Assigning Cases and Prepositions
By general rule the dothaki case assignment is very straightforward: The subject is in nominative, object in accusative and possessive modifier in genitive. In practice things are much more complicated. Most notably the objects in dothraki are regularily met in all of the cases - and sometimes even sport prepositions.
Preposition Case Assignment
First it is good to recognize that a preposition assigns the case of the noun or pronoun it modifies. Many prepositions even carry multiple meanings that are distinguished by different case assignments.
Possessives follow the nouns they modify and are usually marked with genitive case. Inalienable possessions make an exeption. In dothraki mostly body parts are considered inalienable, and their possessors are marked with ablative instead of genitive. They are also commonly left without the possessive modifier when it is reasonably clear to whom the possessions belong to.
- Ave anni choma. — "My father is respectable."
- Arakh lajaki hasi. — "The arakhs of the warriors are sharp."
- Tihi yeroon zheanae. — "Your eyes are beautiful."
- Zhori hrazefoa zhokwae. — "The hearts of the horses are big."
- Anha vassik yera ma azirissek lekh. — "I will defeat you and cut off your tongue."
There are two common reason for an object to be met in an other form than the regular accusative. The object may be complementary or the object's case may further define the exact nature of the action indicated by the verb.
- Azzafrok loj zafraes m'orvikoon. — "The slaver hit the slave with a whip." Here orvik is a complementary argument, not a core argument. Its relation to the verb must be explicated, thus the preposition ma is used.
- Zafra vinde azzafrokaan. — "The slave stabbed at the slaver." The slave didn't stab the slaver, he just stabbed at him. This distiction is conveyed by using allative instead of accusative.
There is a hierarchy for choosing nonstandard object forms:
1) If the regular accusative is not applicable, other canonical case roles are the foremost to be applied.
- Anha verak Lysaan. — "I'm traveling to Lys." Accusative is insufficient for communicating from where and to where of the traveling, but canonical roles of ablative and allative are spot on.
2) If the canonical case roles fall short, many verbs still carry customary expanded interpretations on the cases. These are the next trick to be tried. Each expanded interpretation has a set of verbs to which it by tradition can be applied to, and these interpretation sets are called verb classes.
- Anha ray char zhavvorsi. — "I have heard of dragons." To convey the sense that the dragons are not heard, just heard of, the canonical cases do not suffice. When used with charat, though, genitive is customarily understood to be topical, to convey precisely the sense that the object is only heard of.
3) There are only five cases in dothaki and for the most verbs only some of them have an established interpretation. Often this isn't enough, and then prepositions are applied.
- Yalli if yomme os. — "A child walked across the path." To walk with, along, on, towards, into, from, among ... the object can have dozens of different relations with the verb. Noun cases cover only few, prepositions cover the most of the rest.
4) Even the prepositions may fail to deliver a satisfying sense. The final fallback option is to construct a subordinate clause. Dothraki makes a good regular use of subordinate clauses, so this should not be seen as cumbersome or ungrammatical solution.