This is the first of a set of tutorials for learning the Dothraki language. We will be using the step by step creation of simple sample sentences to highlight the various aspects of the language.
Before we can start creating sentences we need to know a little about the sentence structure in Dothraki. A simple sentence has three main parts, the subject (S), the verb (V) and the object (O). Dothraki uses a SVO word order just like English does. This gives us the general order in which these parts of the sentence appears in the sentence. There might be other words added in between but when you identify the subject, verb and object they will appear in this order relative to each other.
- Example: "The warrior (S) stabs (V) the goat (O)."
The subject is the thing in the sentence that is doing something. The subject is generally either a noun or a pronoun at least in simple sentences. The subject is always in the nominative case which is the base form of a noun or pronoun. This is also the form of the word that you find in the vocabulary.
Dothraki has no definite or indefinite articles ("the", "a" or "an") so the sample sentence would literally read as:
- Example: "Warrior stabs goat."
The verb denotes what is being done in the sentence. This is generally expressed using a verb but since Dothraki doesn't have a verb for "to be" they express that in a different way. Verbs appear in the dictionary in the infinitive form but this form is generally not used in sentences. Verbs are instead inflected based on what the subject is, what the tense is or other things like mood and aspect. This can be a little tricky since there are no many different inflections to keep in mind. The main things to ask yourself is (1) who is doing something (is it me, you or some type of 3rd person), (2) how many are doing it (is it singular or plural) and (3) when is it happening (is it in the past, the present or the future)? Based on the answer there are different inflections on the verb.
The object of the sentence is the thing that the subject is doing something to. This is often a noun or a pronoun but there are other possibilities as well. The object generally appears in the accusative case. What the accusative case of a specific noun is depends on whether the noun is animate or inanimate. This is marked in the vocabulary as either "na." or "ni.". Check the page on noun cases for further information about this.
Sentences that express "to be"
Since Dothraki doesn't have any verb that means "to be" like English has, this sentiment has to be expressed in a different way. The way it works in Dothraki is this:
When two nouns or a noun and a pronoun appear next to one another it means that the first one is the other one. Another way to put it is that X-NOM Y-NOM means that "X is Y". X is any noun or pronoun and Y is any noun. -NOM means that both words are in the nominative case (dictionary form).
- Example: Mahrazh lajak. — "The man is a warrior."
As you see in this example we simply have the word for man (mahrazh) followed by the word for warrior (lajak). The English sentence also has some further qualifiers ("a" and "the") in addition to the verb "is" but in Dothraki it's very simple and straight forward.
We can also take it one step further and express the negation of the same sentence:
- Example: Mahrazh vos lajak. — "The man is not a warrior."
Here we simply add the word vos (no, not) in between the words.
Next we might also want to express the past and future tense of "to be". This is done with a special use the ablative and allative cases. If we use the same notation as before we can say that X-NOM Y-ABL means that "X was Y" similarly we can say that X-NOM Y-ALL means that "X will be Y".
- Example: Mahrazh lajakoon. — "The man was a warrior."
We see in this case that the second word (lajak) is no longer in the nominative case but instead the ablative case.
- Example: Mahrazh lajakaan. — "The man will be a warrior."
Here we see that the word lajak is in the allative case.
Verbs that express "to be"
The above construction covers when the object (second word) is a noun but there are also simple sentences that use the verb "to be" where the object isn't a noun. In Dothraki this is done by using special verbs that have the sentiment of being built into them.
- For example:
- zheanalat — "to be beautiful"
- nrojat — "to be thick"
- zhokwalat — "to be big"
In English this would be expressed using the verb "to be" along with an adjective but in Dothraki there is a verb for each such adjective.
- Example: Anha zheanak. — "I am beautiful."
- Example: Arakh nroj. — "The arakh was thick."
In these examples we see that the verbs are conjugated to give the correct meaning. The first example is simply the first person present tense conjugation. The second example uses the past tense conjugation to express "was".
Sentences without an object
This sections deals with verbs that only require a subject (the one that is doing something) but that doesn't have an object (a target for the action). Verbs that work like this are called intransitive verbs. For example the verb "to bleed" is an intransitive verb. You're not bleeding to someone, you're simply bleeding. With these types of sentences all you need to keep track of is what the subject is and when it is happening (what tense), so that you can use the correct verb conjugation.
One thing to know is that Dothraki does not distinguish between simple (I bleed) and progressive (I am bleeding) verb aspects.
- Anha qiyak — "I bleed./I am bleeding."
- Oqet vichitera — "The sheep shivers./The sheep is shivering."
- Arakh samvo — "The arakh broke./The arakh was breaking."
In the vocabulary these verbs (and the stative verbs) are marked with vin.
Sentences with an object
Next we have sentences that feature certain verbs that need more than just a subject. They need an object as well. An object is the target of an action. These are called transitive verbs and they are marked with vtr. in the vocabulary. For example a sentence like "I am taking." does not make much sense. For the sentence to be complete we need to know what is being taken i.e. we need an object. With these types of sentences we need to know the subject and the tense to conjugate the verb like before but there is also another thing that is needed. When a noun appears as the object of a sentence it will be in the accusative case so this form of the noun will also need to be known. To know which form the accusative takes we need to know what the animacy of the noun is.
- Anha sajak sajoes. — "I mount the steed./I am mounting the steed." We see here the word sajoes which is the accusative form of sajo (steed).
- Khal ondee serj. — "The Khal wears a leather vest./The khal is wearing a vest." Serj is the accusative form of serja (leather vest).
- Mahrazh assamve arakh. — "The man broke the arakh./The man was breaking the arakh." Here the accusative form of arakh is the same as the nominative form (dictionary form).