Dothraki language

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The Dothraki language is the Language Creation Society of the Dothraki, the indigenous inhabitants of the Dothraki Sea in the series A Song of Ice and Fire written by George R. R. Martin. It was created by David J. Peterson, a member of the Language Creation Society, for HBO's television series Game of Thrones. Dothraki was designed to fit George R. R. Martin's original conception of the language, based upon the few extant phrases and words in his original books. As of October 26th, 2010, there are over 2,500 words in the lexicon, but only the creator knows its entire grammar.[1] However, there is a growing community of Dothraki language fans, with websites like "Learn Dothraki" [2] offering information on the state of the language.


The Dothraki vocabulary was created by Peterson well in advance of the adaptation. HBO hired the Language Creation Society to create the language, and after an application process involving over thirty conlangers, David Peterson was chosen to develop the Dothraki language. He delivered over 1700 words to HBO before the initial shooting. Peterson drew inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s description of the language, as well as from such languages as Russian, Turkish, Estonian, w:Inuktitut and Swahili.[3]

Language constraints

The Dothraki language was developed under two significant constraints. First, the language had to match the uses already put down in the books. Secondly, it had to be easily pronounceable or learnable by the actors. These two constraints influenced the grammar and phonology of the language: for instance, voiceless stops can be aspirated or unaspirated, as in English.

Phonology and romanization

In Dothraki the consonants d, t, s, n are dental, which sets it apart from many languages. David Peterson has said that "You know, most people probably don’t really know what Arabic actually sounds like, so to an untrained ear, it might sound like Arabic. To someone who knows Arabic, it doesn’t. I tend to think of the sound as a mix between Arabic (minus the distinctive pharyngeals) and Spanish, due to the dental consonants." [4]. Regarding the orthography, the Dothraki themselves don't have a writing system—nor do many of the surrounding peoples (e.g. the Lhazareen). If there were to be any written examples of Dothraki in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, it would be in a writing system developed in the Free Cities and adapted to Dothraki, or in some place like Ghis or Qarth, which do have writing systems.[5]


There are twenty-three consonant phonemes in the Dothraki language. Here the Anglicised form is given on the left, and the IPA in brackets. {| class="wikitable" |- !  ! Labial ! Dental ! Alveolar ! Postalveolar ! Velar ! Uvular ! Glottal |- ! Language Creation Society | | t [t̪] | | | k [k] | q [q] | |- ! Voiced plosive | | d [d̪] | | | g [g] | | |- ! Affricate | | | | ch [tʃ] | | | |- ! Voiced affricate | | | | j [dʒ] | | | |- ! Voiceless fricative | f [f] | th [θ] | s [s] | sh [ʃ] | kh [x] | | h [h] |- ! Voiced fricative | v [] | | z [z] | zh [ʒ] | | | |- ! Nasal | m [m] | n [n̪] | | | | | |- ! Lateral | | l [l̪] | | | | | |- ! Trill | | | r [r] | | | | |- ! Tap | | | r [ɾ] | | | | |- ! Glide | w [w] | | | y [j] | | | |} The digraphs kh, sh, th and zh are all fricatives, while ch and j are affricates. The letters c and x never appear in Dothraki, although c appears in the digraph ch, pronounced like 'check'. b and p seem to appear only in names, as in Bharbo and Pono. Voiceless stops may be aspirated. This does not change word meaning.


Dothraki has a four vowel system shown below: {| class="wikitable" |- ! Dothraki |- | i [i] |- | e [e] |- | o [o] |- | a [a] |} In the A Song of Ice and Fire books, u never occurs as a vowel, appearing only after "q", and only in names, as in Jhiqui and Quaro.


Dothraki has few diphthongs. {| class="wikitable" |- ! Dothraki |- | oy [oj] |- | ey [ej] |} iy, ay, ai and ae may also be diphthongs.



Following certain prefixes, initial consonants become geminates. Furthermore, initial consonant clusters become reduced in the romanization, such that a-th-th becomes atth, and not athth. We have examples for n, d, s, th, r, j. We also have mid-word geminates for k, g, v, q and r.

Vowel clusters

Dothraki appears to allow unlimited sequences of vowels in a word. Each such vowel represents a separate syllable. Examples: shierak star, and rhaesh country. Furthermore, Dothraki allows for two of the same vowel to occur near each other, as in khaleesi.


Word Order

In a basic sentence, the order of these elements (when all three are present) is as in English: First comes the Subject (S), then comes the Verb (V), then comes the Object (O). Here's an example:  :Khal ahhas arakh. :The Khal (S) sharpened (V) the arakh (O). When only a subject is a present, the subject precedes the verb, as it does in English:  :Arakh hasa. :The arakh (S) is sharp (V). In more complicated phrases, there is a specific order as well. The order is (maximally) as follows: demonstrative, noun, adverb, adjective, genitive noun, prepositional phrase. Prepositions always precede their noun complements.  :jin ave sekke verven anni m'orvikoon :this father very violent of.mine with.a.whip :this very violent father of mine with a whip Adverbs normally are sentence final, but they can also immediately follow the verb. Modal particles precede the verb.[6]


It is known to have at least four noun cases - nominative, accusative, genitive, and ablative.[3][7] It also may have the allative case, and probably lacks the dative. [5]


Peterson had created around two thousand words for Dothraki at the point of the shooting of the second episode. The publicly available lexicon, including the odd inflectional form, has been posted online. A few sample words are:[8] :athastokhdeveshizaroon "from nonsense" :athjahakar “pride, prowess” :dothralat “to ride (with a horse as the subject), to have an erection (crude)” :Hash yer ray nesi? “Did you know? :ido “wooden, fake” :jahak “Dothraki hair-braid, lion’s mane, hairstyle” :lajaki “fighters, warriors” :qoy “blood” :thirat atthiraride “to dream; (lit.) to live a wooden life”


External links