|The title of this article is conjecture based on information revealed in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and may be subject to change.
Several varieties of Low Valyrian are spoken in the regions of Essos where the old Valyrian Freehold once dominated before its destruction four hundred years ago, such as the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay. The dialects of Low Valyrian in different regions are so diverse that are well on their way to being officially considered to be separate languages.
Collectively, "Low Valyrian" (including all variants) is arguably one of the most widespread languages in the Known World, rivaling the Common Tongue of Westeros in geographical spread. Low Valyrian may be spoken by a larger overall number of people than the Common Tongue, given how densely populated and urbanized the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay are.
Without the central influence of the Valyrian empire, the speech of their descendants and former colonies mutated into vernacular speech known as "Low Valyrian", or "Bastard Valyrian". Low Valyrian is not one language, so much as a family of diverse dialects well on their way to becoming separate languages - so much so that even those who speak one might not be able to speak another, and without mutual intelligibility, it could be argued that they have truly become separate languages.
Each of the Nine Free Cities has its own dialect/language of Low Valyrian. These include Braavosi, Lorathi, Lysene, Myrish, Norvoshi, Pentoshi, Qohorik, Tyroshi, and Volantene. Slaver's Bay also has its own dialect/language of Low Valyrian, making for a total of ten different branches.
The Low Valyrian of Slaver's Bay is somewhat influenced by the old language of Ghiscar, but owes more of its descent to High Valyrian than the old local languages. The three great slaver cities of Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen each speak a different dialect of Low Valyrian, but they are mutually intelligible. People in Astapor would call their language "Astapori Valyrian" (or just "Valyrian"), to differentiate it from "Meereenese Valyrian" (comparable to the difference between American English and British English dialects).
Behind the Scenes
- Low Valyrian was designed by David J. Peterson, who constructed all of the fictional languages used on Game of Thrones. Peterson created Low Valyrian by writing out the necessary dialogue in High Valyrian, then applied a series of phonological, semantic and grammatical changes (simulating Ghiscari influence) to create the Slaver's Bay dialect.
- Although Winter is Coming was partially set in Pentos, none of the characters can be heard conversing in Pentoshi, and no Low Valyrian would be heard until Valar Dohaeris. Even then, the language of Slaver's Bay is identified only as "Valyrian" and the term "Low Valyrian" has not appeared on-screen as of "Mhysa".
In the Books
Daenerys Targaryen understands at least a few Low Valyrian languages, because she grew up in the Free Cities, but which variants she knows are not clear. When Daenerys responds to a merchant in Vaes Dothrak speaking in "Valyrian", the variant she replies in makes him think she is from Tyrosh, so she seems to be able to speak Tyroshi. Logically, Daenerys would be most familiar with Braavosi and Pentoshi, because those were the Free Cities that she spent the longest time in. She also briefly stayed at various times in Myr, Qohor, Volantis, and Lys, so she may have some familiarity with those variants as well.
There has been some confusion over whether the different dialects of Low Valyrian are actually new "languages" outright. Even within the books, it is remarked that the Free Cities have not so much nine separate dialects, but nine separate dialects well on their way to being separate languages.
Linguist David J. Peterson, who created the Valyrian languages for the TV series, confirmed that "certainly the languages of the free cities are mutually unintelligible (something like Old French vs. Old Spanish)."
Meanwhile, Slaver's Bay Low Valyrian is very different from any of the dialects in the Free Cities, due to the influence of the local Old Ghiscari language (which died out millennia ago). Each of the three major cities in Slaver's Bay has its own dialect, however all three are still mutually intelligible. When Daenerys arrives at Yunkai she asks Missandei if they speak Valyrian, and Missandei directly states that they speak "a different dialect than Astapor's, yet close enough to understand." Thus "Slaver's Bay Low Valyrian" is one language, with sub-dialects known as "Astapori Low Valyrian" or "Yunkish Low Valyrian" which are nonetheless only about as different as British English versus American English. Volantene Low Valyrian and Braavosi Low Valyrian are, in contrast, separate "languages" both from each other and from Slaver's Bay Low Valyrian.