I'akua, taka-kui rayaku.
Amaja lhikai-na rokha:
Toa Mata Nui haya.
Ivaha, nga roraga-rhui.
Still, all hope was not lost.
Legends tell of six mighty heroes, the Toa,
Who would arrive to save Mata Nui.
Time would reveal that these were not simply myths...
Toa imahra voya, kouya,
Mata Nui'ai Matoroi
Ikraaka hau takaya.
For the Toa would appear on the shores of the island, it was said.
They would arrive with no memory, no knowledge of one another –
But they would pledge to defend Mata Nui
And its people against the darkness.
Wahata ika'a-nui, inaka voya.
Tahu, Toa of Fire. Onua, Toa of Earth.
Gali, Toa of Water. Lewa, Toa of Air.
Pohatu, Toa of Stone. And Kopaka, Toa of Ice.
Great warriors with great power, drawn from the very elements themselves.
Ivaita-nga: Makuta zya,
Mata Nui haya.
Nga ro amaja.
Together, they were six heroes with one destiny:
To defeat Makuta,
And save Mata Nui.
This is their story.
This is the way
Of the Bionicle.
Mata Nui ini-wahi uvoya;
Matoran roya, karaya.
In the time before time,
The Great Spirit descended from the heavens,
Carrying us, the ones called the Matoran,
To this island paradise...
Oa kaitura, maitura;
Mata Nui i-Haua-Ngavongu,
Kaita, Maita, Vaita,
We were separate and without purpose,
So the Great Spirit illuminated us
With the Three Virtues:
Unity, Duty, and Destiny...
Oa i-Hau kouya;
Ihahla, oa Mata Nui
Nga i’Amana rohi.
We embraced these gifts,
And in gratitude,
We named our island home Mata Nui,
After the Great Spirit himself...
Mata Nui-ro, nga Makuta,
Suva vorakha, akai guurakha.
Makuta ikouka Mata Nui zya.
But our happiness was not to last.
Mata Nui's brother, the Makuta,
Was jealous of these honors and betrayed him.
Makuta cast a spell over Mata Nui, who fell into a deep slumber...
Makutaka nohi maya,
Itaua bo-wahi jutlamoya,
Makuta's power dominated the land,
As fields withered away,
Sunlight grew cold,
And ancient values were forgotten...
This was originally posted via tumblr over the space of a few weeks, and now that it's complete, I thought I'd share it here. It's a rough translation of the Legend of Mata Nui, and if you've been following along with the last three posts, you may recognize a few things. I'm considering posting a full gloss once I find the time. Currently, a continuation is in progress: The Prophecy (of the Toa), the first few passages of which have already found their way online.
inika "energies of a star"
Note that the translation we are given for this word is unique in that it is apparently a compound of two semantic units: "energy" and "star". That's different from the single-word definitions we usually get, and it also provides us with an example of what may be a noun+noun compound. Normally, we only get noun+adjective or adjective+noun sequences (e.g. mata+nui, kofo+jaga). In contrast, the word inika is apparently an example of two nominal units combined into a single lexical unit. Fascinating. I think we can take advantage of this.
Alright, let's try to break down inika into its constituent parts (assuming we can). As stated in the previous post, I define ka as "power, energy, ability". This provides us with some immediate insight into the composition of inika: the unit ini must encode the meaning "of (a) star". Now, as it stands, we don't really have a way to separate whatever encodes "star" from whatever encodes "of", if they are even separable at all. We'll have to do some guesswork in order to move forward here.
The first issue to be addressed is whether or not we should even assume that a meaning like "of" is even encoded here. We might easily assume that ini is "star", ka is "energy", and the combination is to be translated straightforwardly as "star-energy". We could do that, of course, and that would be the end of it. Blog post over! However, my purpose here is explicitly to consider places where we might be able to postulate affixes and, by implication, units with functional/grammatical meanings exactly like "of". The word inika provides us with the opportunity to derive just that: a morpheme encoding "of". Because of this, I will choose not to set it aside.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's try to break ini down further. First off, are there any other words that might provide clues on how to analyze ini? A quick search of the available Matoran lexicon gives a few exact matches – akil-ini, iru-ini, kav-ini-ka, k-ini – although none of these have canon translations except for kini "temple", which certainly doesn't reference stars overtly. Furthermore, if we relax the search parameters a bit, there are also numerous words containing elements like in and ni.
As a side note, we may also observe that the phonetic structure of ini is a little odd in comparison to the overall patterns of Matoran syllable-structure. Most syllables in Matoran are of the form consonant+vowel, CV, but the first syllable of ini (i-ni) violates this pattern. That's interesting, and it's also interesting that this initial i- pattern shows up in a few other places as well: i-carax, i-den, i-dris, i-gnika, and i-hu.
Alright, taking everything into account, does this help us at all? I think it does, actually. Here’s how: Among the various words containing variants of ini, I'd like to draw your attention to one in particular: nixie. Nixie is the name of a Ga-Matoran astrologer – a Matoran who studies the stars and their prophecies. Wouldn’t it make sense for an astrologer's name to reference the stars? I think it would.
This leads me to the following proposal: Based on the fact that nixie clearly shows ni, I propose to analyze ini as a complex i-ni: ni "star" with a prefix i- "of, from".
Are there any further advantages to this analysis? Well, let's consider the status of this newly-postulated affix i- and compare it with the other affix that's been defined thus far, that being the verbal marker -ya. One immediate contrast presents itself: -ya is a derivative affix, meaning that it is used to derive one type of word from another. In this case, -ya would derive verbs from non-verbs (stems, nouns, whatever).
On the other hand, i- is not derivative—it is what might be called a functional or grammatical affix, meaning that it adds on to the meaning of the word to which it is applied, rather than creating a completely new word, as -ya would. In this case, i- is being applied to ni "star", which is presumably a noun, and the affix contributes the meaning "of" to the original meaning of the noun, hence "of (a) star".
So that's one difference right off the bat. Do these affixes have anything in common though? Here are a couple of ideas: Recall from the last post that I've proposed that -ya can technically be dissolved into two units, i-a, and this becomes clear when -ya is split into its circumfixal form a-...-i. So we can say that -ya is to be reconstructed as *-ia. No problem. On a different but related note: elsewhere in Matoran etymology, I've made use of a particular phonological shift whereby a sequence <ai> changes to <i>, <e>, or <a> (presumably with an intermediate <ii> stage). The advantage of this postulated sound-change is that it allows us to tie together elements of words like miru, midak, damek, and madu, as well as even metru and matau.
Alright, back to *-ia: If *-ia is the original verbal marker, we could postulate that there are other affixes constructed from the same building blocks, but simply applied in a different way (e.g. affixes that are applied to nouns as grammatical/functional affixes instead of derivative affixes). Combining this with the phonological rule described above, we may have a plausible origin for the affix i-. Here's the proposal:
The prefix i- "of, from" derives from an older form *ai-, which can also be dissolved into two units a-i.
Okay, I think we've stretched the available data about as far as we can, so here’s a disclaimer: At this point I’m entering the realm of pure speculation and invention. Follow along if you dare!
Ultimately, I would like us to have a few more grammatical/functional affixes at our disposal in order to be able to translate texts into the Matoran Language. I will propose two such affixes based on the known prefix i-, hopefully with as little invention-work as possible.
First off, we already have an affix meaning "of", which, in this case, we could also paraphrase as "from" (as in "originating from") or even "after", if we want to think in temporal terms (originating from a point in time, i.e. after a point in time?). What's the opposite of "of, from"? How about "to, toward"? Alright, what kind of affix could we use to represent this? Since this affix will express a meaning that is opposite to i-, it might make sense for that opposition to be reflected in the form of the affix itself, as follows:
Proposal 1: There is a suffix -i which derives from older *-ai and expresses a meaning "to, toward" or "(temporally) before".
So that's one more grammatical/functional affix to work with, and we've managed to derive it simply as a reversal of i-. Excellent! What else can we do? At this point I'd like to turn your attention to a Matoran narrative device that should be familiar:
"In the time before time..."
This phrase seems to be used to introduce Matoran legends/mythohistory. Note that it makes use of grammatical/functional units like "in" and "before". There's a reason I have proposed that -i expresses a meaning like "to, toward; before". We now have a means of translating part of this phrase. But what about the remaining "in"? My second proposal will provide us with a means of expressing this concept, as follows:
The concept of "in the time" can be more accurately paraphrased as "during the time". This concept of "in, during" seems to fall somewhere between "from" and "to". Based on that observation, we might postulate that a corresponding grammatical/functional affix would reflect this in-between status in the same way that -i "to, toward" reflected its opposition to i- "of, from":
Proposal 2: There is a circumfix i-...-a which is derived as a split variant of the older affixes *-ai and *ai- and expresses a meaning "in" or "(temporally) during".
This leaves us with three grammatical/functional affixes to use on nouns in Matoran, as follows:
1. i-, ai- "of, from; after"
2. i-...-a "in; during"
3. -i, -ai "to, toward; before"
To conclude, I'll make use of the second and third affixes in translating the classic phrase "In the time before time...", using vahi as a stand-in for both instances of "time" (even though technically they represent different concepts: period of time vs. time as an abstract concept):
i-vahi-a "in/during (the) time"
vahi-ai "before time"
"In the time before time..."
- I've reduced i-vahi-a to ivaha as a general rule. Technically we could represent it in a different way: ivahia, ivahi'a, etc.
- For vahai, I've used the older -ai form of the third affix when it's applied to a word already ending in -i and reduced vahi-ai to vahai. This is simply to make it clear which affix is present. Again, this could be represented differently: vahii, vahiai, etc.
If you've ever browsed through the entries of the Matoran Dictionary or been brave enough to delve into those old Learning Matoran lessons, you may have run into a concept that goes under the (pretty obtuse) name of "splitting+displacement" or (even worse) "variable placement". It's usually applied to things called "particles" or "affixes", and usually very little explanation is provided for what it is and where it comes from. Sorry.
In this post, I’ll attempt to add some flesh to the bones of this concept, which applies to grammatical affixes in the etymologies of Matoran words and involves breaking these units apart and moving them around for various purposes. The idea itself is of my own fabrication, and therefore has no real basis in the canon, so I won't really spend much time making a case that it "exists". However, I will make a case that the concept, even if non-canon, is really, really useful if applied systematically, so why not use it?
First, some terminology: I will for the most part dispense with the "splitting+displacement" label. The right word is actually circumfix. What is a circumfix? It's basically just another kind of affix, alongside prefixes (affixes attached at the beginning of a word), suffixes (affixes attached at the end of a word), and even infixes (affixes attached inside of a word).
Circumfixes are attached "around" a word, so they are technically like a prefix that is added along with a suffix. We clear? Great.
Jumping right in, here's my proposal for affixes in Matoran: I have found that it is useful to assume that some of the prefixes and suffixes postulated in Matoran etymology can be converted into a circumfix-form for various reasons--mostly deriving new words from old ones. This would look something like the following, using a postulated verb kya (Recall from the last post that -ya is assumed to be an affix in this case, so that's what will be undergoing modification):
Step 1: kya = kia (ya consists of two units, -i- and -a)
Step 2: k-i-a > a-k-i (the -a unit is displaced as a prefix before the stem k-, leaving -i behind as a suffix)
Step 3: aki
Pretty simple, no? The same process can easily be applied to other affixes/particles: as long as we can split the original affix/particle into two discrete units (in this case, -ya > i-, -a), we can displace the second unit as a prefix on the stem. And there are a couple of further variations that might be possible as well. We'll stick to the basics for now though.
Anyways, what could this kind of circumfixal variant be used for? Well, think about it: The splitting and displacement of the original affix technically obliterates the affix as a discrete unit. We could easily associate this kind of change with, say, a change in meaning—perhaps a change in word category? I have done just this: When the verbal affix -ya is split into a circumfixal variant, this corresponds to a change in the category of the stem from verb to (deverbal) noun.
At this point, you may be able to glimpse some possible applications of this system. Consider this: We just derived a word aki, presumably a noun, from a postulated verb kya. Aki happens to be the name of the Kanohi Mask of Valor. Technically, this is backwards: When I first came up with this system, I started with aki and reverse-engineered it to kya. Either way, it works. Let's see how else we can apply this.
Sticking with aki for the moment, there's another word that is closely associated with it: Akamai, the name of the Toa Kaita (the "Spirit of Valor") who is the wearer of the Kanohi Aki. In-universe, there is clearly a relationship between Akamai and Aki, and the nature of this relationship is further strengthened if we look at another example of a Toa Kaita: Wairuha, the "Spirit of Wisdom" who wears the Kanohi Rua. Even more parallels? So the names of the Toa Kaita are related in some way to the names of their Kanohi masks. Focusing on aki/akamai, let's do some more reverse-engineering:
Note that akamai exhibits the same a-...-i pattern that results from the splitting+displacement of -ya, as already exemplified by a-k-i. If we assume that akamai is derived via the same verb > noun process as aki, we can easily trace back through the steps:
Step 3: akamai
Step 2: a-kama-i > kama-i-a
Step 1: kamaia = kamaya
Presto! We have derived akamai from an original verb kamaya. What could this verb mean? In order to find out, let's return to aki for a moment. According to canon, aki means "valor". Thus far, I have postulated that aki is derived from a verb kya, which I would further derive from an older form *ka-ya. For numerous reasons, I define ka as "power, energy, ability", hence, I translate kya (roughly) as "to do, act, take initiative", and based on these assumptions, aki could easily be translated as "(taking) action, initiative", later construed as "courage, valor".
That takes care of aki. Now on to akamai: If kya originates from ka, according to the same pattern, kamaya would clearly originate from kama. I define ma as "mastery, control". Keeping with the definition of ka above, ka-ma would mean roughly "mastery of power/energy/ability", while the verbal form kamaya would end up as "to master doing/acting/taking initiative". According to the same process of construal applied to aki above, this means that akamai could eventually be translated "master of courage/valor". In all, I think that fits pretty darn well.
So the upshot of this post is that I've (hopefully) illustrated some of the potential applications of the "circumfix-variant" idea in the form of providing some (I think) very appropriate, interrelated etymologies for the words Aki and Akamai. All in a day's work.
This post, we're taking a brief detour from other projects to talk about something slightly more mundane: Is there something in the Matoran Language that marks verbs as verbs and distinguishes them from non-verbs? I would like to propose that there is at least one verb-marker expressed as a suffix (or "derivative particle") -ya.
What's the evidence? Admittedly, there is only one canon piece of evidence, since we have only one confirmed verb in Matoran: zya "to attack". This verb occurs in the phrase Manas zya! "Attack the monster!" The verb is technically in the imperative (command) form, and so one might argue that it is a special form and shouldn’t be representative of what verbs in Matoran look like overall. However, making use of some insights from human language, this argument may be countered:
Imperative verb-forms frequently represent the basic, unmodified state of verbal-morphology (witness English "Go!" same as present tense "They go" and infinitival "to go"). It stands to reason that the Matoran Language could follow the same pattern for purely functional reasons (e.g. commands must be transmitted quickly and efficiently). For this reason, I will assume that zya does in fact reflect the basic form of the Matoran verb.
Back to the proposal: How can we apply the postulated verb-marker -ya elsewhere? Does it provide us with any insights? Enter voya:
voya "journey" (cf. Voya Nui "Great Journey")
This word is presented as a noun; however, it isn't unreasonable to allow the possibility that voya could be a deverbal noun derived from an older verb vo-ya. This is indeed what I propose, as exemplified by the following entries from the Matoran Dictionary:
vo-ya |v.| to conduct energy, flow (along); to journey [From vo “elemental lightning” and the verb-marker -ya]
voya-nui |n.| great journey [From voya “journey, current” (nominalized from the verbal complex vo-ya) and nui “great, significant”]
So, the application of -ya in this case has provided us with some interesting insights into the history of voya (notice the fortuitous incorporation of the elemental stem vo "elemental lightning/electricity"). Where else can we go with this? For the purposes of this post, I will simply list several sets of words that might provide further support for the -ya proposal, with comments:
amaya (a Ga-Matoran)
maglya (a Ta-Matoran)
zemya (an Onu-Matoran)
Based on the proposal, all of these words could also be analyzed as verbs (or deverbal nouns derived from older verbs). Check out their respective dictionary entries for some possible etymologies.
The words in the next set do not directly exhibit -ya, but could potentially contain a spelling variant -ia (once again, see corresponding dictionary entries for proposals):
pelagia (a Ga-Matoran)
zaria (a Toa of Iron)
xia (a placename for the island inhabited by the Vortixx species)
daxia (a placename for the island where the Order of Mata Nui has its primary base)
The words in this final set all contain ia word-internally (either in stressed or unstressed position), but because of other factors the possibility that this is an example of -ya is even more remote. Hopefully they are helpful as reference:
radiak (a Shadow Matoran, formerly Av-Matoran)
spiriah (a Makuta)
varian (a Toa of Psionics)
chiara (a Toa of Lightning)
niazesk (an swarming insect-Rahi)
piatra (a Po-Matoran)
Well, I haven’t done any pixel art for quite a while—nothing worth posting, at least. Even so, I get the hankering every now and then. And in fact, for a long time I’ve been wanting to start something long-term: a project to fiddle with in my spare time. Pixel art is quite cathartic, I find, and it’s actually a great stress-reliever. Go figure.
Unfortunately I haven’t really had that much spare time lately. That is, until last week. It was spring break...for students, at least. =P Even so, in between the grading, I did find a few moments to get creative:
The project is a roughly to-scale isometric map of the island of Mata Nui; 1 pixel = ~.25 kio (these images are at about x3 magnification). I find landscapes to be very enjoyable to do, and isometric pixeling suits that pretty well. The images above should be kinda familiar: the Mangai Volcano and the southern tip of the island coast. This is only a few hours’ work, so it’s absurdly rough, but you should get the general idea.
So yeah, the plan is to keep messing around with it, and maybe post some updates as things progress. I confess, even now I’m still pretty much an amateur at this, but I hope I can do it justice. =P
Treatise: Translating the Avohkii
: Part 4 :
Whoa, hold on! It’s dangerous to go alone! First, read this, then this, then this. All done? Good – let’s get moving. Here’s the full transcription of the Avohkii-text once again:
mapaku ke-whenu-ka kitu ak-ila ahano nano atuana makuta taka
The bolded part of the transcription has already been translated in the previous posts. To recap:
Mapaku ke-whenu-ka kitu ak-ila ...
“Reader, seek out an individual originating from within a secret underground (place)”
This portion of the passage seems reasonably self-sufficient, and I have chosen to analyze it as an independent clause: it contains a verb, its arguments, and their modifiers. If we start from that assumption, it stands to reason that the rest of the passage will form its own unit/clause, separate from the first clause but presumably still related in meaning.
We can start by identifying already-familiar terms in this portion of the inscription. We actually have an easier time of it than before. Makuta is pretty self-evident, as is taka. The relevant entries are as follows:
makuta |n.cmpd.| 1. master of knowledge; 2. higher knowledge [mult. potential etymologies; one proposed etymology is makuta < ma-akuta, from ma(t) “mastery, control” and akuta “knowledge”; another proposed etymology is makuta < mai-akuta, from mai “up, upward, above” (variant of mi, see entry) and akuta “knowledge”]
taka |n.| firelight, torchlight, illumination; heat [taka < ta-ka, from ta “elemental fire” and ka “power, force, ability”, yielding a sense of “light cast by fire/torch; light that leads the way”]
Alright, now that we’ve identified some familiar terms, let’s continue with the same line of reasoning we used for the first clause: if this section of the passage is a clause in itself, we’d expect there to be a verb and some individual(s) involved in the action of the verb (subject, object, etc.).
How do we go about identifying the verb? Well, one aspect of Matoran syntax that hasn’t come up much yet in this discussion (but probably should) is the fact that, according to the only example of a clausal-unit that we have, it appears that verbs in Matoran stand as the final element in a sentence. The example that we have is the phrase Manas zya, translating to "Attack the monster!" The verb is zya "(to) attack", while the object is manas "monster". This is an imperative (command) clause, so technically we can only determine that verbs appear in final position in simple imperative constructions – other clause-types might be different for all we know. Then again, for all we know, the verb-final pattern might be a strict rule for independent clauses in Matoran. For what it’s worth, verb-final patterns show up in ~40% of human languages, so Matoran wouldn’t be all that strange as a non-human language. Well...let’s see where the verb-final logic leads us:
Based on its clause-final position, we might assume that taka is the verb. Does this make sense? Hm...taka doesn’t necessarily look like the only example of an actual verb that we have – zya "attack" – but of course morphophonological similarity isn’t a requirement, even if that’s pretty much the only thing we have to go on. It really depends on the categorial status of taka. Do we know anything about that? Possibly, yes. Taka shows up in Takanuva. Nuva means "new". It’s clearly an adjective in its other uses (Tahu Nuva, Gali Nuva, etc.). If we assume that nuva is generally an adjective, that would imply that taka is not verbal, but nounal. Then again, an argument could be made that nuva can modify nouns or verbs, or that Takanuva is an exception based on the fact that nuva appears to be morphologically incorporated into taka, rather than a syntactic modifier as in the other cases. All of these arguments are equally legitimate.
This is kind of a sticky situation. On one hand, we’d rather not violate the only potential syntactic rule we know of by looking elsewhere for the verb. On the other hand, it’s iffy to just define taka as a verb. How to decide?
Ultimately, the decision should be made based on its overall consequences. If we decide to redefine taka as a verb, that will entail making a variety of alterations to our understanding of Matoran etymology (how modifiers work, the categorial status of nouns and verbs, etc.). These are things that, to some extent, are already "established". In contrast, if we assume that Matoran is not strictly verb-final, we aren’t actually violating any established rule, since we’re simply postulating that there’s more syntactic variation than the single piece of evidence we have suggests. The second option is far more appealing to me, so I’ll run with it. Taka is not the verb – something else is.
Where do we go from here? Let’s look at the other candidates for verbhood: We can probably cross out makuta, since that has a pretty well-established nounal status. That leaves ahano, nano, and atuana. Previously, I’ve already hinted that I think atuana contains a variant of toa, so I’ll cross that off as well. That leaves nano and ahano. Hm...time for some more educated guesswork.
If Matoran is not verb-final, are there any syntactic patterns that we can observe at all? I’d rather not jump to the conclusion that Matoran word-order is completely free, since that would leave us without any direction whatsoever. Instead, we might come to the more conservative position that Matoran is verb-final in independent imperative clauses. Think about it: Manas zya is an independent imperative clause and the verb is in final position. Furthermore, I’ve also translated the first part of the Avohkii passage as an independent imperative clause, and the verb happens to be in final position there. That’s a convenient match, go figure!
So if we say that the verb-final syntactic pattern is restricted (at the very least) to these types of clauses, we are free to postulate a different pattern for other clause-types. Specifically, I will propose that the clause under discussion (the second half of the passage) is not independent, but is instead dependent upon (or "subordinate to") the first clause. This is because of the status of the first clause as a command or instruction: do X. If the first clause is defined in this way, what is its relationship to the second clause? It makes sense that the second clause would describe something about how/why the command of the first clause must be performed. For example, we might interpret the relation as cause-effect: do X so that Y.
Alright, so the second clause is subordinate. How do we apply this to the translation? Well, if Matoran is verb-final in independent imperative clauses, a simple pattern that could be used to mark dependency is to reverse the standard order, i.e. to place the verb at the beginning of the clause: verb-initial. This is actually pretty milquetoast when it comes to human languages – different syntactic patterns are used to mark dependency-status all the time, so I don’t have many qualms about postulating it for Matoran.
However, this does lead us to a specific conclusion with respect to choosing between candidates for the verb: ahano is the first word in the clause. If we adopt the assumption about syntactic patterns above, ahano would be the verb. This is progress! Very small progress, but progress nonetheless.
Even so, this post has been really wordy, and it’s getting a bit too long at this point, so for now, I’ll leave you with a recap of the translation. It’s a slow crawl, but hopefully worth it by the end:
Mapaku, ke-whenu-ka kitu ak-ila ...
“Reader, seek out an individual originating from within a secret underground (place)”
... ahano nano atuana makuta taka.
"(so that) VERB ... [smthg. related to Toa] Makuta light/illumination."
Still on the to-do list is determining a translation for ahano, as well as nano and atuana, and we also have to flesh out the relations between these elements and makuta and taka. It’s a daunting task, but I think we’ll make it.
"Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a blog-hole, and that means comfort."
A Short Bio of the...Author?
The author of this blog currently resides in the rather dry, bare, sandy climate of the southwest United States. He is a grad-student and teaching associate at his university, currently working toward a Ph.D. in rhetoric/composition and linguistics.
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