Author Topic: No word for thank you?  (Read 13844 times)

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FrederikKay

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No word for thank you?
« on: April 07, 2011, 08:21:46 am »
Let me just start this off again with saying that I have not read the books. I am thus not very familiar with Dothraki culture etc. Perhaps the show can answer my question when it comes out. However, in a preview I noticed that they say that the Dothraki have no word for "thank you". This strikes me as odd.

I know that Dothraki are supposed to be these fierce nomadic warriors, but I simply do not think a language can exist without being able to show gratitude. If they have no word for thank you, they would at least need to have some other phrases to show gratitude. The reason for this is that I don't think even a basic civilization can exist without the concept of gratitude. While the Dothraki culture sure seems basic, they simply wouldn't be able to organize themselves without some basic social skills.

If we look at actual nomadic cultures, they almost always value hospitality greatly (atleast mongols do). And even if the Dothraki are exceptionally individualistic, they would need more social interaction then fighting with everyone from the same sex and having sex with everyone from the opposite sex, like they are wild savages. Surviving in the wild means relying on your fellow tribes man (or whatever Dothraki groups are called) and occasionally interacting with other tribes as well (if only to prevent inbreeding). It requires friendship, camaraderie and kinship. Every human culture has these things!

This means doing favors for one another and that also creates the need for showing gratitude to one another. The fact that Dothraki have no concept of this is absurd. I understand that the Dothraki have little need for pleasantries, but these are very fundamental social skills we are talking about here! How can they have kings and small settlements without this?

Can anyone explain this to me? Is it explained in the book? Can we assume that the Dothraki have some other forms of showing gratitude?

PS: I found this while searching on the subject. Again more evidence that there are no languages that lack a form of gratitude.
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003120.html
« Last Edit: April 07, 2011, 08:29:18 am by FrederikKay »

ingsve

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2011, 10:24:42 am »
I don't think that specific detail is from the book but I'm not 100% sure. It's probably something that David Peterson has come up with and if that is the case then I'm sure that it's insprised by something that already exists.

There is nothing in the books that I can think of that suggests that they wouldn't show gratitude in some way. It's probably just that they don't express it like the way we do but instead perhaps show gratitude in other ways like through actions for example. This is just speculation because I can't point to anything specific right now since I haven't read the books in a while.

One similar thing that I know is straight from the books is that the Dothraki don't trade. They accept gifts and then give gifts in return but they do so in their own time. This could be seen as an example of gratitude at least.

We also know that a lot of their greetings are variations on the word respect and they also have examples in the vocabulary where they use a different word when they show respect like the use of shafka instead of yer (which both mean "you". So they're not really uncivilized and that's not the image you get of them in the books either. They are a bit different than what we are used to I guess. There is sense of entitlement which is possibly where the lack of thank you comes from. They see what they want and they take it but they're not just savages for the sake of being savages. There are examples where cities make sure to give gifts to Khalasars that pass by and that seems to keep them happy so that they don't feel the need to sack the city just for the sake of it.

When I think about it, I think you can almost compare it to the military during a war. Everyone knows their place in the hierarchy and they do their duty and respect their superiors. You won't see a lot of common curtisies like thank you in the military. Or at least you see less of it. No one thanks you for doing the task you were ordered to do.

Ultimately though we would need to ask Peterson what his motivation behind it is and how he has thought about it when creating the language.
"I just need to rest, that’s all, to rest and sleep some, and maybe die a little" – Samwell Tarly

FrederikKay

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2011, 12:00:25 pm »
Ok, that would seem plausible. So they don't voice their gratitude, but show it through gifts and actions

The comparison with the military works quite well. You don't often say thank you or sorry in the military, but honor and respect is shown through actions. I could see that work for the Dothraki.

ingsve

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2011, 02:50:04 am »
I asked David Peterson about this in the latest IRC chat. Here is a transription of the part that discussed the word thank you:

[2011-04-10 22:12:21] <ingsve> we had a question on the forum about the comment in one of the clips that the dothraki have no word for thank you http://forum.dothraki.org/index.php/topic,36.0.html
[2011-04-10 22:12:38] <ingsve> is that true, and if so is that from the books or is that your choice?
[2011-04-10 22:13:34] <DavidJPeterson> You know, that wasn't in the original script.
[2011-04-10 22:13:45] <DavidJPeterson> They added that based on something *I* said in the original press release.
[2011-04-10 22:13:58] <ingsve> ah ya, that's true
[2011-04-10 22:14:44] <DavidJPeterson> I remembered the first time I saw that (Jorah says it) thinking, "Wait a minute, I don't remember that..."
[2011-04-10 22:15:04] <DavidJPeterson> Then it hit me, and I realized, "Oh, hey. They picked that up from me!"
[2011-04-10 22:15:56] <DavidJPeterson> Then I forgot it and created a word for "thank you", anyway.
[2011-04-10 22:16:04] <Jenny> Hah
[2011-04-10 22:16:08] <ingsve> hah
[2011-04-10 22:16:24] <ingsve> what was the original thinking behind not having it?
[2011-04-10 22:16:45] <DavidJPeterson> The Dothraki practice of not trading.
[2011-04-10 22:17:09] <ingsve> ah, so I basically guessed right in my answer to the question
[2011-04-10 22:17:26] <DavidJPeterson> I don't think it'll actually be used in the show—and if it is, it'll be used by non-native speakers.
[2011-04-10 22:17:27] <DavidJPeterson> Yeah.
[2011-04-10 22:17:42] <ingsve> also they seem to have a sense of entitlement in that they see what they want and take it rather than getting it by conventional means
[2011-04-10 22:17:45] <Lajaki> Hopefully that's the only time that'll happen.
[2011-04-10 22:18:06] <DavidJPeterson> Right.
[2011-04-10 22:18:28] <DavidJPeterson> It's still a good expression, I think. It doesn't necessarily need to be used as "thank you".
[2011-04-10 22:18:31] <DavidJPeterson> Though it can mean that.
[2011-04-10 22:18:53] <DavidJPeterson> Literal is "much respect to you".
[2011-04-10 22:19:28] <DavidJPeterson> If there was some expression one would use as "thank you", I think that'd be it.
[2011-04-10 22:19:37] <ingsve> ah ok
[2011-04-10 22:20:08] <DavidJPeterson> Though it can be used entirely apart from any gift giving (and probably would be).
[2011-04-10 22:21:28] <ingsve> so the expression is something involving athchomar shafkea?
[2011-04-10 22:21:46] <DavidJPeterson> Or yeraan.
[2011-04-10 22:21:50] <DavidJPeterson> Depends who you're talking to.
[2011-04-10 22:21:53] <ingsve> ah ya
[2011-04-10 22:22:01] <DavidJPeterson> Multifunctional. Like "aloha".
[2011-04-10 22:22:43] <ingsve> is there a word for "much" in the expression as well?
[2011-04-10 22:23:05] <DavidJPeterson> I thought I'd already given that one to you in one of these chat sessions...
[2011-04-10 22:23:12] <DavidJPeterson> Yeah, there it is.
[2011-04-10 22:23:15] <DavidJPeterson> It's in the dictionary.
[2011-04-10 22:23:19] <ingsve> sekke?
[2011-04-10 22:23:22] <DavidJPeterson> san
[2011-04-10 22:23:44] <ingsve> ah we only have that as heap or pile
[2011-04-10 22:23:49] <ingsve> as a noun
[2011-04-10 22:23:59] <DavidJPeterson> It is a noun in the expression, actually.
[2011-04-10 22:24:10] <DavidJPeterson> San athchomari yeraan. (Or shafkea.)
[2011-04-10 22:24:20] <ingsve> ok
[2011-04-10 22:25:06] <ingsve> sort of like saying piles of respect to you
[2011-04-10 22:26:03] <DavidJPeterson> Right. Though understood conventionally.
"I just need to rest, that’s all, to rest and sleep some, and maybe die a little" – Samwell Tarly

Hasagende

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2011, 01:21:39 pm »
I'm no expert on languages but I've studied quite a few cultures and some rely, like its been stated, on gratitude through gifting or action, I scratch your back you scratch mine. Dothraki are primitive, possibly a young culture of people who have had to fight and kill to survive. I too have not read the books and am only 40+ pages into the first of the series, so I don't know the history. By young I mean around 500+ years, possibly 700+ by the sheer volume of warriors they have in their horde (100,000 riders, and we know from both episodes Dothraki like to have sex, its conceivable that they also make a lot of children).

That kind of living off the land and taking what you want creates a certain mentality in the culture. Not one that says, that group of people have a certain precious metal, so I'm going to go take it because I have at my disposal a thousand riders with twenty kills to each of their names. It isn't so much entitlement as it is ego, they can take what they want through force, but they know if they kill everyone, there isn't going to be anything left to take.

Which brings me to my point: If a culture is birthed out of violence and not having guilt for doing what they do because if they didn't kill and destroy they would be the ones dead and gone, it gives the mentality that by their own will and strength and cunning they are alive and able to thrive, not by the will of someone else. I'm trying to avoid circle talk, so I apologize if I'm long winded.

Not having a word or phrase for "thank you" stems from their culture and their actions in history. The Dothraki owe no gratitude to another tribe for their existence, items are material and what is valued is warrior prowess. And when that culture places the ability to kill above all else, never is it conceivable that another warrior will thank his battle brother for being better than him, respect is paid and they move on.

I understand "thank you" to be a slight admission of guilt, if someone does something for you, you thank them, because you were not skilled enough or had no time to do it. That might make me sound high and mighty, I still say thank you, in our culture we often take on too much and so others must perform tasks with/for us, for modern society we use it as a courtesy gesture. In its essence, I don't like thanking people, I do things myself, for myself and usually by myself, if I need someone else to help me, obviously I thank them but its a ding in my pride that I needed assistance. Its an honest example of what the Dothraki mentality might be, they are a simple culture, hunting and warring being its primary focus and like our modern trades, probably take on apprentices to learn on the job instead of being taught vocally. I think it makes the most sense, as the Dothraki seem, to me, a do or die culture. They don't have a hundred thousand skilled riders because everyone and their mum kills, their social situation is that the better you are at killing, the more respect you get, and if a tribe is able to muster 100,000+ skilled riders, then they're obviously very good at what they do.

In respect to giving gifts, you could apply the same thought process, obviously the Dothraki do not. They receive a gift, they give a gift, in their own time. I don't believe they see being given a gift as a sign of gratitude or out of fear, but respect. They won't say thank you, not out of any language barrier, because they might see the gift as a purchase. By that I will give an example:

If one city sends a chest of 10,000 gold coins to the Khal during his tribes route through the city, the Khal will not repay the gesture right away. A year later the Khal is in another city, but a number of his horses take ill and die, so he uses the gold he received from the first city to acquire new steeds. Depending on the usefulness of the 10,000 gold coins, the Khal may choose to either express that use in the form of protection, they kill one of the cities adversaries, or in turn gift back ten thousand gem stones. That's the most base example I could think of, the severity of repayment I believe resides in how useful the original gift was.

That's all I really have to say on the topic, just my thoughts, not agreeing or disagreeing with anyone :) I know someone will probably take issue with what I've written.

Long live the Khal!
For our Strength we will rise and rise again. For our Honour we never yield.

ingsve

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2011, 10:52:27 am »
Very interesting.

It's always fun to speculate. In the end I guess only GRRM can say for sure and I'm guessing not even he might really "know" why they do things the way they do. It might be that he just thought that some of their customs sounded cool and went with it without having a real back story for why they do it. I think we can all be free to play social anthopologists and try to figure out things about them based on the facts that we do have.
"I just need to rest, that’s all, to rest and sleep some, and maybe die a little" – Samwell Tarly

isil

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2011, 07:28:51 am »
Yucatec Maya doesn't have a word for "thank you" either. When the Spanish imposed European manners on them, they began saying "God pays". ("Jach Dyos b'o'otik," where "Dyos" is a borrowing from Spanish.)

Believe it or not, customs do in fact differ among societies. It's not a superficial difference the Man exaggerates to keep us fighting each other!

Qvaak

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2011, 09:38:36 am »
Speculation! Yay!

You might take Jorah as an expository device, who conveys more truthful and informative tidbits about Dothraki culture than realistically would be likely. You might also see him as a one eyed man leading a blind. Jorah is hardly integrated into Dothraki society and he is hardly the a lecturing type even if he is. That he says Dothraki don't have a word for "thank you" might mean they don't seem to be thanking each other much - or even that Jorah thinks there isn't a "thank you" appropriate for the situation.

Dothraki seem to have some tradition in throwing "respects" around and it goes to figure something along lines of "Yo! respect!" would be a natural way to try express gratitude for a gift or help or whatnot. And, not suprisingly, Peterson tells us as much: You could try "San athchomari yeraan."

There certainly are differences in ways to express gratitude across cultures. Somewhere it might be difficult to get honest gratitude through because thank-yous are so ritually necessary they are taken to mean pretty much nothing. Somewhere else you go through crazy "oh no you shouldn't have" "No I insist, it's nothing" routine for anything more than passing a salt shaker. Even a hearfelt thank you might leave thanked feeling they must have missed some hidden sarcasm and that a thing which was meant to be freely given has suddenly been stolen from them. In single culture language like Dothraki it is easy to imagine any expression of direct "thank you" might be near inexistent just because it is not used in a correct protocol of accepting gifts or favors.

Of course it wasn't very helpful of Jorah to just deny the existense of "thank you". "Just be humble and respectful. You are not supposed to say anything. If you desperately need to express your gratitude aloud, you might compliment the gift, but I wouldn't really recommend even that." might have been much more useful. My theory is that Dothraki have some small talk stinks -attitude [which as a Finn I can appreciate: we have some strong tradition of sitting in a comfortable silence] and that they also have rather rigid idea of respect implied by default.

I would guess that if Daenerys would have managed to say something akin to thank you in Dothraki, that would have
1) awkwardly indicated her as weak, uncertain and generally unworthy for disrespecting the situation by unnecessaty blather. She certainly seemed weak and uncertain anyway, but there surely was no need to underline the fact.
2) extremely awkwardly indicated that she doesn't consider Khal Drogo respectful and capable by default and thus pretty much mocked Drogo for being generally worthless weakling for whom to be able to procure a horse is out of character.
Game of Thrones is not The Song of Ice and Fire, sweetling. You'll learn that one day to your sorrow.

Finger

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2011, 12:18:06 pm »
Ain't there a word for LOVE either?
(Nor for hate...)

ingsve

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2011, 01:05:41 pm »
Ain't there a word for LOVE either?
(Nor for hate...)

We don't know either way. Those words haven't come up anywhere.
"I just need to rest, that’s all, to rest and sleep some, and maybe die a little" – Samwell Tarly

saeglopurrr

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Re: No word for thank you?
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2013, 03:52:26 pm »
The Dothraki are a fairly savage people. The fact that they mention "there is no word for 'thank you'" just goes to show that they take, not receive, leaving no need for "thank you."
Then again, this is the group of people who consider a wedding "boring" if deaths don't take place.
And let's not forget- it is fiction. Does it really matter whether or not they actually have a word for "thank you?"
It still just goes with the fact that they are a brutal group of people.