Dothraki language

Lekh Dothraki
Pronunciation [ˈd̪o.θɾ]
Created by George R. R. Martin, David J. Peterson
Date From 2009
Setting and usage A Song of Ice and Fire, 2011 series Game of Thrones
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)

The Dothraki language is a constructed fictional language in George R. R. Martin's fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation Game of Thrones, where it is spoken by the Dothraki, the indigenous inhabitants of the Dothraki Sea. The language was developed for the TV series by the linguist David J. Peterson[1] based on the Dothraki words and phrases in Martin's novels.

As of September 2011, the language comprised 3,163 words,[2] not all of which have been made public. In 2012, 146 newborn girls in the U.S. were named "Khaleesi", the Dothraki term for the wife of a khal or ruler, and the title adopted in the series by Daenerys Targaryen.[3]


The Dothraki vocabulary was created by Peterson well in advance of the adaptation. HBO hired the Language Creation Society to create the language, and after an application process involving over thirty conlangers, David Peterson was chosen to develop the Dothraki language. He delivered over 1700 words to HBO before the initial shooting. Peterson drew inspiration from George R. R. Martin’s description of the language, as well as from such languages as Turkish, Russian, Estonian, Inuktitut and Swahili.[4]

David J. Peterson and his development of the Dothraki language were featured on an April 8, 2012 episode of CNN's The Next List.[5] He went on to create the Valyrian languages for season 3 of Game of Thrones.

Language constraints

The Dothraki language was developed under two significant constraints. First, the language had to match the uses already put down in the books. Secondly, it had to be easily pronounceable or learnable by the actors. These two constraints influenced the grammar and phonology of the language: for instance, voiceless stops can be aspirated or unaspirated, as in English.

Phonology and romanization

David Peterson has said that "You know, most people probably don’t really know what Arabic actually sounds like, so to an untrained ear, it might sound like Arabic. To someone who knows Arabic, it doesn’t. I tend to think of the sound as a mix between Arabic (minus the distinctive pharyngeals) and Spanish, due to the dental consonants."[6]

Regarding the orthography, the Dothraki themselves do not have a writing system—nor do many of the surrounding peoples (e.g. the Lhazareen). If there were to be any written examples of Dothraki in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, it would be in a writing system developed in the Free Cities and adapted to Dothraki, or in some place like Ghis or Qarth, which do have writing systems.[7]


There are twenty-three consonant phonemes in the Dothraki language. Here the romanized form is given on the left, and the IPA in brackets.

Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive voiceless t [t̪] k [k] q [q]
voiced d [d̪] g [ɡ]
Affricate voiceless ch [tʃ]
voiced j [dʒ]
Fricative voiceless f [f] th [θ] s [s] sh [ʃ] kh [x] h [h]
voiced v [v] z [z] zh [ʒ]
Nasal m [m] n [n̪]
Trill r [r]
Tap r [ɾ]
Approximant central w [w] y [j]
lateral l [l̪]

The letters c and x never appear in Dothraki, although c appears in the digraph ch, pronounced like 'check'. b and p seem to appear only in names, as in Bharbo and Pono.

Voiceless stops may be aspirated. This does not change word meaning.


Dothraki has a four vowel system shown below:

Vowels Diphthongs
i [i] iy [ij]
e [e] ey [ej]
o [o] oy [oj]
a [a] ay [aj]

In the A Song of Ice and Fire books, u never occurs as a vowel, appearing only after "q", and only in names, as in Jhiqui and Quaro.

In sequence of multiple vowels, each such vowel represents a separate syllable. Examples: shierak [ʃi.e.ˈɾak] star, rhaesh [ɾha.ˈeʃ] country, khaleesi [ˈxa.l̪] queen.


Parts of speech

Though prepositions are also sometimes employed, the language is foremost inflectional. Prefixes, suffixes and circumfixes are all used. Verbs conjugate in infinite, past, present, future, two imperatives and (archaic) participle; they also agree with person, number and polarity. Nouns divide into two classes, inanimate and animate. They decline in five cases, nominative, accusative, genitive, allative and ablative. Animate nouns also decline according to number.[8][9]

Word order

Basic word order is SVO (subject–verb–object). In a basic sentence, the order of these elements (when all three are present) is as in English: First comes the subject (S), then comes the verb (V), then comes the object (O).

Khal ahhas arakh. The Khal (S) sharpened (V) the arakh (O).
rakh haj strong boy (rakh boy, haj strong)
alegra ivezh wild duck (alegra duck, ivezh wild)
jin arakh this arakh (jin this, arakh arakh (type of blade))
rek hrakkares that lion (rek that, hrakkares lion)

When only a subject is a present, the subject precedes the verb, as it does in English:

Arakh hasa.
The arakh (S) is sharp (V).

In noun phrases there is a specific order as well. The order is as follows: demonstrative, noun, adverb, adjective, genitive noun, prepositional phrase. Prepositions always precede their noun complements.[10] but adjectives, possessor and prepositional phrases all follow the noun:[10][11][11]

jin ave sekke verven anni m'orvikoon
this father very violent of.mine with.a.whip
this very violent father of mine with a whip

Adverbs normally are sentence final, but they can also immediately follow the verb. Modal particles precede the verb.[8]

In the episode "Andy's Ancestry" from the United States television show The Office, Dwight Schrute created the Dothraki phrase "throat rip" by placing "throat" in front to make it the accusative.[12] David J. Peterson adapted that language technique and called it the "Schrutean compound".[12]


Nevakhi vekha ha maan: Rekke, m'aresakea norethi fitte.
/ˈn̪evaxi ˈvexa ha maˈan̪ ˈrekːe ˈmaɾesakea ˈn̪oɾeθi ˈfit̪ːe/
seat.GEN exist.3SG.PRES for 3SG.ALL there.ACC with.coward.ALL.PL hair.GEN short
There is a place for him: There, with the short-haired cowards.[13]


  1. ^ "Do you speak Dothraki?". The New York Times Upfront. January 30, 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Header Script". 21 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  3. ^ Wattenberg, Laura (22 May 2013). "The Ultimate 'Game of Thrones' Baby Name". Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Official HBO Press Release". April 12, 2010. 
  5. ^ Game of Thrones' linguist: How to create a language from scratch"'". CNN What's Next. 
  6. ^ "Creating Dothraki - An Interview with David J Peterson and Sai Emrys". April 22, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Westeros.Ru interview". June 24, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Dothraki 101 post on HBO's Making Game of Throne's blog". December 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Dothraki presentation at Language Creation Conference 4". August 22, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "» Demonstratives". Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  11. ^ a b "Adjectives". 8 October 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  12. ^ a b Rahman, Ray (31 May – 7 June 2013). "My Weird TV Job: The Guy Who Makes Up Languages for Game of Thrones and Defiance". Entertainment Weekly (#1261/1262). 
  13. ^ "Dothraki Presentation at WorldCon 2011". August 21, 2011. 

External links

  • The official Dothraki blog
  • The LCS blog about the language
  • The Dothraki Language Wiki
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