Looking for a conversation starter with your family this holiday season? Try speaking like a Dothraki horse lord. Linguist David J. Peterson recently released the conversational guide, Living Language Dothraki, designed to turn you fluent in fierce Dothraki warrior. Start practicing now with audio clips.Read More
Lured by the idea they'd "learn to speak like a khal," eager GoT fans crowded the New York Comic-Con panel Dothraki 101 With Language Creator David Peterson. Peterson is the linguist responsible for several of GoT's fictional languages – including High Valyrian and Dothraki, the language of the nomadic horse tribes of Essos. Peterson recently released Living Language Dothraki, a conversational language course designed to turn any new speaker into a fierce warrior… conversationally, at least.
Peterson's Comic-Con panel functioned as a 45-minute language lesson; he walked through some basic tips, vocabulary and behind-the-scenes details. Below you'll find five rules to speak by, in Vaes Dothrak and beyond.
1. Conquer the 'q'
"'Q' is the hardest sound in Dothraki," Peterson explained: it's not pronounced like "q" or "k" in English. Peterson characterized the Dothraki "q" to be spoken like "a 'k' but further back in the throat." He advised putting the back of your tongue right against the uvula (the part that hangs down from the roof of your mouth). The crowd tried the sound together, resulting in a cacophony not unlike a flock of ravens caw-cawing. Peterson estimated that about 60 percent of the group had it right. "You can swallow your tongue … that is possible" Peterson cautioned, "so don't do that."
2. Nail the vowels
A good way to prove your mastery of a second language? Get the vowels right. In Dothraki, vowels are always pronounced separately. As an example, Peterson presented the word "soaiso," pronounced: so-a-i-so and meaning "drunk." As another example, Peterson offered a five-syllable traditional Dothraki greeting, "m'attchomaroon." The literal translation is "with respect," which Peterson noted is "how you greet somebody if you don’t want to get killed."
3. Don't get intimidated
Some Dothraki letter combinations will throw off the actors, particularly if they are pronounced differently than in English. "Zh" is one such example; luckily, Peterson has a trick for Dothraki novices – "s" is to "z" as "sh" is to "zh." The result is a sound similar to garage or genre or measure. "Kh" is another tricky combo. "We kind of get freaked out about this," Peterson said, "but this sound does exist in English." He cited an expression of exasperation, "hugh." One audience member documented the experience:
4. Gather the necessary supplies
Peterson recalled the study habits of his pupil Jason Momoa, the actor who played Khal Drogo. After receiving multiple .mp3 files from Peterson of a speech he had to learn, Momoa "freaked out … got a six-pack of beer, ordered a pizza, and took it back to his hotel room," revealed Peterson. "All night he just listened to the speech over and over again." The result? "Man," Peterson marveled, "did he nail it."
5. Know the classics
Given their distinct culture, the Dothraki have several go-to expressions. Here are the ones to perfect:
Me nem nesa
The most famous expression. It means, "It is known."
Yer shekh ma shieraki anni.
Spoken to a male, this means, "You are my sun and my stars."
Yer jalan atthirari anni.
Spoken to a female, this expression means, "You are the moon of my life."
This expression means "cheers," "goodbye," "be awesome" – and finally, "be strong"
Nearly two dozen journalists gathered Friday morning for a David Peterson-delivered primer in Dothraki. The event served as a kick off for Living Language Dothraki, a conversational course guide out October 7.
Peterson schooled the room in the basics, including four vowel sounds, pronounced much like they are in English. Tossing out terms like "dothralat" (to ride), he encouraged his class to give the word a try with conviction and to scare the rooms nearby. He used phrases like alveolar ridge, which turns out to be a part of the mouth and not a location Essos.Read More
By David J. Peterson
In our previous lesson on the Dothraki language, we covered some basic grammar and sentence formation. Now, let’s put your knowledge to practical use.
Though it isn't advisable to travel on the Havazh (Dothraki Sea) unescorted, if one does so, one is more than likely to encounter a Dothraki fonakasar (hunting party). In such a situation, one must not panic: The Dothraki despise the fearful. Provided one is not killed on the spot, one may be fortunate enough to be greeted by the idrik (the leader of the hunt) in a manner as follows:
Achrakh yeroon zireyesee hrazef anni, zhey ifak!
"Your stink offends my horse, foreigner!"
Responding in just the right way is crucial. One should be respectful, yet firm. Offend a Dothraki lajak (warrior), and he is likely to respond with his arakh; come across as weak or submissive, though, and one will likely find oneself taken as a slave. One possible response might be:
Athchomar chomakea, zhey lajaki vezhveni. Anha goshok mehrazef shafki athiroe; me haja lekhaan k'athtihari.
"Respect to you, great warriors. I'm sure your horse will survive; he seems strong enough."
Provided one's head is still attached to one's shoulders at this point, it would be best to offer the idrik, at the very least, a gift (anything but one's sword, unless one has a back up on hand):
Fichi jin hlak kherikhi. Mori nroji ma nizhi. Me azho anni shafkea.
"Take these leather gloves. They are thick and tough. It is my gift to you."
And if this has gone well:
Hash anha laz adothrak shafki, hash ashilok khal shafki.
"As I can ride by your side, so shall I meet your khal."
Pleasantries like "may" and "please" are foreign to the Dothraki: Only respectful demands are heeded.
At this point, the idrak (one hopes) would lead the way to the rest of the khalasar. Whether this will be a stroke of good luck or ill remains to be seen!
Download the below PDF for a full guide to the Dothraki vocabulary and grammar we've covered so far:
INSIDE THE SERIES
by David J. Peterson
David J. Peterson, a conlanger (or inventor of languages) worked with the Language Creation Society and the creators of 'Game of Thrones' to design a full Dothraki tongue for use on the upcoming HBO series. The details of his process (which are pretty fascinating) have been reported around the web and picked up by fan sites like Winter Is Coming and Westeros. Here on "Making Game of Thrones," David will be offering a series of crash courses in the Dothraki language, beginning with this introductory lesson:
Dothraki is the language of the nomadic horse warriors who populate the Dothraki Sea: a vast grass plain in the center of the continent of Essos, which lies to the east of Westeros, across the Narrow Sea.
Their language differs greatly from the Common Tongue of Westeros and the languages of the Free Cities, which descend from High Valyrian. In the coming weeks, we'll introduce you to the Dothraki language (or Lekh Dothraki) little by little, but here's an overview of some of the basic facts that lay the foundation for what's to come.
Before delving into the grammar of Dothraki, let's go over some of the basic details. One of the first things one learns about a language is how the basic elements of the language fit together to form phrases and clauses. To begin, let's go over some terminology you'll remember from English class: