Blog Archives

Various Updates

I’ve been absolutely swamped working on the second season of Defiance and the first season of Star-Crossed, so I haven’t had the time to devote to maintaining this blog. It isn’t going away, though. It’s just wintering at the moment. (Ha. Just realized that Game of Thrones always premieres in the spring. Gives “winter is coming” a bit of a different twist.) I did want to mention a few things, though.

First, on November 9th, I’ll be speaking at El Ser Creativo: an event held in Madrid, Spain that features speakers from around the globe speaking on a variety of topics. I, of course, will be speaking about sports logos. For the event, though, they had me do a little promo. They said I could do it in English, but I elected to do it in Dothraki. Here it is:

I do not know if the event will be streaming (maybe?). Worth checking out!

Additionally, since the last time I mentioned him on the blog, sunquan8094 has started a series of Valyrian lessons on his YouTube channel! The first lesson is below:

I just got back from WyrdCon, and next week I’m going to the San Diego Comic-Fest. My presentation at the latter will be at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, October 4th. If you’re in Southern California today, though, I’m going to be at the Comic Book Hideout at 5:00 p.m. We’ll be talking about cursing. Heh, heh… It’ll be fun!

Finally, my pidgins and creoles professor from UC Berkeley John McWhorter did a video for TED Ed on conlanging, and I thought it was quite good. Conlangs have really gotten the short shrift from linguists for…decades. But things have started to turn around, and I’m really proud of where we’re at. It was John McWhorter who gave me my first opportunity to do some conlang-related experimentation (undergraduate-quality work, but, well, I was an undergraduate), and it’s really gratifying to see this come full circle. You can check out the video below (a short five minute intro; worth the watch).

…though he stressed the wrong syllable in Hajas!

Vaes Dothrak Vimithreri

I’m mostly recovered from my first trip to Comic-Con this past weekend, and I’ve discovered that June is almost over, and I’ve only got one post for the month. This is my attempt to remedy that.

Something fun that I got to do for Comic-Con was translate some of the trolley signs for San Diego MTS into Dothraki. The signs were up at the station right across the street from the convention center, and I thought they came out pretty well. Here are some pictures:

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For a full set of the signs, though, check out this picture that SDMTS put together (along with some more literal translations I provided):

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Thanks to Nara Lee for setting it all up! It was pretty cool.

Also, while I was there I got to participate on a panel called “I Can’t Write, I Can’t Draw, But I Love Comics!” put together by Susan Karlin. Here’s a photo:

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The Making Game of Thrones blog also put up a post on the panel with a pretty good picture. You can check it out here.

In Valyrian news, I’ve finished the translations for season 4, so all that’s left is filming and post, and a long wait for the premiere!

Perzo Vūjita

Of course the million dollar question is: Just what does that participial phrase agree with…?

“Kissed By Fire”, written by my old compatriot Bryan Cogman, was low on action (outside the first scene), but high on drama. There were some outstanding scenes, and nearly every major character made an appearance (no Bran, no Samwell, no Theon, no Joffrey, no Melisandre, but everyone else). We haven’t gotten to see that very often of late! This week’s episode featured not one, but two scenes where Tyrion is demolished by an elder—first by Lady Olenna, and then by my all-time favorite Ice and Fire character: Tywin Lannister. And though usually an episode will end with a twist or a bit of high drama, I liked that we close with Cersei, of all people, finally getting the dressing down she deserves from someone (namely [who else?] Tywin). The man is a beast!

As a happily married man, I will refrain from commenting on any redheads that did or did not appear in this episode.

On a different note, though, I wonder how many people thought what I did when watching this scene:

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So that’s Robb there staring over a large map with, well, what appear to be large Cyvasse pieces representing the various armies. Now, it’s no wonder that Robb would have a map. Maps are important. Cartographer is a noble calling even today, but especially back in the days before flight. Every lord worth his salt probably has dozens of maps, and has them updated routinely. Those figurines, though… They’re quite specific, no? He has figures for his house, for the Lannisters, and apparently for each of his bannermen. Just where do you think he gets them from? Did each bannerman bring his own…figurines? And does he have Frey figurines for the next part of his plan? If so, where does he store them? Does he go to his horse’s saddlebags and pull out the baggy of Frey figurines and put them in place on the map? And if he doesn’t have them, does he have someone carve them for him—one of his knights, perhaps? And is there any kind of quality control there? After all, these are not crudely made. They appear to be carved, shaped, sanded and finished. Quite a bit of work went into carving each and every one of those figurines—and transporting them. Even if he didn’t inherit them from Ned or some other bannerman, that had to be a conversation at some point—something along the lines of, “Okay, I have a big map. In order to discuss the movement of forces, I’m going to need about a dozen figurines—maybe more—with groups representing the various armies in play. I’ll need your finest craftsmen to get on this right away!” Not to say that they don’t look cool (they do) or that I don’t want some (I very much do), it just seems like this is the kind of detail we’re not meant to think about. And yet here I am…

Anyway, let us speak of language. Some major highlights and an oddity in this one. The scene across the Narrow Sea featured Barristan Selmy not so subtly disinviting Jorah Mormont to the Queen Daenerys party along with Daenerys having a discussion with the leaders of her new army.

First, a word. I have three versions of the translation I did, and three .pdf versions of this scene. Not one of them matches what eventually appeared on screen. Instead, there’s a mix of lines from the original translation I did and the revised translation I did—as well as a bit of a subtitle remix. I think I got everything, though, so I’ll do my best (though the same note applies regarding long vowels. I’ll try my best to get them all, but I may miss some; I’ll eventually get them all in). First, Dany addresses the group:

  • Keso glaesot iderēptot daor.
  • “You did not choose this life.”
  • Yn dāeri vali sīr issi. Se dāeri vali pōntalo syt gaomoti iderēbzi.
  • “But you are free men now. And free men make their own choices.”

Then comes a line whose subtitle changed, but I don’t think I was ever asked to retranslate (I could’ve; would’ve been relatively painless). I had this:

  • Jenti jevi jemēle iderēbilātās, qogrondo jevo hēdrȳ.
  • “You will select your own leader, from amongst your own ranks.”

But I believe the subtitle has her asking a question: “Have you chosen a leader from amongst your own ranks?”

Then comes a truly perplexing moment.

As one of the Unsullied approaches, Dany asks him to remove his helmet. I distinctly remember being asked to translate this line. In fact, I have the words “remove” and “helmet” in there that I specifically translated for this line. It should have been something like Geltī aōhe nādīnās. What she says sounds like derēpti, which means…nothing. (If it had a different ending, it’d be some irrelevant form of the verb “to gather, collect”.) I’ve scoured my e-mail, and I can’t find any record of the request, or of my sending off the translation. I also can’t seem to find the translation in my files. And yet I did not create the words for “remove” and “helmet” just because. I created them specifically because I was asked for the translation of “remove your helmet” for this season. I’m absolutely mystified by the entire situation, and am chalking it up to gremlins. And so I’m going to leave it at that.

UPDATE: Okay, I’ve scoured my records, and I have found the answer. At 3:24 p.m. PST on Friday, February 8th, 2013 I was asked to translate “Remove your helmet” into High Valyrian (so this was for postproduction). I e-mailed back asking how quick they’d need it, but actually started recording then just for the heck of it. By the time I got a response back (they wouldn’t need it until Monday the 11th), I was done, and I sent off the translation and .mp3 that same day at 4:01 p.m. PST. The translation was:

  • Aōhi geltī nādīnās.
  • “Remove your helmet.”

Which, of course, was incorrect (it should have been aōhe), but I was working quickly. I received a response at 4:10 p.m. PST, and that was the last I had to do with. For whatever reason, it never made it to the screen.

Now I’m sure it wasn’t the messenger’s fault (the person I was e-mailing with); I’m sure they passed on the .mp3 and translation like they’d always done in the past. No, I think I know who’s behind it—and if it is, this is a person that’s run afoul of me before. And if, indeed, it was that person, they should know that my memory is long. Very long.

Back to the post…

Then things start cooking. One Unsullied steps forward and says:

  • Bezy eza ji rigle.
  • “This one has the honor.”

Dany asks him:

  • Skoroso jemēle brōzā?
  • “What is your name?”

He responds:

  • Torgo Nudho.
  • “Grey Worm.”

Dany turns to Missandei who explains that the Unsullied take vile names to remind them of how low they are. She doesn’t explain how they get a new name every single day (they draw them out of a bowl, or something). That’s kind of a neat little factoid that’s probably way too specific for TV, but I liked it, so I thought I’d mention it here. The well-meaning Daenerys, after learning this, tells the Unsullied:

  • Hēzīr, brōza jevi jemēle iderēbilātās. Mentyri idañe jevi ivestrilātās keskydoso gaomagon.
  • “From this day forward, you will choose your own names. You will tell all your fellow soldiers to do the same.”

When Dany continues, she uses an Astapori Valyrian word for “slave name”:

  • Gadbag aōhe qrīdrughās. Muñar aōt teptas lue brōzi, iā mirre tolie iderēbās. Avy hoskas lue brōzi.
  • “Throw away your slave name. Choose the name your parents gave you, or any other. A name that gives you pride.”

Then…this. Man alive! Who the hell is Jacob Anderson?! And I mean that in the best possible way. I mean, he may have messed up one vowel somewhere in this long, long speech, but if he did, I didn’t hear it. Jacob Anderson is now and forever afterwards my hero. If you didn’t get a chance to see this scene, watch it—by any means necessary. Seriously. This performance? Un. Be. LIEVABLE. I want to bake this guy a cake—or wash his car—whatever! I’ll drive him to the airport for the rest of his life for this performance. If I could, I’d have him do recordings for me, because I think he’s better than me. He may as well have created this language. I want him to teach me how to speak this language. I want to make this speech my ringtone—in fact, I’m tempted to record the audio straight off HBO GO and upload it here… But, no. I’ll be good.

Here’s his line:

  • “Torgo Nudho” hokas bezy. Sa me broji beri. Ji broji ez bezo sene stas qimbroto. Kuny iles ji broji meles esko mazedhas derari va buzdar. Y Torgo Nudho sa ji broji ez bezy eji tovi Daenerys Jelmazmo ji teptas ji derve.
  • “‘Grey Worm’ gives this one pride. It is a lucky name. The name this one was born with was cursed. That was the name he had when he was taken as a slave. But Grey Worm is the name this one had the day Daenerys Stormborn set him free.”

And that sound you just heard? That’s Jacob Anderson dropping the mic. IT’S DONE! Bar just got raised. This is the new standard—for everything. To everyone in the future: You must be at least this cool to ride. This man’s got serious skills—and he’s like ten years younger than me! Where does he get the nerve to be that good?! How can he do that?! My mind boggles…

Next week my post may be a day or two late, as I’ll be in Austin, Texas for the Fifth Language Creation Conference. If you live nearby, please come and visit! It’ll be a great event with a host of incredible conlangers both presenting and in attendance. Loads of fun.

So, until Monday or Tuesday of next week, geros ilas!

Update: And just in case you didn’t see it, here he is: Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm. My hero.

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Click to enlarge.

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!


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:

English Turkish
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:

English Turkish
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!

Azho Anni Ha Yeraan

A fellow conlanger (Scott Hamilton, creator of the Riddlesbrood language) sent some pictures my way of some new Dothraki jewelry. Sunnie Larsen and Marcos Duran got each other a joint anniversary present pictured below:

Two Dothraki bracelets.

Click to enlarge.

The bracelets say “zhey jalan atthirari anni” (hers) and “zhey shekh ma shieraki anni” (his). Very nice! They came from Etsy designer rubybliss (I should get me one of them one day…).

In other news, I’m going to be traveling to the following events in the next few months. If you’re nearby, come say M’ath!

There may be some others that come up within this time period, so revisit this post periodically; I’ll update it. Until then, davralates asshekhi yeri!

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