Dothaki has quite strict rules for forming syntactically sound sentences. Many rules coincide with English, but there are some big differences, too, like the zero copula sentences and placing of adjectives and adverbs.
A simple sentence, or a matrix clause, is a clause that can exist individually.
Basic Word Order
The basic word order is SVO just as in English: First comes the Subject (S), then comes the Verb (V), then comes the Object (O).
- Khal ahhas arakh. — "The khal (S) sharpened (V) the arakh (O)."
When there is no object, the subject still precedes the verb, as it does in English:
- Yalli qova. — "The child (S) trembles (V)."
In basic sentence form the subject is always present.
Zero Copula Sentences
There is no copula in dothraki. In english copula is the verb to be, so when in english we say "X is Y", "X was Y" or "X will be Y", in dothraki the things work a little differently. If you write just X-NOM Y-NOM this means that X is Y. X is any noun or pronoun and Y is a noun, and both words are in the nominative case.
- Anha lajak. — "I am a fighter"(literally "I fighter")
- Hrazef vezh. — "The horse is a stallion"(literally "horse stallion")
In the past tense the difference is that the second noun is instead in the ablative case.
- Anha lajakoon. — "I was a fighter"(literally "I from fighter")
- Hrazef vezhoon. — "The horse was a stallion"(literally "horse from stallion")
In the future tense the second noun is in the allative case.
- Anha lajakaan. — "I will be a fighter"(literally "I towards fighter")
- Hrazef vezhaan. — "The horse will be a stallion"(literally "horse towards stallion")
In both past and future specific verbs (jadat and elat, respectively) can be added to the front of the sentence, if greater clarity is needed:
- Jadak anha lajakoon. — "I was a fighter"(literally "I come from fighter")
- Ek anha lajakaan. — "I will be a fighter"(literally "I go towards fighter")
When recounting a narrative, while past tense is generally used, zero copula sentences concerning still continuing states are in present tense.
- Anha shilo ifakes oskikh. Me ven asto ven tokik, vosma me jerak. — "I met a foreigner yesterday. He spoke lika a madman, but he was a merchant."
Passivization and Impersonal Constructions
Sentences where the subject of a transitive verb is left unsaid are called passivized. Dothraki passive is created with verbal auxiliary, nem. The subject takes the semantical role of an object, but retains it's position and nominative case, and still affects the verb conjugation. The object the subject serves as could have been in a case other than accusative, but this distiction is lost. The instigator of the action can be (re-)introduced as a complementary object with preposition ki.
- Verak nem idri veasaan. — "The traveller was guided to the city."
- Vado nem loshish ki sierasi. — "The turnips were carried by the nephew."
- Anha nem vastok. — "I will be spoken about."
A concept related to passivization is that of impersonal constructs, where the subject is not removed, but serves as a place holder for general "anybody". The semantic difference is often quite minimal: compare "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs" to passive sentence "An omelette can't be made without breaking eggs". In English impersonal constructs can use either you or one as a subject, in Dothraki the subject is either shafka or me.
- Me jif vo rokha mawizze. — "One should not fear rabbits."
- Shafka laz vo tihi leyes. — "You can't see ghosts."
Basic questions start with a question word, eg. particle hash or pronoun fin (see interrogative pronoun) and then follow the normal SVO word order.
- Hash ifak driva? — "Is the foreigner dead?"
When using pronoun question words, the word can denote to object, but is still always fronted, so the word order can then be OSV.
- Fin shafka okki? — "Which will you choose?"
- Fin mahrazhes shafka ray shil? — "Which man have you known?"
Commands and Encouragments
Commands are expressed with imperatives, and as in English, clauses have no subject, but the syntax is otherwise regular.
- Jadi k'athdikari! — "Come quick!"
- Tihas! — "Look!"
- Vos adakhos jel! — "Don't eat cheese!"
There is a special syntax for impersonal commands and engouragement, type of "let's", "let it be that" etc.: the verb is in infinite that has been declined to accusative (as all verb infinites are treated as animate nouns, in practice the suffix is /-(l)ates/). Kisha is not used as a subject, but rather presumed, if the sentence has no subject.
- Addrivates mori zafre! — "Let them kill the slaves!"
- Zheanalates chiorisi! — "Let the women be beautiful!"
- Ezhirates niyanqoy! — "Let's dance together!"
Topicality, Emphasis and the Old Word Order
Even if the word order is relatively strict, there are still reasons to diverge from it. In a sentence that would normally have a SVO word order, to emphasise a word or introduce a topic you can move a verb, an object or even an adverb to the front position.
The VSO word order has also a special tone: it's the old word order of Dothraki, still evident in some special circumstances like relative clauses. It can be used stylistically to eg. add gravity or formality to speech. For sake of topicality or emphasis words can still be fronted, so even OVS word order is possible.
Compound sentence is formed by attaching sentences together with coordinating conjunctions like ma, and; majin, so or vosma, but.
- Ohara anni naqisa, vosma hrazef mae zhokwae. — "My daughter is small, but her horse is big."
- Ver drozh oqet, ma hrakkar drozh avees, majin anha afonak ajjin. — "A wolf killed the sheep and a lion killed the father, so I will hunt now."
Repeated subject pronoun can be dropped from the latter clause.
- Anha afichak heffof ma anirrak mae sewafikhoon. — "I will fetch a jug and fill it with wine."
Sentences with dependent clauses are called complex sentences.
Adverbial clause modifies the whole matrix clause. The most distinct difference between Dothraki and English adverbial clauses is that the subordinate conjunctions usually come before both clauses.
- Kash anha yom os, kash anha tih mawizze. — "While I was crossing a path, I saw a rabbit."
- Hash ave anni vessae, hash vitteya avezhvena. — "If my father will return, the feast will be great."
Clauses that take a role of a noun are called noun clauses. The most common type of the noun clause is the one starting with /me-/ (or, with words starting with a vowel, /m'-/) prefixed to the start of the clause. This resembles English that.
- Anha ray char mechiorikem yeri laz hoyala. — "I have heard that your wife can sing."
- Me zala m'anha ahoyalak. — "He wishes that I'd sing."
Small clauses are minimal clauses. They are not separated by any conjuntion and they have no tense. The most common small clause has a verb in infinitive and functions as an argument in the matrix clause.
- Anha azhak yeraan adakhat kimikh anni. — "I'll let you eat my dates."
- Me zala hoyalat. — "He wants to sing."
Relative clause is attached to the argument it modifies as an adpositional phrase. It starts with a relative pronoun, fin, which agrees with animacy and plurality of the noun the relative clause modifies, but declines according to its role in the clause. The word order follows the old VSO structure, so with the fronted pronoun the word order is either SVO or OVS.
- Voji fini laz hoyali allayafi anna. — "I like people who can sing."
- Anha adakh nind fin azh yer anhaan. — "I ate the sausage you gave me."
- Ashefa finnaan dothra anha mevis aoe. — "The river which I rode along is deep."
Relative clauses can sometimes be indefinite, ie. rather than further defining an argument, they give a categorical definition to otherwise undefined argument. In english arguments that begin with "He who..." or "That which..." (also eg. "Whoever...") use indefinite relative clause. In Dothraki indefinite relative pronoun isn't fin, but instead demonstrative pronoun rek. The full arguments with indefinite relative clauses begin with me, declined according to the role in matrix clause, followed by rek, declined acording to the role in relative clause, but me can be dropped off.
- Me rek laz laja aqorae qorasokh. — "He who can fight will get the spoils."
- Me vazha hrazef mae maan rek azheananaza. — "He will give his horse to him who is the most beautiful."
- Anha vadakhak rekoon garvok anha. — "I will eat whatever I hunger for."
Subject and object are collectively called arguments. At it's core an argument is a noun or a pronoun, but it often has also modifiers.
- Demonstrative (this, that, those etc) comes before the noun it modifies.
- Adjectives come after the noun or pronoun they are modifying.
- Adverb that modifies an adjective comes right before the adjective.
- The possessor follows the noun and all the adjectives.
- Adpositional phrase comes after even the possessor.
- Preposition comes before all other modifiers.
- Postposition comes after all other modifiers.
- jin (dem.) ave (n.) sekke (adv.) erin (adj.) anni (pos.) ma dorvoon (adpos. phrase) "this very kind father of mine with a goat"
Conjunctions Working with Noun Phrases
While you can use conjunctions to form complex or compound sentences, you can of course also use some of them to connect noun phrases into more complex arguments. As a rule, the conjunctions come in the front of all the phrases, but when connecting just two phrases, the leading conjunction is sometimes optional, eg. in the the case of ma.
- Yer ashiloe ohara anni ma mahrazhkem mae. — "You'll meet my daughter and her husband."
- Che ver che hrakkari che hlizifi adrozhi mae. — "Wolves, lions or bears will kill him."
Sometimes leaving the leading conjunction away may affect the meaning of the sentence:
- Hrakkar drozh ma oqet ma hrazef anni. — "A lion killed the sheep and my horse."
- Hrakkar drozh oqet ma hrazef anni. — "A lion killed my sheep and horse."
Adverbs that modify the verb, or otherwise the whole sentence, come at the end, for the most part. They can come at the beginning of the sentence if the speaker uses the adverb to provide background information necessary for understanding the content, but their natural position is sentence-final.
- Me oge oqet oskikh. — "He slaughtered a sheep yesterday."
Certain other adverbs commonly occur directly after the verb. One such is the emphatic negative vosecchi.
- Yer ofrakhi vosecchi sajoes mae! — "You will NEVER touch her steed!"