A community for the dragon language of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Dovahzul Riddle Contest Winners

March 23, 2015

The Dovahzul Riddle Contest is over! Winning entries were chosen based on cleverness, originality, and good use of the dragon language itself. Give your congratulations to the following winners:

Take a look at the winning entries and see if you can solve them!

March 17, 2015

Each month, we're shining the spotlight on a special member of the community. This month's Featured Member is  Kosenu, Kosenu is a translator for the Dutch language and is responsible for more than half ot the 1,500 Dutch translation entries.

Check out the interview with Kosenu below!

Drem Yol Lok! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Of course. I'm a guy living in the Netherlands, in the beautiful city of Delft. I have way too many hobbies, like playing instruments, programming, reading, and occasionally writing. I also speak this funny language from a video game.

How did you first become interested in the Dragon Language?

I'm not entirely sure. I've always had a great interest for languages, and even tried to make a few when I was younger, but they all were more like cyphers than languages. I kind of stumbled upon Dovahzul about half a year ago and decided it would be fun to learn it, and here we are about half a year later, with me being at near-conversational level.

Are there any other languages that you speak?

Yes. I speak English and Dutch fluently (you may have noticed the English already), speak bits of German, French and Japanese, have a conlang of my own called Nirsuo (which is actually not a cypher :P ), and I'm currently trying to master Swedish.

Tell me some more about Nirsuo!

Sure thing! Nirsuo is more of a language for poetry than for actual speaking; there is a lot of freedom of using words (any noun can become a verb, adjective, etc., and likewise any word can become a noun), there is no official pronunciation (read it whatever way it is comfortable!), and there are little to no unneeded complications. It's hard for me to describe, but I'd call it a "pastel-coloured" language. DovahKiinZaan also assisted in developing Nirsuo, and has especially with thinking up grammar been a great help.

What does a sentence in Nirsuo look like?

Here's a (rather free) translation of the Black Sacrament:
"Segrafu Matane, segrafu Matane, adart jin zen ufe ezi, edat shonreas-in dezuikke amenkori ayauge une kride en armade."

(Nearly) literally translated:
"Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, reply your follower at me, because the unpures' evil deeds need recreation in breaking and disaster."

Note that literal Nirsuo translations are pretty much impossible, due to the freedom of interpretation of words. For example, I translated "grafu" as "sweet", although it might also mean "special".

Warrior, thief, or mage?

Warrior. I used to play as a thief a lot, but after a while of hiding and stealthily attacking, it became too repetative for me, and I decided to go for more melee action. I never really got into magic, don't exactly know why. I should try it some time.

Favorite Dragon Shout?

Ice Form. I love the combination of the words, since a frozen opponent is easily comparable to a Ice Statue of Flesh. It's also great when you're being chased by something when you're near dead, or when you just 
need some time for a potion or to reposition.

Thanks for the interview! 

It was my pleasure!

March 9, 2015

Kriinhus kr3nhus
(noun) Prowess, battle prowess
Semi-Canon.  Authored by ZaneDezy.

"Kriinhus do Ysgramor lost voronit naal naan mun uv fahliil."
kr3nhus do ysgramor lost voronit n1l n1n mun uv f4l3l

Dovahzul Riddle Contest

March 2, 2015

A hint to lost treasure, a warning for trespassers, a joke told over a mug of ale - a riddle can be many things. For this contest, your challenge is to write a riddle in the dragon language. Winning entries will be featured in a collection here in the Library. You don’t need to be a member to enter, but if you are there’s a ​ 120 gold prize for the top 3 entries.

Here is an example of what your entry could look like:

Viing ved ol vulon,
bahlok alun unslaad,
drun daan nau ven,
ag voth frin
fah slen ahrk mindol.
Wo los zu'u?

Wings black as night,
hunger ever unending,
bringing doom on the wind,
burning with eagerness
for flesh and trickery.
Who am I?

Answer: Ruvaak, a raven

The beginning lines conjure the image of Alduin, and the word frin has a double meaning of either “heat” or “eagerness” that doesn’t become clear until the last line. Alduin is not known for eating flesh or for trickery, so our black-winged creature must be a raven.

For other examples of riddles, see this wiki article on Anglo-Saxon Riddles, or for an example from The Elder Scrolls, see The Yellow Book of Riddles.

Contest Entry Guidelines

The best entries will feature poetic elements such as rhythm, alliteration, or rhyme, and use wordplay and double meaning to their advantage. There are some grammatical elements that are avoided in Dovahzul because they can be vague or misleading without good context. Using these elements to trick the reader are highly encouraged here.

Riddles should be anywhere between 10-100 words in length. A riddle may be longer or shorter if necessary. Entries can cover any subject matter, but try to refrain from any explicit material. Submit text only.

You may use existing riddles for inspiration. However, don’t simply translate an English riddle into Dovahzul. The best entries will be ones that are written originally for the dragon language and use it to its fullest potential.

You can send your entry in a private message to paarthurnax or send it in the body of an email to [email protected] with the subject line: Dovahzul Riddle Contest.  In this message/email, please provide:

  • Your Dovahzul riddle
  • An English translation
  • The answer to the riddle, in both Dovahzul and English
  • The name, pen name, username, or blog url you would like to be listed as the author of your entry

The contest will be open for entries until Friday, March 20th. Pruzah pel!

Pronunciation & Stress

February 25, 2015

An important part of pronunciation is stress, or which syllable to emphasize in a word. For example, the word “dragon” is emphasized on the first syllable, while the word “draconic” is emphasized on the second syllable. Sometimes the placement of stress can change a word’s meaning, such as the difference between the noun “content” and the adjective “content.”

German and Old English follow a very straightforward rule - the root syllable (the first non-prefix syllable) receives the stress. And so, you have words like “hammer” and “elbow,” and “forgive” and “forget.”

Dovahzul, unfortunately, is not so simple. The placement of stress varies greatly. Since we’ve never heard the vast majority of words officially spoken, it’s important to establish where stress falls and why. Below are a set of rules that can describe the placement of stress in most words. Follow them in order to determine how a word should be pronounced.

1. Default stress placement is on the first syllable:

  • KRO-sis
  • HOR-vut
  • NOR-ok
  • HEV-no
  • KRI-lot
  • SU-leyk

2. Where a word ends in a or ah, stress never falls on the last syllable:

  • DOV-ah
  • MO-nah
  • BOR-mah
  • ZEY-mah
  • LIN-grah
  • KRON-grah
  • STRUN-mah
  • DEY-ra

This is rule is more of an extension of the first. Note an exception that sometimes appears with morah.

3. Where a word contains ah as either the first syllable or a middle syllable, that syllable receives the stress unless a syllable with aa, ii, or oo supersedes it (see rule #4):

  • AH-mul
  • AH-krin
  • GAH-rot
  • mo-NAH-ven
  • bor-MAH-u
  • zey-MAH-i
  • zey-MAH-zin
  • ko-NAH-rik
  • nah-GAH-di-NOK
  • ZAH-rah-MIIK

This rule explains the shift in stress that occurs between monah and Monahven, bormah and bormahu, and zeymah and zeymahzin. This stress shift occurs even with possessive suffixes, as seen in bormahu and zeymahi.

4. Where a word contains aa, ii, or oo, that syllable receives the stress. This does not occur in words where the first syllable of the word is “enclosed” by consonants:

  • ah-RAAN
  • dah-MAAN
  • vah-RIIN
  • mul-AAG
  • bo-LAAV
  • ni-MAAR
  • lah-VRAAN
  • fah-LIIL
  • kei-ZAAL
  • ko-GAAN
  • ko-PRAAN
  • vo-KRII
  • fo-LOOK
  • mah-LAAN
  • vo-KIIN
  • vo-THAARN

The exception described above is when the syllables are divided by two consonants rather than one (as seen in all the words above). Thus, words like lumnaar, tinvaak, and geinmaar are all stressed on the first syllable.

For this rule, it’s important to recognize where exactly syllables are divided. The syllables for kopraan are ko-PRAAN, and not KOP-raan. Ah should be treated as a single vowel, so this exception doesn’t apply to words like vahriin and fahliil. Th should be treated as a single consonant, as in vothaarn.

This rule explains why it’s uncommon to see two consecutive syllables with aa or ii, as seen in the word miiraak. It also explains the shortening that happens with the verb ending -aan, as seen in kriaan, indicating that the suffix should receive the stress.

5. Where a word has an affix (besides vo- or -aan), the affix is unstressed. These affixes may be known, like -us or -iik, or only the root word may be known:

  • SAV-iik
  • KRON-iid
  • a-LOK
  • di-NOK
  • di-LON
  • OD-us
  • mot-MAH-us
  • vo-LAAN
  • su-LEYK-i
  • bah-LOK-i
  • BRUN-iik
  • BOZ-iik
  • KRUZ-iik

This rule mainly illustrates how stress changes when a possessive suffix is involved. It also explains words that defy previous rules, such as bruniik and dinok. These are difficult to describe because we can’t be sure of their etymology, but the pronunciation suggests that brun and nok are roots of some kind.

This rule is not considered for the affixes vo- and -aan. The result of this is that -aan will typically receive the stress, and vo- will receive the stress if it isn’t superseded by the vowels aa or ii, as seen in volaan and vokrii.

6. Hyphenated compounds are pronounced as though separate words:

  • GRAH zey-MAH-zin
  • a-LOK di-LON
  • TIID ah-RAAN

Stress is not fixed, and can fluctuate in a sentence. Consider the sentence Alduin wahlaan daanii. This ends up being pronounced as “AL-du-IN wah-LAAN daan-II.” Ordinarily, the possessive suffix wouldn’t receive the stress here, but because the word wahlaan ends with a stressed syllable, the first syllable of daanii becomes unstressed.

These rules should help you arrive at pronunciations for most words. There are still some words that these rules can’t describe. If you have any ideas to further refine them, share your thoughts in the comments!