Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk

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Giants' Speech
Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk
Progress: 14%
Type
Isolating
Alignment
Nominative/Accusative
Head direction
Initial Mixed Final
Primary word order
Subject-verb-object
Tonal
Yes
Declensions
No
Conjugations
No
Genders
None

Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk is a completely non-official fan imagining of the language spoken by the race of giants found "beyond the wall" in the fantasy realm described by George R. R. Martin in his series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. In the series of novels, there exists a language referred to as "the Old Tongue", which is implied to be the language spoken by the First Men - the human inhabitants of Westeros who were later largely subsumed culturally into the invading Andals.

The Giants' speciolect is an isolating, analytic language, characterised by a monosyllabic words (excepting sound changes in the system of reduplication) with four tones on vowels and extensive use of particles to show parts of speech.

General information

Real world disclaimer

Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk is a completely non-official fan imagining of the language spoken by the race of giants found "beyond the wall" in the fantasy realm described by George R. R. Martin in his series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. In the series of novels, there exists a language referred to as "the Old Tongue", which is implied to be the language spoken by the First Men - the human inhabitants of Westeros who were later largely subsumed culturally into the invading Andals. The Andals spoke "the Common Tongue", which for all intents and purposes is identical to English in the world of the series. The Old Tongue is now spoken only by a small number of wildlings who live north of the wall, a number of whom cannot speak the Common Tongue.

The giants are said to speak the Old Tongue "of a fashion". Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk (lit: Giants' speech) is my attempt to create a "giant speciolect" of the Old Tongue, based on the fragments included in the novels. Eventually I will work on a "human speciolect" as well, with a closely related vocabulary, but distinctly different structure.

Therefore, this is linguistic fan fiction, the samples of the Old Tongue derived from the books (primarily a very small number of fragments in personal names) are the intellectual property of George R. R. Martin.

In-Universe information starts here

The Giants' speciolect is an isolating, analytic language, characterised by a monosyllabic words (excepting sound changes in the system of reduplication) with four tones on vowels and extensive use of particles to show parts of speech.

The four tones are high, high falling, low rising and low/neutral; these are contrastive for meaning. There is also a distinctive system of reduplication, which is used to derive further vocabulary from the monosyllabic roots (although the meanings of the derived terms can be difficult to predict). The reduplication system follows specific tone-change rules.

The population still speaking the language is quite small, with only a few hundred giants still alive in the year 300 AL. There is a larger population of wildling humans still speaking the human speciolect, however it is quite divergent and mutual intelligibility is often not possible without some experience or training.

A large corpus of oral literature has been shown to exist among the giants, however this is also considered to be endangered as the giants face extinction as a race and few humans have studied the language.

Lessons

The following links will take you to a series of lessons, currently under development. They are based both on research found on the scrolls written in the Common Tongue under the title Understanding the Speech of Giants stored as Castle Black. The lessons were further developed in conjunction with both Giant native-speakers and human Wildlings with experience interpreting for them.

Phonology

Consonants

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Velar Pharyngeal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive t d k g
Fricative θ ð s ħ
Approximant ɻ w
Lateral fric. ɬ

Vowels

Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open a

Tones

Vowels exhibit contrastive tone, as follows:

High (ā) - ˥˥
High falling (à) - ˥˨
Low rising (á) - ˨˦
Neutral/low (a) - ˨˩

Orthography

The Giants do not write, but records of their speech recorded in the archives at Castle Black generally use the following orthography:

Consonants - M N NG T D K G TH DH S H R W LL
Vowels - A E I O U

M, N, T, D, K, G, W, S and R are close to their English equivalents, where the pairs T/D and K/G are contrasted voiceless/voiced. Voiceless plosives are usually aspirated (there appears to be some dialectal variance in this), however aspiration is not contrastive.

The digraphs TH/DH also form a voiceless/voiced pair, where TH represents /θ/ and DH represents /ð/.

The digraph LL represents the voiceless lateral fricative /ɬ/. The spelling as a digraph is redundant, as the giants do not have the sound represented by L in English; however, it is believed that the maesters originally studying the language wanted to make a clear distinction between the giants' pronunciation and that of the human "speciolects" which do include an English L sound in addition to /ɬ/.

The phoneme R is pronounced at the end of a syllable similarly to the rhotic 'r' sound found in American English, or Mandarin Chinese.

H represents the voiceless pharyngeal fricative /ħ/, referred to in old text at Castle Black as "akin to the sound made when blowing on your hands to keep warm, or when one puffs against glass or steel to make fog". It should be noted that in the human speciolect of the Old Tongue, the sound is replaced by /χ/ or /x/.

Tones are marked as follows; high - macron ā, high falling - grave accent à, low rising - acute accent á, and neutral - unmarked a.

Apostrophes are used only in the compound syllables created by reduplication, they serve only to signal a deleted consonant and do not have a phonetic value.

Phonotactics

There are two permitted syllable structures in Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk; CVC and CCVC. There are numerous restrictions regarding which consonants are allowed in onset and coda.

Onset

All syllables begin with a consonant. Any consonant except 'h' may begin a syllable. Permitted complex onset clusters are; sk-, dhg-, thk-, dhr-, gr-, kr-, mr- and thr-.

Coda

Syllables may only end in the consonants m, n, g, k, ng, r and h. All syllables require a consonant coda, with the exception of in reduplication compounds, in which the coda of the first duplication is deleted (gemination does not occur).

e.g. rik (to say, to speak), reduplicates as ri'rìk (tongue, language).

Tonal sandhi

Duplication also affects the tones and the stress patterns in the resulting compound words.

  • When words with the high tone are duplicated, the second syllable of the compound becomes neutral tone.

dōh (hot) → dō'doh (fire)

mág (smile, to smile) → má'mag (laugh, to laugh).

  • When a word with the falling tone is duplicated, the first syllable becomes neutral tone.

dàn (arm, hand) → da'dàn (finger)

  • When a word with the neutral tone is duplicated, the second syllable changes to falling tone.

ngak (that) → nga'ngàk (those)

Grammar

Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk does not have grammatical gender or articles, nor do verbs conjugate. As an analytic language, meaning is indicated primarily by word order (SVO), in addition to the use of particles to indicate plurals, interrogatives and cases. Time expressions are generally the last element in a sentence, although they can be placed first for emphasis (see the section on syntax below).

Particles are also used to mark perfective or habitual aspect; verbs without an aspect marking particle imply progressive or continuous aspect, depending on context.

Tense is not marked, time expressions must be referenced discretely if it is not clear from context what is meant.

There are no true pronouns, instead there are a range of nouns and nominalised determiners which are used in their place.

Yes/no questions are marked by placing the particle sīk at the start of a statement.

Nouns

Nouns are constructed from single-syllable roots, which may be arranged in compounds of multiple syllables. The particle dak marks plurals, and is obligatory when referring to animate objects (humans & animals, but also certain natural phenomena such as streams and lightning). When referring to inanimate objects, the plural marker is omitted, unless preceded by a number or either of the words dòk (many) or dhgāh (few).

Examples:

wōh → human, wōh dak → humans

skàg → stone, stones; dòk skàg dak → many stones

Noun-like adjectives

Adjectives fall before the noun they modify. However, certain words can function as either a noun or adjective depending on context. The most common examples in this category are the words gràm and dóh, which when used as adjectives mean small and large respectively. However, they can also be used to mean small thing or large thing, particularly when referring to animals. The common names of numerous animals include either gràm or dóh. If it is required to emphasis the size of the animal rather than just what species it is, the order of syallables is reversed, putting the adjective back into its regular position.

Examples:

nàg gràm → squirrel, gràm nàg → small squirrel

thān gràm → rabbit, gràm thān → small rabbit

llàk dóh → bear, dóh llàk → large bear (although wèg llàk dóh (mighty bear) is more often used in this situation, as a sign of cultural respect).

Nominalising particle nar

The particle nar is used to nominalise certain adjectives or verbs.

Examples:

wèg → strong, wèg nar → strong man, giant (as a colloquial abbreviation of wèg dóh wèg nar)

màg → to rule, to control; màg nar → ruler, lord

ngam → this, ngam nar → this one (also commonly used as the 1st person singular pronoun)

Reduplication

Reduplication is a common way of deriving new vocabulary. However, while the single syllable root and the compound will be related in meaning, it is not always easy to guess what the resultant compound will mean. Some examples are:

dàn (arm, hand) → da'dàn (finger)
dhúk (sky) → dhú'dhuk (wind, air)
dōh (hot) → dō'doh (fire)

For rules on tonal sandhi related to compounds, see the phonology section above.

Noun compounds

There exist a number of compounds, where one noun is used as an adjective to modify another. Examples include:

wōh dak nàg gràm = the Children of the Forest (literally "human squirrels")
wōh dak lléh wāh = members of the Night's Watch (literally "human crows")

In compound such as these, the plural marker follows the first noun, rather than the second.

Pronouns

Technically, there are no true pronouns in the Giants' Speech. There are three options used in their place; to use personal names, to use nouns which reflect the relative age and status of the speaker and audience, or to use nominalised determiners such as ngam nar (this one = I). This gives rise to wilding speakers of the Old Tongue (who use true pronouns) characterising the Giants as always referring to themselves in the 3rd person.

Examples:

Mág rik sig → literally: Mag speaks the truth

If Mág was the speaker, it could mean "I'm telling you the truth." If Mág was the addressee, it could mean "you are correct" or more loosely "I agree with what you said, Mág."

Dhōh nar rik sig → literally: the old one speaks the truth.

If an older giant was speaking to a younger, or if the speaker was of a higher social status, this would mean "I'm telling you the truth". A younger speaker may say it to an older speaker, to mean "you are correct."

Common pronouns include:

Noun Literal translation Usage Notes
dém sibling Neutral pronoun used between giants of a similar age
dhōh nar old one Implies respect, filial piety
wèg nar strong one, giant Implies mutual respect, used between giants to show camaraderie
wùn child, son Used by elder giants to those younger than them, regardless of actual age or relationship
wōh human Used when speaking to or about a human, also used jocularly to tease a giant seen as small or weak.
ngam nar this one neutral 1st person singular
nga'ngàm nar these ones neutral 1st person plural
ngak nar that one neutral 2nd or 3rd person singular
nga'ngàk nar those ones 2nd or 3rd person plural

Verbs

Verbs do not show number or gender, nor do they conjugate. However, there are a number of particles which mark mood and aspect. There is no morphological tense, the role being filled by time expressions, e.g. wáh wùg = in the past, or by particles such as the perfective marker nūh which shows completion and thereby implies past.

Aspect

Unmarked verbs imply continuous and/or progressive aspect.

Mág rik = Mag is speaking.

Time expressions in the future or past may be added:

Mág rik wáh wùg = Mag was speaking.

Mág rik wáh ngūk = Mag will be speaking tomorrow.

  • The particle mràh denotes habitual aspect, and can often imply regularity or large amount.

Mág rik mràh = Mag speaks (often and/or a lot).

Mág rik mràh sig = Mag tells the truth (compare with unmarked Mág rik sig = Mag is telling the truth).

When used with a time expression in the past, it becomes the equivalent of the English used to.

Mág rik mràh wáh wùg = Mag used to talk (a lot/often).

  • The particle nūh denotes perfective aspect. It often translates as simple past tense or present perfect tense in English:

Mág rik nūh = Mag spoke, Mag has spoken.

When used with a time expression in the future, it implies that the action will be completed.

Mág rik nūh wáh ngūk = Mag will speak tomorrow.

Mood

Unmarked verbs are in indicative mood. Other moods (imperative and conditional) are indicated by particles which follow the verb, as illustrated in the following table:

Particle Mood Example sentence Translation
krāh Imperative Rik krāh! Speak!
kròh... krāh Prohibitive Kròh rik krāh! Do not speak!
mròg Conditional Wah Mág ràk mròg, wah rik mròg If Mag knew, then he would say something.

"If-then" sentences are created using the particle wah to introduce both clauses. In each clause the verb stands in conditional mood.

Mròg is also used as a standalone verb, meaning "would be":

Wah dhe'dhèr mròg nā'nag, wah mròg thū'thuh = If there were something to eat, that would be great.

Adjectives

Adjectives come before the noun they modify.

Order

Modifier comes before modified, e.g. very big man.

Comparative and Superlative

Comparative sentences are structured as follows:

A is more adj. than B = A llóh B adj.

Examples:

Wōh dak llóh nàg gràm dak wèg. = Humans are stronger than squirrels.

Thèn gōs llóh gāh gōs gor. = The north is colder than the south. (It would generally be assumed that "north" refers to Thenn and "south" to Westeros below the wall).

The superlative is formed by placing lló'lloh before the adjective. The adjective is then followed by the genitive particle dar.

Example:

Samwell Tarly lló'lloh ngàr dar wōh lléh wāh. = Samwell Tarly is the noisiest night's watchman.

Adpositions of location

Locations relative to a noun are marked by placing the preposition dhèr (at) in front of the noun, then following the noun with the relevant locator, such as dōk (in), dhàk (under), thāk (behind) or dhgèm (in front). Dhèr does not require any copula, in the absence of another verb in the sentence, it functions in the manner of the verb to be at....

Examples, using skàg (rock) and tāk (forest):

Nàg gràm dhèr skàg thāk - The squirrel is behind the rock.

Thān gràm dhèr skàg dhgèm - The rabbit is in front of the rock.

Dòk llàk dóh dak dhèr ngam tāk dōk - Many bears are in this forest.

Also derived from the preposition dhèr are the words ngam dhèr (here) and ngak dhèr (there). From this, it is also possible to remove the noun entirely, and make sentences such as these:

Nàg gràm ngam dhèr dōk! - The squirrel is in here!

Sīk dòk llàk dóh dak ngak dhèr dōk? - Are there lots of bears in there?

Gloss:

Sīk dòk llàk dóh dak ngak dhèr dōk
Y/N? many bear plural that at (place) in

Syntax

Sentences in the Giants' Speech are almost always of the form SVOAPT, where A = adverbial phrase, P = place or locational phrase and T = time phrase.

Wōh dak nāg thān gràm dak ngàr weh dhèr tāk dōk wáh wùg. = The humans were noisily eating rabbits in the forest.

Wōh dak nāg thān gràm dak ngàr weh dhèr tāk dōk wáh wùg
Human plural eat rabbit plural noisily at forest in in the past

The main exception to this rule is in the 'temporal declarative mood' (as termed by early maesters at Castle Black), where the time phrase is moved to the start of the sentence and 'bookended' by the particle set dhēk ... dhèk. Besides a few archaic set expressions, this mood is mainly used for affecting an air of formality, for example when giving a 'pep talk' to a group of warriors before a battle.

  • Direct objects always come before the indirect object. Indirect objects are usually marked with the preposition dáh (=to, towards).

Ngam nar kūh mràh thān gràm dak dáh wōh dak wá'wah. = I sometimes give rabbits to the humans.

Ngam nar kūh mràh thān gràm dak dáh wōh dak wá'wah
This one (I) give habitual aspect rabbit plural to human plural sometimes

List of particles and adpositions

Particle Meaning/use Example sentence
dar Genitive-marking particle wōh dar da'dàn = The human's finger
dhēk ... dhèk at (temporal) (declarative at start of sentence)
dhèr at (spatial)
mràh habitual aspect marker
nar Nominalising particle
nūh perfective aspect marker
sám Question word which/what Sám nar = Which one? (who?)
sīk Syntactic marker for polar questions Sīk nàg gràm dhèr skàg thāk? = Is the squirrel behind the rock?
Sīk ngak nar tùn wèg dar ri'rìk? = Do you know how to speak the Giants' Speech?
wáh at (temporal) wáh wùg = in the past
weh adverb marker ngàr = noise, ngàr weh = noisily

Vocabulary

For a Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk to English lexicon, see Wèg Dar Ri'Rìk/Vocabulary

Kinship
Grandmother Grandfather Grandmother Grandfather
 
 
 
Uncles Wife Uncle Uncles Wife Uncle Uncles Wife Uncle Aunts husband Aunt Aunts husband Aunt Aunts husband Aunt Father Mother Uncles Wife Uncle Uncles Wife Uncle Uncles Wife Uncle Aunts husband Aunt Aunts husband Aunt Aunts husband Aunt
 
 
 
Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin Male Cousin Female Cousin
 
 
Twin Sisters Husband Twin Sister Little Sisters Husband Little Sister Big Sisters Huband Big Sister Wife Self Husband Big Brother  Big Brothers Wife Little Brother Little Brothers Wife Twin Brother Twin Brothers Wife
 
 
 
Niece Nephew Niece Nephew Niece Nephew Son Daughter Son Daughter Niece Nephew Niece Nephew Niece Nephew

Swadesh list


No. English Giants' Speech
0Giants' SpeechWèg Dar Ri'Rìk
1Ingam nar
2you (singular)ngak nar
3hengak nar
4wenga'ngàm nar
5you (plural)nga'ngàk nar
6theynga'ngàk nar
7thisngam
8thatngak
9herengam dhèr
10therengak dhèr
11whosám nar
12whatsám ni
13wheresám dhèr
14when
15how
16not
17all
18manydòk
19some
20fewdhgàh
21other
22one
23two
24three
25four
26five
27bigdóh
28long
29wide
30thick
31heavy
32smallgràm
33short
34narrow
35thin
36woman
37man (adult male)
38human beingwōh
39child
40wife
41husband
42mother
43father
44animal
45fish
46bird
47dog
48louse
49snake
50worm
51tree
52forest
53stick
54fruit
55seed
56leaf
57root
58bark
59flower
60grass
61rope
62skin
63meat
64blood
65bone
66fat
67egg
68horn
69tail
70feather
71hair
72head
73ear
74eye
75nose
76mouth
77tooth
78tongue
79fingernail
80foot
81leg
82knee
83hand
84wing
85belly
86guts
87neck
88back
89breast
90heart
91liver
92drink
93eat
94bite
95suck
96spit
97vomit
98blow
99breathe
100laugh
101see
102hear
103know
104think
105smell
106fear
107sleep
108live
109die
110kill
111fight
112hunt
113hit
114cut
115split
116stab
117scratch
118dig
119swim
120fly
121walk
122come
123lie
124sit
125stand
126turn
127fall
128give
129hold
130squeeze
131rub
132wash
133wipe
134pull
135push
136throw
137tie
138sew
139count
140say
141sing
142play
143float
144flow
145freeze
146swell
147sun
148moon
149star
150water
151rain
152river
153lake
154sea
155salt
156stone
157sand
158dust
159earth
160cloud
161fog
162sky
163wind
164snow
165ice
166smoke
167fire
168ash
169burn
170road
171mountain
172red
173green
174yellow
175white
176black
177night
178day
179year
180warm
181cold
182full
183new
184old
185good
186bad
187rotten
188dirty
189straight
190round
191sharp
192dull
193smooth
194wet
195dry
196correct
197near
198far
199right
200left
201at
202in
203with
204and
205if
206because
207name


Example texts