Blog Archives

Chafka Jinne!

Living Language Dothraki is officially on sale today! You can buy it at any bookstore, or go to the official site to buy it here. I got mine in the mail last week.

Copies of Living Language Dothraki

Click to enlarge.

The feeling is pretty overwhelming. A lot of folks worked very hard on this, and a lot of stuff happened behind the scenes to make this day a reality. We all have HBO to thank for this. They’ve allowed a community to grow around this language, and they gave the green light to this book. Now you can take a look at it yourselves, and I hope you enjoy it!

I’m going to be in New York all week, and will be posting updates on Twitter. My remaining schedule for the coming months looks like this:

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

  • Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO, November 10th: I’ll be giving a talk at Colorado College at 7 p.m. (more details to come).
  • The Tattered Cover, Highlands Ranch, CO, November 11: I’ll be doing an event and signing at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch at 7 p.m. (Note: Be sure to note the location, as there are several Tattered Cover stores in the Denver area!)
  • Books, Inc., Mountain View, CA, November 14: I’ll be doing an event and signing at the Books, Inc. in Mountain View at 7 p.m. (Note: Be sure to note the location, as there are several Books, Inc. stores in the Bay Area!)
  • Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA, November 15th: I’ll be a part of a group of other sff authors at Kepler’s Sci-Fi Fantasy Day. It’s going to be from 1-5 p.m. and feature a number of interesting talks and panels. My Dothraki event will be at 2:30 p.m. Please note that this is a ticketed event (tickets are $10 and can be purchased here), but a ticket grants you admission to the entire day’s events.

If you’re going to be near any of these places, please come say hi. Otherwise, thanks for following the blog the past few years, and for helping to make this day a reality!

Dothraki: Coming to a Store Near You

Living Language Dothraki is going on sale October 7th! And in addition to that, I will be going around talking about the new book in various parts of the country over the next few months. Mark your calendars, if you happen to live near New York City, LA, the Bay Area, Las Vegas, Denver or Kirksville, Missouri. Here’s the schedule at present (all times local; to be updated fairly frequently as new events are confirmed):

SEPTEMBER

  • Truman State University, Kirksville, MO, September 17-18: I’ll be giving two talks hosted by the Linguistics department on September 17th at 4:30 p.m. in the TSU Student Union Building, Georgian Room B, and on September 18th at 7:00 p.m. in Baldwin Hall 176. The former is more linguistics-oriented; the latter more general (though it’s still kind of linguisticky. We’ll see how it goes).
  • Seal Beach Wag n’ Walk, Seal Beach, CA, September 27th: I’ll be hosting a booth at the annual Wag n’ Walk, which is a benefit for the Seal Beach Animal Care Center. Come learn your dog’s true Dothraki name!

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

  • Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO, November 10th: I’ll be giving a talk at Colorado College at 7 p.m. (more details to come).
  • The Tattered Cover, Highlands Ranch, CO, November 11: I’ll be doing an event and signing at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch at 7 p.m. (Note: Be sure to note the location, as there are several Tattered Cover stores in the Denver area!)
  • Books, Inc., Mountain View, CA, November 14: I’ll be doing an event and signing at the Books, Inc. in Mountain View at 7 p.m. (Note: Be sure to note the location, as there are several Books, Inc. stores in the Bay Area!)
  • Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA, November 15th: I’ll be a part of a group of other sff authors at Kepler’s Sci-Fi Fantasy Day. It’s going to be from 1-5 p.m. and feature a number of interesting talks and panels. My Dothraki event will be at 2:30 p.m. Please note that this is a ticketed event (tickets are $10 and can be purchased here), but a ticket grants you admission to the entire day’s events.

There are a number of other events I had to leave off because they haven’t been finalized yet, so stay tuned! Doing lots of stuff the next couple months.

Dothras chek!

Chafka Jada

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.

Click to preorder.

Click to preorder.

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

The Valyrian Word for Hamster

As the title portends, I will be talking about Monty Python in this post, but first a brief commentary on “The Laws of Gods and Men”, written by old friend Bryan Cogman—who, by the way, is back on Twitter, so give him a follow!

There were some great speeches in this episode, but I feel like Tyrion’s trial overshadows the awesome scene with Stannis, Davos and Tycho Nestoris at the Iron Bank. It’s really awkward and uncomfortable for Stannis, which is the point, but then Davos comes back with this incredible save out of nowhere. And while we don’t know what the outcome is precisely, we get the sense that he made a positive impression—which is made all the more powerful after you think about how Tycho has just gone over how they at the Iron Bank are swayed by nothing but numbers. Yes, Davos does give him some facts, but he also lays his heart out there in front of these stuffshirts—and it works. It’s a Hail Mary to end all Hail Marys, and I loved it.

In Dany’s scene, I didn’t know we were actually going to see the dragon doing dragon stuff. That was pretty intense! Though I can’t help but feel bad for the sheep. They even have him bleating as he’s being carried away in the dragon’s claws on fire… Or wait, was that a goat? Let me check… Take that back, it was a goat. I know this because I just searched my Low Valyrian dictionary for a word for “sheep” and came up empty. “Goat” is there, though. (And hey, that’s the second time that word has been used—but only the first time in reference to an actual goat!)

Hizdahr zo Loraq looks a lot younger than I pictured him in the books. Then again, since I listened to the audio books, all of my mental images were painted by Roy Dotrice (or John Lee, for one book), so my mental images were dependent not just on the words but on the performance. The—

Whoa, hang on. Just realized I was about to write something spoilery. This is always a tough one. I’ve only read each book once, so when I start watching the show, I sometimes get confused about stuff that has happened or hasn’t—and whether it was in the books or the show. I had that confusion during the Theon scene, actually. Did that happen in the books? Also, from that scene, Ramsay was all cut up before that fight started, right? What was he doing beforehand?! That dude is straight up creepy; I love him.

Oh, and another question: I missed the “red shirt” punchline that the girls shout. What is it?

Back to Dany, looking back at the script, it looks like a couple of the Meereenese Valyrian lines with the goatherd were cut (likely for length). Still a lot left in there. Here’s a few of those lines. Dany first speaks to the goatherd in High Valyrian:

  • Zūgagon daor, ñuhys raqiros. Skoros ynot epilū?
  • “Don’t be afraid, my friend. What would you ask of me?”

And he responds saying that he doesn’t understand:

  • Yeng shijetra, osh eghlish. Tha shifang.
  • “Forgive me, your grace. I don’t understand.”

I was really fond of that osh eghlish for “your grace” or “your highness”. It’s the characteristic phrase of MV. Then Missandei says:

  • Ye Thal poghash koth nyesha she yedhra.
  • “The Queen says you may approach and speak.”

Funny how close thal is to khal (total happenstance), but with this line here, Miss Nathalie Emmanuel became the most linguistically diverse actor in all of Game of Thrones! She has officially spoken:

  1. Common (i.e. English)
  2. Astapori Valyrian
  3. High Valyrian
  4. Dothraki
  5. Meereenese Valyrian

Or, hmm… Actually, I guess Dany never speaks AV, so I think this was a title Missandei already claimed, but still, it’s further cemented here. She’s the only actor who’s had to deal with all of the Game of Thrones languages, and for that, I salute her! And, in fact, if the White Walkers’ language and Asshai’i were not used in the show, as I suspect, she’s also the only actor to speak every language featured in the show. That is boss!

Before leaving this episode, Tyrion’s trial was incredible (everyone knows that Tywin is my favorite character, so him doing anything is a treat), but I feel like the things I want to say about it are going to spoil at least one thing from the remaining four episodes… And since I’m liable to get confused, I’ll just hold off. All I’ll say for now is that I think Shae’s progression is done better in the show than it is in the books—either that, or I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the books. Frankly, it feels that way a lot when I’m watching the show (e.g. like the time I actually said, “Wait… Renly’s supposed to be gay?”). Also, “trial by combat” are possibly my three favorite words from Game of Thrones.

If you’ve read this interview with me over at the Making Game of Thrones blog, you’ll know about yet another one of Dan Weiss’s practical jokes. The insults that the Meereenese champion was hurling at Daenerys et al. were translations of the French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you don’t know what Monty Python and the Holy Grail is, you should probably stop reading this blog and find a way to watch the movie immediately. At the very least, you can see the speech being referenced here.

Also, I know I mentioned this in the interview (which, by the way, D&D gave their blessing to), but just to be clear, I don’t get credit for coming up with this idea; that was all Dan Weiss. Usually after I’m done translating the bulk of the material for a season, Dan gets an idea for something fun after the fact, and I get an e-mail starting with something like, “Hey, I had an idea for a joke…” I know I’m generally a stickler for realism when it comes to the languages, but when this opportunity presented itself, it was just too good. I like to think (though I don’t know either way) that Emilia Clarke, Nathalie Emmanuel, et al. had no idea what the champion was actually saying. This would amuse me to no end. But anyway, if you’re wondering, “Does this mean there are hamsters in Essos?”, or “Does this mean there were elderberries in Valyria?”, I honestly have no idea. I had to Wikipedia “elderberry”—both when I coined the word, and just right now again, because that’s how much I know about elderberries. The relevant words lie somewhere in between the holy mountain of Canon and the dry wastelands of Non-Canon. I’ll not sort it out beyond that.

Without further ado (and I’m not sure exactly how much of this made it onscreen):

  • Byjan vavi demble eva o, trezy eme verdje espo jimi! Oa mysa iles me nýnyghi, si oa kiba tuziles espo tomistos!
  • “I fart in your general direction, son of a window-dresser! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”

So you don’t have to look for it, “hamster” is nýnyghi (which may have been inspired by the Knights who say Ni). Also, tomisto, from High Valyrian tōmītsos, was an homage to my friend Tom (a.k.a. Tommy) Lieber. I’ve found a way to work him into each one of my languages, but “elderberry” is the best, I think.

  • Já si hojgá oa gundja, trezy eme mero dovodedha!
  • “Go and boil your bottom, son of a silly person!”

Note to the Wiki folks: If it’s got a j in an odd place, it’s probably Ghiscari in origin.

  • Kiman nya másina orvorta va oi sodjistos!
  • “I wave my private parts at your aunties!”

There were some edits made to the text:

  • Do eban av kimívagho dombo, o doru-borto pame espo gruzi evi havor espo begistos!
  • “I don’t want to talk to you no more you empty-headed animal food trough wiper!”

And finally:

  • Ghorgan ji pungo va o, nynta Dare espo Zaldrizes, o si une oi dovodedhi, Vesterozi azzzzzantys.
  • “I blow my nose at you, so-called Dragon Queen, you and all your silly Westerosi kaniggets!”

And there it is.

But let me apologize to the Valyrian students out there. In the interview, I said that I didn’t think anyone had figured it out, but I sold you short! Mad Latinist and at least one other person did guess right; I guess I just didn’t hear about it (probably because I was traveling at the time). Well played! And you didn’t even have the words for “hamster”, “elderberry”, “aunty” or “fart”… That’s excellent sleuthsmanship!

Book Announcement

I’m pleased to announce today that I have reached an agreement with Viking Penguin to write a book on language creation called: The Art of Language Invention. Needless to say, this is a dream come true. :) I’m working with editor Elda Rotor, and am basically going to put as much into this book as they’ll let me stuff in there (and if I can’t fit something in, hopefully it will serve as material for future work). There will be some material from the Game of Thrones and Defiance languages—as well as from languages by other conlangers—but the focus will be on the nuts and bolts of language design. No single book can make you an expert, but my hope is that after working through this one, you’ll know where to start if you want to create a language, what questions to ask, and where to research if you need more.

On my end, I’m being represented by Joanna Volpe from New Leaf Literary and Media, Inc., and for that I have to thank Leigh Bardugo, author of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm of the Grisha Trilogy, plus the capper, Ruin and Rising, coming out June 3rd (my mother’s birthday!). Those who’ve been following this blog before it even existed will remember Leigh as having attended the first ever presentation on Dothraki back at WorldCon in 2011, and having a word coined in her honor. She now has two, of course (bardugon is the verb for “to write” in High Valyrian), but it means a lot to me that Leigh has remembered me over the years (lol it’s literally been years. That’s crazy), and was able to help me out here. Leigh is veiled in cascading swaths of fabulousness, but underneath it all, she’s a wonderful and kind person, and I’m happy to have her as a friend. (Of course, she’s wonderful and kind even if you don’t know her, so when it comes to Leigh, it’s really win-win.)

Of direct relevance to this blog is the fact that I’m going to be taking a serious step back—something regular readers may have already noticed, since this process started last year. I’ve got one more major High Valyrian post coming, but after that there may be next to nothing here for several months. I’ve got a big job ahead of me, and I’m going to need to take the time to do it, because I want to give this book my best work. I may come back and do my weekly Game of Thrones recaps depending on how my workflow goes, but I may not. It depends how the next couple months go. Either way, 2015 should be an exciting year—and should be a lot less busy for me—so I’ll definitely return to regular posting here in the future.

I want to say a big thank you to those who read this blog regularly, those who’ve been following me on Twitter and Tumblr and who’ve expressed interest in the Game of Thrones and Defiance languages, and those everywhere who in general have supported the TV and movie franchises that have used created languages. The fact of the matter is this book wouldn’t have become a reality if no one cared. There would be no languages for Defiance or other shows like Star-Crossed and Dominion if the fans weren’t interested in there being any—or worse, if they hated them. I know that a number of people wanted a book from me dedicated specifically to Dothraki, specifically to High Valyrian, specifically to Castithan, etc., and that this isn’t that. This is a first step, though. If this project goes well—if I do a good job and the book sells well—it may open the gates for further work—and not just by me, but by other conlangers. Hopefully this is the start of something big, not the conclusion of a movement.

Either way, I feel incredibly privileged to be in this position. Of course I wouldn’t be here without the Language Creation Society, and the Language Creation Society wouldn’t have been in the position it was without Arika Okrent—but, of course, Arika Okrent wouldn’t have sent Dave and Dan to the Language Creation Society if she hadn’t attended the Second Language Creation Conference, and there would be no Language Creation Conference if the conlang community (and specifically the Conlang Listserv) hadn’t come together to make it happen. This project is dedicated to the community that produced me. I hope I make them proud.

Elat k’Athivezhofari…

I’ve returned from SpaceCityCon, and had a bit to settle in here, so it’s time to start the year in Essosian conlanging. But first, I got a couple pictures of me with Jason Momoa (one below), who is, of course, awesome. The guy just absolutely loves life and is a ton of fun to be around—and he’s nice. He’s a good guy. If you get a chance, you should check out Road to Paloma, which he’s directing and starring in coming out this year (trailer here.

Me and Jason Momoa

Click to enlarge.

On my last blog post I got a request to translate “To boldly go where no man has gone before”—the old Star Trek slogan (the new one, of course, being “where no one has gone before”)—into High Valyrian. Seems like an odd pairing, but it is somewhat amusing for linguistic reasons. The whole “don’t split an infinitive” thing is one of those false rules that gets handed down from teacher to teacher, and the Star Trek motto is always held up as either an egregious example of the miscarriage of grammatical justice or as evidence that you can, in fact, split an infinitive. It is, of course, an example of the latter, with the whole “splitting infinitive” thing coming from the fact that you can’t “split” an infinitive in Latin, since it’s a single word. And Latin, of course, was George R. R. Martin’s inspiration for High Valyrian, in which you can also not split an infinitive, since it’s a single word. Consequently the translation won’t feature the same split that English does.

(Oh, and with my linguist’s hat on, I should say that “to x” isn’t actually an infinitive in English. The bare form of the verb is the infinitive. If you use it by itself, it has to be preceded by “to”, but you see the actual bare infinitive elsewhere—for example, after “will”, where you say “I will go with you”, and not “I will to go with you”. But that’s splitting hairs. [Ha. Split.])

Anyway, there were a couple of attempts to translate the phrase in the comments, but it’s missing some key vocabulary, so let me go through and do this, since it seems like fun.

Let’s start with the easy part. The “to go” part is going to be jagon, and it’ll be the last word in the sentence, so we can file that away and focus on the rest. There is no subject, which is handy, so let’s deal with the first modifier on jagon, which is “boldly”. In English, “bold” is pretty much a gentlemanly word for “brave”, so let’s stick with “brave”, which is nēdenka, in the nominative lunar singular (it’s an adjective). To turn that it into an adverb, you have to know the adjective class. Nēdenka is a Class I adjective, which means that it takes a suffix -irī to become an adverb. Thus we can change nēdenka to nēdenkirī and get nēdenkirī jagon. We can pop that bad boy at the end of the sentence and we’ve got the business part of the sentence done.

Now for the troublesome bit: Where no man has gone before. Again, let’s start with the easiest part. Since this is for a tattoo, I want to give you the option of saying “no man” or “no one”. This is a new clause of which the subject is “no man”, so we know that phrase will be in the nominative. To say no one, you’d say daorys, and that concludes that. To say “no man” specifically, you’d say dōre vala, but if you’d like to have a prolix gender neutral expression, you could say dōre issaros, which would be “no being”. Whichever one you like, though, you’re now done, because their citation forms happen to be the forms that are necessary for the function the “no man” bit plays in the clause.

For the verb, you’d use the perfect. In Low Valyrian you might use a different construction for “has gone” as opposed to “went”, but in High Valyrian the two are conflated. The form of the verb is istas, so the phrase becomes daorys istas (or dōre issaros istas or dōre vala istas), which is “no one went” or “no one has gone”.

Before getting to the clause-linking part, Mad Latinist conjectured that you might be able to use naejot to mean “before”, but Zhalio noted that this was unlikely, given its etymology. In this case, Zhalio was correct. You can use naejot to mean “before” for the meaning “in front of”, but you can’t use it for the temporal “before”. For that, in fact, you use . You might remember from such meanings as “underneath” and “below”. It also means “before” in the temporal sense. This is a part of a guiding metaphor High Valyrian employs where height is associated with time depth. Consequently, things that happen before the present are below the present, and things that happen after the present happen above it (tolī as an adverb or toliot as a postposition). The postposition can be used as a postposition or as an adverb (just as with naejot), and so the expression now has become daorys gō istas.

Now for the last bit. Mad Latinist used the relative adjective lua in his translation attempt, which is a good guess, but doesn’t work in this instance. Hopefully the difference can be explained succinctly using these three examples:

  • Skoriot istas?Where has he gone?”
  • Skoriot istas ūndan. “I saw where he went.
  • Istas luon lenton ūndan. “I saw the house where he went.

The difference here is that in the second you’re not really modifying “where” the way you’re modifying “house” in the third, if that makes sense. Think about something like, “I know who wrote Catch-22” and how it differs from “I know the guy who wrote Catch-22“. The first is a statement about a question (e.g. “Who wrote Catch-22?”), whereas the second is an actual assertion about someone you know (in fact, you’d use two different verbs in Spanish for this). That is, it brackets thus:

  • I know [who wrote Catch-22].
  • I know [the guy [who wrote Catch-22] ].

Hoping this makes sense. Consequently it’s not really a relative clause. Rather it’s a self-contained clause that is the object (or topic) of the matrix verb.

So.

Back to our original translation request: To boldly go where no one has gone before. This is what we’ve got:

  • Skoriot daorys gō istas nēdenkirī jagon.

And there it is.

I suppose if you did want to mimic the so-called infinitive split, you could put nēdenkirī in the front (something like “Boldly where no one has gone before to go”), but I wouldn’t recommend it. And, of course, you can substitute dōre vala or dōre issaros for daorys if you so choose. So there you go, Monserrat Vargas! If you get a tattoo, please send us a picture.

Also, a couple general notes. I’ll have a big announcement later this month, but I did want to note that this year I’ll be working on the show Dominion on Syfy. No major info on that yet, but I’m working on an a posteriori language for the show (my first, though not as stringently a posteriori as a language like Brithenig or Wenedyk). It’s called Lishepus.

Otherwise, happy new year! Stay tuned for the yearly Dothraki Haiku Competition. It’s coming!

%d bloggers like this: