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Relative Clauses in High Valyrian

Today’s post is going to be long and a little convoluted, for today I’m going to talk about relative clauses in High Valyrian. I promised this post to Mad Latinist a while ago, so there’s no avoiding it now: it has to happen. But worry not! If grammar isn’t your thing, I have below, in the grand tradition of relative clause posts to the Dothraki blog, a picture of my cat Keli against a dark background:

My cat keli.

Click to enlarge.

Now. To business.

Relative clauses are actually one of my favorite parts of creating a language. Unlike other clause structures, they tend to be very orderly, and so can be fun to put together. Basically, when it comes to me creating a language, a noun is to a verb as a relative clause is to a subordinate clause. I love me some relative clauses; subordinate clauses give me fits (so hard to get just right!).

High Valyrian relative clauses pose two types of problems for an English speaker trying to learn them. The first we can deal with quite simply before getting into the rest. In English, a relative clause is a sentence that follows a noun or pronoun that gives the listener more information about that noun or pronoun. Here are some examples:

  • The goat who tolerates me.
  • The octopus that I saw crying over a Twinkie.
  • The jaguar I sold a camera.
  • The penguin I rented Driving Miss Daisy with.
  • The duck whose uncle I glazed at the Super Bowl.

The underlined clauses all modify the non-underlined nouns on the left. All of them have something in common, though: The clause follows the noun it modifies, and there’s a gap in the sentence that corresponds to the noun being modified (e.g. “I rented Driving Miss Daisy with” is not a full sentence. There’s a gap after “with” that the noun “the penguin” should occupy).

In High Valyrian, the order of this is completely backwards. So starting with the simplest relative clause (the type where the modified noun is a subject in the embedded sentence), here’s a comparison between High Valyrian and English:

  • Ābre kustittas lua vala raqiros issa. “The man who encouraged the woman is a friend.”
  • Word-for-word, the above sentence is, “Woman encouraged who man friend is”. This is basically backwards when compared to an English relative clause. That said, once you get used to it, it’s not too bad. Instead of thinking of the relative clause as a clause, try thinking of it as a great big adjective. So instead of thinking of it as “The who encouraged a woman man is a friend”, think “The woman encouraging man is a friend”. Grammatically those two clauses are distinct, but I found it helped me to wrap my head around it the first time I saw a relative clause like this.

    Now we can move on to the complicated stuff.

    Aside from word order, the biggest difference between High Valyrian and English relative clauses is that while English has a relative pronoun, High Valyrian has a relative adjective: lua. The difference is subtle, if you stick to simple relative clauses, but becomes quite noticeable when you move outward. Let’s start with the simple ones. We’ve already seen an example where the target of relativization is a subject in the embedded clause. Now let’s look at some others:

    • Subject: Ābre kustittas lua vala raqiros issa. “The man who encouraged the woman is a friend.”
    • Direct Object: Ābra kustittas lua vala raqiros issa. “The man whom the woman encouraged is a friend.”
    • Indirect Object: Ābra rūklon teptas lua vala raqiros issa. “The man whom the woman gave a flower is a friend.”

    Notice that lua, the relative adjective, doesn’t change in any one of those sentences, while “who” becomes “whom” in the English translations. This is a direct result of the relativizer being an adjective. It agrees with the noun in case, gender and number. In all of those sentences, vala, the target of relativization (i.e. the noun being modified), is singular, lunar and nominative, because it’s the subject of the matrix clause “is a friend”. Watch what happens if we change the matrix clause (using just the subject example from above):

    • Ābre kustittas lua vala raqiros issa. “The man who encouraged the woman is a friend.”
    • Ābre kustittas lue vale ūndetan. “I saw the man who encouraged the woman.”
    • Ābre kustittas luo valot rūklon teptan. “I gave a flower to the man who encouraged the woman.”
    • Suddenly the relativizer is changing form just like “who” does in English. This is because the relative adjective has one foot in the embedded clause, and one foot in the matrix clause. Grammatically, it behaves as if it’s in the matrix clause, but semantically it links the two (basically the opposite of English “who”). This doesn’t cause any problems with sentences like the first three, where it’s pretty clear who did what to whom. But here are some further examples to complicate matters:

      • Possessor: Ābra kepe rhēdes lua vala raqiros issa. “The man whose father the woman knows is a friend.”
      • Location: Ābra morghūltas luon lenton pryjataks. “The house where the woman died was destroyed.”
      • Comparand: Ābra kirinkte issa lua vala raqiros issa. “The man who the woman is happier than is a friend.”
      • Adposition: Ābra dekurūptan lua vala raqiros issa. “The man the woman walked up to is a friend.”

      So, if you’re following the grammar here, you may be wondering: How do these sentences mean what they mean? The most literal translation of the first sentence would probably be something like, “The man whom the woman knows the father is a friend”. That’s not quite grammatical in English, but you get the idea. And actually it will probably seem more grammatical when you put it into English because word order does so much for it. An even more literal translation of the second sentence might be “The a woman died house was destroyed”. There’s nothing in it to tell you why the relative clause and the modified noun are related, because the relative adjective doesn’t bear the case of the noun in the embedded clause.

      Now here’s the crucial part: This was intentional. Certain languages allow constructions like this (Japanese is one, I’m pretty sure), and High Valyrian is one of them.Basically it gives you two clauses and the relative adjective lua says, “Figure it out”.

      I decided to do relative clauses this way for two reasons. First, I always wanted to do it (I tried with Zhyler, I think, but it didn’t come out well). Second, I wanted to create a structure that was likely to be destroyed by daughter languages. Some of the Low Valyrian languages may keep this strategy, sure, but no one would bat an eye if they decided to do something more explicit. Thus it almost begs for the daughter languages to distinguish themselves. I did that in several places throughout High Valyrian, and did so on purpose.

      A result of this is that relative clauses in High Valyrian are much freer than they are in English. You can say just about anything and have it describe the target of relativization. However, repair strategies do exist. Basically you can include a pronoun if it’s absolutely necessary. Most of the time it’s not, though, and the natural strategy is to leave it be. Nevertheless, here are the four sentences above with a redundant pronoun (bolded):

      • Possessor: Ābra zȳhe kepe rhēdes lua vala raqiros issa. “The man who the woman knows his father is a friend.”
      • Location: Ābra konīr morghūltas luon lenton pryjataks. “The house where the woman died there was destroyed.”
      • Comparand: Ābra zijosy kirinkte issa lua vala raqiros issa. “The man who the woman is happier than him is a friend.”
      • Adposition: Ābra va zijot dekurūptan lua vala raqiros issa. “The man the woman walked up to him is a friend.”

      In High Valyrian, you can’t leave a preposition stranded, of course, so it’s reintroduced in the last sentence.

      But this isn’t the end. Oh no. For while lua above is an adjective, it can also be a pronoun. There are two forms of the relative pronoun: and līr. The former is for specific entities (and people), and the latter for generic. They can be used by themselves, as shown below:

      • Specific: Ābra kustittas lȳ sȳz issa.The one who encouraged the woman is good.”
      • Generic: Ābra kustittas līr sȳrior issa.That which encouraged the woman is good.”

      These are often used to say things like, “Whatever works”, or “Whoever can find it”, so another way to translate the above would be “Whoever encouraged the woman is good” and “Whatever encouraged the woman is good”, respectively.

      The pronouns can be modified by an adjective, rendering the meaning “that which is x”, where x is an adjective. Here are two examples:

      • Specific: Kaste lī ipradinna. “I’ll eat one which is green.”
      • Generic: Kastor līr ipradinna. “I’ll eat that which is green.”

      And finally, the relative pronouns can also take a nominal possessor in the genitive. The resultant meaning is either a possessive construction, or very similar to the adjective construction, but with a nominal adjectival interpretation:

      • Specific: Valo luo vaoresan. “I prefer one which is a man(‘s).”
      • Generic: Valo lurio vaoresan. “I prefer that which is a man(‘s).”

      The difference between the two should be clear from context.

      Finally, as those who follow High Valyrian grammar closely will note, the relative adjective and pronouns are irregular. The full declension tables for all three are listed below. First, the relative adjective (a Class I adjective):

      Singular/Collective Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic
      Nominative lua lȳs luon luor
      Accusative lue luon luor
      Genitive luo luo luo luro
      Dative luo(t) luo(t) luo(t) luro(t)
      Locative luā luo(t) luro(t)
      Instrumental luos luos luos luros
      Comitative luom luom luom lurom
      Vocative lūs lȳs luos luos

      And here it is in the plural/paucal:

      Plural/Paucal Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic
      Nominative lȳz lua lura
      Accusative lua lura
      Genitive luo luo luo luro
      Dative luo luo luo luro
      Locative luo luo luro
      Instrumental luos luos luos luros
      Comitative luom luom luom lurom
      Vocative līs lȳz luas luas

      Notice that these lack full forms. That’s because the relative adjective will always and only appear directly before the noun it modifies. Consequently it has no need of a full form (though, of course, it’d just be the same as any Class I adjective). The same notes apply for t in parentheses as for other Class I adjectives: it appears when the following word begins with a vowel, but disappears otherwise. Also the plural/paucal forms of the solar have a z when the following sound is voiced; voiceless otherwise.

      Now for the pronouns. First, the specific pronoun :

      Case Singular Plural Paucal Collective
      Nominative lȳn lȳr
      Accusative lȳni lȳri
      Genitive luo luoti lȳno lȳro
      Dative luot luoti lȳnty lȳrty
      Locative lȳnny lȳrry
      Instrumental luomy luommi lȳssy lȳrzy
      Comitative luomy luommi lȳmmy lȳrmy
      Vocative lȳs lȳs lȳssy lȳrzy

      And now the generic pronoun līr:

      Case Singular Plural Paucal Collective
      Nominative līr lura lurin lurir
      Accusative līr lura lurini luriri
      Genitive lurio lurȳti lurino luriro
      Dative luriot lurȳti lurinti lurirti
      Locative līr lurȳti lurinni lurirri
      Instrumental lurȳsi lurȳssi lurissi lurirzi
      Comitative lurȳmi lurȳmmi lurimmi lurirmi
      Vocative lȳs luas lurissi lurirzi

      And that’s the end of it. Now you should know how to do relative clauses in High Valyrian, plus a little bit extra. If you made it to the end of the post, I have a reward for you: Another picture of my fantastic cat. Here she is sleeping on my foot:

      Keli sleeping on my foot.

      Click to enlarge.

      Geros ilas!

Run Like a Stallion

I’ve just recently come back from ConDor (which was wonderful), and ran into a wall of work. While I negotiate that, though, I’d like to do a couple of things here.

First, Dothraki regular Esploranto has started translating posts on this blog into Spanish! I can’t tell you how excited I am (and, by the way, if anyone else is interested in translating these posts, go for it!), but I’ve run into a technical issue—specifically, how to add these translations to the blog. It’d be odd to post them as new posts (since they’re translations of old posts), and odder still to post them directly after the posts they’re translations of (if I get more translations, there could be, e.g., a single day with like eight posts). What I think would be ideal is if I could add a button to each post that would automatically swap out the original content with the translation. Anyone have any idea how I might accomplish this?

If I can’t come up with a clever solution, what I may do is assign all these posts to some older year (say, a hundred years prior to the original post) and provide a link on each post to the other, plus a note on the translation telling readers when the original post was posted. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’ll allow me to host the content without cluttering up the original run of posts.

Oh, and as a note, I really wouldn’t like to maintain two blogs with the same content, if I can avoid it. I’ve been having enough trouble keeping all my WordPress blogs up to date; I’m loathe to start another.

Second, I got a comment a while back from Aniko asking for the Dothraki translation of the following phrase: Dare to live; it’s easy to die. Let me take some time to translate that.

Step 1 is taking care of the word I didn’t have: dare. Turns out, the English word “dare” goes all the way back to Proto-Indo-European with its meaning mostly in tact (not many words do that). I would’ve been on solid footing to simply coin a new root for Dothraki meaning “dare”, but it didn’t feel right. Right now the word I’d use for “brave” or “courageous” is vezhven. The word has other uses, but it also covers those areas of English’s vocabulary. The idea behind “dare” is to invest one’s courage (whether wise or not) in some enterprise. Many languages have a word related to “brave” they use for “dare”. I wanted to include that tie with Dothraki, but could have done it in a number of ways.

While vezhvenat is a verb, it’s really stative in nature. “To dare” is more of an activity, and I didn’t like any of the options available to me to make vezhvenat more active. In browsing the vocabulary, I came across one item I’d use before to turn vash, “stampede”, into a verb: lanat ki vashi, “to stampede”. I really like this construction, and want to use it more. Thus was born: lanat ki vezhi, “to dare” (and also “to be brave”).

I’m not sure quite how to explain it, but ki is used here to mean “like” or “as” instead of ven, which we’d ordinarily expect. Ven seems more utilitarian, more concrete (it’s certainly a younger preposition), while ki makes the connection seem closer. I think one could actually say lanat ven vezh, to literally say something like Me lan ven vezh, “He ran like a stallion”, but lanat ki vezhi means “to dare”.

Having settled that, this is how I would translate the phrase:

  • Lanas ki vezhi thirataan; me disie, jin drivolat.

Obviously do what you will with the punctuation. That said, there are different options here, so let me walk you through them one by one:

  • The first verb (lanas) is in the informal imperative. If you’d like it to read more formally, you can change lanas to lani.
  • The first clause is “Dare to live”. You can change it up, though, and say Lanas ki vezhi athiraraan, which is saying the same thing in a slightly different way (maybe something like “Dare to go towards life”?). Either construction is acceptable.
  • There are a number of ways to say this last bit. One way is to say Athdrivozar disie, which is literally “Death is easy”. (Note: In the original, you can switch out drivolat for athdrivozar if you like the original construction but prefer the verbal noun.)
  • Another way to say that same thing is to use the infinitive: Drivolat disie. That would be like saying “To die is easy”.
  • And, of course, there are two slightly different words for death at play here. Drivat (and its verbal noun form athdrivar) means “to be dead”. This is a stative verb and describes the state of being dead. Drivolat (and its verbal noun form athdrivozar) means “to die”. So which verb or verbal noun you use depends on what you want to say: Is being dead easy, or is dying easy? Now that I look at it, it’s probably the former, not the latter, in which case you’d want to switch to drivat/athdrivar.

That, though, should give you an idea of what the issues are, and should help you decide what direction you want to go in. Either way, when your tattoo is done, take a picture and send it my way! I’ll put it up here on the blog.

Fonas chek!

Me Azho Anni Shafkea


Did you hear that? Why…it sounds like the gentle rustling of the hoary beard of Winter Goat! No, he’s not here yet, but the goating hour draws nigh! Indeed, it is December, which means the grand nearly year-old Goatmas tradition here at the Dothraki blog is near at hand! And what better way to ring in this glorious goatish season than to begin with a tale of giving.

Today’s story comes from the Netherlands, where Dothraki forum member Pej made a special request. Her sister-in-law recently had a baby, and as a present, she made her a hand-crafted dragon egg (see below. It’s outstanding!).

A hand-crafted dragon egg.

Click to enlarge.

To accompany the dragon egg, she wanted to include a dedication in Dothraki, so she went to the forum for help. As the request required some vocabulary not yet revealed, I did my own translation, shown below.


Dear Catherine,

This is my gift to you, dragonborn. Always as fierce as fire; always as strong as flames.
This egg might contain your destiny.
You recently became the mother of Julia, and she needs your guidance.
Keep this gift close to you. It brings warmth and comfort.

With love.


Zhey Catherine,

Jini azho anni yeraan, zhey zhavorsayol. Ayyey ven ivezh ven vorsa; ayyey ven haj ven vorsakh.
Jin gale’sh losha fasqoy yeri.
Yer ray mai haji Julia ajjin, majin me zigeree athvillaroon yeri.
Aqqisis jin azh yeraan. Me yanqoe ma athafazhizar ma athdisizar.



Here are some notes on the translation:

  • As they’re proper names, I left “Catherine” and “Julia” as is. I think their most natural Dothraki versions would be Kathrin and Yolia. (Note that as Pej and her sister-in-law are from the Netherlands, the “j” in “Julia” is most likely pronounced like an English “y”, not like an English “j”.)
  • Another way to do the third main sentence would be Jin gale losha fasqoy yeri ishish. This seemed more natural to me, but I went ahead and used the auxiliary version to preserve the English word order.
  • I recast the beginning of the fourth main sentence so it probably most closely translates as, “You’ve now come to be the mother to Julia”. The folks on the forum had some clever ideas for rendering “become”, but this makes the most sense to me, given the context.
  • Athvillaroon is specifically wisdom that comes from experience (as opposed to innate intelligence or talent).
  • “Bring” in the last main sentence is colloquial in English. In Dothraki, the closest equivalent is to use the verb yanqolat, which means “to gather”. The form of the verb itself was inspired by Janko Gorenc from Slovenia, who’s spent the past who knows how many years collecting the numbers 1-10 in literally thousands of languages—including over 1,000 conlangs. Also, you may recognize the root of the word athdisizar, which I’ve used here for “comfort”.
  • The word athfiezar is used for love between siblings or friends (not between a parent child; that’s a different root). The word that you may know, athzhilar, is used for the love between lovers exclusively. It’s a private word that isn’t used in public.

My best to Catherine and her baby Julia! That’s a pretty incredible gift, and I hope it indeed brings you warmth and comfort. Also, san athchomari to Pej! That’s quite a job you did! Very well done!

And for those who follow the Dothraki blog, the time has come. Where are those goat pictures? Let’s get some dorvi up in here!


So it was revealed in the comments on my last post that I have apparently never gone over alienable vs. inalienable possession in Dothraki—or at least not directly. Let me take a moment to do so now.

First, a couple of definitions. Grammatical possession is probably something everyone is familiar with (e.g. in a phrase like “the man’s hat”, “the man” is the possessor and “hat” is the possessee, with the “‘s” there to indicate that “the man” is the possessor of what follows). Some languages make a finer grain distinction when it comes to possession than English does. For example, consider the actual relationships specified in the English examples below:

  • my pencil
  • my arm
  • my aunt
  • my bank account
  • my opinion
  • my country

All of these are expressed with the same construction, but is having a pencil in one’s hand really the same thing as having an aunt? One is an inanimate object that can be owned and wholly contained, while the other is a living individual with which one simply has a unique familial relationship. And what about a pencil vs. an opinion? Does one have an opinion in precisely the same way that one has a pencil? And while a bank account is more concrete than an opinion, in some ways, one can’t pick it up the same way one can a pencil.

A language like English treats these relationships the same, presuming that the words themselves will give one enough information about what the relationship is. Other languages, though, will focus on different aspects of these possessive relationships and encode them differently. Dothraki is one such language.

In Dothraki, the morphological expression of possession is dependent upon its alienability. Put simply, alienability is the ability for a possession to be separated from its possessor. For example, consider one’s nose. Unless one has met with a rather unfortunate set of circumstances (or, perhaps, found oneself in a story by Gogol), one’s nose is not easily removed from one’s face. This is a canonical example of inalienable possession (that is, one possesses one’s nose inalienably). A pencil, though, is easily removed from one’s possession, and is one of many examples of alienable possession.

In Dothraki, the genitive case is the default expression of alienable possession. It’s used for most types of garden variety possession, including interpersonal relationships, as shown below (with the possessor in the genitive following the possessee):

  • sajo anni “my mount”
  • okeo yeri “your friend”
  • arakh mae “his/her arakh”
  • okre khali “the khal’s tent”

Inalienable possession is expressed with the ablative, rather than the genitive, and the possessor is optional: it can be stated for emphasis or if the possessor isn’t obvious, but if it is, it’s typically left out. Some examples are given below:

  • qora (anhoon) “(my) arm/hand”
  • tihi (yeroon) “(your) eyes”
  • noreth (moon) “(his/her) hair”
  • jahak (khaloon) “(the khal’s) braid”

In English, you actually do see a bit of this alienability sometimes. Consider, for example, a sentence like, “I looked him in the eyes”. Whose eyes? Well, his eyes. It’s obvious from the context. You could actually say, “I looked him in his eyes”, but it’s not necessary. The same thing occurs with Dothraki, but in a wider context. For example, consider this sentence below:

  • Qora zisa.

That means simply “the arm hurts”. If one walks in holding one’s arm and utters that, though, it’s obvious from context that it’s the speaker’s arm that hurts, meaning that the “missing” possessor is anhoon. If one’s companion said that, it’d be obvious that the “missing” possessor is moon.

Moving beyond body parts, though, the inalienable possession construction is used with inherent parts of things. Here are some examples:

  • az arakhoon “the blade of the arakh”
  • lenta halahoon “the stem of the flower”
  • rayan krazaajoon “the summit of the mountain”
  • riv zhanoon “the tip of the spear”

Mastering the two types of expressions will also allow one to make subtle distinctions that may or may not prove useful, e.g.:

  • Qora anhoon mesa.
  • Qora anni mesa.

Both sentences above mean “My arm is swollen”. The second sentence, though, refers specifically to an alienably possessed arm. Thus the most obvious interpretation is that the speaker is wielding a severed arm as a weapon, and, having bludgeoned someone or something with it, the arm has now swollen, and perhaps doesn’t swing as well as it once did.

While the rules above will work for 99% of cases, some expressions are unpredictable. For example, chiva krazaaji, “the tip of the mountain”, has krazaaj in the genitive rather than the ablative, even though one would expect the ablative. In addition, bodily conditions (injuries, illness, etc.) are often expressed with the ablative, rather than the genitive. In general, though, it’s more common to see the genitive where one would expect the ablative, rather than vice versa.

Okay, now I can be absolutely sure that I discussed possession on the blog (unlike before, when I was absolutely certain and mostly wrong). Athdavrazar!

Oh, and here, for no real reason, is a link to my article entitled “Linguistics Manifesto” which appeared in Speculative Grammarian.

Vojjor Ershe ma Sashi

Another week, and another blow to the Dothraki speakers of Essos. This week we lost a big one: Dany’s handmaiden, and the one with probably the most Dothraki lines in the show, Irri. Her death probably came as a shock to those who’ve read the books, because Irri lasts a whole lot longer than that in the books. Upon reflection, I think the effect of unexpected deaths like this on fans of the books is amusing. After all, the book series itself is known for killing off main characters—even the good guys. Fans of the books got to sit back and snicker as new fans of the show were shocked by Ned Stark’s death back in season 1. But now what, book fans?! Not only are your favorite characters not safe from George R. R. Martin—they’re not safe from Dave and Dan!

Seriously, though, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the wonderful work of Amrita Acharia. Not only did she do a great job in the role of Irri, her Dothraki was my favorite. She spoke fluidly and had a convincing accent. If anyone saw the episode of CNN’s The Next List on Dothraki, you will have seen some interview footage with Amrita Acharia, which I was grateful for (she didn’t have to take the time, but she did). Not only that, but she delivered a line she had memorized from season 1. Think about that. Season 2 was already done filming, and she was able to reproduce from memory a full Dothraki line from season 1 (the episode “A Golden Crown”, to be specific). Just outstanding. So to Amrita, thank you so much! You did a terrific job. I can’t wait to see you in something else.

Apart from that shocking discovery, there was also a shocking lack of Dothraki dialogue. Odd, since you’d think Talisa would speak Dothraki (I mean, since we’re making stuff up for her anyway, why not?). But, of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Dany’s story does kind of take a back seat in A Clash of Kings. Those who’ve read the book, though, know that some good stuff’s coming (I can’t wait).

About the rest of the episode, I do have some thoughts on Talisa (and on similar types of events), but it crucially depends on scenes that are coming, so I’ll have to hold off. Suffice it to say, though, I know the pressure the writers are responding to, and I think they’re doing as good a job as can be expected. George R. R. Martin has this habit of introducing events that have happened in the books, with explanations coming chapters and chapters later—and for the books, that’s cool. I don’t think it can translate directly to a television show, though. It will help to be able to work with a specific example (and I have two in mind) to illustrate just what I’m talking about, but the scenes in question haven’t aired yet, so I’m going to have to hold off until they have. But trust me. I’ve got a good explanation right up my sleeve…

Since there’s no Dothraki dialogue to discuss, I figure I may as well tell the story behind the Dothraki word for “friend” (something Daenerys has been asking for for a while now). It does exist, and it almost made it into the show, in fact. When the call came to translate dialogue that ended up in last week’s episode, I saw one of Dany’s lines in there was, “Thank you, my friend”. You may, in fact, remember this line from last week and that it was in English. That was no accident.

Not wanting to disappoint, I did, in fact, translate the line (in fact I gave a couple options for it), but I reminded Bryan et al. that we’d made kind of a big deal about Dothraki having no word for “thank you” in the premiere. I let them know that we could translate it as san athchomari (which, as those working with Dothraki know, isn’t really the same thing as “thank you”), but that if anything was subtitled as “thank you”, undoubtedly every fan in existence would point it out and be all like Ki fin yeni?! So I gave them options. I said they could go with that, or they could have her say “thank you” in English, and follow it up with “my friend” in Dothraki. I also suggested that the entire line could be in English, and they went with that, which I think makes sense. After all, if you don’t have a word for something in the language you’re speaking, it’s common to drop in the word you want from another language. And if Dany starts in English, she’s just as likely to finish in English rather than switch to Dothraki, if not more likely. And so the word for “friend” didn’t make it in.

There is a word for “friend”, though, and there’s a story behind it. I gave quite a bit to thought to just how the concept of friendship would translate to Dothraki culture. It seems like one wouldn’t have a friend the way one has one in our world. There’s one’s immediate family, of course, then there are the members of one’s khalasar, which is like an extended family. Whether related or not, another member of one’s khalasar is like a cousin or relative. The question, then, was whether there were relationships beyond this.

Then it occurred to me that there’s the perfect model for such a relationship: a khal’s bloodrider. Though the khal commands the entire khalasar, he has only three bloodriders, and they owe him a special debt above and beyond what’s expected of an ordinary rider. They’re also accorded more respect and are privy to the khal’s council. That model, then, can easily extend to every Dothraki. A dothraki has their khalasar and their immediate family, and they also have one or two of these others—ones who owe them a debt, who will have their back in battle, and who will take care of their family should they fall. I was satisfied with this definition for “friend”: I just needed a form for it.

At the time that I was coming up with vocabulary like this, it was early 2010 and I was translating material for the first season of Game of Thrones. It was kind of a tough time: My wife and I had just moved into our first condo; the press release about Game of Thrones and Dothraki hadn’t gone live yet, so I had to keep explaining to my family that I was busy, but I couldn’t say why; my car was stolen (I got it back [which is good, because we need that old thing])… About the only things that were good were my wife and my new cat.

See, I’d never had a cat before (I’d always been allergic). I had a dog growing up, but I’d always wanted a cat, and this cat (that we got in January of 2010 from Cats In Need) was our very own. My wife was working long hours, so every day I’d work on expanding Dothraki and translating dialogue with my cat by my side, and at night he’d curl up with me and we’d watch One Piece or Dark Shadows. He was my little friend and kept me company as Dothraki grew.

In retrospect, I should’ve spotted that something was wrong much earlier than I did. I wasn’t an experienced cat person, though, and both my wife and I were shutting out the warning signs. Little by little, though, our cat became less interested in eating. At first he just wasn’t eating as much as he had been. After a while, he wouldn’t eat by himself any longer. We were in and out of the vet’s office every other day, each time with something new to try, always thinking that the new solution would be the solution. But it never was. It was when he could barely walk that we finally skipped the vet and went to an emergency pet clinic. We turned him over to their care that night hopeful, but as it turned out, we would never see him again.

He was extremely young (about 7 months), and from what the emergency vet was able to figure out, he had a congenital liver problem. In the short time we’d had him, though, I’d grown to love him, and I was utterly devastated. When I was finally able to work out of my depression, I decided one way to honor him would be to work his name into Dothraki. Since I still hadn’t come up with a word for “friend”, though, I decided that Dothraki “friend” would get its root from my own dear little friend: My first cat Okeo.

And so the word for “friend” in Dothraki is okeo: an animate noun. As it happens, his name has its origins in a Kamakawi word which I coined just for him based on his old name when he was still at the shelter. His name was “Oreo”, but it was spelled in all caps, and my wife pointed out that on the tag it actually looked like “Okeo”. And so Okeo he became.

I still miss him all the time, but I am feeling better now. Dang. I just realized this might be kind of a downer to read (hopefully not as much of a downer as it was to write), so to make up for it, here’s a video of two adorable kittens meowing at each other. Enjoy!

Lei Harenhaloon

I’m watching the Clipper game right now, and I’m not happy. Going to write this to take my mind off things.

Yesterday’s episode, “The Ghost of Harrenhal”, was a bit easier to watch than last week’s. Or, at least if you’re not a fan of Renly who wasn’t familiar with the books. If you are, well… Props to the fallen. Big ups to Gethin Anthony for portraying a Renly Baratheon that I think all of us were really coming to like. For myself, I could really see him as the likable character he’s supposed to be in the books. I didn’t see that so much in the books. Gethin Anthony did a fantastic job, and he will be sorely missed.

Let me step out for a minute to say that I just saw one of the most ridiculous comebacks I have ever seen. I could see the Clippers maybe making a run. But winning that game? Are you kidding me?! Unbelievable. Memphis is not going to enjoy looking at the film of this one!

But yeah, back to Game of Thrones. I like Jaqen H’ghar. I like Brienne and Cat. I like Pyat Pree. And I like Dany teaching her little dragon how to eat. More of that please!

But before getting into Dany’s scenes, a quick note about the translation of the title. There are a couple of ways to do “The Ghost of Harrenhal”, and I decided on the ablative for two reasons—first, it could be “The Ghost From Harrenhal”, which gives a bit more of a locative feel than the genitive would, and also because it makes it sound like Harrenhal is an entity, and that the ghost is a part of its body. I kind of like that, so I went with the ablative over the genitive.

And, of course, the word for “ghost”, lei, got its form from the fabulous Leigh Bardugo, whose debut novel Shadow and Bone is coming out this June (look out for it!).

And since we’re talking shout-outs, let’s jump right into the Dothraki dialogue for Episode 5. We open on a scene with Dany and Doreah giving food to my good friend and trusted advisor Bitey, shown below:

Drogon roasting his meat.

Irri is a bit miffed by Dany saying how much Drogon loves Doreah, so she points out how she’s been fixing up her native Dothraki garments. First Irri says:

  • Anha soqe akka jin sacchey essheyi.
  • “I rewove this part of the top.”

We have, I believe, a new word in soqat, “to weave”, and following it up with akka renders “to reweave”. The word saccheya (seen above in the accusative) derives from the root sach, which gives us words for “half” (sachi, class B) and “to divide” (sachat). With the part-to-whole morphology, you get kind of a part of a half (literally), which becomes a very general word for a part or a piece of something. You’d use the same word (saccheya) for a piece of pizza, a piece of pie, a part of a story—or, if the Dothraki ever developed mathematics, for a word for “fraction”. Then the word essheya (above in the genitive) is formed using the same pattern off of the root she, which is a general locative preposition that most commonly means “on” or “on top of”.

After this, we get to the sentence I was referring to last week featuring Hrakkar’s word! Here it is:

  • Qisi tim, anha arrisse vemishikh jinoon akka.
  • “And I fixed the heel on this one.”

Literally, though, that begins with “Regarding the boot(s)”. So there you go, Hrakkar! A Dothraki word based on your name made it onto TV. Thanks for all the help at WorldCon (which, by the way, it currently looks like I will be returning to this year. I’ll likely have more details later). In fact I had to kind of throw that in, because the line was rewritten. Originally it had the word “boot” in the line, but all that remained was “heel”, so I kind of shoehorned (if you’ll forgive the pun) the word “boot” back into the line, and it made the cut. Hoorah!

The word for “heel” is kind of fun. It starts with vem, a word that means either “elbow” or “knee”, depending on contexts. From that we get vemish, which means “heel” (both of the foot and the hand [the part you hit the board with if you're doing a palm strike]), and then from that we get vemishikh, which is kind of like “artificial heel”, or, specifically, the heel of a boot or shoe (and this one just refers to the footwear, really, since gloves don’t have an equivalent part that’s equally important).

Later when Dany mentions Drogo’s name, Irri offers up this short prayer/saying (I like the Dothraki term asto for this):

  • Me dothralates she Rhaeshi Ajjalani ayyeyaan.
  • “May he ride through the Night Lands forever.”

Last week we got caught up talking about the jussive because I confused the terminology, but the use of dothralates above is a true jussive (used optatively here).

As we shift scenes, Dany’s out in the courtyard talking and out of the corner of her she sees her Dothraki up to no good. We don’t really hear what they’re saying, but what Jorah says as Dany walks up is:

  • Chaki, chaki. Khaleesi jada. Me vakkelena jin.
  • “Quiet, quiet. The khaleesi is coming. She’ll decide this.”
  • Then we have a bit of rapid-fire discussion between Dany, Jorah, Kovarro and Malakko. After Jorah explains the argument, Kovarro adds (regarding that boss peacock statue):

    • che ivvisaki mae. Disisse.
    • “Or melt it. Very simple.”

    Dany responds:

    • Kisha nevaki mae! Yer laz vos vefenari mae, vos tavi mae, vos ivvisi mae.
    • “We are his guests! You can’t pry it or chop it or melt it.”

    The vos, you can see, is required since the verb has a second person subject, and the positive and negative conjugations are identical. Kovarro objects:

    • Vosecchi, zhey khaleesi! Kisha vayoki athezaraan kishi.
    • “Of course not, khaleesi! We will wait until we leave.”

    Literally the second bit is, “We will await our departure”. Dany responds:

    • Kash athezar kishi vos akka.
    • “Not even when we leave.”

    Or more literally, “During our departure, not even”. Kovarro, curious, asks:

    • Vos arrek? Kifindirgi?
    • “Not then? Why?”

    And then Dany says, at the very least, some of the following:

    • Hash idrik kishi vijazero kisha Athasaroon Virzetha hash yer zali zifichelat moon? Anha acharak vos alikh.
    • “Our host saved us from the Red Waste and you want to steal from him? I will hear no more.”

    Of this, well…Dany’s pronunciation of “alikh” was spot on! But I think everything after Athasaroon got cut off, and a stray kishi was inserted somewhere. So it goes.

    Overall, I thought the Dothraki scenes were pretty good! Any time I get to see a little dragon roasting a little bit of meat and eating thereof it’s a good day. (Plus I got to see the Clippers come back from an eleventy-billion point deficit to win.)

    As a final note, Justin commented on the last post asking:

    So, maybe this has been answered somewhere else, but how would you render “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die” in Dothraki? I can get the rest, I think, but the only word I see for “play” means playing a musical instrument, so it’s driving me crazy.

    Up to then I didn’t have a word for “to play” in the usual sense. As I commented, I did have a word for “to spar” or “to train” which is based on the word “to fight” (in fact, it’s a diminutive thereof). I decided it made sense to extend the meaning of that word (lajilat) to “play” in the sense of children playing, or playing a game. To play in general, then, is lajilat, and to play something, you’d use a preposition phrase headed by ki, which assigns the genitive case. So, to translate the phrase “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die”, I would do the following:

    • Hash yer lajie ki Vilajeroshi Adori, hash yer che najahi che drivoe.

    I decided to use the present tense here rather than the future tense to make it more of a “when…then” phrase as opposed to an “if…then” phrase. Somehow it seems like the present does a better job of that than the future.

    Halfway! Only five more episodes of season 2 of Game of Thrones. Been good so far! See you all next week.

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