Recently the third season of Game of Thrones started. Some of you may know that that show already features the constructed language, or "conlang," Dothraki, created by David J. Peterson (formerly dothraki ) out of the brief snippets that occur in the original books by George R.R. Martin ( grrm ). As the show had progressed, Peterson has continued to flesh out the languages of Martin's fantasy world, and this season the job got much bigger: he had to invent not just one language, but a whole language family: Valyrian.
In the world of Game of Thrones, The Valyrian Freehold is a fallen civilization analogous to our Roman Empire. They spoke a language which, in the books, is referred to as "High Valyrian." Once the freehold was destroyed in some sort of natural (and/or magical) disaster, the language broke up into several dialects, with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility, each in the process of greadually developing into its own descendant language. In the books, I gather, these are generally called "Bastard Valyrian."
We are only on the second episode of the season. So far Valyrian has only showed up in the first episode, and it was specifically the dialect of the city of Astapor. Esploranto (to whom I will be referring as "Najahho," the honorific Dothraki name bestowed on him by David Peterson himself) and I have been working together on trying to decipher this constructed language. We've only just scratched the surface so far (and have surely made many mistakes)—after all, how much progress could we possibly make with just one scene's worth of dialog, and no official transcript? But I did want to make sure to post it before the next episode airs tomorrow, and renders this incomplete or obsolete.
So, obviously, don't continue reading if you're not interested in this kind of thing. Also, I should warn you that the scene contains some naughty words (in both English and Astapori), and some very disturbing, violent, images. Continue at your own risk!
First of all, here are our sources. For the most part I will assume you are already familiar with these, once I get to the actual analysis:
- The scene in question, on You Tube. In this scene, Daenerys, royalty in exile, is considering buying a slave army to reclaim her throne. Kraznys mo Nakloz, the very nasty owner of the slaves, is giving his sales pitch, while his translator, Missandei, a slave herself, interprets. Kraznys thinks Daenerys can't understand him, so feels free to call her all kinds of abusive names—which Missandei generally skips over in her translations. As the scene goes on, Daenerys becomes more and more horrified. (Note that much of the English dialog, and all the stage directions, are being skipped... so if you want more detail, watch the video).
- An early attempt to transcribe the dialog, by John Sheehy.
- Valar Dohaeris (VD), Peterson's post about the first episode of this season.
- Tīkuni Zōbrī, Udra Zōbriar (TZ), Peterson's post about the second episode, which is really more about supplementing the previous post.
To start with, Najahho worked with the video, and Sheehy's transcription, to come up with one of his own. He sent this to me with a little analysis. Then working with all these sources, and in frequent correspondence with Najahho, I began making my own transcript and analysis.
Some notes on transcription:
- Without the help of an official transcript, it was very difficult to get this right. On those rare occasions when we did have Peterson's official spelling, the phrase is marked by an underline.
- In particular, figuring out where word divisions fall is extremely difficult, and I almost certainly botched this in many, many cases.
- I decided to mark accented syllables, even though Peterson does not do this in his official orthography. This is useful for those of us who aren't already fluent speakers of Astapori Valyrian. But it also helps with the aforementioned problem of word divisions: I mostly worked on the assumption that there would be one stressed syllable per word, and usually one word per stressed syllable. Of course, as in real life, there will be some words that get no stress at all, so in many cases I will have mashed more than one word together. When I had a feeling I recognized an atonic word, I divided it out, but generally if I didn't, I just wrote it all as one word to be safe, whether or not that seemed plausible. Notice that in most (but not all) cases, the stress seems to fall on the second to last syllable (the "penult") of the word.
- Peterson gave us a lot of clues about Astapori phonology in TZ, which proved very helpful. But I decided it would be nearly impossible under these conditions to distinguish [k] and [q] with any certainty (especially when the actors themselves may not know what they're doing), and generally used ‹k› throughout.
- Similarly, we know that Peterson's official orthography for Astapori distinguishes ‹y› and ‹i›, even though he makes it clear (in TZ) that in the modern language these two phonemes have merged to [i]... therefore I have always defaulted to ‹i› unless I had good reason to suspect ‹y› was correct.
- If I knew an official orthography for a particular word, I would spell it that way, whether it sounded like this was what the actor was saying or not. Conversely, when I didn't know an official orthography, I spelled the word however it sounded to me. As a result, sometimes something that seems to be the same word will be spelled several different ways (e.g. the word for "they" is variously spelled vésa, váza, possibly even pása.)
I suspect that when more information comes out, this will look embarrassingly wrong, but fortuna fortibus favet, so without further ado:
Kraznys mo Nakloz: ...do zúghis. Ivetrá ji líve Vesterózia, sko vezí Dovoghédhi (eh)jutísh mitó bizíbin báti do ghávo, do ré, j’etadósh... do zúghis: Among the first things we figured out about Astapori was that do is a negative particle; it seems to have a very broad use, being equivalent to "not," "no," "non-" and so on. We see this at work several times in this line. We also knew from the start that -is is a third person plural ending. Therefore, "... do zúghis" must mean "... they do not [VERB]." We later see that zughílis means "they fear," but I don't know if this is related or not.
Missandei: “The Unsullied have stood here for a day and a night with no food or water.”
Ivetrá ji líve Vesterozía: "Tell the Westerosi whore"; Kraznys says this enough times that we can be sure. Ivetrá seems to be stressed on the last syllable because it is an imperative: the third person singular form of the verb, ivétras, is (like most Astapori words) accented on the penult.
Sko seems to be a particle that forms subordinate clauses, like the English "that" (as in "I know that you are a fish.") Also, just as the English equivalent, it appears to be optional: sometimes Kraznys says Ivetrá ... sko ..., sometimes he just says Ivetrá. Peterson has already mentioned that skovérdi means "how many," and, below, skókido seems to mean "how." So presumably sko is, at least originally, a basic question word (compare que, che in the Romance languages, and что, що, шо in the Slavic languages, all of which can mean either "what" or "that."
Vezi (feminine possibly véza) is repeatedly attested as a demonstrative, meaning in this case "these."
Dovoghédhy, plural Dovoghédhi is known (TZ) to be the Astapori word for "Unsullied," the slave soldiers. Peterson mentions that the High Valyrian etymon is Dovaogḗdy.
Najahho points out that the word I transcribe bizíbin likely means "here," composed of the demonstrative vezi plus the element bin, which one migh assume means "place."
do ghávo, do ré: "No food, no water." Unless, of course, these are somehow verbs in the past tense (I have yet to pin down anything about tense, voice, mood, aspect in Astapori verbs).
j’etadósh: I suspect this means "the period of a day and a night," and perhaps it's somehow related to j’etóvi "the day."
K: Ivetrá ji réni ijí oghál delínko sko mejorezlívas evá rughílisI have no idea what ji réni ijí oghál delinkó means, other than that it is almost certainly an insult. That ijí, stressed on the last syllable, is odd; perhaps we should read ijío ghál. Najahho prefers this reading, and interprets the latter word to be identical with the Dothraki khal—i.e. the phrase would mean something like "This &*#! *&$( of the !@#$ Khal."
M: “They will stand until they drop…”
mejorezlívas must mean "they will stand in place," but it is difficult to analyze. Perhaps it's mejoris·lí·vas, where mejoris means "they stand," -lí makes it future tense, and -vas is a form of vaza "they." But this seems like a stretch, for a number of reasons: for one, the only similar form that occurs later is dozeanelívas, which does not seem to be a verb.
evá rughílis: We know from TZ that evá means "until." Rughilis is a third person plural verb, so "they collapse."
K: … nágizi pojá pitenkávesaNágizi: "thus, so." -izi appears to be an adverbial suffix (cf. zvagízi "truly," and possibly sízi "even." On the other hand morghízi "dead," appears to be an adjective. One possibility is that Astapori Valyrian doesn't distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, but I kind of suspect that it does.)
M: “…such is their obedience.”
Najahho suggests that -vesa is a form of váza, which, as I've mentioned, seems to mean "they." So it's possible that we have "pitenká-vesa" for "their obedience."
M: J’ápra Vesterozía las krényJ’ápra Vesterozía: "The Westerosi woman." TZ reveals that the two singular articles in Astapori are ji and vi. Strangely, while Najahho and I found many instances of the former, we didn't seem to find any of the latter.
Subtitle: “The Westerosi woman is pleased with them,”
las krény: "is pleased." Las shows up repeatedly before adjectives with the meaning "is." We will later see that the plural is lis. Notice that las does not appear to be used with nominal predicates, just adjectival ones. In fact every instance so far appears to be with an adjective indicating a temporary state, rather than a permanent characteristic, which makes me suspect it works like estar in Spanish. It may well be that this also explains why so many verbs end with-li-las/-lis, and that is the historical difference between do zúghis and do zughílis.
M: ... (i) ivétras do révi jevaghó magigmíli sko vejotréi(i) ivétras: "... but says." It's not clear if Missandei is just drawing out that i, or if it is a separate word meaning "but." Ivétras is the third person singular, and this -as ending seems pretty universal (we've already seen it in las). According to VD the High Valyrian equivalent of ivétras is véstras, so both -as and -is go back to the ancient language.
S: “…but speaks no praise to keep the price down.”
do révi: "no praise."
jevaghó: -gho seems to be an infinitive ending, so perhaps this means "to keep (the price down)".
I cannot analyze the rest of the sentence very well. Perhaps magigmíli means "small, cheap," and sko vejotréi or skove jotréi means "how much is paid" or the like.
M: Evás gímigho skókido mazméris funmáriEvás: "She wants." I suspect this verb is cognate to evá "until," and original meaning was "wait; expect." (Cf. Spanish esperar "to wait" from Latin spērāre "to hope.")
S: “She wishes to know how they are trained.”
gímigho "to learn, to know."
skókido mazméris funmári : "how they are trained." As mentioned before, skókido seems to mean "how," from the element sko (cf. Latin quomodo "how"). I can't really analyze the last two words, and have no idea how passives are done in Astapori, but note the possible -is. The sound I have transcribed as r in mazmeris is particularly difficult to make out, and could also be a d or n.
K: Univegístos Vesterózi lizkúni dévo-déda [--] sko vílias eiyadréghe kídoUnivegístos Vesterózi lizkúni dévo-déda: Presumably more abuse. We will see below that dévo-déda means "ignorant" (I am taking it as a compound meaning "know nothing," but an alternate analysis will be discussed later). Interestingly we have Vesterózi, which I would presume to be the masculine form, rather than Vesterozía.
S: “Tell her what she would know and be quick about it.”
[--] I can't reconstruct with any certainty what Kraznys is saying while the Unsullied resume their formation. I faintly hear something that sounds like a form of the verb *ivetrágho, which would suit the context, but I can't be certain I'm not imagining it.
sko vílias eiyadréghe kído must mean "what she would know and be quick about it." So perhaps vílias is "wishes," and eiyadréghe is to know (despite not quite ending in -gho). Or perhaps ghekído means "quickly," and -kído is another adverbial suffix, as in skókido "how"?
K: J’etóvi las paníJ’etóvi: "the day." The first vowel is very indistinct, and could be something else.
S: “The day is hot”
las paní: "is hot."
K: Zergóvni míshi dovoghédhiZergóvni: "discipine." I'm not sure if that r is really there or not... if not perhaps this is ze góvni and ze means "their.
M: “Their discipline and loyalty are absolute.”
dovoghédhi: "unsullied," here used as a common adjective, rather than a proper noun. Notice the lack of las.
K: Vaza mórve dídaVaza "they." It may be worth noting the similarity between the various forms of "they" (váza, véza etc.) and the various forms of the demonstrative vézi, véza, etc.) In many languages, third person pronouns are derived from demonstratives, and, based on the description of Kraznys's speech in the books, fans had already speculated that this was the case in Astapori Valyrian: "As well, he constantly uses the words this one, which may imply deictic, non-gendered pronoun usage."
M: “They fear nothing.”
Mórve in the context seems to mean "fear," but the syntax is less than clear, since we would expect something like *Mórvis, rather than the vaza mórve we have here. Furthermore, in just the next line we have zughílis for "they fear." Perhaps this is an idiomatic construction, and the meaning is more like "for them, (there is) fear of nothing"?
M: J’azánty ivétras ji váli nedhínki sízi zughílis vi múrgho.This sentence is transcribed in VD. The High Valyrian equivalent is given as Mórghot nēdýssy sésīr zū́gusy azántys véstras. (and for my thoughts on this see my comments to that entry.)
S: “The knight says even brave men fear death.”
J’azánty ivétras: "the knight says." Note the lack of sko this time.
ji váli nedhínki sízi: "(the) brave men, even..."
zughílis vi múrgho: "fear death." Notice the vi.
K: Ivetrá ji vevitúzi zezorkósAside from ivetrá and ji, this is very difficult to analyze. Perhaps zezorkós is a verb meaning "to smell like urine," and its unusual form can be explained as a contraction of *zezorkóas? Keep in mind that according to TZ, Astapori smoothes most diphthongs. This might also explain forms like univegístos and vádo vistós, if those are in fact verbs.
S: “Tell the old man he smells of piss.”
M: Zvagízi, áse?This is pretty transparant. Zvagízi contains the adverbial suffix, and of course it is negated by do.
S: “Truly, master?”
K: Dó zvagízi!
S: “No, not truly!”
K: Skatála jankúvre píndau kúmau ufezínoBack to being difficult again.
S: “Are you a girl or a goat to ask such a thing?”
If jankúvre is a noun, then perhaps it should be written j'ankúvre. Or maybe not: the most logical guess for Skatála jankúvre is that it means "A girl or a goat."
We know from TZ and other sentences later on that pind- is the root for ask, so perhaps píndau is the second person singular. This would be quite desirable, since thus far we only know third person forms. Unfortunately, we don't seem to find -au elsewhere we might expect second person verbs, and then, wouldn't you know it, we do find -au on kúmau, which (whatever it is) is unlikely to be a second person verb.
K: Ivetrá sko ji Dovoghédhi do síve tídado síve tída: "Are not men." I take síve to mean "men," (as opposed to vali which is more like "people"—even if this change somewhat undercuts Kraznys's rhetorical point), and tída to be the same as the dída "nothing" we've already seen, but with the idiomatic meaning "at all."
M: “My master says the Unsullied are not men.”
K: Ji-pása mórghe dída.
M: “Death means nothing to them.”
Ji-pása: "For them," so a form of the váza root we've seen already.
mórghe dída "death (is) nothing."
K: Ivetrá véza livé ondío dévo-détaIvetrá véza livé ondío dévo-déta: We've already seen most of these words, but note in particular véza "this" and dévo-déta "ignorant." Ondío therefore must mean "of the West" or "Western." It is also worth noting that this seems to be the only incarnation of the demonstrative that ends in -a. Perhaps it is a feminine form, but we will later see Daenerys referred to as vezý, so the difference is not entirely clear.
S: Tell this ignorant whore of a Westerner…
K: ... ézi mágho.
S: …to open her eyes and watch.
M: “He begs you attend this carefully, your grace.”
... ézi mágho.: "to open her eyes," with the -gho infinitive ending. Assuming we have this fairly literal, perhaps ézi means "eyes."
K: Awá, azandí!Awá presumably means "hey you!" Notice the similarity, though, to the -au of pindau.
[Beckons an Unsullied forward]
I take azandí to mean "come forward" (or possibly even just "forward!") It's possible it's related to azánty "knight," if the latter means something like "he who charges," or the like.
K: Lizás zénekiz zí dozeanelívas? Kára odréta vádo vistós?Another difficult one. But Lizás looks like a 3s verb. Perhaps lizás zénekiz is an expression for "she is worried," that literally means something like "does she take care," or "does she trouble her heart," or some other construction.
S: She’s worried about their nipples? Does the dumb bitch know we’ve cut off their balls?
zí dozeanelí-vas: "about their nipples." I initially took zí to mean "their," and dozeanelívas to mean "nipples," but that seems implausibly long. More likely zí, zído or zídoze means "about," and -vas means "their."
Kára odréta vádo vistós?
Almost hopless here. Najahho points out that he has always heard the word I transcribe dévo-déta, "ignorant," as devodetra. He wonders if, perhaps, odréta means "she knows," and in fact we should take the word for ignorant as "dev·odetra", dev- being, hypothetically, the form do- takes before a vowel (perhaps the original form was *dew-). This is a brilliant theory, but I have not officially adopted it simply that no matter how many times I've listenede to devodeta I do not hear that /r/. Still, perhaps this will turn out to be an issue either with the actors or my ears.
If that is right, then perhaps vádo means "we have cut off," or "we have castrated." This would be a welcome 1pl past tense verb... but it's currently way too speculative to be significant. Likewise perhaps vistós is the accusative of váza (see my comments on au tatagho, below).
K: Ávi dídanÁvi: Continuing on -au and awá, I take this to be a form of the second person pronoun, meaning, perhaps, "with you."
S: Here, I’m done with you.
dídan: well, if we believe the subtitle, it's logical for this to mean "I'm done." But perhaps it's a form of dída "nothing," and the literal translation is "Nothing (more) from you."
Unsullied: vézy las krény au tatághovézy las krény: "this one is pleased," all words we've encountered before.
S: This one is pleased to have served you.
au tatágho: "to serve you." This would make au an accusative second person pronoun, which works well with our theories so far. It's also possible that what we have is aut atágho, the -t being the same accusative(?) ending seen in High Valyrian mórghot—Astapori does not, of course, have noun cases, but many languages maintain declension of pronouns only. Also Notice that while Astapori Valyrian is mostly SVO, our object is coming before the verb here. This would either be because au(t) is a pronoun (cf. Romance languages), or because (t)atagho is an infinitive (cf. German, and possibly ézi mágho, above.)
K: Manarágho zé azómbe, selévas ji Dovoghédhy najísho ru zío limá síza seneghó poléosi ji mhýsa náshiManarágho zé azómbe: "To win his shield." This implies that the infinitive can be used, as in English, to indicate purpose. Or perhaps man is a preposition meaning "in order (to)," like per, pour, para etc. in Romance.
M: “To win his shield, an Unsullied must go to the slave markets with a silver mark, find a newborn, and kill it before its mother’s eyes.
selévas ji Dovoghédhy najísho "The Unsullied (sg.) must go." Selévas is 3s verb, so we can assume Dovoghédhy needs to be spelled with a ‹y› here. From context we expect najísho to mean "to go," but interestingly it doesn't end with -gho. Of course it's common for "go" to be an irregular verb, so perhaps it has a non-standard infinitve.
ru zío limá: must mean "to the slave market"
síza senegho poléosi ji mhýsa náshi: "kill a newborn before the mother's eyes." Seneghó being an infinitive (still dependant on selévas), and síza possibly meaning "newborn"—preceeding the infinitive? Náshi might possibly be related to ézi, above, but this is a stretch.
My interpretation of this difficult sentence is problematic at best, though, because I haven't found something that corresponds to the silver mark.
K: Nagízi lodóli sko do nagostováre ún sepáNagízi lodóli: "In this way, we make sure." We've already seen nagízi. Lodóli appears to be a first person plural verb, so perhaps we've finally found that ending. On the other hand, since the next word begins with an /s/, perhaps I am mishearing lodólis (which would imply that there's no difference between 1pl and 3pl—hardly impossible—or that the translation does not match exactly.)
M: “This way, my master says, we make certain their is no weakness in them.”
sko do nagostováre ún sepá: "that (there is) no weakness in them." The first three words seem simple enough, but it is difficult for ún sepá to mean "in them," especially with the strange way Kraznys emphasizes and draws out ún (perhaps it means "remaining"?)
M: Las ángodaThis is pretty clear.
S: She is offended.
M: Píndas lughózi lamé galébo vá ji mhýsa zi arúgho morghíziPíndas lughózi lamé galébo: "She asks do you pay a silver coin." This would presumably make lughózi a second person (plural?) verb.
S: She asks if you pay a silver coin to the mother, for her dead baby.
vá ji mhýsa: "to the mother"
zi arúgho morghízi: "(for) her dead baby." I take zi to be a posessisive pronoun, but perhaps it's a preposition.
K: Kúnu míty vezý, tába vóry vezýKúnu míty vezý: "What a softy, this one..." Notice that the form of the demonstrative is not the feminine-looking véza seen above. One possible explanation is that because the demonstrative is being used in place of a copula here it defaults to masculine. But I doubt that's it. We'll have to wait for an explanation.
S: What a soft mewling fool this one is.
tába vóry vezý: "... a mewling fool, this one."
K: Ivetrá ji galébo se jí mariso dó si mhýsaIvetrá ji galébo se jí mariso: "Say the silver (is) for the owner..."
M: “My master would like you to know that the silver is paid to the baby’s owner, not the mother.”
dó si mhýsa: "not its mother."
Daenerys: How many do you have to sell?Peterson glosses this (in TZ) as “She asks how many Unsullied are for sale.” Two things to point out here: skovérdi "how many," from sko (cf. French combien, "how much/many," from Latin quam bene), and lis, the plural of las.
M: Píndas skovérdi Dovoghédhi lis lerráski.
K: Ivetrá ji líve Vesterozía kísa evá vanéqo.Peterson's gloss matches the subtitle. The only words we haven't seen here are kísa and vanéqo. The latter plainly means "tomorrow." The former is translated "she has," but I doubt that's the literal meaning.
S: Tell the Western whore she has until tomorrow.
M: Master Kraznys asks that you please hurry; many other buyers are interested.
It's now just over 24 hours before the next episode airs, so this will have to do for the time being. In the mean time, anyone want to suggest any further analysis?