5

I'm interested in knowing what living languages Valyrian from Game of Thrones resembles the most in its grammar and/or vocabulary.

I've gathered here some very basic examples of what kind of similarities I would like to know of:

  • History/Culture
    • To the layman the history of the language group seems to resemble that or latin (and maybe arabic).
  • Vocabulary

    • If I have understood correctly the Valyrian vocabulary is formed so that it shouldn't sound like any living language so probably there's not much similarities there.
  • Grammar

    • It seems to contain many word inflections which would mean it bears more similarity to Latin than for example English, right?
    • It has four grammatical genders and here the Wikipedia article mentions some kind of similarity to Bantu languages?
    • Any other aspects of Valyrian containing significant similarities?

I'm aware that David J. Peterson, the creator of the language for the series didn't base Valyrian on any existing language. Yet it does seem to resemble in many aspects some languages much more (Latin, also Lithuanian comes to mind) than others (Chinese). It might not be a complete language but it has hundreds of words and what seems to be a well-thought-out grammar (see the Wikipedia article) so it should be possible to compare linguistic similarities.

  • 1
    George RR Martin said in an Interview, that he did NOT actually create a language but just made up the sinlge words he needed. The language was made up for the series only.... – Torsten Link Jul 11 '19 at 6:38
  • @TorstenLink yes, but he could have based these words on some language. – Tymek Wojnarowski Jul 11 '19 at 6:40
  • 1
    @TorstenLink yes I'm aware that the "language" was mostly created by David J. Peterson. I'm aware it wasn't based on any existing language. Yet it resembles some languages more than others. For example it seems to resemble much more Latin than Chinese in many aspects. Even if you completely make up a language it's bound to resemble some living languages more than others... – Simo Kivistö Jul 11 '19 at 6:44
  • 1
    I think this query is going to be far too opinion based to be anything like useful for this forum. For what it worths, a quick shufty reminds me most of Latvian. Google translate wants to translate from Latvian as well. tā kā darba ņēmēju brīva kustība ir pozitīvs sociāli ekonomiskais piemērs gan ES, menti ossēnātās, qilōni pilos lue vale tolvie ossēnātās, yn riñe dōre ōdrikātās. Dovaogēdys! Āeksia ossēnātās, ekonomiskās attīstības, sociālās kohēzijas, individuālo glaesot iderēptot daor. – elemtilas Jul 13 '19 at 1:20
  • 2
    @elemtilas By using tools like WALS I think a set of languages that Valyrian is closest to typologically could be identified. – curiousdannii Jul 13 '19 at 22:38
3

It is probably impossible to say which language resembles Valyrian most, lacking a metric for similarity. But there are clearly identifyable influences of other languages, both constructed and natural.

Let's start with the catch phrase valar morghulis from GRRM: It just sounds like Tolkien's Elvish languages, with valar being a word from Quenya and morghul a word from Sindarin. Both Quenya and Sindarin have well-known influences from natural languages: Finnish for Quenya and Welsh for Sindarin.

Looking at High Valyrian, some Finnish feeling is still retained in the language: There is a distinction between long and short consonants as well as vowels, the case endings still have some Finnish feel (and a Latin feel, too, especially the vowel alternations), the phonotactics resemble Finnish. It is further away from Finnish than Quenya in its phonology contrasting voiced and voiceless stops and featuring the sound /q/. There is little Welsh in High Valyrian left, maybe the frequency of "the defining fantasy vowel" ae (Laura Wattenberg) can be traced to Welsh.

The 8-case system may be insprired by Languages like Russian or Sanskrit, with the commitative case being typologically rare, but occurring in Finnish again.

The four noun classes are a creative invention (but not far of, as natural language, especially Native American languages, are concerned) and I see no closer resemblence to Bantu languages (they have a lot of noun classes, but the noun classes are marked by overt prefixes that are also used as agreement markers).

The syntax with head-final relative clauses may be inspired by languages like Japanese.

P.S. While Peterson has stated some linguistic influences for the Dothraki language, I have not found a similar quote for Valyrian. So all the observations above are mine.

  • This was about the kind of answer I was looking for so I'll mark this as the answer in a couple of days (provided no other answers come up). I don't know if you could already deduce it from my name but I am Finnish so reading this answer certainly brought a smile to my face! – Simo Kivistö Jul 13 '19 at 16:05
  • @SimoKivistö: Out of curiousity: Does High Valyrian looks somewhat Finnish to you? – jk - Reinstate Monica Jul 15 '19 at 14:31
  • jknappen not at all :). To me it looks more like Latvian or Lithuanian (languages not really related to Finnish). Then again it's hard to recognize similarities in grammar or structure just from written or spoken language as I haven't actually learned any Valyrian. – Simo Kivistö Jul 16 '19 at 5:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.