High Valyrian Phonology

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Revision as of 14:48, 1 April 2014

The High Valyrian language has 18 distinct consonant phonemes (not including two that only occur in loanwords), 6 vowels (each of which may be long or short) and 2 glides.


Standard Orthography

Valyrian orthography IPA Informal English example Notes
a a US bot, UK bath
ā father
b b bother
d d dog
e e bait
ē bade
g g good
gh ɣ ~ ʁ
h h ham
i i beet
ī bead
j d͡ʒ ~ ʒ ~ j judge, azure, or yes
k k skill
kh x ~ χ Bach, or Chanukkah Only found in loanwords.
l l left
lj ʎ million
m m man
n n   no Assimilates to following velar or uvular consonant.
ñ ɲ   onion
o o moat
ō mode
p p span
q q
r r ~ ɾ A tap when following a vowel, except at the end of a word. Trilled elsewhere.[1]
rh Voiceless, trilled.[2]
s s see .
t t stop .
th θ think Only found in loanwords.
u u fouton
ū food
v v ~ w voice or wave
y y
z z zoo


Because High Valyrian was once the language of a wide empire, and because it is now a learned language (that is, it is no longer anyone's native language, with the possible exception of the Targaryens), the pronunciation varies a good deal from region to region. It is likely that many of the inhabitants of the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay pronounce High Valyrian very similarly to their native form of Low Valyrian. As a result, the pronunciations given below are only ideals, not absolutes, and even then they are often quite broad (e.g. the pronunciation given for j).

In particular, note that most of the speakers we have heard on the show pronounce y as [i], and do not carefully distinguish vowel quantities.


Labial coronal Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Voiceless Plosive p [p] t [t] k [k] q [q]
Voiced Plosive b [b] d [d] g [g]
Voiceless fricative s [s], (th [θ]) (kh [x ~ χ]) h [h]
Voiced fricative v [v ~ w] z [z] j [d͡ʒ ~ ʒ ~ j] gh [ɣ ~ ʁ]
Nasal m [m] n [n] ñ [ɲ] ~ (n [ŋ]) ~ (n [ɴ])
Lateral l [l] lj [ʎ]
Rhotic r [r ~ ɾ],[3] rh [r̥]


  • In antiquity, /j/ could be pronounced [j] or [ɟ]: always [ɟ] before [i] or [y]; often before [e]; sometimes elsewhere. Modern speakers' pronunciation varies between [j], [ʒ] and [dʒ], depending largely on region, and native language.
  • [ŋ] and [ɴ] are in parentheses because they are not phonemes, but allophones of /n/. The phoneme /n/ assimilates to a following velar or uvular consonant, e.g. ēngos /ˈeːngos/ "tongue" is pronounced [ˈeːŋgos], valonqar /vaˈlonqar/ "little brother" is [vaˈloɴqar].
  • [θ] and [x ~ χ] are in parentheses because they occur only in words of foreign origin. As foreign sounds, they may not always be pronounced as they ideally should be. For instance, some speakers might pronounce Thoros as [ˈθoros], but others might just say [ˈtoros] or possibly even [ˈsoros]. Likewise, some might pronounce arakh [aˈɾax] or [aˈɾaχ], some [aˈɾah], some might even say [aˈɾaɣ] or [aˈɾaʁ].
  • /r/ is generally a trill ([r]), but is a tap ([ɾ]) when following a vowel medially.
  • In antiquity, /v/ could be pronounced [w] or [v]: always [v] before [u]; often before [o]; sometimes elsewhere. Modern speakers' pronunciation varies between [w], and [v], depending largely on region, and native language.


High Valyrian has 6 phonetically distinct vowel qualities, each of which can be either long or short:

High Valyrian IPA Notes
Many modern speakers do not distinguish from i


High Valyrian diphthongs can divided into two categories: "falling" diphthongs (which end with e or o), and "rising" or "on-glide" diphthongs (which begin with i or u).[4] Falling diphthongs have a more official status in the language: when the word "diphthong" is used without qualification, it usually refers to falling diphthongs.

Falling diphthongs
High Valyrian IPA Notes

For prosodic purposes, falling diphthongs always count as long vowels.

Rising diphthongs
High Valyrian IPA Notes

For prosodic purposes, rising diphthongs count as a short vowel if they end in a short vowel, and a long vowel if they end in long one. The on-glide never counts as a consonant.

Vowels in hiatus

Occasionally, two vowels will occur in a row, without forming a diphthong. These should be pronounced as two separate vowels. The most common of these are [a.eː] and [a.oː], which are never pronounced as diphthongs. It is also possible, but very rare, for two vowels that could have formed a diphthongs are pronounced as two separate vowels instead. The only known example of this, so far, is daor "not," which may be pronounced either as one syllable ([dao̯r]) or two ([da.ˈor]).

Prosody & accent

A High Valyrian syllable may be "heavy" or "light."

Heavy and light syllables

A syllable is light if:

  • It ends with a short vowel (e.g. vă-). This inclueds rising diphthongs that ends in a short vowel (e.g. luĕ-)

A syllable is heavy if:

  • It ends with a long vowel (e.g. zō-)
  • It contains a falling diphthong (e.g. glae-, rāe-)
  • It ends with a consonant (e.g. lok-).
For syllable boundaries at the middle of a word, a good rule of thumb is that if a vowel is followed by two consonants, the first consonant is at the end of a syllable and thus the syllable is heavy. For this purpose:
  • Digraphs, such as rh, gh, lj count as a single consonant.
  • A plosive (p, t, k, b, d, g) followed by a liquid (r, l, rh) counts as a single consonant.
  • A double consonant (e.g. rr, ss) counts as two consonants.

Placing the accent

All imperative verbs are accented on the last syllable, no matter the composition of the syllables (e.g. kelītī́s "halt!"). The same is true of words in which the final vowel is lengthened for coordination (e.g. pérzys ānogā́r "fire and blood").[5] For all other native words, the accent is based on the "weight" (heavy or light) of the second-to-last syllable (which is called the "penult"), and the third-to-last syllable (called the "antepenult"):

  • If the penult and the antepenult are both light, then the accent falls on the penult: valaro = va·lá·ro
  • If the penult is heavy, then the accent falls on the penult: valarra = va·lár·ra
  • If the penult is light, and the antepenult is heavy, then the accent falls on the antepenult: valzyro = vál·zy·ro

In other words:

  1. Place the accent on the last syllable if the word is a verb in the imperative, e.g. vestrás "say!," kelītī́s "halt! (pl)" or in coordination, e.g. pérzys ānogā́r "fire and blood"
  2. Place the accent on the antepenult (third-to-last syllable) if it is heavy, and the penult is light, e.g. póntalo (pon·ta·lo) "of themselves," morghū́ljagon (mor·ghū·lja·gon) "to die," obū́ljarion (·lja·rion) "surrender"
  3. Place the accent on the penult (second-to-last syllable) in all other cases: valáro (va·la·ro) "of all men," undéssin (un·des·sin) "I always see," iprádis (pra·dis) "always eats" (remember that pr counts as one consonant!)


Words and names borrowed from another language will often keep their original stress. The accent tends to stay on the same syllable, regardless of any endings that may be added. Thus:

  • Arákh (a type of sword), from Doth. arakh.
  • Buzdári "slave," from AV buzdár.
  • Rullór, gen. Rullóro,[6] "R'hllor," possibly from Asshai'i.

Relevant Information Elsewhere


  1. https://twitter.com/Dedalvs/status/348173789231734784 et seq.
  2. https://twitter.com/Dedalvs/status/348276183596675073
  3. https://twitter.com/Dedalvs/status/347825905076420608
  4. "Rising" and "falling" are standard terms to distinguish between these two types of diphthong. The idea is that one of the vowels is the main nucleus of the diphthong (high), while another one is reduced to a sort of glide (low). Do not confuse this with the unrelated (but similarly termed) concepts of vowel height (indeed, it is usually the opposite) or tone.
  5. http://dedalvs.tumblr.com/post/60304113674/hey-david-big-fan-of-your-work-and-conlanging-in#comment-1032897843
  6. However, David J. Peterson has said the word might possibly be Rullōr. If this is true, it would make the stress on the oblique forms regular, if not the nominative.[1]
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