In Dothraki nouns come in two grammatically different types. They are either animate or inanimate. Though the classes have been based on what was perceived as living and what as lifeless, for digetically modern Dothraki, these classes are technical. Animacy has some correlation to whether the nouns represent active and alive or passive and lifeless things, but there is no reliable way to determine animacy based just on what the noun denotes. The best general rule is that self-aware humans are almost always animate, while things seen in large homogenic groups are dominantly inanimate - mass-nouns even more so.
Examples of animate nouns: rizh — "son", ashefa — "river", tokik — "fool", hake — "name"
Examples of inanimate nouns: qeso — "basket", alegra — "duck", torga — "stomach", elzikh — "response"
It is important to know what type a noun belongs to since the declension is different between the two types. The vocabulary and dictionary will generally indicate the type by denoting animate noun with "na." and inanimate nouns with "ni." If the animacy is currently unknown it is simply listed as "n."
You can sometimes determine animacy of a noun by its type. Determining animacy is useful in cases where someone derives a word that is not in the dictionary or simply to have as a general rule of thumb when learning the nouns' animacy.
- Words ending in the agentive suffix: /-(a)k/
- Words ending in the collective suffixes: /-(a)sar/, /-(e)ser/, /-(i)sir/ or /-(o)sor/
- Infinitive of verbs when they act as nouns.
- Words ending in the diminutive suffix: /-i/ or /-sh/ (note that both word endings are common and not always diminutives)
- Words ending in the augmentative suffix: /-(s)of/
- Words formed by the nominalizing circumfix: /ath- -(z)ar/
- Words ending in geminate and the meronymic suffix: /-(e)ya/
- Words ending in the resultive suffix /-(i)kh/
- Words formed as compounds.
Nouns with Both Animacies
Some nouns have different meanings distinguished by animacy. Some rare nouns are even in process of changing animacy or extending to new meaning with different animacy, so while the one animacy is more correct than the other, both are used.
- lekh (animate) — "language", lekh (inanimate) — "tongue"
- jorok — "corn" (this has been inanimate, but, due to agent-like ending, animate use is becoming common by natural speakers)
- dozgo — "enemy" (this has been inanimate, but can be used as animate when speaking of a specific distinguished enemy)