’s premiere lived up to the hype (well, hype probably only generated and felt by me). Just wonderful. Tyrion is always so self-assure, and is always quite smart (on display with his brief meeting with Cersei in this one), but he is absolutely flummoxed by Tywin. Tywin is Tyrion’s kryptonite, and Charles Dance is playing him beautifully. I can’t wait to see more of this as the season progresses!
But back to the point of this blog, let us talk about the Dothraki in this episode. The Dothraki on Dany’s boat did some wonderful Dothraki groaning and retching as they lurched about the rhaggat eveth. That was all me.
Seriously, though, be prepared for almost no Dothraki whatsoever this season. It’s not gone (there’s at least one short scene with at least one full line of Dothraki), but Dothraki is last season’s news (well, and the season before that. I wish English had a dual…). This season we get to see the one language that fans of the book series actually wanted to see: High Valyrian.
But not yet.
In fact, the only High Valyrian in the premiere was the title (a call back to the title of last year’s finale). The language spoken in the scene with Daenerys, Kraznys and Missandei is a descendant of High Valyrian which I call various things: Astapori Valyrian, Ghiscari Valyrian, Low Valyrian, Valyrian… The name doesn’t matter so much as what it is, which I’ll endeavor to explain here.
According to ancient lore, the Ghiscari Empire fell some 5,000 years prior to the time of action in A Song of Ice and Fire. The empire warred five times with the Valyrian Empire, ultimately falling each time because the Valyrians had dragons. After the fifth war, the Valyrians decimated the old city of Ghis, burning down the buildings and salting the earth so that none would ever return.
So what happened then? Well, Ghiscari had been the language of the empire. As the diaspora spread, the Valyrian Empire took over (until its untimely fall several thousand years later), and the High Valyrian language supplanted the Ghiscari language.
Naturally, what would have happened is that the residents of Slaver’s Bay who spoke Ghiscari would have gradually moved over to High Valyrian, creolizing it along the way. It seems likely that an aristocratic class would have maintained a working knowledge of actual High Valyrian to use with emissaries from the Valyrian Empire, but the day-to-day language would have evolved in a way similar to French or Spanish (i.e. not like either of those languages, but evolving in the way that those languages evolved from Latin). I contend that this evolution would have been separate from the independent evolution of Valyrian in the Valyrian Freehold.
Of course, when it comes to a name, it seems likely they all would have referred to this as the same thing: Valyrian. It wouldn’t matter that denizens of Slaver’s Bay spoke in a different from those in the Valyrian Freehold—or that neither group spoke the same way as their ancestors: They’d all just be speaking Valyrian, if you asked them. (Recall that there was no such thing as High Valyrian until there was a Low Valyrian.)
Whether the varieties of Valyrian spoken in Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen are different enough to be considered separate languages or dialect of a single language is a bit academic. It seems to me that they would likely be able to communicate with one another, but that the language systems will have grown apart. Even if they were different languages, they could probably meet at some middle ground to communicate. Out of world, this could be referred to as Ghiscari Valyrian, but I think it’d be more accurate to refer to each one separately (i.e. Astapori Valyrian, Yunkish Valyrian and Meereenese Valyrian).
This explanation has served to produce the following point: What you hear in the premiere is Astapori Valyrian. It’s descended from High Valyrian, with the old Ghiscari language serving as a substrate or basilectal influence. It’s not mutually intelligible with High Valyrian, but it is close to some of the languages of the Free Cities, on account of separate but similar evolutionary changes (which we didn’t talk about here [and by “we” I mean “I”]).
To give you an example, here’s a line from last night’s episode (one of Missandei’s):
- J’azanty ivetras ji vali nedhinki sizi zughilis vi murgho.
- “The knight says that even the brave men fear death.”
And here’s what that sentence looks like in High Valyrian:
- Morghot nēdyssy sesīr zūgusy azantys vestras.
This post is getting a bit long, so I better bring it to a close, but if you’d like to see some Dothraki, go check out the @GameOfThrones Twitter account today (edit: tomorrow at the time of publication. Oops!). Happy April Fools’!
[Edit: Bleh. I made a baby typo (should’ve been zūgusy not zūguksy, which is what it was originally. Unfortunately zūguksy is, in fact, a licit form of the verb, which was really throwing me for a loop, but it’s also one letter off from the correct form in this case, so it was obviously just a typo (was probably looking at the wrong field).]
Athchomar chomakea! Welcome to the Dothraki language blog. Here I’ll discuss the Dothraki language, and things related to it. Posts here will likely be specific, and more or less direct responses to questions or comments posted by community members of Dothraki.org, or right here on the blog (or elsewhere [e.g. via e-mail (or in question form at various places I happen to be at)]). For a general introduction to the Dothraki language itself, I recommend heading over to the Dothraki Language Wiki hosted by Dothraki.org.
For new visitors, my name is David Peterson, and I created the Dothraki language for HBO’s Game of Thrones. For the time being, this will, more or less, be the place to get updates on the status of the language. Thanks for stopping by!
To get the ball rolling on the whole blog thing, I have a small announcement. Next week I’m going to be presenting one of the concurrent sessions at Concordia College‘s Faith, Reason & World Affairs Symposium. My session’s entitled “To Live a Wooden Life: The Art and Humanity of Language Creation” (for a short description, go here). I’ll be talking Dothraki and conlanging, so if you live in western Minnesota, or even eastern North Dakota, come on by! I’ll be glad to see you.
I’ll probably either be gearing up for the above symposium or at it for, like, a week, so in the interim, if you have topics you’d like me to address about Dothraki or something related to it, write a comment on this post, or head over to this subforum at the Dothraki forums and write it there. The only rule is that I will not be discussing anything specific about the upcoming season of Game of Thrones, or speculating about seasons beyond.
Oh, actually, one more thing. The show is a dramatization of a series of books which many people have read, but there are those who only know what’s happened in season 1 of the show (and many also who have read some but not all of the books). In the comments, I’d like to ask you to respect those who haven’t read ahead and don’t want future revelations spoiled. For those who know the series, there are a lot of big events which can be spoiled, but it’s always fun to come to them fresh, so let those revelations come in their due course for as many readers/watchers as possible.
That’s it for post #1! Thanks for reading.