So this one kind of slipped under the radar.
If you point your browser over to JoinTheRealm.com, you’ll be able to create a custom sigil à la Game of Thrones for your own house. You can choose your colors, your sigil, your house name, your house motto—the whole bit—and share it with friends.
But if you take a moment, you may notice something else. If you go to the upper left-hand corner of the screen and select “Change Language”…
Yep. You can go through the entire app in Dothraki. I translated the whole thing—even the copyright info down at the bottom.
In fact, if you want to try to include some salty language in your sigil, you’ll even get to see a custom “Nah, you can’t do that” message.
I could literally sit with something like this all day and never get tired of coming up with custom sigils, but this is my first:
Those who remember this discussion may know what that means at a glance.
I don’t know if the comments will allow you to post images, but if there’s a way you can share, let’s see some sigils! I’ll probably be doing more as the weeks, months and years progress.
Update: And one just for me:
If you happened to be watching NBC’s Thursday night line-up yesterday, you will have seen Dwight Schrute teaching Erin Hannon Dothraki on The Office.
I’d heard a rumor about this before the episode aired, but didn’t realize the extent to which it’s used in the B-story. If you missed it, you can (provided this link works right) watch the episode on Hulu here. (If the link doesn’t work, you can just go to Hulu and poke around; you should be able to find it without too much trouble.)
Someone asked if I’d been consulted, and no, I wasn’t, but whoever was creating the Dothraki for this certainly did some digging. I didn’t even recognize the word aggendat (had to look that up). Actually they did something kind of interesting. Before the first commercial break (around the 7:30 mark on the Hulu video), you see that Dwight has written this on a paper pad:
- FOTH AGGENDAK
- FOTH AGGENDI
- FOTH AGGENDA
This is defined (in order) as “I throat-rip”, “you throat-rip”, “he/she/it throat-rips”. First off, the word for throat is fotha, meaning that the accusative is foth, meaning that they declined this noun correctly (props all around!). What they created here, though, is something I haven’t done (yet) in Dothraki: a noun-verb compound. In particular, this is a form of noun incorporation. Noun incorporation happens in many (if not most) languages. In this instance, it takes the characteristic object of the verb and adds it to the verb stem, making the new object something connected to the incorporated noun. An easy example to think of is “sideswipe”, in English. If someone sideswipes you in a car, they have hit the side of your car. “Side”, though, is incorporated, and “you” is treated as the direct object.
Back to Dothraki, this is something I actually avoided and never did, because I didn’t want to bother to think of how it would work (and it never came up in translation). But you know what? That works pretty well (i.e. putting the noun in the accusative and attaching it to a transitive verb), so I’m canonizing it. In my mind, I’ll think of it as a Schrutean compound. (Though, of course, I’d probably delete the space between the two words.)
Of course, this isn’t the first time The Office has mentioned Dothraki. For last year’s Emmy’s, The Office folks put together an Office-style montage which featured Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope doing some fake Dothraki. Before that, though, there was an actor done up as a Dothraki from Game of Thrones who didn’t a different kind of fake Dothraki—specifically, French. I thought that was a hoot. Fast forward to today’s episode of The Office, Erin is trying to learn a language to impress Andy’s family. The language? French. Dwight then convinces her to switch to Dothraki—only this time they did actual Dothraki. Nice.
Anyway, that kind of made my day. (Though I’m still going to have the quote from The Simpsons etched on my tombstone.) Yera chomo anna, zhey liraki haji Office!
That’s my nearest approximation of “quick hits”. A chiftikh is a word for a strike (with a blade) that we might describe as a “glancing blow” in English—a nick. Only a flesh wound.
A friend of mine—and one of the Old Guard conlangers—Barry Garcia has taken recently to conscripting (minus the conlanging), and this past week he wrote up a version of the numbers one through ten (and also one hundred) in Dothraki. Here’s what they look like:
That’s 1-5. Now for the rest:
The numeral glyphs above are from his own script, and the writing below is a transliterated form of the Dothraki words (i.e. at, akat, sen, etc.) The glyphs at the beginning and end are used to demarcate paragraphs or set off quotes. If I know my modern “literary” press publications right (Vintage, I’m looking at you), the English equivalent would be:
Since I introduced one at the beginning of this post, now might be as good a time as any to discuss sword fighting (or arakh fighting) terminology in Dothraki. While there are basic words like “to cut” and “to stab” in Dothraki, there are also a series of specific terms used for types of sword strikes one employs in a fight. They’re all derived in the same fashion from native animal terminology. Since we’ve already seen chiftikh, I’ll use that as my example.
A chiftikh is a weak or glancing blow with a sword—something that was intended to hit, but missed the mark (or, perhaps, was too weak to do much damage). It derives from the word chifti, which means “cricket”. To use it in a sentence, you use the verb ildat, “to strike”. The direct object, then, is the type of strike, rather than the one struck. To indicate the one who is struck, you include an allative object (optional), and if you wish to mention the weapon used, you can include an ablative object (also optional). Thus, if you wanted to say the equivalent of (I think this is the best way to word this in English), “I fetched him a glancing blow with my arakh”, you would say:
- Anha ilde chiftikh maan arakhoon anni.
And there you have it. Below I’ll list the various ildo (i.e. “sword strikes”), along with the animal they’re associated with and their meaning:
|chifti “cricket”||chiftikh||A weak hit or glancing blow.|
|gezri “snake”||gezrikh||A feint (a strike intended to throw the opponent off and disguise one’s true intent).|
|hlizif “bear”||hlizifikh||A wild but powerful strike (effective if it lands, but relatively inaccurate).|
|hrakkar “lion”||hrakkarikh||A quick, powerful and accurate strike.|
|kolver “eagle”||kolverikh||A straight sword thrust (middling and relatively uncommon).|
|ver “wolf”||verikh||A defensive strike intended to back an opponent off, but not necessarily to land.|
As a framework, this isn’t intended to encompass swordsmanship (or arakhsmanship) in any way. These are just older terms that are intended to be employed in discussing a sword fight. They’re not meant to run the gamut of sword fighting terminology, or to dictate a particular style: they’re just there to make discussion move along a bit more easily.
And you may also notice that the word for “eagle” up there drew its inspiration from Stephen Colbert. I felt I needed a word for “eagle”, and in searching for a phonological form to fit it, I decided that Stephen Colbert embodied eagleness quite well. As his last name fit Dothraki’s syllable structure rather nicely, the word for “eagle” became kolber—or, at least, in the oldest form of the language. In modern Dothraki, it, of course, comes out as kolver, with the older b changing to v, but if the t can become silent on account of a historical sound change, I figure a change from a stop to a fricative shouldn’t be all that alarming.
I’m off to Chicago on Thursday! If I get any good pictures, I’ll be sure to post them here. Fonas chek!
There’s a fun multilingual pun referring back to the last post. We had some good suggestions for “ice cream”—too many, in fact. I think there’s only one thing to be done: We need to start up several different Dothraki ice cream chains, each one using a different word for “ice cream”. One year later, we’ll see which word has caught on, and that will be our word for “ice cream”. As it is, though, I liked Qvaak’s suggestion of jeshokh lamekhi. As I see it, a jeshokh could be a word for any frozen treat, with jeshokh lamekhi being ice cream specifically. Good suggestions all! Makes me want to eat ice cream (though, of course, most things do. Mmmmm… Ice cream…).
Those who follow me on Twitter probably will have already seen some of what I’m about to share, but if you don’t, I wanted to spotlight a couple of cool things that have found their way onto the internet recently.
That. Is. Awesome.
And just yesterday I saw something really cool. @jamyjams_ posted the picture below of a couple of engraved bracelets she’d just received:
Check those out! On the outside they say Shekh ma shieraki anni and Jalan atthirari anni, and then on the inside you see their translations in English. Apparently she got them from Etsy (see this tweet) from Lauren Elaine Designs (she does custom hand-stamped jewelry). Pretty cool! May have to get me one that says Hash yer laz tihi jin, hash yer dothrae drivolataan. Heh, heh…
Oh, man, and I just saw a couple new ones over on Tumblr—check it out!
Now, in the case of all the above, I didn’t actually come up with the phrases (i.e. I didn’t invent the phrase “my sun and stars”), but I did invent most of the words (George R. R. Martin gets credit for shierak and qiya). Having the language spoken on Game of Thrones has been pretty cool. But to think that someone actually tattooed those words onto their body… Wow. That, to me, is beyond incredible. It means a lot to know that someone would actually like the phrases in Dothraki enough to have them become an indelible part of their own body (after all, they very well could have gone with the English as is written in the books). You guys are awesome! If I ever get a chance to meet you in person, I’m going to buy you an ice cream (or a non-dairy equivalent, if you prefer).
If you happen to spot anything cool with some Dothraki on it somewhere out on the internet, let me know and I’ll throw it up here. The fan art inspired by Game of Thrones has been awesome to see.
Hajas, zhey eyak!
Update: Oh, duh. Right after I sent this I thought, “Oh, I should have included the word for ‘tattoo’ in Dothraki.” My head isn’t with me at present.
Tattoos are about as old as humans are, so I figured the Dothraki needed a word for it (though they also need a word for whatever kind of body art is used in the show. Those aren’tattoos, but what are they, exactly? Racing stripes?). The root for the various tattoo words is lir, with the word lir (inanimate noun) being the word for “tattoo”. To give someone a tattoo, you use the verb lirat (e.g. “He put a tattoo on me” would be Me lir anna). The image or symbol depicted in a tattoo is the lirikh; the one who gives a tattoo is the lirak; and all of one’s tattoos taken together is one’s lirisir (think of it like a “body of work” [pun intended if you thought it was funny]).
So, there you go! Now you can talk about your Dothraki tattoos in Dothraki. Fonas chek!
It is known that the Dothraki are illiterate, in that the language has no written form. That need not stop us from imagining what a Dothraki script might look like, though—after all, fun is fun!
I received an e-mail recently from Carlos Carrion Torres from Brazil who, along with his daughter Patricia, created a Dothraki alphabet. We’ve already seen Qvaak’s stylized rendition of the Dothraki romanization system, but that was intended for our use outside the fictional universe the Dothraki inhabit. Carlos and Patricia did something a little different. They imagined how the Dothraki might get a writing system within the Universe of Ice and Fire. Here’s the backstory.
Jorah Mormont, who comes from Westeros, obviously spends a lot of time with the Dothraki, and so he attempts to create a script to encode the language. Coming from a place where an alphabet is used (true, Common is just English, but even if Common were a separate language, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that they’d use an alphabetic writing system), Jorah would naturally think to create an alphabet, as opposed to some other type of writing system. One option when doing so is simply to take one’s own writing system and adapt it to fit the new language. As Carlos and Patricia have imagined it, though, Jorah decided to take the concept of an alphabet and create something new—something more suited to the Dothraki lifestyle. The result is pretty wild.
While it’d be tough to reproduce everything detailed in the document I received here on the page, you can download a detailed description of the entire system here, and you can read a full write-up of the system over at Omniglot. Though alphabetic, the script is better suited to Dothraki than the romanization, for example, because there are single characters assigned to each of the sounds I spell with digraphs (i.e. th, sh, zh, ch and kh). Plus, doubled vowels are spelled with a single character. The glyphs themselves are stylized to look (to my mind, at least) rather like sword slashes, and they’re based on the shapes of culturally-relevant objects. Here’s one example from the .pdf:
I’ve also got a sample phrase to show you. Below is the transliteration of Asshekhqoyi vezhvena! (punctuation included) into Carlos and Patricia’s script, which they call simply “Dothraki”:
And while we’re on the subject of birthdays, check out this picture I got from a fan via e-mail. Apparently Carolyn is a big Game of Thrones fan, so they decide to wish her a Dothraki-style happy birthday on the cake:
Athdavrazar! That is tight! So, wherever you are, zhey Carolyn, asshekhqoyi vezhvena! Hope your birthday was not a dull affair. Hajas!
[Note: Just as a reminder, this writing system is not official. Officially, the Dothraki have no writing system, and won't unless George R. R. Martin decides they should have one at some point in time and it's created. I'm sharing this here as, essentially, fan art. And, of course, the existence of one unofficial system oughtn't preclude anyone from creating more unofficial systems—after all, creating writing systems is a lot of fun!]
The finale has come and gone, so I thought it might be fun to take a look back at my last Dothraki adventure from season 2. In addition to elucidating a key piece of dialogue from episode 210, it’ll also give you a glimpse into what it’s like to work as a conlang translator for a show like Game of Thrones.
As was mentioned in the last post, the final Dothraki line of season 2 is Jorah’s, and it’s shown below (with its on screen translation):
- Mas ovray movekkhi moskay.
- “Take all the gold and jewels.”
As those who’ve studied a bit of Dothraki probably realized, there’s not much tie between those words and that translation. In fact, one might say that none of those Dothraki words corresponds with any of the English words of the translation—and such a one would be correct. This is what happened.
At around 1:45 a.m. Pacific Time on October 10th, 2011 I was feeling sleepy, and was thinking about going to bed. This was unusual for me, because generally when I’m doing work for Game of Thrones, I go to sleep between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m., as it’s not uncommon for me to get a translation request around 4:00. It’d been a few weeks since I’d done anything at all for the show, though, and I was, for all intents and purposes, done, so on this night in particular I thought to myself, “You know what? I’m going to switch to a more normal schedule: In bed at 2:00 a.m., up at 10:00 a.m.” Pleased with my decision, I shut my computer and everything down and went to sleep at 2:00 a.m.
As luck (or fate) would have it, I received an e-mail from Bryan Cogman at 4:03 a.m. entitled “EMERGENCY Dothraki line!!!” He said they needed the Dothraki for “Take all the gold and jewels”, and they needed it in a couple hours. I ended up reading this e-mail at around 1:00 p.m. on the 10th, because I way overslept (you have reasonable control over the time you go to sleep; not necessarily over the time you wake up). Even though it was late, I quickly translated the line and sent it off to Bryan at 1:09 p.m. The line translated into Dothraki was:
- Fichas ei hoshor ma dan.
- “Take all the gold and jewels.”
Unfortunately, it did not, in fact, make it in time. Bryan wasn’t on set that day, but he said he thought they did it in Common—which is unfortunate (the more Dothraki, the better!), but what could I do? So I chalked that one up to bad luck, and promptly forgot about it.
Until May 29th, 2012.
At 2:17 p.m. I got an e-mail from the Game of Thrones postproduction supervisor asking for the Dothraki version of “Take all the gold and jewels”. While I think it’s primarily for foreign language versions of the show, they use the actual Dothraki lines for something in post (you never see them in the standard English broadcast without subtitles), and every so often something gets in that they can’t find the Dothraki translation for, so they ask me. In this case, I was a bit baffled, as I could’ve sworn my Dothraki translation for that line didn’t make it in. I sent her the correct translation above and asked if it sounded right, and she said that it sounded a “little different”. She then e-mailed me a recording of the line:
…and I’m all like, Ki fin yeni?! Then I realized what happened: They wanted Dothraki, so they had Iain Glen ad-lib. Now, we’ve seen some ad-libbing before, but never a sentence this long—and never for a sentence for which an actual Dothraki translation was already available (translating the above required no new Dothraki words). So I asked if I could have a day (bearing in mind that this episode would be airing in five days), and set to work.
My narrow transcription of what Iain Glen says is something like this (treating it like one big word with several main stresses):
There’s no [b] in Dothraki, of course, but all that means is it makes no difference if you pronounce something with [v], [b] or even [β]—and there’s probably a fair amount of dialectal/idiolectal variation. So the fact that there is (to my ear) a clear [b] in his ad-lib is no big deal. No, the thing that tripped me up was the presence of two [aj] diphthongs. As both are stressed, my immediate reaction was: participle. Participles in Dothraki aren’t common, but they’re possible—and most end in -ay (or [aj]). With that in mind, then, I could break down the stream into at least the following:
At this point, it was a matter of chopping up words even further. Both the participle syllables could not stand on their own (if they did, they would need to come from the words brat/bralat or kat/kalat, respectively, both of which would end up violating Dothraki minimal word constraints in one tense or another), which means that they’d need to borrow at least one mora from a previous syllable. Seeing as participles most comfortably modify nouns—and seeing as the word ma is already a word in Dothraki and isn’t a noun—I decided the first chunk absolutely had to be mas ovray. As for the second, there’s that other stress to contend with. Having non-initial stress on an open syllable is nearly impossible in Dothraki, and seeing as -i is a ready verb ending, I decided to make the last participle moskay, leaving the middle part [mo.ˈve.hi].
Something that helped me out tremendously was Iain Glen’s character being non-Dothraki. One thing that non-native speakers will do is mispronounce tough consonants. So if you have a verb that’s [mo.ˈve.hi], there almost certainly must be a geminate. And since a geminate velar fricative would likely be flubbed by a non-native speaker, I decided that this verb would somehow relate to vekhat: a verb so semantically empty I could make it mean just about anything.
Once I had the words chopped, I had an even greater challenge: To create something grammatical that would have the same intended meaning as “Take all the gold and jewels”. The presence of participles made this more difficult than it might have otherwise been, but I saw this as an opportunity to fill in some gaps in Dothraki’s vocabulary.
For the first chunk, I decided that mas should refer to valuables, and ovray should mean something like “remaining”. Since I already had a word for “remain”, though, I poked around to see what I didn’t have. While I had something meaning “slack” (as in a rope), I didn’t have a word for something that was not attached, or not fastened down. As a result, ovray came to mean “loose” or “moveable”—and (especially) “portable”. I was able to use the same stem to derive the word ovrakh, which means (depending on context) “opening”, “availability”, “opportunity”, “vulnerability”, “weakness” or “weak point”. From mas I created a word meaning “to decorate” (ammasat).
The word movekkhat is a strange one, I’ll admit. It derives from the phrase nemo vekkhat. The latter verb is no longer really used by itself and the product of an old derivational strategy that you see in verbs here and there (e.g. lorat “to wink” ~ lorrat “to blink”), and it’s used to mean “to be intended for” or “to be for”. Vekhat means “to exist”, so vekkhat kind of extends that meaning. Since it was conventionally used with a reflexive subject, the mo of nemo glommed on to the front of the verb, until it eventually became a new verb (not an unusual process).
As for the last word, moskay, it means “to load” (a moska is a pack or sack used for transporting goods). Here is where I, yet again, took advantage of Jorah’s non-native intuition. To say something like “Everything not nailed to the floor is intended for transporting”, you’d actually use the infinitive. So, properly, the translation ought to be:
- Mas ovray movekkhi moskat.
- “The loose valuables are for loading.”
You could also use athmoskar, I guess, but moskat makes more sense to me. Jorah, though, comes from a language (Common, a.k.a. English) that makes much greater use of its participles—and also has a form that doubles as a gerund (e.g. “running” is a participle and a gerund). So it’s understandable if instead of using the correct infinitive he uses the participle.
And that’s how the last line of the season went from 100% ad-lib to official Dothraki. I sent off the above translation the next day, and it became canon. If he ever happens across this post, let me give a big thank you to Iain Glen for coming up with some phonologically plausible Dothraki! That’s not as easy to do as one might think.
Yet again I’ve written too much, so I’ll close this up. Thanks for reading! There’ll be more Dothraki tidbits throughout the offseason.