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A while back, frequent commenter Esploranto mentioned that it would be nice if some of the posts on the Dothraki blog could be translated into Spanish. I agreed, but didn’t feel up to the task (my writing style is too idiomatic and idiosyncratic for my Spanish to handle!), so Esploranto offerred to give it a go. He translated a couple of the early blog posts before I realized that there was no simple way to host translations. What would be perfect is if there was a button that you could click on to easily switch between the English and Spanish translations of a given blog post.

That’s when my old friend from elementary, junior high and high school stepped in. Ian Byrd (founder of ByrdSeed.com and a gifted education instructor) saw the problem and took it upon himself to create a custom WordPress plugin (which, if you’re me, sounds like nothing less than sorcery). As a results, translations can now be handled pretty much just as I described: You go to the top and click on the translation you want, and it automagically appears! (Wow. WordPress doesn’t think “automagic” is misspelled? No, wait, hang on: It thinks “automagically” is fine; “automagic”, though, gets a big fat red underline. Crazy!)

Anyway, to see it in action, you can go to my very first post and see the translation provided by Esploranto, upon whom I have conferred the Dothraki name Najahho: the victorious one. Kirimvose, zhey Najahho!

Of course, there’s no reason that the Dothraki blog need be translated only into Spanish. Any and all translations are welcome—including conlang translations! It’s pretty easy to add a language to the plugin, so I can expand the list to include whatever I want. If you’d like to translate a Dothraki blog post, just send the translation in a plain text e-mail to me (or attach a .txt file). If possible, please keep the HTML in tact (it will simplify my job greatly). Provided it looks okay, I can just paste it right in and we’ll be set! Oh, but do include the phrase “Translated by [your name]” in your language to append to the end, and if you’d like me to link to your website, include a link for me and I’ll add it.

Just one note before leaving the topic: Right now the plugin has one kink in it which has broken the right-hand navigation slightly. All the options are there, but they’re not as neat as they were. Ian’s working on a fix, and when we get it, we’ll be sailing.

If it’s morning where you are when you’re reading this, it means that I’m on a plane headed to Seattle for NorWesCon. Can’t wait! If you’re in the Seattle area, come give me a shout. Otherwise…three days. Tick tock.

February

It’s now February 20th, and this is the first Dothraki post of the month. Given that it’s a short month, this may very well be the last, as well. I feel obliged to offer up some sort of explanation, given that (most months) I’ve been pretty good about living up to my unwritten (until now) four posts per month goal.

As it has turned out, this month has been pretty busy. In addition to the SWTX PCA/ACA Conference from last week, I’m giving a TED University talk at TED this month (a whole 6 minutes on the 28th!), and have been busy doing a lot of prep work for that and for TEDActive, where I’m giving a workshop. If you want to talk any Dothraki, the best place to catch me these days is on Twitter or at our weekly Dothraki chat on IRC.

I didn’t want this post to be completely devoid of Dothraki, though, so I thought I’d address an issue that came up on Twitter. Our latest (and quite prolific!) Dothraki speaker Tyene Sand was trying to translate a sentence using the Night’s Watch (that is, the name “the Night’s Watch”). That can be translated in a number of ways (I offered Vitihiraki Ajjalani), but the translation called for the phrase to be declined in some way. This is where one runs into a dilemma.

In Turkish, if you take a foreign noun and try to decline it, the word behaves a little differently from native (or assimilated) Turkish nouns. Turkish names take a number of case suffixes (similar to Dothraki), but these suffixes participate in vowel harmony. Here’s a small example:

Turkish
(Nominative)
English Turkish
(Locative)
English
mağaza store mağazada at the store
göl lake gölde at the lake

As you can see, in the Turkish forms in the third column, there’s a suffix that’s either -da or -de. Which suffix you get depends on the character of the previous vowel (for more, see this article on Turkish vowel harmony), but they both mean the same thing.

That’s fine and good. What happens, though, when you add these suffixes to a foreign word? Turkish, as it turns out, does a couple of things differently. First, the suffix is always attached with an apostrophe (kind of like how sometimes in English, acronyms are pluralized with an ‘s as opposed to just s [e.g. DVD's rather than DVDs]). Second, unless the quality of the vowels is quite apparent, Turkish just uses one of those two suffixes—specifically, the -da suffix. Here’s an example:

Turkish
(Nominative)
English Turkish
(Locative)
English
Google Google Google’da on/at Google

So, now that we know what Turkish does, what does Dothraki do?

First, Dothraki noun phrases are often declined on the head noun. This is the rough equivalent of “passerby” vs. “passersby” in English (the latter being the formal plural of the former). Take, for example, the phrase asavva evomen, which has various meanings depending on context (for now, let’s say “afterlife”). If one wanted to pluralize this phrase, the appropriate plural would be asavvasi evomeni (the latter adjective taking an -i on account of concord). That is, asavva is the head noun, so it takes the plural; one doesn’t treat the whole thing as a single noun and attempt to add some sort of inflection to the end of evomen.

That said, one may want to write in Dothraki and talk about modern people, companies, products, places, etc. For something like “Google”, one option would be to try to translate the concept (good luck) or to render it in Dothraki (Gogol?). This might end up making things more confusing than necessary, though. As a result, the kind of catch-all repair strategy used in Dothraki is the preposition haji. Haji means something like “because of” or “on account of” or sometimes “with respect to”. In Dothraki proper, its meanings are a bit more specific. When used in conjunction with foreign names or terms, though, it stands in for any preposition and/or the genitive, allative or ablative cases. Thus, one might say something like:

  • Anha tih mae haji Reddit.
  • “I saw it on Reddit.”

Technically haji there could be standing in for she, ma, irge, hatif, vi, ha, ki—or the ablative, genitive or allative cases. Really, though, given the context, it seems likely that it’s standing for she (a general locative. Not sure if anything more specific would be used to refer to something one sees on a webpage. Mra, maybe?). One might be able to supply a context that would force another reading, but the most obvious reading suggests that whatever was seen was seen on Reddit.

Though the solution is pretty simple, the drawbacks are that there could be confusion or ambiguity, so it behooves one to supply the proper context so that only the correct interpretation is plausible. If more specificity is absolutely required, one can always use the proper preposition. If a case is needed, it’s probably best to attempt to render the noun in Dothraki, as below:

  • Anha dothrak Disneylandaan!
  • “I’m going to Disneyland!”

To make it clear, one may (in the Turkish style) separate the case ending from the root with an apostrophe, but personally I prefer it without.

I hope your February’s going well and that it’s not too cold where you are! It rained today, so California will get a bit chillier for the next couple of days, but otherwise I can’t complain. For those of you who speak or are familiar with other case languages, what do those languages do with foreign proper terms? How would “Google” come out in the instrumental in Russian? Or the translative in Finnish?

Dothras chek!

Rhaeshi Ajjalani

Busy day, yesterday! In the morning (or at least morning on the West Coast), CNN’s The Next List did a show on Dothraki in Game of Thrones. It was a half hour and featured interviews with Dave and Dan, Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), and Amrita Acharia (Irri).

Oh, and a couple of other things: Two videos from our very own Daenerys and Hrakkar speaking Dothraki! They were awesome! You guys are the best! Now that the episode has aired, maybe we can see about posting their videos here, so you can see them in full. Since we don’t have any thank yous in Dothraki: Zhey Hrakkar; zhey Khaleesi: Fichi sen vezhi drogikhoon anni. Anha, zhey Deviddo, azhak mora shafkea. Haji!

On to last night’s episode “The Night Lands”. I know the show is based on the books and sticks to them, but Peter Dinklage is taking over. That dude’s bringing it every night! I should say, though, that I also have a new favorite that I’m going to be watching for: Salladhor Saan. He’s pretty cool in the books, but I never paid him that much attention. Lucian Msamati’s portrayal of Saan, though, really breathes some life into the character. I look forward to seeing him more as the season progresses!

As for our fearless band of Dothraki, things are looking pretty bleak. Poor Dany gets some grisly news in the form of a painted horse riding with a decapitated head. Funny story about this scene. Periodically on Twitter I search “Dothraki” to see what people are tweeting, and last week I saw several people tweeting that there were no subtitles on episode 2. “What a terrible defect to have on a shipped DVD!” I thought, thinking that everyone was talking about episode 2 of season 1 on the DVD release.

That’s when I realized they were talking about yesterday’s episode. Before it aired. Geez, internet, piracy is one thing, but before the episode even airs?! Serves you right! I hope that was a feature, and not a bug, and that if any episodes get leaked before the air date in the future, none of the Dothraki is subtitled. (In fact, maybe we should translate all the dialogue into Dothraki and dub it. Hmm…)

That got me to thinking, though: What Dothraki? As I recalled, there wasn’t any in episode 2 of season 2. But, of course, scenes get moved around a bit during shooting, so I went back to my dialogue sheet and saw that one scene from episode 3 was moved to episode 2, and that was the scene we all saw. So, without further ado:

We open on Dany et al. sitting around miserable and dehydrated. Off in the distance we see a horse arriving. As the horse gets closer, we see it has no rider, and it’s been painted with red Dothraki paint (an invention of the show, I think, but recall that the paint for Drogo’s khalasar was blue). Jorah goes up to the horse and sees a bag hanging off the side. It contains a head and a severed braid. On seeing it, Irri bursts into tears, saying:

  • Mori atthasish oakah moon!
  • “They killed his soul!”

Quick sidebar. Remember the mysterious ad lib by Drogo in the very first episode of Game of Thrones last season? It’s not subtitled, but I did a bit of retconning and decided that what he said was:

  • Itte oakah!
  • “Test your might!”

Or something close to that (that translation just comes to mind from my old arcade days). The noun oakah I decided would be a word that refers to one’s own worth or ability—perhaps something like “mettle”, but treated almost like a physical body part (as if one’s spirit was corporeal). So saying something like this would seem appropriate as Drogo as watching to Dothraki fight.

Fast forward to today, and commenter RavenB over at one of the blog posts I did for The Next List has discovered the secret behind the ad libbed line by Jason Momoa! What he says is the following:

I’m Maori (indigenous New Zealander) and I noticed that the very first line Drogo speaks is “I te waka” which is the refrain from a very well-known Maori haka.

So, what does it mean? By itself, it could mean several things, but in context, it means “on the canoe”. The equivalent word in Hawaiian is wa‘a, which has the secondary meaning of a chant one does in praise of a chief’s canoe, and the whole thing would be i ke wa‘a (though I could’ve sworn that would be a ka word…). Anyway, it looks like they wanted Jason to say something, and they didn’t have anything else, so I’m guessing he used a line from the haka he did for his audition. Ha! Well, now Māori has worked its way into Dothraki—though, of course, the words were Dothrakified.

Back to our episode, I had a hard time writing down exactly what I meant by oakah, but I really liked the word, and wanted to use it. When I got this line, I was like, “Yes!” The word translated as “kill” is atthasat, which I used here in a kind of metaphysical sense. If Dothraki ride on into the Night Lands (Rhaeshi Ajjalani) when their body is burned, then not doing so is the equivalent of causing their oakah to fall from their horse—which, in Dothraki terms, is about as bad as bad gets. One can understand why Irri is broken up.

Dany tries to calm her:

  • Affa, affa. Mori laz vos atthi oakah vosecchi.
  • “Shh… They cannot kill his soul.”

Again, recall that an inalienable possessor does not need to be expressed if it’s understood in context. The word affa isn’t actually a word, but it’s old. Back when I was coming up with dialogue for the pilot (in fact, when I was applying), I came up with a bunch of horse commands, thinking they might enjoy some use in the series. Mostly they didn’t, but affa—a contentless expression used to calm a horse—seemed appropriate here. I imagine it’s something warriors would use with their horses, and also mothers with their children.

Next Irri has her longest line in the series since season 1:

  • Jin tish mori! Mori ogish ven mae ven rho. Mori avvirsosh khadoes moon. Me laz odothrae kimi mae she Rhaeshi Ajjalani avvos.
  • “They did! They butchered him like an animal. They did not burn his body. He can never join his ancestors in the Night Lands.”

In the first clause, you can see a bit of the old VSO word order of Dothraki popping up. It seemed like the best way to translate the emphatic in English. We also see word ogat being used in its original sense: to slaughter an animal. And we also see one of the words I coined based on the names of those who asked questions back during WorldCon! For three of those who really made my first WorldCon a great one, I made sure to coin words that I knew were going to be used in the upcoming season. As a result, kim became the word for “ancestor” specifically for this scene. San athchomari yeraan, zhey Kim Raymoure!

After this, Dany has another longish reply:

  • Affa. Kisha amariki vorsqoy ha maan. Majin anha astak yeraan asqoy, me-Rakharo adothrae kimi mae ajjalan.
  • “Shh. We will build him a funeral pyre. And I promise you, Rakharo will ride with his ancestors tonight.”

Marilat hasn’t been introduced yet, I think (“construct”), same with vorsqoyi, though that one’s an old one. (By the way, I’m not using interlinears here because Carsten’s plugin isn’t quite working the way I expected it to with this theme. I’m still testing it; give me a couple weeks.) Other than that, it should be pretty self-explanatory. More next week!

Before going, though, a recent commenter asked about getting some dog commands in Dothraki. I did a few, but I thought this might be fun for the main blog. So, if you want to train your dog using Dothraki (Dograki? Dothbarki? Barkraki? Dogbarki?), here are some commands:

  • Neva! “Sit!”
  • Vikovareras! “Stay!”
  • Asto! “Speak!”
  • Fichi! “Fetch!”
  • Chorki! “Roll!”
  • Zohhe! “Down!”
  • Yath! “Up!”
  • Sek! “Yes!”
  • Vos! “No!”
  • Jinne! “Here!”
  • Hazze! “There!”
  • Ajjin! “Now!”
  • Jadi! “Come!”
  • Anni! “Mine!”
  • Qora mae! “Seize him!”
  • Ostos! “Bite!”
  • Zoqwa! “Kiss!”
  • Akkovaras! “Stand up!”
  • Ayos! “Wait!”
  • Ifi! “Walk!”
  • Irvosi! “Trot!”
  • Nakhi! “Stop!”
  • Os! “Don’t move!”
  • Oho! “Be still!”
  • Navi! “Urinate!”
  • Vroz! “Slow!”
  • Dik! “Fast!”
  • Emras! “In(side)!”
  • Yomme! “Across!”
  • Saji! “On!”
  • Mel! “Bad!”
  • Mithri! “Rest!”
  • Nrisas! “Straight!”
  • Noti! “Turn!”
  • Sili! “Follow!
  • Vitihiras! “Watch!”

Whew! That’s a lot! I may add more to this if you need them, zhey kelly; let me know in the comments. I’ll definitely look forward to a video! If you get one, we’ll post it here. I tried to vary the command forms, bearing in mind that the prominent syllable is going to be the one the dog gets the best shot at hearing. Hopefully it won’t be too confusing for the dogs. Just how many words can a dog remember, anyway?

Until next week, fonas chek!

Update: It’s been pointed out that some of these words are just too long for a dog to learn. Here are some options for those words:

  • Vikovareras!Reri! “Stay!”
  • Akkovaras!Akko! “Stand up!”
  • Vitihiras!Hiri! “Watch!”

This isn’t a standard way of abbreviating in Dothraki, but if you want that dog to stay put, well, sacrifices need to be made. Thanks, E&L!

Ours Is the Fury

A week or so ago, Crown of Gold asked in a comment on a previous post how one would translate the words of House Baratheon into Dothraki. The words are: “Ours is the fury.” I might’ve responded to the comment directly, but the question is actually much more complicated than one might think.

Starting just with the English, “Ours is the fury” is an instantiation of what appears to be a rather bizarre (or at least crosslinguistically rare) construction. I think an English speaker has the sense that “Ours is the fury” means something fundamentally different from “The fury is ours”, but it’s hard to characterize that difference. As I see it, it’s not simply a difference in focus. It’s kind of like in the first one, the idea is that the fury is inherent in who we are—it’s part of what defines us (here, the “us” is House Baratheon, of course). In “The fury is ours”, it sounds like we just obtained it—or purchased it.

Personally, I always think of Captain Planet. When he said, “The power is yours!“, it always sounded to me like he was either giving us the power, or informing us that we now had the power (and perhaps always had it). Had he said, “Yours is the power!”, it would have been something quite different—more of a reminder that we have it within us to put an end to pollution and poaching and the like.

(By the way, I invite English speakers to comment on what they think the difference between these two might be. Do you get my sense, or something different? Or do they sound the same to you?)

Anyway, so before translating it into Dothraki, I needed to figure out what the heck it means in English. And since I was on IRC at the time, I asked ingsve and Qvaak what they thought. It turns out in Swedish and Finnish, there’s no equivalent for “Ours is the fury” (you’d translate it as “The fury is ours”). Part of that has to do with the fact that neither language actually has a distinct possessive pronominal form. English, on the other hand, has a full complement of them, as shown below:

  Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun
1st Person Singular my mine
2nd Person Singular your yours
3rd Person Singular (Fem.) her hers
3rd Person Singular (Mas.) his his
3rd Person Singular (Ina.) its its
1st Person Plural our ours
2nd Person Plural your yours
3rd Person Plural their theirs
WH-Word whose whose

Like Finnish and Swedish, Dothraki also makes no distinction between the possessive adjective and the possessive pronoun: All there are are the pronouns in the genitive (or the ablative, as the case may be [no pun intended (but enjoyed, nevertheless)]). Even so, there are situations in which a genitive pronoun will be interpreted as a possessive pronoun. Consider the two sentences below:

  • Hazi hrazef anni. “That’s my horse.”
  • Hazi anni. “That’s mine.”

However, you can’t turn that around:

  • #/? Anni hazi. “Mine is that.”

Okay, that sentence may be infelicitous for other reasons, but this one makes sense in English:

  • #/? Anni athhajar. “Mine is the strength.”

I can’t even characterize how bizarre that looks… I can’t say for certain that it’s ungrammatical, but it just doesn’t look or sound right. So one couldn’t translate “Ours is the fury” straight up into Dothraki (the way you can, more or less, in Spanish).

In order to try to approximate the flavor of the original, then, I had two ideas: (1) Fix it so that the word order could be preserved, or (2) try to translate the sense I get, regardless of word order and lexical items. So instead of giving “the” translation, Crown of Gold, I’ll give you two. Not sure which is best (interlinears given in lieu of translations, as we know what the translation is):

  1. Kishaan athostar. /1PL.ALL fury-NOM/
  2. Athostar dothrae mra kisha. /fury-NOM ride-3SG in 1PL.NOM/

I think each translation has its own merits. The first preserves the word order and simplicity of the original English, but it implies the same thing that “The fury is ours” implies, in my mind—that is, the fury is somewhere outside of us, and it’s coming to us.

The second should be somewhat familiar, as it parallels Daenerys’s quote from A Game of Thrones: Khalakka dothrae mr’anha, “A prince rides inside me”. She’s referring to her unborn child, of course, but I thought that it really accurately describes the sense I get from “Ours is the fury”. I think it works! Though I did just think of a possible alternate:

  1. Athostar dothrae kishi. /fury-NOM ride-3SG 1PL.GEN/

So literally, this would be something like “Fury rides with us”, or “Fury rides beside us” (reminiscent of that scene from Tombstone). I think that’s a pretty good approximation of “Ours is the fury” done Dothraki-style!

Sorry for the late response, Crown of Gold, but that one made me think quite a bit. It was a good one! Always nice to work through a new translation. Oh, and as for athostar, it derives ultimately from ostat, which means “to bite”. It’s an animalistic type of anger which I thought better suited the English word “fury” than any other term referring to anger. “Fury” itself is kind of an odd word as it exists in English. It doesn’t just mean “anger”: it implies violent action. That’s what I got from athostar (which has been around for a while), so I thought it’d work for this translation.

Thanks for the question, zhey Crown of Gold!

Update: Matt Pearson suggested an alternate for the first translation that uses the ablative, instead of the allative:

  1. Kishoon athostar. /1PL.ABL fury-NOM/

That’s another option to consider. I think it sounds even more aggressive than “Ours is the fury”—more like, “Mess with us, and taste our wrath!” What do you think?

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