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In a hole in the ground there lived...



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The Glyphs of Okoto

Posted by Tolkien , in 2015, linguistics, Art, Bionicle Jan 04 2015 · 551 views

Since the release of the Bionicle 2015 media, various people have taken note of the system of symbols or glyphs that consistently appear throughout the island of Okoto. They show up in nearly every one of the story animations--on ruins, statues, the Temple of Time...even the Mask of Creation is covered in them. This has, unsurprisingly, generated questions about whether or not these symbols are purely decorative or if they in fact constitute a functioning writing system, along the lines of the G1 Matoran Alphabet. After a good deal of discussion, however, the consensus (which I agree with) appears to be that these symbols are purely aesthetic and do not carry any linguistic significance.

But even so, using a bit of creativity, it may still be possible to derive something meaningful from these symbols for use by Bionicle fans. My goal here is not to construct a complete "Okotoan Alphabet", but instead to simply take a first step in that direction and see where it leads; hopefully inspiring the creativity of others along the way. With that said, let's begin:

There are two main sources from which I will draw examples of the relevant symbols: those found on the Mask of Creation and those found in the Temple of Time. This is because these sources provide very clear and consistent examples of the glyphs, without heavy modification due to, e.g. the simplified style of the animations, and also because the primary string of symbols that can be derived from these sources shows up only in bits and pieces elsewhere (sometimes partly obscured), rather than being attested in full, as it is in these two contexts.

So, first, here is a facsimile of the symbols found on the Mask of Creation (click here for a hi-res version of the original picture).

1.
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Next, a facsimile of the block of symbols found on the interior of the Temple of Time (see this image--specifically the symbols on the left side of the temple, middle row, far right column). The lefthand vertical column of this block is a full 180-degree rotation of the righthand vertical column, and the righthand column partially matches the central vertical crest on the MoCr.

2.
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It’s pretty clear at this point that there is actually only one string of symbols involved in both cases. This string is modified/truncated/mirrored/rotated in various ways to fit whatever space is required. Here is the primary string in isolation (basically identical to the righthand column of the Temple of Time version, but mirrored horizontally to match that on the MoCr):

3.
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Next, let’s focus on how this string is implemented on the Mask of Creation, since the MoCr provides good examples of repetition of specific sequences of glyphs and truncation of the primary sequence. My goal is to use whatever patterns of repetition/omition that can be found in order to decompose the primary string into individual units, which might then serve as independent “letters” (or graphemes). Here we go:

- The central vertical crest exhibits the full primary string, plus a partial repetition. I have coded the repeated segment in blue, the non-repeated segment in green:

4.
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- The two lesser vertical crests exhibit a non-repeating version of the full string which is nevertheless truncated via removal of the largest symbol (marked in red on the original string). Note that the left crest is oriented identically to the central crest, and the right crest is a horizontal mirror of the left.

5.
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- The two internal vertical sequences on the “forehead” of the mask include the entire segment that is repeated twice on the central vertical crest, plus one additional symbol. I have preserved the blue-green coloring from (4) to illustrate this.

6.
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- The four horizontal crests on the lower edges of the mask all make use of the primary sequence rotated 90 degrees, but with nearly half the sequence omitted. The upper horizontal crests have one glyph more than the lower horizontal crests, which are also flipped vertically. Once again, I have preserved the blue-green color-coding to better illustrate the extent to which certain sequences are preserved and/or omitted.

7.
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With these observations in place, here is an updated version of the full schematic of the MoCr with blue-green color-coding.

8.
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Now, as stated previously, my goal here is to figure out which symbols are independent and separable and which symbols form “blocks” with each other in order to dissolve the primary string into its constituent units. The patterns of omition on the MoCr give some good clues about this. For example, the fact that a symbol can be omitted from the primary string on the lesser vertical crests (the symbol marked red in (5) above) shows that this symbol is a separable glyph. Likewise, the individual glyphs that are added to fill space on the internal vertical crests (see (6)) and the horizontal crests (see (7)) show that these specific glyphs are also independent and separable. All of these observations lead to the following:

9.
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And now, to bring us full circle, we can apply the color-coding to the primary string only, as follows:

10.
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As can be seen, my assumption here is that the glyphs that are colored identically form a unit with one another, and based on this assumption, I have broken up the primary string into 8 separate units. Note that the decision to separate 1 and 2 was my own, since, if these symbols had been combined, it would make for a very complex symbol indeed. In addition, the decision to include the single horizontal line as a part of symbol 2, rather than a separate symbol, was made based on the observation that (1) these two components are never separated, and (2) that the two components are clearly printed as a single unit on the lesser vertical crests of the MoCr.

Now the question is, where to go from here? I don’t really know. As a fun creative exercise, we could, of course, assign an alphabetic value to each of the eight “letters” represented here—preferably values that together form some significant eight-letter word without any repeating letters (assuming that this is an alphabetic writing system, similar to the G1 Matoran alphabet). A couple of ideas occur to me:

First, there is the word CREATION. It has eight letters, non-repeating. If we do the value-assignment as suggested, that would make our primary string spell out as follows (Note that, because we have no indications as to which way to read the glyphs (upwards or downwards), either way could work, and so I have provided both up-down and down-up value-assignments):

11.
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Secondly—and perhaps more interestingly—there is the word BIONICLE, which is also eight letters, but has a repetition of the letter <i>, which makes it not quite as practical if we want to maximize the number of letters we have at our disposal. However, this problem can be partly resolved by the following observation: The word does have a repetition of the letter <i>, but both occurences have completely different phonetic values, i.e. the first <i> is the sound in “bite”, while the second is the sound in “bit”. If we can withstand this slight complication, this version might very well work.

12.
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I will leave it at that. I hope you enjoyed this detour into possible Okotoan orthography, and I also hope that the ideas sketched out here--legitimate or not--serve to generate further creativity on the subject. Have fun.

JRRT


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Auld Lang Syne / Ivaha Vahai

Posted by Tolkien , in BZPower, linguistics, Bionicle, Life, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Dec 31 2014 · 201 views

[don't forget]


I wanted to do one final Matoran Language translation for the year, and what better text to translate than "Auld Lang Syne"? In fact, the theme of the song feels doubly appropriate for the Bionicle fandom this year, with the final closure of the original line and the exciting rise of the new generation of sets and story. With that in mind, I decided to translate the titular Scots refrain Auld Lang Syne "Days of Long Ago" using the familiar Matoran phrase Ivaha Vahai "In the Time Before Time".

May it will always be remembered.



“Auld Lang Syne” / “Ivaha Vahai”


=====


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,


and never brought to mind?


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,


and auld lang syne?



o vau-aiye inuuryaska,


avarumu-sehai?


o vau-aiye inuuryaska,


no ivaha vahai?


=====


For auld lang syne, my jo,


for auld lang syne,


we’ll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet,


for auld lang syne.



ta ivaha vahai, ro'o,


ta ivaha vahai,


o ilahi-vano kyako,


ta ivaha vahai.


=====


And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!


and surely I’ll be mine!


And we’ll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet,


for auld lang syne.



ou vano'u wijeyako


no o anga rodai!


no o ilahi-vano kyako,


ta ivaha vahai.


=====


We twa hae run about the braes,


and pou’d the gowans fine;


But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,


sin' auld lang syne.



o-anga numu aodyanu,


no boki kyanu-lai


va jaui-odhi-na vyanu,


nu ivaha vahai.


=====


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,


frae morning sun till dine;


But seas between us braid hae roar’d


sin' auld lang syne.



o-anga igava vyanu


avahi kravahai;


va mahri omu dekyanu


nu ivaha vahai.


=======


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!


and gie's a hand o’ thine!


And we’ll tak' a right gude-willie waught,


for auld lang syne.



hiki maki'o, pauhi'o


ouhi 'ko kya-angai!


o gahi-laui voryako,


ta ivaha vahai.




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The Prophecy of Heroes

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Art, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Dec 16 2014 · 179 views
2015, so much yes

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The Prophecy of Heroes


Hear now, my son, what the prophecy says:


When times are dark and all hope seems lost,


The Protectors must unite, one from each tribe.


Evoke the power of past and future,


And look to the skies for an answer.


When the stars align, six comets will bring timeless heroes


To claim the Masks of Power and find the Mask Maker.


United, the elements hold the power to defeat evil…


United, but not one.



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Toavakamaja


Ro’o, akai deya ki vakamaja roya:


Vahi kraui-ika no taka rayase


Mangai kaitayasu, ikoronga,


Vuna no vaka naya


No ivanto-akee akuya


Ni kaitaya-ika, duni-na Toa-vahikhu kyako


Ta ai Kanohi kyase, ta ai Ekimu eleyase


Kaita, nahi vuata ki rawa maya huya…


Kaita, va nga-ru.



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[link]




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Naming the Toa Mata

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Dec 12 2014 · 260 views

Naming the Toa Mata


[over there]


Assumption #1: The names of the Toa Mata were constructed at the very beginning of the Matoran Universe and have preserved their forms throughout history; hence, they provide a window on the form of the Matoran Language in its earliest stages.

Assumption #2: The names of the Toa Mata should be subjected to only the most limited of sound changes (if any), in contrast to other Bionicle names/terms, which are more likely to have been systematically altered in the course of linguistic history.

tahu |n.| fire (substance); combustion; lit. “process/activity of fire” [tahu < ta-hu, from ta “fire” and hu “process, activity”]

gali |n.| water (substance); ocean, tide; lit. “repetition/pervasiveness of water” [gali < ga-li, from ga “water” and li “repetition, habituality, pervasiveness”]

Etymologically, the names given to Tahu and Gali form a natural class in that both indicate relatively straightforward manifestations of their respective elements: the natural activity of fire (with hu “activity, process”) and the natural activity of water or liquid protodermis (with li “repetition, pervasiveness”): ta-hu “fire, combustion” and ga-li “water, ocean”.

lewa |n.| air, wind (substance); atmosphere; lit. “mass/quantity of air” [lewa < le-wa, from le “air” and wa “mass, quantity”]

onua |n.| earth, ground (substance); lit. “mass/quantity of earth” [onua < onu-wa, from onu “earth” and wa “mass, quantity”]

The names given to Lewa and Onua also form a natural class, as they are both derived in an identical manner via the stem wa “mass, quantity”, which is used primarily to form nouns indicating physical/abstract substances: le-wa “air (substance)” and onu-wa “earth (substance)”.

pohatu |n.| stone, rock (substance); foundation; lit. “uniformity/constancy of stone” [pohatu < po-hatu, from po “stone” and hatu “uniformity, constancy, homogeneity”]

kopaka |n.| ice (substance); glacier; lit. “steadfastness/coherence of ice” [kopaka < ko-paka, from ko “ice” and paka “steadfastness”]

The names given to Pohatu and Kopaka likewise form a natural class, but for different reasons than the previous names: They are slightly more complex and abstract, one being derived by compounding with hatu “uniformity, constancy” and the other with paka “steadfastness, coherence”:

hatu |n.| uniformity, constancy, homogeneity; lit. “essence of system-normality” [hatu < ha-atu, from ha “system-normality” and atu “will, intention; essence”]

paka |n.| steadfastness, coherence, solidity; lit. “energy of stone” [paka < pa-ka, from pa “stone” (see entry po) and ka “power, energy, fundamental aspect”]

Semantically, however, both of these words indicate very similar concepts (solidity, steadfastness, reliability, etc.), which serve to characterize the physical manifestations of both of the respective elements: po-hatu “stone, foundation” and ko-paka “ice, glacier”.


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CHIKTCHIKTCHIKT

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Dec 10 2014 · 262 views
ATTN:, do not canonize
[it must be cleaned]

The Bohrok have remained shrouded in mystery since the earliest stages of Matoran history, their origin and purpose the subject of much superstition. The first Bohrok nests were discovered by Onu-Matoran mining beneath the city of Metru Nui in the period shortly after the Coming of Mata Nui . The nests were already quite ancient and were at first assumed to be the tombs of the original founders of the City of Legends (It would be another hundred thousand years before this initial hypothesis was shown to be much closer to the truth than anyone suspected).

During the initial phases of exploration, the nests were mapped extensively and a wealth of archaeological information was recovered, including the distinctions between the six Bohrok-types and various revealing inscriptions, such as the original engraving b-h-r-k (reconstructed variously as as bo-ha-ro-k or ba-ha-ro-k "unit of system-normality of life/balance", construed by historical linguists as "life-cleansing unit" or "unit of restoring balance”.

Investigation of the nests continued for several centuries, until the discovery of even deeper vaults containing what appeared to be purely organic protodermic organisms, all held in stasis. The revelation that organic protodermic life could exist independent of a mechanical component changed the Matoran understanding of biology significantly, and the similarity that the organisms bore to Kanohi masks generated questions about the origins of these creatures, especially in light of the inscriptions which labelled the stasis chambers: k-r-n-h, reconstructed as ka-r-no-hu "hidden/internal application of power", construed as "internal controller; brain" (later kranohu > kranau > krana), paralleling the oldest inscribed forms of the word kanohi itself, (k-n-h).

Researchers managed to successfully exhume many of the Bohrok-units from their pods, and they made similar progress with freeing Krana from stasis. Unfortunately, in the ensuing period of experimentation, a series of incidents occurred which eventually led to the nests being declared off-limits and sealed by the authorities of Metru Nui. Among these incidents were several occasions where artificially-powered Bohrok were united with Krana and responded with violent and erratic behavior, some reacting by flinging their Krana at nearby researchers. In two cases, the Bohrok managed to dislodge a researcher’s Kanohi and replace it with a Krana. In these instances, before the Krana could be removed, the victims became completely unresponsive and instead began to compulsively repeat a distinctive set of phrases: "ta-hya. Hya-ta." The phrases were clearly archaic, but could be translated as "clean (the) essence (of smthg.)" (ta hya) and "make (it) clean" (hya-ta).

Afterward, the victims suffered debilitating psychological effects and obsessive behavior, many times carving the phrase ta-hya hya-ta into walls and surfaces. It was for these and other reasons that active experimentation on Bohrok and Krana was shut down and the nests were sealed off. Nevertheless, some researchers persisted. Most notably, a Ce-Matoran linguist named Roaku became interested in studying the vocal systems of the Bohrok-specimens that had since been transferred to the Onu-Metru Archives. Roaku noted that, when active, Bohrok made a particular repetitive utterance, which was originally thought to be simply a meaningless mechanical reflex (transcribed as chikt or chkt in the literature).

She hypothesized, however, that this utterance might in fact bear meaning and also that there might be a connection between this repetitive Bohrok-utterance and the utterances made by Matoran under the influence of Krana. After extensive study of Bohrok anatomy, she concluded that the Bohrok vocal tract reflected a design similar to that of the Matoran, but with a much smaller articulatory range.

Roaku then performed a series of experiments: She meticulously replicated Bohrok vocal organs and fed streams of recorded Matoran speech through the fabricated system. Results were inconclusive initially, until Roaku finally perfected the design. The culminating experiment occurred when Roaku fed the original utterance made by Krana-controlled Matoran – ta-hya hya-ta – through the system. The result astounded her: The translation through the Bohrok vocal-tract had the effect of applying a series of phonological reduction-rules whereby the input speech was heavily (but systematically) modified and truncated. The input and output speech is represented informally as follows:

Input: ta-hya hya-ta
Reduction: tahyahyata > tǝhyǝhyǝt > tǝkshǝkshǝt > t'kshǝksh't > tshǝkt
Output: chikt, chkt

Roaku formalized the following set of rules to describe the phonological reduction from Matoran to Bohrok:

Original Matoran: ta-hya hya-ta
Phonetic transcription: [ta.hya.hya.ta]*
Rule 1: Vowel reduction of [a] > [ǝ] and final vowel deletion: [ta.hya.hya.ta] > [tǝ.hyǝ.hyǝt]
Rule 2: Frication/phonetic reinforcement of [hy] to [kS]**: [tǝ.hyǝ.hyǝt] > [tǝ.kSǝ.kSǝt]
Rule 3: Deletion of unstressed vowels: [tǝ.'kSǝ.kSǝt] > [tkSǝkSt]
Rule 4a: Reduction of [kS] to [S] after [t]: [tkSǝkSt] > [tSǝkSt]
Rule 4b: Reduction of [kS] to [k] before [t]: [tSǝkSt] > [tSǝkt]
Spelling: [tS] = <ch>, [ǝ] = <i>
Final form: chikt, ch'kt/chkt

*[y] here signifies the equivalent of [j], i.e. a palatal glide or approximant in human articulatory terms.
**[S] signifies the equivalent of a palatal fricative in human articulatory terms, while [tS] is the equivalent of an alveopalatal affricate.

Roaku brought her results before the leading council of Metru Nui: the Bohrok were somehow connected to the Matoran, not only anatomically, but also in that the Krana which served as the minds of the Bohrok were clearly imbued with some communicative ability, in particular an ancient form of the Matoran Language which was conveyed (though imperfectly) through Bohrok vocalizations.

She implored the council to lift the ban on further archaeological research, arguing that the Bohrok might shed light on areas of Matoran history that had long been forgotten, including the origins of Matoran prior to the Coming of Mata Nui. Sadly, the council rejected Roaku's request, and much of her work was deemed classified.

However, one quote remains from Roaku’s initial public appeal to the council, in which she condemned plans that had been put forward by others to destroy or otherwise interfere with the Bohrok nests. After denouncing these intentions as immoral, she concluded her speech with the following phrase:

Ai ro'o-pa . . . no o akai zakihukya-su-rhu ki o akai urhaya!

Translated: “They are our brothers (ro’o, lit. ‘our comrades/sisters/brothers’) . . . and we dare not oppose them! (akai urhaya (> Modern raya), lit. ‘cause them system-abnormality’)”

Although her primary appeal to the council was rejected, Roaku’s initial condemnation of any destructive interference with the Bohrok was instrumental in the council’s decision to reject such plans. Instead, the nests were simply sealed off to the public, and information about them was restricted.

Little did Roaku know that her words would echo the sentiments expressed by the Bahrag Queens themselves nearly 70 millenia later in their initial battle with the Toa Mata (as recounted by Toa Gali):

Bahrag: Ou akai zakihukya-nu ki ou ro'ou urhaya!

Translated:

“You dared to oppose your brothers!”




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Irnakk the Fearsome: As real as pain and death

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Long Entries, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology, Writing?? Nov 23 2014 · 291 views

Irnakk the Fearsome: As real as pain and death


[yikes]


Although Matoran culture doubtless remains the most widely recognized and influential of the cultural systems which arose within the Matoran Universe, it was not the only culture to exist. The various non-Matoran races created by the Great Beings eventually formed their own individual cultural variations, although the imprint of Matoran culture remained. One interesting example of this interplay between cultural concepts – especially an interplay represented in language – can be identified in the earliest stages of Skakdian society.

While the Skakdi were equipped with their own individual language, they were also competent to communicate in Matoran, and as such there was extensive language contact during the millenia preceding the arrival of Makuta Spiriah on the Skakdian home-island of Zakaz, after which Skakdian society underwent a series of drastic changes, as has been recorded elsewhere.

One of the core principles that characterized Matoran behavior and values – perhaps on par with the Three Virtues – was the concept of "system-normality", expressed in the Matoran language by the morpheme ha. This concept constituted an important lynchpin of early Matoran morality, and it was opposed by an antonymic concept of "system-abnormality", expressed by the complex morpheme ur-ha "not-system-normal" (ur- "negative, not"; ur-ha > rha > ra). This moral binary has observable correlates in most non-Matoran cultures throughout the Matoran Universe, including the Skakdi.

However, the Skakdian variation of ha was slightly different: Some of the central values of early Skakdian society lay in concepts of "power", "strength", and "physical/mental prowess", rather than the more general category of "system-normality". Accordingly, the Skakdi co-opted the Matoran stem na "elemental power/energy" as their own equivalent of Matoran ha-system-normality, with a correspondingly antonymic concept expressed by the complex ur-na (parallel to ur-ha): "powerlessness, wrongness, weakness, fear".

Interestingly, the word-form urna ultimately passed into Skakdi vernacular as the word irna (with unrounding and fronting of Matoran [u] to [i ] in accordance with Skakdi dialects), more commonly as a constituent of a word irnakk "creature of irna" (irnakk < irna-ki "lit. 'component of powerlessness/weakness/fear'", from irna and the Matoran morpheme ki "piece, part"). Initially, irnakk was used as a general term for "wrongdoer/criminal", "coward", or "dangerous ('fearsome') one". However, after Makuta Spiriah initiated his program of experimental mutation on the inhabitants of Zakaz and Skakdian society quickly dissolved into savagery, the term irnakk took on a different significance as part of a newly-innovated mythology:

Although few historical records survive, it is known that Skakdian rulers developed an extensive mythological tradition designed to enforce a modicum of order and maintain their authority over the populace, primarily through fear of punishment. At the center of this mythology was the figure of (the) Irnakk, a monstrous embodiment of all anti-Skakdian ideals, including "weakness" and "loss of strength/power", but even more centrally, archetypal fear and terror. In some sense, therefore, Irnakk is an etymological parallel to the Matoran word Rahi: rahi < ur-ha-hi "thing of system-abnormality; 'not us'" vs. irnakk < ur-na-ki "thing of fear; 'not us'" (-ki and -hi both originating as noun-markers from a similar source), and as such, Irnakk came to hold a significant place in the Skakdian psyche: a nightmarish reminder of the fate suffered by those who exhibited weakness or succumbed to fear.

A final point of interest comes in the form of a folk-etymology that arose in the period after the Irnakk-myth had been fully established. It involved an almost ritualistic phrase which was used as an imprecation to silence and condemn any Skakdi who expressed doubt about the existence of Irnakk: Ei iradi irai na kho, literally "He is as real as pain and death". Given the brutal societal conditions faced by most Skakdi, concepts of pain and death were familiar and naturally effective as a means of quelling any disbelief, since the expression carried with it an unspoken threat of punishment. Translated into Standard Matoran, the phrase would be glossed as follows:

ai e-rode e-rahu no khu
he as-real as-pain and death
"He (is) as real as pain-and-death."

The folk-etymology is based on the claim that the name irnakk is actually a contraction of the latter portion of this phrase: Matoran e-rahu-no-khu, Skakdi irai-na-kho "(as) pain and death" > iranako > irnakk. Interpreted in this sense, the malediction takes on further dread significance, as it is essentially the equivalent of responding to someone who doubts the existence of Irnakk by saying "He (Irnakk) is as real (as) irnakk".

It is fitting, therefore, that the only eyewitness account of Irnakk – as a manifestation created to test the six Skakdi known as Piraka in the labyrinth beneath Mt. Valmai – reports the following exchange between the creature and the Skakdi Thok and Avak, in which Irnakk symbolically invokes himself as a means of rebuking the Skakdi's expression of unbelief (as witnessed by Toa Matoro and recounted afterward by his surviving comrades):

Thok:
Dialogue: Skino ei-si? Na skai akoka ski skiro Irnakk-ro!
Translation: "How can this be? Everyone knows there's no such thing as Irnakk!"

Avak:
Dialogue: Skai roka. Ai skai akokasi ski ei-ro.
Translation: "Tell it that. Maybe you can get it to agree that it doesn't exist."

Irnakk:
Dialogue: Skiro, ai roka? Iradi irai na kho, a roka…
Translation: "No such thing, says you? As real as pain and death, says I..."


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Nuparu and the Dakhi-Na Vahki / The Six Commandments of the Law

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology, Writing?? Nov 12 2014 · 342 views

Nuparu and the Dakhi-Na Vahki / The Six Commandments of the Law


[also there]


The Onu-Matoran engineer-inventor Nuparu is well-known as the creator of the last generation of law-enforcement automatons to be implemented in the city of Metru Nui prior to the Great Cataclysm. This was the culmination of a series of attempts to control crime-rates and unrest spanning the period after the tragic events of the Matoran Civil War.

While it is true that Nuparu was primarily responsible for the conception and mechanical design of these automatons, he also played a role in articulating the socio-political philosophy behind their implementation. In the aftermath of the Civil War, many leaders sought to implement safeguards to prevent any future uprisings in the city—not simply because they desired to control the population, but because they also wished to prevent the reoccurrence of a state of affairs where the bloody intervention of the Makuta once again was threatened.

Various schools of thought arose, all centered around the concept of Vahki – "the Law" – and its application. Accordingly, Nuparu named his creations the Vahki. Furthermore, he consulted the Ko-Matoran Scholar and Historian Ihu about the history of Matoran legal systems. The oldest codified set of laws, said to have been transmitted directly from Mata Nui, was the Dakhi-Na Vahki "Six Commandments of the Law" (dakhi "(a) law, rule, commandment"), which articulated many of the basic principles of Matoran ethics.

vahki |n.| (the) Law; lit. "measurement of limitations" [vahki < vahiki < vdahiki < fata-hiki, from fata "restriction, limitation " and hiki "measurement"]
dakhi |n.| (a) law, rule, commandment; lit. "component of order" [dakhi < dakihi < zdakihi < zata-kihi, from zata "order" (see entry da) and kihi "part, component"]

Each of the six individual laws was eventually characterized by a single lexical compound, which stood as the "name" of the law. Drawing upon this historical material, Nuparu created six variations on the original Vahki-design, each specifically tailored to the enforcement of one of the Dakhi-Na and equipped with corresponding abilities. The laws are as follows:

I - Zadakh: "Thou shalt follow the plan."
zadakh |n.cmpd.| (the) law of schematic [zadakh < zadakhi < za-zatakhi, from za "schematic, structure, plan" and zatakhi "(a) law, rule, commandment" (see entry dakhi)]

II - Bordakh: "Thou shalt not betray life-integrity."
bordakh |n.cmpd.| (the) law against decay/failure/betrayal/disloyalty [bordakh < bordakhi < borzdakhi < bor-zatakhi, from bor "decay, failure; lit. 'opposite of growing/living/remaining'" (< bo-ur) and zatakhi "(a) law, rule, commandment" (see entry dakhi)]

III - Vorzakh: "Thou shalt not obstruct movement/vital-energy."
vorzakh |n.cmpd.| (the) law against obstruction of movement/energy [vorzakh < vorzakhi < vorzdakhi < vor-zatakhi, from vor "obstruction (of movement/energy); lit. 'opposite of movement/transmission'" (< vo-ur) and zatakhi "law, rule, commandment" (see entry dakhi)]

IV - Rorzakh: "Thou shalt not be idle/cease communication."
rorzakh |n.cmpd.| (the) law against idleness/non-communication [rorzakh < rorzakhi < rorzdakhi < ror-zatakhi, from ror "idleness, non-communication; lit. 'opposite of unit/word'" (< ro-ur) and zatakhi "law, rule, commandment" (see entry dakhi)]

V - Keerakh: "Thou shalt not injure/disassemble."
keerakh |n.cmpd.| (the) law against injury/disassembly [keerakh < keerzdakhi < keer-zatakhi, from keer "injury, disassembly; lit. 'opposite of unity-of-parts'" (< kee-ur) and zatakhi "law, rule, commandment" (see entry dakhi)]

VI - Nuurakh: "Thou shalt not forget."
nuurakh |n.cmpd.| (the) law against forgetfulness [nuurakh < nuurzdakhi < nuur-zatakhi, from nuur "forgetfulness; lit. 'opposite of memory'" (< nu-ur) and zatakhi "law, rule, commandment" (see entry dakhi)]

In addition to the choice of name for each Vahki, Nuparu also equipped each Vahki-type with abilities appropriate for the enforcement of the individual laws they represented:

- The Zadakh were equipped with Staffs of Suggestion, allowing them to enforce the commandment that Matoran should follow the plan or programming provided.

- The Bordakh were equipped with Staffs of Loyalty, enforcing the commandment against decay, failure, or betrayal by generating a strong sense of loyalty in the target.

- The Vorzakh were equipped with Staffs of Erasing, which inhibited higher mental function, enforcing the commandment against the obstruction of movement or transmission of energy by causing Matoran-units to revert to base-programming.

- The Rorzakh were equipped with Staffs of Presence, allowing the Vahki to monitor the senses of subversive individuals and enforce the commandment against idleness (not performing a particular labor for some reason) or non-communication (i.e. withholding information).

- The Keerakh were equipped with Staffs of Confusion, allowing them to enforce the commandment against injury (of another unit) or disassembly (of some structure) by disorienting and subduing the offender.

- Lastly, the Nuurakh were equipped with Staffs of Command, allowing them to enforce the commandment against forgetting or abandoning some task or purpose by directly forcing a command-directive upon a target and imposing obedience.

While Nuparu originally intended for the Vahki to represent the Unity of the Law (Vahki Kaita) by working as a whole throughout the city of Metru Nui, they were not implemented as such. Instead, each of the six Vahki-types became separately associated with one Metru and were largely restricted to working within that Metru, subverting Nuparu's original ideal.

Accordingly, as the role of the Vahki became more and more oppressive under the increasingly totalitarian leadership of Turaga Dume, Nuparu came to believe that, in spite of his good intentions for bringing about a final age of peace for his city, he had ultimately failed, and the revelation that Turaga Dume was in fact the Makuta Teridax in disguise only reinforced that belief. Despite the efforts of those who strove to establish the rule of law in Metru Nui, in the end, history repeated itself with the intervention of the Makuta, and the universe suffered the consequences...

Etymological Notes:

Five of the words listed above are derived via a common pattern: stem+ur+zatakhi. After standard processes of phonological reduction have applied – namely -urzata- > -rzada- > -rzda- – this results in a triconsonantal cluster [rzd]. This cluster is further reduced according to the application of three different phonological rules, as follows:

- Rule 1: [rzd] > [rd] / V__
This means that, when the cluster [rzd] is preceded by a short vowel, it reduces to [rd]. This rule applies in the word bordakh (< borzdakhi).

- Rule 2: [rzd] > [rz] / C[+cont]V__
This means that, when the cluster [rzd] is preceded by a short vowel and a consonant which is a continuant, it reduces to [rz] (i.e. instead of [rd], as in Rule 1). This rule applies in the words vorzakh (< vorzdakhi, [v] = continuant consonant) and rorzakh (< rorzdakhi, [r] = continuant consonant).

- Rule 3: [rzd] > [r] / V:__
This means that, when the cluster [rzd] is preceded by a long vowel, it reduces to [r] (most likely with an intermediate stage [rd] or [rz]). This rule applies in the words keerakh (< keerdakhi < keerzdakhi) and nuurakh (< nuurzakhi < nuurzdakhi).


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Ik(h)ukravai: The Night of Life and Death

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Oct 31 2014 · 195 views

[boo]

rakha-su-hakha |idm.| trick or treat [From rakha "to trick; lit. 'make smthg. system-abnormal'", su "or (conj.)", and hakha "to treat; lit. 'make smthg. system-normal"]

======================

The origin of this phrase can be found in the development of a relatively recent Matoran holiday, originally celebrated in Metru Nui and later transplanted into the Matoran-Agori culture of Spherus Magna. The holiday began as a memorial marking one of the greatest losses of life that occurred during the Toa-Dark Hunter War in Metru Nui: "The Night of Life and Death", popularly termed the Ikukravai or alternately Ikhukravai.

The variation in the name of the holiday is actually an intentional pun: i-ku-kravai translates as "night of life/living-things" (i- "of, from", ku "life(-process), spirit", kravai < kravahi "night"), whereas i-khu-kravai translates as "night of death/dead-things" (khu "separation", related to kaukhu "death; lit. 'separation from life'").

The phrase rakha-su-hakha is connected to the events of Ik(h)ukravai as follows: During the various nighttime ceasefires that were established throughout the course of the war, the sentries guarding Toa-controlled portions of Metru Nui would routinely use the phrase rakha-su-hakha as a watch-word, equivalent to "Are you friend or foe?" or "Do you intend us good (hakha) or ill (rakha)?"

On the night of the Ik(h)ukravai, a substantial force of Dark Hunters broke the ceasefire by ambushing sentries along the western edge of Ta-Metru and making an incursion toward the Colisseum. Initially caught off-guard, the forces of the Toa eventually rallied and managed to repel the invaders, but not without sustaining massive casualties, including many Matoran. According to legend, the twin moons of Metru Nui – referred to superstitiously as "the eyes of Mata Nui" – dimmed to blackness in the aftermath of the carnage, and it is said that the spirits of slain Toa and Matoran wandered the ruined streets for a time, clutching their broken masks, until an ominous Red Star appeared briefly in the sky where the moons had shone.

Historians count the Ik(h)ukravai as one of the culminating battles of the war, which precipitated the final resolution of the conflict. In modern times, however, the holiday has shifted to become a festival celebrating spiritual horror and the Matoran concept of the macabre, as well as the mystery of Matoran death. Participants traditionally wear specially-crafted Kanohi which are forged to appear broken or ruined in some way, and continue to greet each other with the phrase rakha-su-hakha. Tradition prescribes that if someone you do not know greets you with rakha-su-hakha, you must exchange masks with them temporarily, in order to "ward off the Red Star" ("initoi hauya")...


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Roots & Stems

Posted by Tolkien , in Language and Etymology, Matoran Language, Bionicle, linguistics Aug 31 2014 · 321 views

Oh hi. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? At least, it’s been a while since I posted anything of substance here. I’ve actually been pretty freakishly active on my tumblr blog over the last couple of months, although not so much in recent weeks. That’s due to the fact that the academic year has once again begun, and my time is now mostly consumed by a combination of teaching and coursework. woo
But, in spite of that, I have managed to eke out something that might be of interest to the Matoran language enthusiasts that still lurk hither. It’s something that has been in development for a long time, and it’s bound to continue developing in future, as usual, but I felt like it had reach a sufficient stage of maturation to post. So here it is:

ROOTS & STEMS


One of the most difficult (and yet, most satisfying) parts of thinking about Matoran etymology is seeing just how far we can reduce the set of original root-stems that might have formed the lexical inventory of the Matoran language in its most ancient state (i.e. the state of the language as programmed by the Great Beings). This has pretty much been a constant preoccupation of mine, since every additional stem that we have to posit in order to sufficiently derive all known Matoran words is technically an additional departure from the canon. Ideally, we’d be able to derive every Matoran word by relying solely on a small pool of well-motivated stems which are combined in consistent and logical ways to create the complex forms we see. Over the past several years, this pool has fluctuated wildly, but overall I’m happy to say that it has grown consistently smaller. In fact, at this point in the project, I can say with pretty good certainty that it is possible to derive every known Matoran word from a pool of stems consisting of about 16 elemental stems (ta, ga, le, (o)nu, po/pa, ko, vo, fa, bo, de, fe, ce, su, ba, av, kra, no/na) plus roughly 16 additional stems with varying semantic values. An entire lexicon and grammatical system derived from the combination of ~32 primitive items? Seems like a pretty good result to me! =p
And that finally brings me to the point of this entry: a provisional list of the ~32 stems coupled with the semantic domains that they (supposedly) cover. I won’t attempt to provide any justification for these other than to direct you (as always) to the Matoran Dictionary and the Matoran Grammar, where most, if not all, of these stems manifest in one form or another.

ELEMENTAL STEMS:

TA -- fire; courage/bravery; essence, being; cause/initiation, inception
GA -- water; purity; progression
LE -- air; cohesiveness, accuracy; habituality
(O)NU -- earth; firmness, steadfastness; past-orientation, memory
PO/PA -- stone; strength, stolidness; reliability, friendliness; present-orientation
KO -- ice; clarity, knowledge, sight; foresight, future-orientation
VO -- lightning; energy; movement, conduction/transmission; ability

FA -- magnetism; field, range, limitation; perfectivity
BO -- plant-life; permanence; patience, stativity
DE -- sonics; ?sensitivity, ?precision

FE -- iron; metal; invention, innovation
CE -- psionics; mind; (epistemic) possibility
SU -- plasma; consumption, conversion; (deontic) necessity
BA -- gravity; weight, balance
AV -- light; enlightenment, ?revelation
KRA -- shadow; obscurity
NO/NA -- protodermis, substance, matter; the protodermic Elements

NON-ELEMENTAL STEMS:

KA -- unity; power, energy, potential; ?system-normality (?> HA)
MA -- duty; control, use, mastery
VA -- destiny; time
HA -- system-normality; ?activity, process (?> HU)
HI -- thing, object (> hi); part (> ki); intensive (> -k)
HU -- activity, process
RO -- unit, individuation
ZA -- schematic, plan, structure
AR -- affirmation, presence, realis (ar-); application, realization (> ­-ar)
UR -- negation, absence, irealis (ur-); antonymy (> -ur)
WA -- mass, quantity, magnitude; ?relation, property
AI -- basis of deictic grammatical affixes (> ai-, -ai, i-...-a; > ai-ai > i-ai > yai > YI)
IA -- basis of non-deictic derivative affixes (> -ya, a-...-i; -a-wa-i > -aui > -ui)
YI -- contact, connection, together(ness) (< AI+AI)
?LA -- positivity, goodness (?< LE)
?NI -- ?being, star (?< NO/NA)
?SI -- possibility, variation (?< CE)


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star-spangly

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Holidays, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Jul 04 2014 · 253 views

July 4th? Independence Day? This seemed appropriate:

"The Star-Spangled Banner" (first verse)

O say can you see / by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed / at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars / through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, / were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, / the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night / that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Matoran Translation:

"Ni'uma Runa"

Ou avahima / ki i'akuyaka,
Ki o maui ilo- / -ma'a-ngu akuyanu,
Wairho ni-avaui / raui-i'azaia
Akuwi-maikoro, / akakui movyaganu?
Koradak-toiavka / ile'a krayaga,
Akramu ki akya / ki runa'o boya,
'ko-rya, ni'uma-runa ivyaka-lei
Rokua-miwahi no roaki-mirei?

Time to go eat good food and watch some fireworks with the fam. Happy 4th.






Chapter I

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