Valyrian languages

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Valyrian
Created by David J. Peterson, George R. R. Martin
Date From 2012
Setting and usage
Purpose
Sources A priori language
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Valyrian languages are a fictional language family in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, and in their television adaptation Game of Thrones.

In the novels, High Valyrian and its descendant languages are often mentioned, but not developed beyond a few words. For the TV series, linguist David J. Peterson created the High Valyrian language, based on the fragments given in the novels, as well as the derivative language Astapori Valyrian.[1]

High Valyrian[edit]

Nyke Daenerys Jelmāzmo hen Targārio Lentrot, hen Valyrio Uēpo ānogār iksan. Valyrio muño ēngos ñuhys issa.

“I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria. Valyrian is my mother tongue.”

Game of Thrones, season 3, episode 4[2]

In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, High Valyrian occupies a cultural niche similar to that of Latin in medieval Europe.[3] The novels describe it as no longer being used as a language of everyday communication, but rather as a language of learning and education among the nobility of Essos and Westeros, with much literature and song composed in Valyrian.

Creation[edit]

To create the Dothraki and Valyrian languages to be spoken in Game of Thrones, HBO selected the linguist David J. Peterson through a competition among conlangers. The producers gave Peterson a largely free hand in developing the languages, as, according to Peterson, George R. R. Martin himself was not very interested in the linguistic aspect of his works.[3] The already published novels include only a few words of High Valyrian, including valar morghulis ("all men must die"), valar dohaeris ("all men must serve") and dracarys ("dragonfire"). For the forthcoming novel The Winds of Winter, Peterson has supplied Martin with additional Valyrian translations.[3]

Peterson commented that he considered unfortunate Martin's choice of dracarys because of its (presumably intended) similarity to the Latin word for dragon, draco. Because the Latin language does not exist in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, Peterson chose to treat the similarity as coincidental and made dracarys an independent lexeme;[4] his High Valyrian term for dragon is zaldrīzes. The phrases valar morghulis and valar dohaeris, on the other hand, became the basis of the language's conjugation system.[3] Another word, trēsy, meaning "son", was coined in honour of Peterson's 3000th Twitter follower.[5]

Peterson did not yet create a High Valyrian writing system, but he commented that he "was thinking something more like Egyptian's system of hieroglyphs—not in style, necessarily, but in their functionality. Egyptian had an alphabet, of sorts, a couple of phonetically-based systems, and a logography all layered on top of one another."[6] In the third season's episode "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", Talisa is seen writing a Valyrian letter in the Latin alphabet, because according to Peterson, "it didn't seem worthwhile to create an entire writing system for what ultimately is kind of a throwaway shot".[7]

At the start of June 2013, there were 667 High Valyrian words, with more being added almost daily.[8]

Phonology[edit]

Consonants[9][10]
Labial Coronal Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stops p [‌p], b [‌b] t [‌t], d [‌d] j [‌, j, ʒ],a
lj [‌ʎ]
k [‌k], g [‌ɡ] q [‌q]
Fricatives v [‌v, w]a s [‌s], z [‌z]
(th [‌θ])b
gh [‌ɣ, ʁ̝]c
(kh [‌x, ɣ, h])b
h [‌h]
Approximants r [‌r], rh [‌], l [‌l]
Nasals m [‌m] n [‌n, ŋ, ɴ]d ñ [‌ɲ] n [‌n, ŋ, ɴ]d

Notes:[9]

a. v and j vary between approximants and fricatives depending on the speaker and the environment.
b. th and kh are not native to High Valyrian but are present in some loanwords, such as the Dothraki arakh.
c. gh may be strongly velar for some speakers, or strongly uvular for others; the distinction is not phonemic.
d. n will naturally assimilate in place to a following velar or uvular consonant, but there is no separate velar or uvular nasal.
Vowels[9]
Front Central Back
Close / High ī, i [‌iː, i]
ȳ, y [‌yː, y]
ū, u [‌uː, u]
Mid ē, e [‌eː, e] ō, o [‌oː, o]
Open / Low ā, a [‌aː, a]

Vowels with a macron over them (ī, ȳ, ū, ē, ō and ā) are long, held for twice as long as short vowels. Some words are distinguished simply by their vowel length in High Valyrian. The rounded vowels ȳ and y may not be pronounced in modern High Valyrian, as a non-native or prestige language and did not survive into the descendant languages. As a result, while Daenerys Targaryen's first name may generally be pronounced [dǝ.ˈnɜ.rɪs] by characters in Game of Thrones, in High Valyrian is would have been closer to [ˈdae.ne.ɾys], with a diphthong in the first syllable and a rounded vowel in the last. The long vowels have also been lost in some derived languages; in season 3 of Game of Thrones, we hear Astapori Valyrian, from which all long vowels have been lost.[9]

Syllable stress is penultimate unless the penultimate syllable is light and the antepenultimate syllable is heavy, in which case stress is on the antepenultimate.[11] As a highly inflected language, word order is flexible (a feature lost in derived languages),[9] but sentences with relative clauses are head-final.[2]

Grammar[edit]

Nouns[edit]

There are four grammatical numbers in High Valyrian — singular, plural, paucal and collective. For example, vala "man" (sing.); vali "men" (pl.); valun "some men" (pau.); valar "all men" (coll.).[12][13] The collective can itself be modified by number as a new noun declension, for example azantys "knight, soldier" (sing.) → azantyr "army" (coll.); azantyr "army" (sing.) → azantyri "armies" (pl.).[14]

Nouns have eight cases — nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, locative, instrumental, comitative and vocative, though the instrumental and comitative are not distinguished in all declensions,[13] nor are the genitive, dative and locative always distinguished in the plural.[5]

There are four grammatical genders, which do not align with biological sex.[15] The Valyrian names for the genders are:[16]

hūrenkor qogror — "lunar class"
vēzenkor qogror — "solar class"
tegōñor qogror — "terrestrial class"
embōñor qogror — "aquatic class"

Animate and individuatable nouns are generally in the lunar or solar classes, while other nouns are generally classified as terrestrial or aquatic. The names of the classes derive from the nouns themselves, which are prototypical members of each gender.[16] Peterson describes Valyrian gender as being inherent but more predictable from phonology than gender in French, with some of the derivational properties of the noun classes of Bantu languages.[16] As a result of the phonological predictability, many words for humans (which tend to end -a or -ys) are lunar or solar; many foods and plants (often ending -on) are terrestrial.[17]

According to Peterson, "what defines declension classes in High Valyrian" can be divined by paying "close attention to the singular and plural numbers" and noting "where cases are conflated and where they aren't".[18] In the following tables, adjacent case conflations are merged into the same table cell; other cases that share a form with another are underlined.

First declension[5]
(Lunar: vala, "man")
Second declension[18]
(Solar: loktys, "sailor")
Singular Plural Paucal Collective Singular Plural Paucal Collective
Nominative vala vali valun valar loktys loktyssy loktyn loktyr Nom.
Accusative vale valī valuni valari lokti loktī loktyni loktyri Acc.
Genitive valo valoti valuno valaro lokto loktoti loktyno loktyro Gen.
Dative valot valunta valarta loktot loktynty loktyrty Dat.
Locative valā valunna valarra loktȳ loktī loktynny loktyrry Loc.
Instrumental valosa valossi valussa valarza loktomy loktommi loktyssy loktyrzy Instr.
Comitative valoma valommi valumma valarma loktymmy loktyrmy Com.
Vocative valus valis valussa valarza loktys loktyssys loktyssy loktyrzy Voc.
Singular Plural Paucal Collective Singular Plural Paucal Collective
First declension Second declension

Verbs[edit]

While nouns have four grammatical numbers, verb declensions have only been described in the singular and the plural;[18] paucals trigger plural agreement and collectives trigger singular agreement.[19] There are two paradigms of verbs, those with a stem ending with a consonant and those with a stem ending with a vowel;[18] the tables below show examples of three tenses in the active voice. It is possible to tell which paradigm is in use from the first person plural indicative — consonant stems will always end in -i, whereas vowels stems will end in .[18] Verbs with stems ending in a vowel follow a pattern where that stem-terminal vowel might change — -a and -i do not change, -e becomes -i, but -o and -u both become -v.[18] Verb stems may never end in a long vowel or a diphthong.[18]

Consonantal verbs[10][18]
(manaeragon, "to raise" or "to lift")
Present tense Perfect tense Imperfect tense
Indicative mood Subjunctive mood Indicative mood Subjunctive mood Indicative mood Subjunctive mood
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
First person manaeran manaeri manaeron manaeroty manaertan manaerti manaerton manaertoty manaerilen manaerilin manaerilon manaeriloty
Second person manaerā manaerāt manaerō manaerōt manaertā manaertāt manaertō manaertōt manaerilē manaerilēt manaerilō manaerilōt
Third person manaerza manaerzi manaeros manaerosy manaertas manaertis manaertos manertosy manaeriles manaerilis manaerilos manaerilosy
Imperative manaerās manaerātās
Infinitive manaeragon manaertagon
Participle manaerare, manaerarior
Vowel verbs (stem ending -a)[10][18]
(limagon, "to cry")
Present tense Perfect tense Imperfect tense
Indicative mood Subjunctive mood Indicative mood Subjunctive mood Indicative mood Subjunctive mood
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
First person liman limī limaon limaoty limatan limati limaton limatoty limēlen limēlin limēlon limēloty
Second person limā limāt limaō limaōt limatā limatāt limatō limatōt limēlē limēlēt limēloo limēloot
Third person limas limasi limaos limaosy limatas limatasi limatos limatosy limēles limēlis limēlos limēlosy
Imperative limās limātās
Infinitive limagon limatagon
Participle limare, limarior
Vowel verbs (stem ending -e)[10][18]
(sōvegon, "to fly")
Present tense Perfect tense Imperfect tense
Indicative mood Subjunctive mood Indicative mood Subjunctive mood Indicative mood Subjunctive mood
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
First person sōven sōvī sōvion sōvioty sōvetan sōveti sōveton sōvetoty sovīlen sovīlin sovīlon sovīloty
Second person sōvē sōvēt sōviō sōviōt sōvetā sōvetāt sōvetō sōvetōt sovīlē sovīlēt sovīlō sovīlōt
Third person sōves sōvesi sōvios sōviosy sōvetas sōvetis sōvetos sōvetosy sovīles sovīli sovīlos sovīlosy
Imperative sōvēs sōvētēs
Infinitive sōvegon sōvetagon
Participle sōvere, sōverior

Adjectives[edit]

Adjectives have three declension classes.[20] Like verbs, adjectives only have two number forms — a singular, which is also used for the collective, and a plural, also used for paucal numbers.[20] Adjectives may be both prepositive (e.g. "the white shoe") or post-positive (e.g. "the body politic"); when prepositive some further rules apply.[20]

Several forms of elision and consonant assimilation occur with prepositive adjectives:

  • With inflections of two syllables (such as kastoti in several class I plurals), the second syllable is often lost to elision; word-final -t is also lost before consonants — compare aderot ābrot ("to the quick woman") with adero Dovaogēdot ("to the quick Unsullied").[20]
  • When such elision causes a word-final -z (such as with the class I kasta becoming kastyzy (nom.) and kastyzys (voc.) in the lunar plurals, below), the final -z is devoiced to -s when it precedes a voiceless consonant — compare kastys hobresse ("blue goats") with kastyz dāryssy ("blue kings"), both forms from kastyzy, the lunar nominative plural.[20]
  • If the syllable in question is vowel–consonant–vowel, then only the final vowel is elided — compare ānogro ēlȳro ("of the first blood") to ēlȳr ānogro ("of the first blood").[20]
  • Whereas instrumental forms are generally listed as containing -s- or -ss- and comitative forms generally contain -m- or -mm-, some nouns use only the s-forms in both cases and some nouns use the m-forms for both. When this occurs, the consonant in question experiences consonant harmony, causing the use of what might otherwise be a comitative form for an instrumental and vice versa, such as with the examples given of class III vowel mutations below,[citation needed] where the forms appear to be instrumental ("by means of the ... men", "by means of the ... rains"), despite being comitative ("accompanying the ... man", "accompanying the ... rains").[20]
  • Finally, word-final -m is decreasingly common in High Valyrian. Contracted inflections that end in -m will often assimilate to -n unless the next word begins with a vowel or a labial consonant.[20]
Class I adjectives[edit]

Class I adjectives decline differently for each of the four noun classes.[20] The exemplar is kasta, meaning "blue and green".[20] As before, in the following tables, adjacent case conflations are merged into the same table cell; other cases that share a form with another are underlined.

Class I adjectives[20]
(kasta, "blue and green")
Singular Plural
Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic
Nominative kasta kastys kaston kastor kasti kastyzy kasta kastra Nom.
Accusative kaste kasti kastī Acc.
Genitive kasto kastro kastoti kastroti Gen.
Dative kastot kastrot Dat.
Locative kastā kastȳ kastot kastoti kastī kastoti Loc.
Instrumentala kastosa kastosy kastoso kastroso kastossi kastrossi Instr.a
Comitativea kastoma kastomy kastomo kastromo kastommi kastrommi Com.a
Vocative kastus kastys kastos kastis kastyzys kastas Voc.
Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic Lunar Solar Terrestrial Aquatic
Singular Plural

Notes:[20]

a. See note about consonant harmony assimilation above.
Class II and III adjectives[edit]

Adjective classes II and III both conflate rather more forms, failing to distinguish between solar and lunar nouns and failing to distinguish between terrestrial and aquatic nouns.[20] Class II also has some subclasses, that have not yet been detailed.[20] The exemplars used here are the class II adjective adere ("sleek, smooth, slippery, fast, quick") and the class III adjective ēlie ("first").[20]

Class III adjectives also experience vowel changes when subject to the elision described above. When a lunar or solar form is elided to a syllable containing -ȳ- (such forms are highlighted in the table below), this -ȳ- mutates to -io-; this does not occur with terrestrial or aquatic forms. Compare:[20]

valosa ēlȳse — "with the first man" (vala is a lunar noun of the first declension)[5]
ēlios valosa — "with the first man"
daomȳssi ēlȳssi — "with the first rains" (daomio is a lunar noun of the third declension)[citation needed]
ēlȳs daomȳssi — "with the first rains"
Class II adjectives[20]
(adere, "sleek, smooth, slippery, fast, quick")
Solar / Lunar Terrestrial / Aquatic
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative adere aderi aderior aderiar
Accusative
Genitive adero aderoti aderȳro aderȳti
Dative aderot
Locative aderē
Instrumentala aderose aderossi aderȳso aderȳssi
Comitativea aderome aderommi aderȳmo aderȳmmi
Vocative aderes aderis aderios aderīs
Class III adjectives[20]
(ēlie, "first")
Solar / Lunar Terrestrial / Aquatic
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative ēlie ēlī ēlior ēliar
Accusative
Genitive ēlio ēlȳtib ēlȳro ēlȳti
Dative ēliot ēlȳrot
Locative ēliē
Instrumentala ēlȳseb ēlȳssib ēlȳso ēlȳssi
Comitativea ēlȳmeb ēlȳmmib ēlȳmo ēlȳmmi
Vocative ēlies ēlīs ēlios ēlīs


Notes:[20]

a. See note about consonant harmony assimilation above.
b. See note about vowel changes in elision above.

Derivative languages[edit]

In the world of the novel and TV series, the Nine Free Cities of Essos speak variants of High Valyrian, described by the character Tyrion in A Dance with Dragons as "not so much a dialect as nine dialects on the way to becoming separate tongues".[21] The cities of Slaver's Bay speak related languages, descended from High Valyrian with the substrate of the local Ghiscari languages.

Peterson described the relationship between High Valyrian and the Free Cities languages as being similar to that between classical Latin and the Romance languages, or more accurately between Classical Arabic and the modern varieties of Arabic, in that High Valyrian is intelligible, with some difficulty, to a speaker of a local Essoan language.[2]

Astapori Valyrian[edit]

Si kizy vasko v’uvar ez zya gundja yn hilas.

“And this because I like the curve of her ass.”

— Astapori Valyrian, Game of Thrones, season 3, episode 3[22]

The first derivative Valyrian language to be featured in the series was Astapori Valyrian, a variety from the city of Astapor in Slaver's Bay. It appeared in the third season premiere episode "Valar Dohaeris". Peterson created the Astapori dialogue by first writing the text in High Valyrian, then applying a series of regular grammar and sound changes to simulate the changes in natural languages over a long period of time.[23]

For example, Astapori Valyrian has lost all long vowels (designated with a macron) and most diphthongs, such that an "Unsullied" is rendered as Dovaogēdy [do.vao.ˈɡeː.dy] in High Valyrian, but as Dovoghedhy [do.vo.ˈɣe.ði] in Astapori.[9] Similarly, Astapori Valyrian has lost the case system of High Valyrian, so the word order is more reliably subject–verb–object (SVO) and the four genders of High Valyrian have been reduced to two, with two definite articles: ji and vi.[9] Word stress is less predictable than in High Valyrian, but commands are stressed word-finally (for example: ivetrá).[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peterson, David J. (31 March 2013). "Valar Dohaeris". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Peterson, David J. (22 April 2013). "Sesīr Urnēbion Zȳhon Keliton Issa". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d Tharoor, Ishaan (3 May 2013). "Tongues of Ice and Fire: Creating the Languages in Game of Thrones". Time. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Peterson, David J. (22 April 2013). "Sesīr Urnēbion Zȳhon Keliton Issa (comment at 10:12 pm)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Peterson, David J. (20 May 2013). "Tȳni Trēsi". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Peterson, David J. (10 April 2013). "Tīkuni Zōbrī, Udra Zōbriar (comment on 10 April 2013 at 11:53 pm)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Peterson, David J. (13 May 2013). "Gryves se Riña Litse". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Peterson, David J. (4 June 2013). "Kastāmiro Daomior (comment at 2:46 am)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Peterson, David J. (8 April 2013). "Tīkuni Zōbrī, Udra Zōbriar". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d Peterson, David J. (23–24 June 2013). "Some More High Valyrian Inflection (comments on 23 June at 11:20 am and on 24 June at 3:00 pm)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Peterson, David J. (10 April 2013). "Tīkuni Zōbrī, Udra Zōbriar (comment at 4:47 pm)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Peterson, David J. (17 April 2013). "Eseneziri (comment at 20:13 UTC)". Reddit AMA. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Peterson, David J. (23 April 2013). "Sesīr Urnēbion Zȳhon Keliton Issa (comment at 5:19 pm)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Peterson, David J. (23 April 2013). "Sesīr Urnēbion Zȳhon Keliton Issa (comment at 5:23 pm)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  15. ^ Peterson, David J. (24 April 2013). "Sesīr Urnēbion Zȳhon Keliton Issa (comment at 10:24 am)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c Peterson, David J. (1 May 2013). "Perzo Vūjita (comment at 12:30 am)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Peterson, David J. (1 May 2013). "Perzo Vūjita (comment at 2:50 pm)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Peterson, David J. (26 May 2013). "Some High Valyrian inflection". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Peterson, David J. (28 June 2013). "Some More High Valyrian Inflection (comment at 12:45 pm)". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Peterson, David J. (1 July 2013). "Valyrian Adjectives". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  21. ^ A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion I.
  22. ^ Martin, Denise (23 April 2013). "Learn to speak Dothraki and Valyrian from the man who invented them for Game of Thrones". Vulture. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  23. ^ Peterson, David. "David Peterson and the languages of Game of Thrones". CNN What's Next. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  24. ^ Peterson, David J. (15 April 2013). "Qilōnario Geron". Dothraki.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 

External links[edit]