High Valyrian Tutorial

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High Valyrian is referenced in the books and does appear in small phrases here and there (“Valar morghulis” is the most famous example), but it was never full fleshed out by George R. R. Martin.

Enter David J. Peterson, a linguist, who was tasked by the creators of the Game of Thrones TV show, to create the Dothraki and High Valyrian languages for use on the show. David Peterson (from here on in, shortened to DJP) took words that appear in the books, like arakh and Vaes Dothrak, and used them as the basis of Dothraki and fleshed it out from there.

"Valar morghulis" means "All men must die"

DJP used this as a starting point. He decided that valar meant “all men”, and became the basis of the noun system. In High Valyrian, there is a singular form of a word, and three types of plural: paucal (relating to a small group), plural (relating to many), and collective (relating to all).

Here they are in use: Notes: The u is actually a long vowel, which is marked with a macron, and High Valyrian doesn't use articles

Vala morghūljas - The man dies

Vali morghūlis - The men die

Valun morghūlis - A few men die

Valar morghūlis - All men die ("All men must die" is another possible translation of this line)

Conjugation

What is conjugation you might ask? Conjugation is the term given to the variation in a verb according to the mood, tense and person. High Valyrian has a complex conjugation system based on person (first person, second person, third person) and on whether the verb stem ends on a consonant or a vowel.


Here is the list of conjugations for “morghūljagon” (to die)

First Person Singular (I) morghūljan

Second Person Singular (You) morghūljā

Third Person Singular (He/She/It) morghūljas

First Person Plural (We) morghūli

Second Person Plural (You All) morghūljāt

Third Person Plural (They) morghūlis

Case

To those not linguistically inclined, case does not refer to upper or lower case letters, but rather grammatical case, which marks the roles of words in a sentence. High Valyrian has a complex set of cases, 8 in all. We will first look at the subject case, called nominative.


Vala gryvī ipradas

(A/the) man eats (a/the) bear (High Valyrian doesn't use articles, so we have to guess which one was meant when translating it)


“Vala” is in the nominative, which means the word is marked as the subject of the sentence. This is also the form of the word you would look for if you were looking for it in the dictionary.

Let's use the same words, but change the meaning.


Gryves vale ipradas

(A/the) bear eats (a/the) man


Here we can see how the endings of the words change as we change the case. Enter, the accusative, or the object case. We take off the -a from the end of vala, and add -e to form the accusative.

The accusative marks the object of the sentence. Since the accusative is marked, we could conceivably put the object at any point in the sentence, since we can tell from the ending what function it serves in the sentence. Changing the position in the sentence would only alter the emphasis.


Vale gryves ipradas

It is the man that the bear is eating


To change the emphasis in English requires a bit more words, since English does not mark subjects or objects, so we have to change the phrasing in English to get the same effect.

The next case to discuss is the genitive. The genitive, or the possesive case, marks nouns as belonging to, or relating to something else.


Valo luo vaoresan

I prefer one which is a man's


luo – who, which, that

vaoresagon – to prefer (this is the infinitive form, by the way, the form you would need to look up a verb in the dictionary)

We have taken the word “vala”, taken off the -a at the end, and added -o to it. The word lua has to match (or agree if we were using proper linguistic terms) to the word it was used with. Since vala is in the genitive, lua takes a genitive ending.

The next case we will discuss is called the dative, or the indirect object case. It is used to mark the indirect object (something that receives or has something done to it by the direct object).


Gerpe valot tepan

I give the fruit to the man


Direct translation

Fruit (accusative) man (dative) I give

High Valyrian is referred to as a pronoun dropping language (like Spanish or Italian) where pronouns are optional since who performed the action is marked on the verb itself, unlike in English where it is never clear who did what if we only have the verb.

The next case to discuss is the locative, which marks the noun as being the location of something


Gerpe valot Qelbriā tepan

I give the fruit to the man in the Riverlands


Qelbria means Riverlands. If we lengthen the last a, it becomes Qelbriā, which is the locative marker.

The next case we will cover is the instrumental case, which marks the noun as being used by or with (with in the sense of “by means of”) something.


Quptenkos Ēngoso ȳdrassis?

Do you speak the Common Tongue? (literally: Do you speak by means of the Common Tongue?)


ēngos – tongue, language

We add -oso to the end of word to form the instrumental. If you are thinking this is just ēngos plus -o which would make it the same as the genitive, the genitive in this instance is actually ēngo.

The second last case we will cover (we are almost there!) is the comitative case, which indicates accompaniment, and can be translated as “along with”.

It is formed by adding -oma to the end of the noun.

The last case to cover is called the vocative case, which is used when addressing someone.


Dovaogēdys!

Unsullied!


When we change the form of a noun depending on the case, we decline it. Some nouns decline differently to others. Nouns that decline in the same way are placed into groups. These groups are called declensions. There are 6 declensions in High Valyrian. Unfortunately, this is not where it ends. There are also 4 genders, lunar, solar, terrestrial and aquatic. These won't be covered here, but it is enough to know that it has an effect on declension. Nouns in the dictionary will have their gender, and declension group listed, which helps in looking up their declension table.

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