Lexicon evolution in Game of Thrones

by Alexis Ulrich

How many words are there in Dothraki, in High Valyrian, in Astapori Valyrian? One of the recurring questions about David J. Peterson’s constructed languages for Game of Thrones deals with the lexicon size of each of them. Let’s see the evolution of these lexicons season after season from a variety of sources.

Season 1

Winter is Coming, the motto of House Stark, is the title of the first episode of the show. Illyrio Mopatis introduces Viserys Targaryen and his sister, Daenerys, to Khal Drogo in this episode, with the first spoken Dothraki aired: Athchomar chomakaan, [zhey] khal vezhven. (“Respect to one that is respectful, great khal.”)
The Dothraki lexicon is already well-developed with about 1,800 words[1] when that first episode is aired in April 2011. It will go up to 3,100 words[2] in late September, slightly growing behind the scene until May 2013.
In the ninth episode, Baelor, we hear the first words of the Asshai’i language in the form of an incantation by Mirri Maz Duur, a Lhazareen godswife enslaved by the khalasar led by Drogo. Unfortunately, this is only a sketch of a language, not developed in the series.

Season 2

Starting with the episode The North Remembers, the second season still uses a lot of Dothraki language, with for instance an interesting question by Rakharo to Daenerys:
– Fin kisha fonoki, zhey khaleesi? (“What do we seek, khaleesi?”)
To which Daenerys replies:
– Vaes, che thiri che drivi. Ma verakasaris ma voji. Che ashefaes che tozaraes che Havazzhife Zhokwa. Ezo athchilar Athasaroon Virzetha hatif kishi, ma reki vekha yomme moon. (“Cities, living or dead. Caravans and people. Rivers, or lakes, or the Great Salt Sea. Find how far the Red Waste extends before us, and what lies on the other side.”)

Season 3

The High Valyrian title of the opening episode of the third season of the show, Valar Dohaeris, for “All men must serve”, is a mirror to the finale of the seconde one, Valar Morghulis, “All men must die” spoken by Jaqen H’ghar to Arya Stark.
The fourth episode shows Daenerys fluency in that language while she gives orders: Dovaogēdys! Naejot memēbātās! Kelītīs! (“Unsullied! Forward march! Halt!”)
But her most memorable quote is: Zaldrīzes buzdari iksos daor. (“A dragon is not a slave.”)
On January, 2 2013, the High Valyrian lexicon already counts 585 words[3], and that count will go up to 700 words[4] by mid-May.

Season 4

In the first episode of that fourth season, we start hearing the Astapori Valyrian dialect in a dialog between Grey Worm and Daario Naharis:
– Do ska me vala karna, Daario Naharis. (“You are not a smart man, Daario Naharis.”)
– Yno mazidri emagho dori bazma si lanta kokosi. (“I’d rather have no brains and two balls.”)
High Valyrian is also used a lot, like in the third episode, Breaker of Chains, in which Daenerys talks to the people of Meereen: Ēlī Astaprot istan. Astaprot dohaertrossa sīr yno inkot iōrzi, dāeri. Hembar Yunkaihot istan. Yunkaihī dohaertrossa sīr yno inkot iōrzi, dāeri. Sesīr Mirinot mastan. (“First, I went to Astapor. Those who were slaves in Astapor now stand behind me, free. Next I went to Yunkai. Those who were slaves in Yunkai now stand behind me, free. Now I have come to Meereen.”)
The fourth episode, Oathkeeper, also uses Meereenese Valyrian, the second Ghiscari Low Valyrian dialect used in the Free City of Meereen: Yel rit! Poghethash mathash wang yel sherwa! (“You heard her! She said she came to free us.”)
At the end of that season, High Valyrian already counts 1,000 words[5], and Dothraki reaches 3,800 words[6] soon after.

Season 5

Starting with The Wars to Come, the fifth season sees a plateau for High Valyrian lexicon with 1,100 words[7], Astapori Valyrian with 1,000 words[8], and Dothraki with already 4,000 words[9].
In its eighth episode, Hardhome, we get a tiny glimpse of Mag Nuk, the Great Tongue, spoken by the Giants north of the Wall. This is a pidgin from the Old Tongue, simplified to the extent of single-syllable words with no noun declension, nor pluralization, nor verb tense. Lokh doys bar thol kif rukh? (“The fuck you looking at?”), asks the Giant Wun Wun in its staggering 9-word lexicon[10].

Season 6

Dothraki and the different languages derived from High Valyrian are in the spotlight in this sixth season, like for instance in the fourth episode, Book of the Stranger: Nyk skan minty, do jovenne. Y lu honesk ji kelnisto eji lysk – me dreji lysk – inki zer jéragho (“I am a soldier, not a politician. But if there is a chance for peace – a just peace – we should take it”), says Grey Worm in Astapori Valyrian.
Meereenese Valyrian is also used, between Ash and Kesh, the two petitioners: Tha yenka onya mazmedha rual fendha yelwa khil. Sa ánghowa. (“They shouldn’t have even been allowed to walk our streets. It’s an insult.”).
High Valyrian is spoken for instance by Melisandre in the second episode, Home, in a liturgical form: Zȳhys ōñoso jehikagon Āeksiot epi, se gīs hen sȳndrorro jemagon. (“We ask the Lord to shine his light, and lead a soul out of darkness.”).
And of course, we have the Dothraki words uttered by Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen in the fourth episode, Book of the Stranger: Yeri mahrazhi zhikwi. Torga yeri, Dothraki yanqosoraan zhikwi. Vos at yeroa venoe idrilat mora vosecchi. (“You are small men. Under you, the Dothraki will be a small people. None of you is fit to lead them.”).

Season 7

In the seventh season, Melisandre presents herself to Daenerys in High Valyrian in the second episode, Stormborn: Dārȳs Daenerys. Dohaeriros istin, sindita liortā, qilonta ozbartā. Riglose Belmot Pryjatys rhaenan. (“Queen Daenerys. I was a slave once, bought and sold, scourged and branded. It is an honor to meet the Breaker of Chains.”).
We also hear Astapori Valyrian: Inkas hónesko sidri hin bezi. Kara sidri. (“There are supposed to be more than this. Many more.”), asks himself Grey Worm in the third episode, The Queen’s Justice.
Of course, Dothraki is not far behind, as in this Daenerys’ order from that same episode: Idriso jin mahrazhis gacheshaan mori. Ti morea chek, vosma vitihiri mora. (“Escort these men to their rooms. Treat them well, but keep an eye on them.”).

Saison 8

And now is the eighth and final season of this historic series.
In the first episode, Winterfell, Daenerys asks Qhono in Dothraki: Finsanneya asshekh? (“How many today?”). To which Qhono replies: Akatthi dorve. Sen vaf. (“Twelve goats. Three sheep.”). Those dragons obviously lack appetite.
In the third episode, The long night, Melisandre expresses her prayer in High Valyrian: Āeksios Ōño, aōhos ōñoso īlōn jehikās! Āeksios Ōño, īlōn mīsās! Kesrio syt bantis zōbrie issa se ossȳngnoti lēdys! (“Lord of Light, cast your light upon us! Lord of Light, defend us! For the night is dark and full of terrors!”).
In this season, High Valyrian now counts about 2,000 words[11].

No doubt we will be hearing more and more from all these languages, even if at the moment the number of words available in each of them is yet unknown. By the way, if you have a source to share you are very welcome.