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Super Duck

Yet Another Bad Idea

(Unoriginal, Too)

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Suggestion for Transcribing Dothraki in Cyrillic
Super Duck
Note: An updated version of this post can be found here.

As a conlanger and orthography enthusiast, one of the things I like doing is figuring out how to write a language in a different script. In the past, I've created dozens of romanization systems for my conlangs (even alternate versions depending on whether Unicode is avialable), alternate orthographies for some of my languages using the scripts of other languages of mine, even alternate spelling systems for English. And all just for fun! This is the strange life I lead.

Recently I came across a couple sites that have been translating the English closed captioning for episodes of Game of Thrones that have aired so far into other languages. One of these sites is translating the English into Russian. From what I've seen, though, the Dothraki remains untransliterated (i.e. it remains written in Roman characters). Where's the fun in that?

Here, then, is a suggestion for writing Dothraki using the Cyrillic alphabet. My Russian isn't great, so take this with a grain of salt (and feel free to amend it or comment on it), but I think it works. Suggestion below the cut.

No idea why there's so much space in between here and the table...

RomanizationCyrillicComment (If Any)
chчI actually like this better than using a digraph (which is necessary in English without resorting to accents or alien assignments).
eэI think this is the best solution to avoid the onglide of Russian "е".
gгAlways hard; never pronounced like English "h".
hхSee comment on "kh".
jджFunny: English and Russian are opposites here (cf. "ch").
khхI had two choices, really: Have "g" and "h" spelled with the same letter, or "h" and "kh". I went with the latter, since "h" is closer to "kh" in sound, and pronouncing a word with "kh" with "h" (or vice versa) will be far less confusing than pronouncing a word with "g" with "h" (or vice versa).
qкI have no clever idea for this sound. I figure "к" is closest, so might as well use it (since we already have one confusion built in with "h" and "kh").
shшSound is actually closer to "щ", but "ш" is a simpler character.
thцCan I get away with this? The sounds are nothing alike, but the place of articulation is close! If not, it'd just have to be "т", I guess (unless anyone still remembers "ѳ").
wўIn all positions.
yйIn all positions.
''Or just leave it out entirely; it's not important.
And here are some common words:

  • khal ~ хaл

  • khaleesi ~ хaлээси

  • arakh ~ aрaх

  • vezhven ~ вэжвэн

  • athchomar ~ aцчомaр

  • jahak ~ джaхaк

  • yeroon ~ йэроон

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Very awesome. If you were looking to avoid the digraph and homoglyphs, though, there are Cyrillic characters you could use:

Serbian and Macedonian have a letter Dzhe (Џ џ) that would be a better fit for J, as it represents the same sound /dʒ/ (transliterated as Dž dž in the Latin alphabet). Alternatively the character Dje (Ђ ђ) has a similar value /dʑ/ (Đ đ or Dj dj).

A bunch of languages do use an inverted che (Shha: Һ һ) for the sound /h/, which would avoid the conflict with Kha (Х х) for /x/.

It definitely makes sense to use Ka (К к) for /k/, but several Cyrillic languages have a /q/ sound, the Greek koppa was originally imported for Church Slavonic (as Koppa: Ҁ ҁ) but there is also Qaf (Қ қ), Hooked ka (Ӄ ӄ), Bashkir ka (Ҡ ҡ), Stroked ka (Ҟ ҟ), Aleut ka (Ԟ ԟ, a diagonal bar through the upper right) and Qa (Ԛ ԛ, rather unexcitingly) all representing that morpheme.

For the /θ/ morpheme, there was a character Fita (Ѳ ѳ) that is descended from the Greek theta, replaced by Ef (Ф ф) in 1918. The character The (Ҫ ҫ) is used for the same sound in Bashkir, though, if you wanted a different character.

Hope that helps :o)

Ooh, cool!

I should say that a couple of extra constraints are that it should (a) be recognizable by a large amount of Cyrillic users; (b) it should be covered by a section of unicode that is most visible by a large number of users; and (c) it should be relatively easy to use for a large number of users.

/Һ/ for /h/ seems pretty good provided it fits the above criteria. For /q/, I've seen /Қ/ before, which is good. I've never seen /Ԛ/. Is it at all that common? If it's, at least, recognizable but not on the keyboard usually, perhaps Roman "q" could be substituted simply...?

I'm not pleased with any strategy for /θ/. Fita should be recognizable to Russians, but it's not likely to be in a common spot on a Cyrillic keyboard. Substituting /ф/ won't work since Dothraki has /f/. /ҫ/ strikes me as odd... It could work. Is it common on a Cyrillic keyboard?

Anyway, food for thought! Thanks for the suggestions!

Ah, I didn't realise you wanted to focus on characters on a Russian keyboard; that's surprisingly limiting, as Cyrillic has more characters than Latin, so they struggle to fit them all in already (see Russian keyboard layout on the Russian Wikipedia and art.lebedev's The Tragedy of a Comma, both through Google Translate, for more details).

If it has to be on a Russian keyboard, then even the Serbian characters are out. But the Latin alphabet is available on Russian keyboards, which would mean Latin Q could be used for /q/ and Latin S could be used for /dʒ/ (it's not far from the sound of Dze: S s, used for /dz/ in Macedonian), if you wanted to avoid Latin J. The Latin letter h (lowercase only) could serve the same purpose as Һ. You could always use the numeric 8 instead of fita?

Wait, let me back up. What I was hoping for was a Cyrillic scheme that used only (ideally) or mostly (probably) letters that were common to all languages that used the Cyrillic alphabet—that way it could be typed by anyone that happened to speak a language that used Cyrillic.

Oh, and let me say I have no problem with digraphs. Indeed: I love 'em! I think more alphabetic languages should use more of them. "дж" is still my favorite for /dʒ/.

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