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Modern Terminology

I’m back home from Albuquerque, and finally getting back into the swing of things. I don’t have any pictures of me presenting (I was presenting), but here’s an awesome picture of me with Sean Endymion from the University of Texas, San Antonio. He’s got “Valar Morghulis” and “Valar Dohaeris” tattoed on his arms:

Me and Sean Endymion.

Pretty cool! Now let’s take a look at some of the words coined for modern implements.

As ingsve rightly pointed out, I did, in fact, coin something for “train” in the New York Times article (forgot!). The coinage I came up with was zhav taoka, which is “metallic lizard” or “metal lizard”. Looking at it now, though, I think gezri taoka, “metallic serpent”, makes more sense. Hrakkar, though, came up with some really cool possibilities:

  • vezhtawaki “metal stallion”
  • vezhshiqethi “iron stallion”

Those are pretty cool! I think over time, vezhshiqethi would simplify to vezzhiqethi, making it even more cohesive. Another option would be vezh taoka. I think any of those would work. The difference between using tawak with the genitive and taoka (simply an adjective) is that tawaki might suggest “real” instead of “metal”, since, as an adjective, tawak means “real” or “authentic” (though the -i on the end should make it clear that it’s not an adjective).

As Hrakkar pointed out, trains and cars probably aren’t dissimilar enough to merit separate coinages. Using rhaggat, as ingsve suggested, would probably be what would happen (after all, we got our word “car” pretty much the same way). However, I would like to suggest (in honor of both Bob Marley and Hrakkar’s awesome neologisms) hrakkarshiqethi: an iron lion! (Hey, even if it doesn’t work for a general word for “car”, it could certainly be a brand of car.)

For airplane, ingsve suggested rhaggat asavva, “sky cart”, on analogy with rhaggat eveth, “water cart” (which is the word for “ship”). Hrakkar, yet again, busted out some awesome ones:

  • zirtawaki “metal bird”
  • vezhasavva “sky stallion”
  • sajasavva “sky steed”

I love all of those. “Sky stallion” just sounds awesome. From the Dothraki perspective, though, I kind of like sajasavva better (makes it feel like the pilot is more in control).

We also had a suggestion for a Klingon spaceship in a pretty kickass (and lengthy!) comment from LoghaD. After all, if the main warship of the Klingon is the bird of prey, it would certainly make sense to translate it directly as zirqoyi. I like it! As for how “Klingon” would render in Dothraki, my guess would be khlingan (based on the breathiness of the original affricate, which I think would take precedence over the stop). This would mean that there would be a hard g sound, but I find that more likely than the velar nasal becoming alveolar.

As we jump to cellphone, things do become quite a bit more abstract. The first is ingsve’s long-range compound vekhikh astokhhezhahan, which I would bracket this way:

  • [ vekhikh [ [ [ astokh ] hezhah ] -an ] ]

If you can follow that, the word is actually a tripartite compound (and, by the way, the way ingsve wrote this might serve to answer one of loghaD’s questions from the last post), rather than a two-word compound plus another word, and means “thing for far-speech”. If this were a real compound, the word vekhikh adds practically nothing, as far as semantics goes, so it would likely drop out, leaving astokhhezhahan. By projecting, I could see that being reduced phonologically to astokhezhahan and then astokhezhaan and then astokhezhan—and maybe even further to tokhezhan. It’s not monosyllabic like “cell”, but it’s close!

Hrakkar’s suggestion would need a little work. If the intended meaning is “something that converses intended for one’s hand”, I’d probably retranslate it as “thing for hand-conversation”. The word for “conversation” is vasterikh, so “hand-conversation” would be vasterikhqora or maybe vasterikh qora (the difference being where the stress would land). That’d give us vekhikh vasterikh qoran, and then vasterikh qoran, and maybe vasterikhoran—and then after that, maybe rikhoran. That could work!

While we’re on phone, ingsve also came up with a word for smart phone, specifically: vekhikhdavrakhan, i.e. “a thing for apps”. This was based on an interview I did somewhere where they asked me what a Dothraki translation for “app” would be. I said that an app is a “useful thing”, which I translated as davrakhan. Somehow, though, that became the word for app (unofficially officially). So, when ingsve got to “computer”, he added the augmentative suffix to the word for smartphone: vekhikhdavrakhanof. This is rather something to ponder. After all, there’s no question that the computer came first, but it does rather seem like computers and smartphones are getting closer and closer to one another (especially for us Apple users). I’ll bet there are probably young kids (or kids not yet born yet) who think (or will think) of computers as big iPhones, rather than iPhones as small computers! Wild.

Hrakkar’s suggestion was dirgakhtawaki, which is a “metal thinker”. I think I might prefer dirgak taoka (or dirgakhtaoka), but I can see the former working.

For “e-mail” and “text”, there were calls for more words, and, indeed, that’s probably in order. Hrakkar suggested asathmovezari, “words of magic”. I think the adjective would work better there, giving us asmove, “magic words”. But something that would probably make this a lot easier is the word assokh, which means “message” (also means “instruction”; comes from the same root as ase, “command”). The question then becomes, though, is it important to distinguish between text message and e-mail? It is in our world (so you don’t waste time checking your texts if someone’s sent you an e-mail, and vice-versa), but it may be hard to distinguish without more specific vocabulary having to do with “writing”.

Thanks for the comments, though! I had a lot of fun reading through them. Look for this to become a regular feature on the blog. I’ll have to think up a title for it, though, so we know what we’re talking about… Any suggestions?

Just for Fun

I’m currently in Albuquerque for SWTX PCA/ACA and getting ready to call it a night. Tomorrow, among other things, I’m going to talk about how Dothraki leads a kind of dual existence: One as a language in the extended Universe of Ice and Fire, and the other as a constructed language that exists in our world and can be used to the extent that its grammar and lexicon will allow. In our modern world, though, the lexicon created for the show isn’t as practical as it could be, so I thought it would be fun to try to coin some modern words from existing material. Here are some to try out:

  • airplane
  • train
  • car
  • (cell/tele)phone
  • computer
  • e-mail
  • text message

None of these words, of course, would enter the official lexicon of Dothraki (they’re not appropriate), but they might prove useful for using in other contexts. See what you can come up with! The online lexicon is here. If you need to use a word that isn’t available, just use the English word and I’ll see if I can fill in the blanks.

As a refresher, this is how compounds works.

First, sometimes a prolix expression can become a lexical entry. Consider “The President of the United States of America”. That’s a full noun phrase, but we understand it to be a single entity. You can do the same thing in Dothraki (consider Vezh fin Saja Rhaesheseres), in which case you don’t need anything but the grammatical information needed to form noun phrases.

If you want an actual compound word, there are three different types. The first is a noun-adjective compound. These work by combining any noun with any adjective to form a new noun. Starting with a noun in the nominative case, you add an adjective directly after the noun. If the combination results in a difficult consonant cluster, an e can be inserted after the noun for euphony. The resulting compound is an inanimate noun of Class A if it ends in a consonant; Class B if it ends in a vowel. Here’s an example based on Daenerys’s last name:

  • vaz “storm” + yol “born” = Vazyol “Stormborn”

Next come the noun-noun compounds, of which there are two types. The most common are combinations of a noun stem and a noun in the genitive (if possible). The meaning of a compound like this (if the two nouns are A and B) is “an A of/from B”. To form one of these compound nouns, take the first noun and strip it to its root. If the root ends in a vowel, the second noun is added afterwards. If it ends in a consonant, the second noun is still added, but the same euphony rule detailed above applies (i.e. an e is inserted if necessary). If the second noun ends in a vowel (regardless of what noun it used to be), the resultant compound will likely be an inanimate noun of Class B (sometimes it will be Class A). If it ends in a consonant, an -i is appended to the end of the new stem, and it becomes an inanimate noun of Class A. Here’s an example:

  • zir “bird” + qoy “blood” = zirqoyi “bird of prey, raptor”

The last type of noun-noun compound is the allative compound. Using our nouns A and B, an allative compound creates a word that means “an A (intended) for B”. To form it, the first noun is stripped down to its root, as with a genitival compound, and the second is added after it. If the second noun ends in a vowel, an -n is added to the end; if not, an -an is added to the end. Either way, the resultant compound is an inanimate noun of Class A. Here’s an example:

  • qemmo “cover” + tih “eye” = qemmotihan “eyelid”

One final note. Sometimes a resulting consonant cluster will not need an epenthetic e, but it will change in form. Specifically, when a stop consonant comes before another stop consonant, it becomes a fricative. Stops will become the fricative that’s closest to its place of articulation, sometimes devoicing if necessary. Here’s a chart showing which stops go to which fricatives:

  • t, d > th
  • ch > sh
  • j > zh
  • k, g, q > kh

Feel free to have fun with it! There are no right answers. I’ll have a conference update some time later in the week.