High Valyrian Phonology

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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.

Contents

Standard Orthography

Dothraki 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 Trilled.
rh Voiceless, trilled.
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
ȳ
z z zoo

Phonetics

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.

Consonants

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]
Glide
Nasal m [m] n [n] ñ [ɲ] ~ (n [ŋ]) ~ (n [ɴ])
Lateral l [l] lj [ʎ]
Trill r [ɾ][1], rh [r̥]

Notes:

  • [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 [aˈrax] or [aˈraχ], some [aˈrah], some might even say [aˈraɣ] or [aˈraʁ].
  • For simplicity's sake /r/ is always written as the trill, but it should be noted that it is always actually a tap [ɾ].

Vowels

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

High Valyrian IPA Notes
i
ī
i
e
ē
e
y
ȳ
y
Many modern speakers do not distinguish from i
u
ū
u
o
ō
o
a
ā
a

Diphthongs

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). 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
ae
āe
ae̯
aːe̯
ao
āo
ao̯
aːo̯

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


Rising diphthongs
High Valyrian IPA Notes
ia
i͡a
i͡aː
io
i͡o
i͡oː
ie
i͡e
i͡eː
ua
u͡a
u͡aː
uo
u͡o
u͡oː
ue
u͡e
u͡eː

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-). A good rule of thumb is that if a vowel is followed by two consonants, the syllable is heavy.
    • 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. For all other 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)"
  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!)

Loanwords

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,[2] "R'hllor," possibly from Asshai'i.

Relevant Information Elsewhere

Notes

  1. https://twitter.com/Dedalvs/status/347825905076420608
  2. 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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