Archive for June, 2013

Conlangery SHORTS #10: Phrasebook: How do you say …?

Monday, June 17th, 2013
George continues his phrasebook series by considering what you say when you ask “How do you say …?” and “What does that mean?”

Conlangery SHORTS #10: Phrasebook: How do you say …?

Monday, June 17th, 2013
George continues his phrasebook series by considering what you say when you ask “How do you say …?” and “What does that mean?”

Creating an Alien Race out of Insects

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Macrotermes bellicosus
The basis for my conception
of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head
(The cerci [tails] are my addition.)
Microphoto thanks to
Dr. Timothy Myles

       There has been some discussion on different groups lately about how to create aliens. In one instance this involved developing insects into intelligent beings.  That's exactly what I did in my books, so how does one set about doing such a thing?

         I tend to favor realism and so for my conception of the universe I chose to use the panspermia principle (a spreading of DNA throughout a sector of the galaxy that gave rise to similar creatures on different hospitable planets) and allow the resultant carbon-based lifeforms to run a course of parallel evolution.  On these planets, certain organisms become dominant and it makes sense that if intelligence is going to evolve, it will do so within the dominant species. 
       On the planet 2 Giotta 17a, mammals never evolved.  Insects became dominant, and a species of proto-isopteroid (termite) grew large and gradually developed intelligence.  The important thing when creating creatures of this type is to research the Earthly form and then take its behaviors and determine how these instinctive behaviors might develop and change as the creature becomes intelligent.  Which features would evolution select for and which against?
       I wanted my termites to be large enough to interact with humans, so it was necessary to account for this large size.  Insect size on Earth is pretty much restricted by the inability to circulate oxygen and by the weight of the exoskeleton.  I gave the planet a slightly higher oxygen content (I've learned you can't make this too high, or the whole planet will combust).  Then I tinkered with insects' respiratory systems -- giving them air sacs inside the spiracles something like protolungs that pump oxgyen deeper into the tissues.  I also overcame the problem of the heavy exoskeleton by making the chitin lighter but stronger, giving it a composition similar to spider silk.  I also gave my termites crosswise internal plates that brace the outer skeleton.
       Then it seemed reasonable to me that any intelligent creature who is capable of attaining a higher level of civilization would evolve something like hands.  So I gave them opposable jointed claws on their front feet.  Of course, they also retain their dextrous mandibles and palps to supplement the grasping ability of the claws.  I made them capable of running on middle and rear legs and pushing things with their front pair.  I made them tool users at the stone age level, but I also gave them the wheel.  They use this only for wheelbarrows to move small loads, although they are on the verge of finding other uses for it.  They also understand the use of levers and pulleys, but they lack fire.
       So what behaviors do they retain from their lives as social insects?  One essential holdover is the Caste structure.  If you're hatched a Warrior, that is what you inescapably remain.  The same is true for the Workers and the Alates.
       The Alates posed a problem.  On Earth an alate termite or ant is a potential reproductive, and most of them are destined for a quick death.  Thousands or millions of these winged beings fly out of the mound, only to be eaten by almost every other creature that exists.  An infinitessimal number will be successful in mating and starting new colonies.  So what role could Alates fill in my termite world?  They are too big and heavy to fly and a ground emergence of reproductives just didn't seem plausible or necessary.
       I decided to change their Caste fate.  I allowed evolution to favor those who lived longer, until Alates came to have lifespans between 20 and 30 years like all the other Shshi.   They developed particularly acute intelligence and used their astuteness to overcome their physical fragility.  Alates also have the advantage of possessing eyes, while Warriors and Workers are blind.  Furthermore, the reproductives still come from among the Alates, although not all are capable of reproducing.  I created a separate group with a hormone mix that makes them fertile.  These Alates are given special treatment, so that if the fortress's Mother or King dies (they mostly have only one breeding pair at a time, just like terrestrial termite mounds), new reproductives can be drawn from the nursery.  If the fertile Alates aren't needed, they can be sent to other fortresses; if not then with time they simply molt into normal Alates (all Alates keep their wings unless they become Mothers or Kings).  Alates are also noted for their verbal abilities; the Remembrancers (bards and historians) are always Alates.  All of these differences give the Alates a subtle edge, allowing them to dominate and control the governance of the fortresses (mounds) in spite of their physical shortcomings. 
       The Warriors and the Workers required less tinkering.  The Workers are divided into sub-Castes, partly according to size and strength, although the Builders have a specific physiological alteration:  They possess the bak'zi|, a gland on the top of the head that produces "mortar water," a substance that they mix with sand and soils (or dung in some cases) to produce mortar for masonry.  Termite dwellings on our world are mostly built of earth (or carton, i.e., chewed wood), but on the termite planet they build fortresses out of mortared stone.  All this building is done strictly by instinct, by blind Workers who have almost no knowledge of mathematics.
       Other Worker sub-Castes include the Growers (who work in the Fungus Gardens or in the orchards), the Feeders (Warriors can't feed themselves because their huge heads and mandibles prevent them from bringing their forelegs to their mouths), the Tenders (including the smallest of Workers, who care for the Mother and the King), and then the lowliest of sub-Castes, the Dung Carriers and the Charnel Workers.  And that reminds me that the Shshi practice necrophagia, as has been noted in some terrestrial termites --  termites are creation's best recyclers, so why shouldn't that extend to the dead?  Termite flesh is a great source of protein, which would be lost if not ingested!
       Workers are not locked into a sub-Caste, however.  If a Tender prefers to become a Feeder, it can arrange to switch jobs.  Even those possessing the mortar gland can choose another "profession" -- they could become Growers or Tenders, especially if if those sub-Castes are low in numbers.  Without the bak'zi| a Worker could still build; for example it could make wooden items like tool handles or wheelbarrows or bowls or woven curtains, or it could help to quarry, carry, and place stones or to plan structures.
       Warriors have fewer choices; their prime imperative remains to protect (and rarely to fight active wars).  Warriors can have astute minds, but they often are rather dense-witted and easy for the Alates to take advantage of.  This helps drive the plot in The Termite Queen.  Warriors are good at organizing -- they form Cohorts and phalanxes (about 15 to a phalanx) and have a military command structure.  They are conditioned to obey their commanders (another plot driver in TQ), although the best of them can override this.  They also retain the instinct to bang their heads on the walls if the fortress is threatened (maybe this helps to account for their dense-wittedness!)  This behavior alerts their fellow Warriors to prepare for battle, just as it does in Earthly termite mounds.  They also make instinctive threat postures.  These postures can be sensed by their rivals through bioelectric and pheromonal signals (remember, they are all blind).
       What about individuality?  Social insects are famous for the "hive-mind," the ability of the whole group to function as one organism.  Here I made some significant changes.  I didn't want my termites to engage in those "death circles," seen among ants -- unthinkingly following the being in front of you until everybody drops down dead.  I wanted my termites to have personalities, to be individuals capable of making their own decisions and fraught with all the flaws and virtues that thinking organisms can possess.  So each one is unique even while the Caste imperative can't be escaped.  Warriors will always be protectors and fighters, but some are smarter than others, or have a better reasoning ability, or are simply more charismatic.  A Warrior can't become a Worker or an Alate, but it can share the helping instinct or the ability to govern.  Workers will always want to help others and take care of things, whether it is  buildings or "people."  Alates will always be thinking and planning (or scheming), and they can share in the qualities of the other Castes and also in their flaws. 
       Occasionally, we get overlap.  A Worker can long to be a Warrior or an Alate, for example.  We see this in Za'dut, my trickster character.  It was hatched a Builder, but it would have given anything to have been a Warrior.  It learns to fight with weapons-not-growing-upon-the-body and takes advantage of any opportunity it can to fight alongside its Warrior companions.  At the same time, Za'dut possesses an unusually agile, Alate-like mind.  You get three-in-one with Za'dut!
       In later books of my series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, we will meet an aberant male Alate who is infertile but who retains a yearning to be a King -- who remains sexually attracted to an infertile female who is equally attracted to him (this was how I was able to utilize the Orpheus myth).  We also meet intercastes (you can read about one of them in The Storm-Wing), who are genetic sports with physical characteristics of more than one Caste (Warriors with huge mandibles but also with eyes and wings, for instance).  We'll meet another of these later, a female intercaste with eyes and rudimentary wings, who makes a perfect Atalanta character.  You can see that there is great stuff to come in the series!

      So my advice to anyone who wants to create an alien race based on insects or any other social organism (mole-rats, for example) is to research the topic thoroughly, decide what characteristics are compatible with intelligence, and then start working out details of the adaptations. 
       For example, if your chosen species is bees, then you'll have to consider whether your intelligent life form can fly, what kind of structures they build, whether they have developed to grow the flowers that provide their food, what happens to the drones, who really rules the colony (is it a democracy of Workers or a monarchy ruled by the Queen?) etc. 
       If the species is ants, you'll have to take into consideration that many ants are carnivorous and ferociously warlike, although there are some species (like the leaf-cutters) that grow fungus for food.  I can imagine a world where you would have two races of formicidiforms -- one pacific, agricultural vegetarians and one a horde of bellicose Warriors rampaging across the land  and eating their enemies.  If you could come up with a plot, their interactions might make a thought-provoking novel!
       I'm planning to write a subsequent post on my non-insectoid aliens derived from real creatures.

Languages without conjunctions

Sunday, June 16th, 2013
Are there languages that exist without conjunctions?
I am thinking of eliminating conjunctions in my language.

If so, how do they translate a statement like "We can stay here or we can go to the park."

A video in gjâ-zym-byn, English, and Sandic.

Sunday, June 16th, 2013
Jim Henry and I hung out for an afternoon, and given that we are both people who like to speak our conlangs, this video happened.

Subtitles below.

Jim Henry and I hung out for an afternoon, and being that we both enjoy speaking our conlangs aloud, we made a short video. The text follows below.

Order of languages: gjâ-zym-byn - English - Sandic

swyŋ gâ-da gǒ.

Here's a table full of stuff.

Zum baahl plat frn dan kriani.


pě'cĭn gǒ. vâ-kar ŋĭn-i pě'cĭn.

Here's some pizza. Pizza's a kind of food.

Inee zum baahl peza. Peza damda baahl.


pě'pâ-cu gǒ. gjâ-zym-byn syj-i te krĭ-o.

Here's a notebook; I've written in gjâ-zym-byn in it.

Zum baahl diio, pa ba uhaeci baahl ba ga zum brn.


tě'nju-vrĭm gǒ. tě'nju-vrĭm ĥy-i vâ-oŋ-zô.

Here's some green tea, which is a thing one drinks.

Zum baahl kii ameei. Kii ameei baahl da utekoei.


vâ-kar râm-paj gǒ.

Here's some cat food,

pe kyl pwĭm-da râm-paj mew.

and the cat's water bowl as well.

Zum baahl damdan faee nahxan.

Wii wwak pa ba dep, baahl kaev faee ta nahxan.


Φy gǒ.

A dirty napkin,

ʝu-ĝĭ-kwĭ gǒ.

a big roll of clean paper towels.

Kelonnia urecin,

Ba kelon neoureci.


kyl pwĭm-da pe te im Φej iŋ cĭw vâ-oŋ-paj.

Here's a cup of water, and a straw in it.

Zum baahl dep frn kaev kriani, pa ba baahl haf.


wĭm-vrĭm gǒ. pe te iŋ ~~~ pwĭ-ĉa.

Here's a bag — a green bag, and inside it, some games.

Zum baahl twwin ameei, pa ba oahl dan frn piatdan.


gjâ-zym-byn pe sândĭk-ram -lam syj-i te krĭ-o krĭ-zô ĝim-ra.m pe erěn-ram.

Jim and Aaron made this video in gjâ-zym-byn and Sandic

Jeed ba vedeeob oxma aran wii jjim pa ga zum brn wii (ba) sandi.

Some More High Valyrian Inflection

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Another season of Game of Thrones is in the books, which means that this blog will go back to discussing grammar—this time with Valyrian added to the usual Dothraki posts (though I will mention that the Dothraki posts have not disappeared. There’s more there yet!).

This week I wanted to talk a little bit more about verbs. I spent a lot of time on the verb conjugation paradigm, and am reasonably pleased with how it came out. We’ve already gotten a look at the present indicative tense, so let’s jump to the past. There are two main tenses that occur primarily in the past: the perfect and the imperfect. Each tense has a stem modification in addition to personal endings, but the stem modification for the imperfect is predictable. The perfect displays patterns of predictability, but is not 100% predictable based on the shape of the root.

To start with, let’s look at the imperfect. The imperfect tense is used primarily to set up action in the past. It focuses on a specific action in the past that is viewed internally (i.e. is viewed as not yet having been completed). In a sentence like “He was talking to some lady when her dragon lit him on fire”, the verb “was talking” would be in the imperfect in High Valyrian. The imperfect tense is associated with the -il suffix (by the way, pay careful attention to my use of the word “suffix” there. I’ve seen “infix” thrown around, but such an analysis is inaccurate) plus the e set of personal endings. Here’s what the imperfect looks like with a consonant-final stem. Below I’ll use the verb pāsagon, which means “to trust” or “to believe”.

Person/Type Imperfect Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person pāsilen pāsilin pāsilon pāsiloty
Second Person pāsilē pāsilēt pāsilō pāsilōt
Third Person pāsiles pāsilis pāsilos pāsilosy

The imperfect has no associated participle, and no stand-alone infinitive or imperative.

When a verb stem with a final vowel is put into the imperfect, the vowel of the suffix -il coalesces with the vowel of the stem to produce a long vowel. As our example, I’ll use the verb bardugon, which means “to write” (coined in honor of Leigh Bardugo, author of Siege and Storm, which just came out [plug!]. You may remember her from such Dothraki words as lei).

Person/Type Imperfect Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person bardīlen bardīlin bardīlon bardīloty
Second Person bardīlē bardīlēt bardīlō bardīlōt
Third Person bardīles bardīlis bardīlos bardīlosy

As you can see, the tense isn’t that difficult to get a handle on. The only wrinkle is figuring out whether a stem is consonant- or vowel-final, and then what the result is if the stem is vowel-final. Here’s a summary (using the first person singular active indicative as an example):

  • pās-agon “to trust” → pāsilen
  • bardu-gon “to write” → bardīlen
  • keli-gon “to stop” → kelīlen
  • mije-gon “to lack” → mijīlen
  • nekto-gon “to cut” → nektēlen
  • penda-gon “to wonder” → pendēlen

The above should be fairly intuitive. Moving on to the next tense, the perfect probably enjoys much greater use than the imperfect. The perfect tense focuses on an act that has been completed. By definition this action will have occurred in the past, but it can often be used with present relevance (what is often called an anterior). In English you can actually use the simple past in just this way. For example, if someone offers you food but you’re full, you can say, “I’ve eaten”. This is the English perfect, and it’s fairly standard. You could also say, “I ate”—even better if you add “already”. Think of the High Valyrian perfect as both of those uses rolled into one, but without needing the word “already”. Using our example above, the verb “lit” would be in the perfect in High Valyrian.

In the perfect, it’s not enough to simply know whether the stem ends with a consonant or vowel to figure out what the perfect will look like. Most of the time it has a -t or -et suffix, but this isn’t always (or exclusively) the case. Here’s what our two example verbs look like in the perfect. First, pāsagon.

Person/Type Perfect Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person pāstan pāsti pāston pāstoty
Second Person pāstā pāstāt pāstō pāstōt
Third Person pāstas pāstis pāstos pāstosy
Infinitive pāstagon

What a tasty verb… And now bardugon.

Person/Type Perfect Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person bardutan barduti barduton bardutoty
Second Person bardutā bardutāt bardutō bardutōt
Third Person bardutas bardutis bardutos bardutosy
Infinitive bardutagon

Again, the endings are fairly simple (the same as the present tense endings), it’s just figuring out the stem. Here are some examples of perfect stems (again using the first person singular) and their associated infinitives:

  • gaom-agon “to do” → gōntan
  • henuj-agon “to exit” → hembistan
  • māzi-gon “to come” → mastan
  • pikīb-agon “to read” → pikīptan
  • pygh-agon “to jump” → pȳdan
  • qanem-agon “to sharpen” → qanēdan
  • rāpūlj-agon “to soften” → rāpūltan
  • rij-agon “to praise” → riddan
  • rȳb-agon “to hear” → ryptan
  • sik-agon “to bear” → sittan
  • tat-agon “to finish” → tetan
  • urne-gon “to see” → ūndan
  • verd-agon “to arrange” → vēttan

A lot of the major patterns are contained in that list along with a couple of the more bizarre ones.

At this point, I think it’s more than possible to put a few sentences together. I’ll see what else I have time to put out in the coming months. Until next time, geros ilas!

bat is segako

Saturday, June 15th, 2013
segako = bat (noun) (some things Google found for "segako": a rare term; user names; a rare generally feminine first name that can be Japanese; a rare last name; SeGaKo food service and catering equipment of Hamburg, Germany; a World of Warcraft character name; Sega KO Drive (aka K.O. Drive by Sega) Video Racing Game)

Word derivation for "bat" :
Basque = saguzar, Finnish = lepakko
Miresua = segako

This is the word for the small flying mammal. The word bat occurs in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. "Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you're at!" starts a poem recited by the Mad Hatter.


Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

I’ve just rediscovered something interesting that I wrote a few months before opening this blog, and had completely forgotten about. It’s a small sample of Ndok Aisô, written back in January 2011 in response to a translation challenge on the Conlang mailing list. It’s still grammatically valid (note the fact that the first clause does not have a verb), and it’s a very natural example of speech, so I’ll repost it here, declaring one of the words in there to be today’s word of the day:

gok’oi (v.) ‘resist, ward off’

Lugos mutê hoi tsu aiteu mpeu ntsex!
third attack during single day that.NOM EMPH!
“That’s the third attack in a single day, damn it!”

Ispigebe at’eu o-peupos, ngo-pop od wôldos!
IMP-hurry-PFV.PL onto PL-city_wall, HON=PL-shield and soldier!
“Rush to the walls, ye shields and warriors!”

Mag tsohok’oibe ik mpos o-edos!
today OBL-ward_off-PFV.PL we.NOM that.ACC.PL PL-enemy!
“Today we must ward off those enemies!”

Ndak Ta gonggai ‘break’

rat is rato (revisisted)

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
rato = rat (animal) (noun) (some things Google found for "rato": a very common term; an unusual last name which can be Portuguese; a rare first name; similar Räto is a Swiss masculine name; RATO is an acronym for Rocket-Assisted Take Off (for aircraft); Rato Bangala Foundation for training primary teachers in Nepal; Chongqing Rato Power Co., Ltd. of China manufactures engines; means "mouse, rat" in Galician and Portuguese; means "short time, while" in Spanish; name of places in Portugal, Haiti and Brazil)

Word derivation for "rat" :
Basque = arratoi, Finnish = rotta
Miresua = rato

My previous word for rat was arrota.

No Basque word starts with R, instead this letter is always preceded by a vowel or a vowel combined with a second R. Finnish words can start with R. For Miresua, I chose to allow starting consonants used in Basque or Finnish or both languages. So Miresua words can start in R. Since the Finnish word starts in R, I decided to let my Miresua word do too.


Monday, June 10th, 2013

And now its watch is at an end (it being season 3)! Good show, D&D! I know there haven’t been many seasons, but this was by far the best. That said, it’s understandable if as a viewer you felt this finale was a little anticlimactic after last week’s showstopper. There’s absolutely no event that could top the horror of the Red Wedding (well, except for the event that many thought would happen last night that didn’t. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll have to wait till next season [or read A Storm of Swords]). Instead of trying to do that, they tried to tie up as many story lines as possible and set the table for next season, and I thought they did a good job. But there was also some fantastic stuff in this episode that it’s easy to forget about upon reflection.

Certainly at the top of my list was the Small Council scene. Tywin Lannister is, as you know, my favorite Song of Ice and Fire character, and you can’t ask for more than Joffrey being Joffrey and Tywin being Tywin at the same time. There’s rarely more electricity in the room than when someone publicly threatens Tywin Lannister. What genius! At the various premiere events I’ve been to, I have yet to run into either Charles Dance or Jack Gleeson, but I’d love to shake both of their hands. The quality they bring to their work and the life they’ve imbued in their characters is, for me, one of the highlights of the show. Game of Thrones is filled with twists, action and some great special effects, yes, but for me some of the most fun I have watching the show is witnessing the verbal repartée between characters with massive egos—one of the same reasons I enjoy watching Downton Abbey so much, in fact.

Since we’re in King’s Landing, I also wanted to tip my cap to Lena Headey. Cersei is an extremely unsympathetic character if you read the books. Some of the things she does have been left out of the show, but they’ve added some new scenes which really help to round Cersei out—and one of them came in “Mhysa”. I thought it was a lovely scene with her and Tyrion, and it adds a little something extra to this whole Joffrey question (i.e. how does the worst person ever come to be the worst person ever? What went wrong?). Not even she is blind to how awful Joffrey is, and yet he is her son. Lena Headey does a good job conveying just how tough that is.

Also I actually like that the reunion of Cersei and Jaime is a bit overshadowed and understated. It’s not a triumphant return, but also theirs is not the best relationship. It’d feel a little weird to be cheering that reunion like it’s Ross and Rachel (and before anyone comments, yes, I recognize that a good chunk of America was not cheering for that reunion [I was among them], but I don’t know how many would be familiar with Florentino and Fermina). I think the scene laid the groundwork for what’s going to become of their relationship rather well.

Another book comment. I like that the scene with Davos was allowed to play out. In the book, as I recall, that’s one of those chapter enders that George R. R. Martin is fond of: Davos is being carried away to be executed, and to save himself he pulls out a slip of paper and begins to read. You don’t know what or why; you have to wait until it’s explained later. Bleh. I’m a busy man. I’ll take my answers now, thank you.

As I’ve been watching this season with friends, I can say with confidence that Ramsey Bolton is a crowd favorite. He introduced acquitted himself quite well this season, what with his little horn and his sausage from this episode. That’s classic mirth-making. Ditto to Arya and the Hound. I hope we get a few more good scenes out of that pairing next season.

Before getting to the scene in Yunkai, I’d also like to mention a point of discussion that came up in regard to the “Wolf King” bit. This is something from the books, but we all found it to be quite a bit more awful than we were imagining—and I think this reaction has been a common one on the net. I think one thing that’s surprising is both my friend and I had the exact same reaction, which is that we thought the wolf head thing would be a lot cleaner than it actually was—but, realistically, there’s no reason it should have been. It should have been shoddy work, and, indeed, the wolf head should have looked like it didn’t fit on their properly. Still, when we read and imagined the season, we somehow imagined precision tailoring: a perfect fit for the wolf head, neat stitching… It’s comical, if you think about it, how unrealistic that expectation was. My friend contends this is on account of the fact that unless something is described in vivid detail (in the books it’s just an anecdote related by Salladhor Saan), our imaginations probably aren’t going to try to shock or horrify us. After all, such a thing isn’t pleasant. Thus, we get the Nutcracker Mouse King version of Robb with a wolf head in our imagination.

The season ends in Yunkai with some darling little dragons. I’m quite certain that if my cat had wings, she’d be Drogon. At first Missandei addresses the crowd (one wonders how many could actually hear. What did they do in the old days without sound systems…?):

  • Bizy sa Daenerys Targarien, Jelmazmo, Dorzalty, Dāria Sikudo Dārȳti Vestero, Muña Zaldrizoti. Sa va zer sko enkat jiva derve.
  • “This is Daenerys Targaryen, the Stormborn, the Unburnt, the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the Mother of Dragons. It is to her you owe your freedom.”

The astute reader will note that this isn’t actually pure Low Valyrian, but rather a mix. Dany’s name and titles are done in High Valyrian, and everything else is done in Low. This was intentional.

Next, Dany says a good portion of the following:

  • Dāervose jevosy yne enkot daor. Jemot ziry tepagon koston daor. Dāerves jevys tepagon yne sytilībos daor. Jemēle mērī sytilības. Lo ziry arlī jaelāt, jemēlo syt ziry mazemagon jemo bēvilza. Tolvies jemys.
  • “You do not owe me your freedom. I cannot give it to you. Your freedom is not mine to give. It belongs to you and you alone. If you want it back, you must take it for yourselves. Each and every one of you.”

If there’s a controversial bit in that translation, it’s the choice of verb and tense in lo ziry arlī jaelāt—i.e. “if it again you want”. There are a couple of ways I could’ve gone. One would be, for example, to use the verb emagon, “to have”, in the subjunctive. I felt that was too hypothetical. This translation I felt was more direct (i.e. using the indicative rather than the subjunctive and using the verb for “to want”), and I liked it better for the content. It was a choice, though, so feel free to skewer me in the comments.

After that, Dany commands her dragons to fly with sōvētēs (all three of them—hence, the plural command), and she asks her Unsullied to let her pass by saying Ynot rebagon. I know you’re probably looking at that and you’re all like, “Whaaaaa…?” so let me explain. Permissive commands (“let me pass”, “let him speak”, “let my dragon roast him like Roseanne Barr”, etc.) are done differently from other commands. The verb in the imperative is actually gaomagon, but it’s pretty much never used. Instead what you have is gaomagon in the imperative preceded by a verb in the infinitive (the main verb of the sentence) preceded by an agent in the dative. Thus instead of it being something like, “Pass to me”, it’s “Let me pass”.

Oh, and a note since folks have asked, the lyric in that final chant was based on the last speech Dany gives, but was altered for the choir. I don’t think you can necessarily recover any of the text at this point. I haven’t checked, though. I didn’t write it and wasn’t involved with it.

Now to close the discussion of this season: Talisa’s letter. Before getting into the issues, let me just give you the whole thing. Here it is in High Valyrian:

Muñus jorrāeliarzus,

Olvie hen embraro tolmiot nykēlot avy ivestragon issa. Nykēlo syt ūndon daor luo valzȳro ñoghossi ōressiks. Dārys issa vestris, se prūmio ñuho konir drējior issa. Ȳghāpī īlōn rāelza, kesrio syt lanta iksan, rūso zȳhosy gōvilirose zijo syt pyghas lue prūmie. Vīlībāzma ajomemēbza, yn aderī, mōrī, aōt māzīli se hēnkirī īlvi biarvī manaerili.

And here is the original English, written by Cat Taylor:

Dearest mother,

So much news I have to give you from over the seas. I find myself held by the arms of a husband I never expected to have. They say he is a king and of my heart that is true. He holds us safe, for now I am two, with his child beneath the heart that beats for him. The war rages on, but soon, when it is all over, we shall come to you and celebrate together.

Okay. The Valyrian’s all there, so those who are interested can work on it. For those who were interested in the letter specifically because of the theory that Talisa was a Lannister spy (if you’re unfamiliar with this theory, go here for a full breakdown), obviously you can now see that the letter reveals that, in fact, she was not—or, at the very least, that she was actually writing a letter to her mother. You might be able to say it was a code, but if you go back to the letter that Arya saw from a Lannister spy, that doesn’t make much sense, since Arya had no trouble (a) reading it (i.e. presumably it was in Common), and (b) judging its content. In reality, all the letter does is point up the fact that there really is no actual evidence for Talisa being a Lannister spy.

That said, the original video was very clever (even though it misses some obvious things. Everyone from Essos has an accent? What about Varys?), and I felt that revealing the contents of the letter right after episode 7 would have pretty much torpedoed the theory (though note that the author of the video says at the end that the theory was a joke. Others thought it quite plausible). Conspiracy theories are fun when they’re about television shows (Who shot Mr. Burns? Who killed Laura Palmer? Who is Number One?), so it’s no fun to have someone with inside knowledge rain on everyone’s parade.

Plus, if fans can have fun generating conspiracy theories, can’t I have fun teasing? I’m probably never going to get another chance!

But, yeah, the Lannister spy theory would’ve been a tremendous break from canon, I think. And even though they’ve broken from canon before (and will again), there are certain lines that they can’t cross, and that’d be one of them. Plus, I’d expect much better of Tywin. Plant a random girl in Robb’s army of thousands and expect that not only will he run into her, but he’ll fall in love with her? There’s way too many variables in that plan for someone as awesome as Tywin.

Anyway I guess that does it for season 3. The first season, Game of Thrones was just getting its feet, and the second was building an audience. This season, I thought, was superb, and I would not be surprised to see it garner some serious attention when the Golden Globes and Emmys roll around. I contributed to the first two seasons, but I’m really proud of the performances in this season. Wonderful, wonderful work.

And, to close the chapter on this season, I’ve got two words, and two words only.