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Brace yourselves…for Dothraki!

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by Maria Ampelourgou

HBO’s Game of Thrones is yet another typical case of a critically acclaimed TV series that I found myself casually following but it somehow failed to leave me breathless on the edge of my seat as it did to the rest of my overexcited friends. In any case (and given my highly probable ineptitude as far as TV series are concerned), I cannot but acknowledge and praise David J. Peterson’s attempt to render ‘Dothraki’; that is, the language of the indigenous inhabitants of the Dothraki Sea in the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R. R. Martin. Peterson is a member of the Language Creation Society and he was hired by HBO to design the Dothraki language in such a fashion as to fit Martin’s original conception of the language, the way the latter features in a few excerpts within the original book editions.

‘Dothraki’, then, is the language of the nomadic horse warriors who populate the Dothraki Sea. Their language deviates from ‘Valyrian’ (the Common Tongue of Westeros) but Martin does not convey it in great detail, unlike other fantasy writers, like Tolkien, who have fully designed fantasy languages. The Dothraki language was developed under two significant constraints. First, the language had to follow the linguistic patterns already put down in the books. Secondly, it had to be easily pronounceable in order to facilitate the actors’ performance. These two constraints influenced the grammar and phonology of the language. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that, apart from Martin’s description of the language, Peterson admits to have drawn inspiration from languages such as Russian, Turkish, Estonian, Inuktitut and Swahili.

Some interesting linguistic facts about ‘Dothraki’:
– It uses a SVO word order (like English)

-Nouns are distinguished in animate or inanimate.

– ‘Dothraki’ has five noun cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Allative and Ablative.

If you are interested in reading more about ‘Dothraki’ there are plenty of relevant electronic sources available for you in the web, even tutorials for the ones that seek the absolute Game of Thrones experience, by actually mastering the Dothraki language.

Why not take a look at our language pages to find out more information about some of the languages we work with?

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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