[hey look a tumblr]
Treatise: Translating the Avohkii
: Part 2 : Check out the previous post for the full lead-in. Here’s a summary: There is an inscription written on the Mask of Light. The Mask of Light film novelization provides the “text” of this inscription, while the Mask of Light film itself has a sequence of actual dialogue where the inscription is pronounced. The two versions are different, but are clearly related. Starting with the version transcribed from the film, I will attempt to arrive at a translation of the inscription that (1) works within the (mostly non-canon) version of Matoran grammar and etymology outlined extensively on this blog and (2) makes (some degree of) sense within the larger context of the Bionicle storyline. In the upcoming analysis, therefore, I will be drawing heavily upon the entries found in the Matoran Dictionary (Vols. 1-8), as well as upon the various bits and pieces of Matoran grammar that I have developed in the Learning Matoran series, Lessons 1-8 (e.g., grammatical particles for nouns and verbs—locative and subject/object particles, pronouns, etc.). In addition, the analysis of the text will be informed by some theorizing about the in-universe context of the Avohkii’s creation and purpose. Time to delve into the nitty-gritty details. Here’s the transcription that I arrived at in Part 1:
Some general thoughts: Notice that the word makuta is clearly present, and the word taka also appears. Full disclosure, once again: the taka in this transcription is a “correction” I have made from tak[?], where the final syllable was indistinct in the film. Although the version of the text from the novelization seems to have a corresponding tahkee instead (cf. makuta-tahkee), I believe that the correction to taka will be justified in the end. Another familiar term is (what I have spelled as) whenu—very close to whenua. Furthermore, in comparison with the novel-version, the term a-tua-na could contain a variation of toa; the novel-version yields an equivalent toa-nak, in fact. These initial observations aside, let’s start by focusing on the first few words: ...mapaku ke whenu ka. As noted, a good place to start in the translation might be whenu, which resembles whenua. Here’s the relevant entry: whenua |n.cmpd.| hidden/secret underground [whenua < whe-nua, from whe “underground” and nua “hidden, unseen, secret”] Is this a good place to start though? Is it well-motivated if we want a translation that is as close to canon as a non-canon translation can get? In reality, that depends on the authenticity of the etymology of whenua. If I, as the translator, want to argue that whenua (or any other word encountered) is a legitimate candidate for incorporation in this translation, I have to be able to defend the etymologies that I’ve come up with. Alright, so let’s (try to) do that. Whenua is a compound of whe "underground" and nua "hidden, unseen, secret": whe |n.| underground [whe < uw-hī, from uw “under, lower, below” and the particle hī “thing, object, place”] Although I’ve used the postulated stem uw “under, lower, below” (variants w-, u, -a) in various other etymologies, it is probably the least well-attested of the elements at play here. There are two pieces of "evidence" that I can bring in its support, the first from the etymology for us "steed; lit. ‘under-thing’" and the second from the etymology of mangaia "under mangai". In the interest of time, I won’t go into the specifics, but suffice it to say that I believe the postulation of a stem element corresponding to uw "under, lower, below" (with variants) is reasonable. The second element, hī "thing, object, place" is much easier to defend, cf. my decomposition of kanohi, keahi, rahi, rahk-shi, mahi, etc. nua |adj.| hidden, unseen, secret [etymology uncertain; Variant forms: na, nu, ny] The defense of nua is more a matter of comparing the likely semantic domains of words in which (I claim) the element appears, viz. huna, nynrah, nuju, kranua, odina. My claim is that the common semantic element of these terms is in the range of "hidden, unseen, secret". The first two terms, hu-na and ny-nrah provide a certain amount of grounding for this meaning, regardless of its actual realization as na, ny (or elsewhere as nua). Alright, so that’s the rationale behind whenua. Whether or not it’s reasonable is certainly up to debate, but I will continue under the assumption that it is reasonable. So if we translate whenu as "hidden/secret underground", where does that leave us? It certainly gives us a direction to go in fleshing out the context of the rest of the inscription. Let’s see what else can we get from the surrounding text: Note that whenu is flanked by two monosyllables, ke and ka, that might be analyzed as separate words or grammatical particles, perhaps—the former at the very least. One correlation that quickly presented itself to me was the split-form of the basic locative particle -oki: -oki |p.| in, on, at; during (basic locative particle) [Variant form: ki/ke...o (splitting+displacement) - FD: LM#8] I won’t spend nearly as much time attempting to defend this translation choice, since there isn’t very much that can be defended: the "particles" (locative, objective, etc.) that I have introduced into Matoran etymology are, for the most part, of my own creation. However, I have found them extremely useful in deriving some rather tricky etymologies, and have been able to "retroactively" provide some evidence for them (cf. kiro, pouks for -oki). Regardless, as listed in the entry, this locative particle can be split into a circumfixal variant with initial ke- and final -o. If the ke in the inscription is in fact the locative particle, that would shift the meaning of ke-whenu to “in/on/at [locative] (a) secret underground (place)”. The -o element could easily become the victim of assimilation: ke-whenua-o > ke-whenuo > ke-whenu. This leaves ka. Continuing with the particle analysis, there is another locative particle that might prove to be a good candidate: the origin particle -ha (cf. arta-kha, mo-a, pek-ka, amay-a): -ha |p.| from, out of (origin particle) [Variant forms: -ga (after /n/), -ka (after consonants), -ka/-kha/-a (after vowels) - FD: LM#8] This particle manifests as -ka or -kha when it follows a vowel (beware: semi-arbitrary phonological rule!). If ka is the origin particle, this would further modify the meaning of ke-whenu-ka to “from [origin] within [locative] a secret underground (place)”, and we would have an example of two different particles modifying the same noun: ke-whenua-o-ka > ke-whenu-ka. How does this tie in to a relevant translation of the inscription on the Avohkii? Let’s translate a little further. We need to identify two things: (1) some kind of action or event—a verb?—within which to orient this concept of a thing “from within a secret-underground (place)” and (2) the thing itself that originates from the secret underground location—that is, the thing that ke-whenu-ka modifies or describes. The next few words may provide some insight: ke-whenu-ka kitu akila ... At first glance, there are no real distinguishing features that we can use to categorize these words. The same could be said looking back at mapaku. There are many directions that we could go here...too many, in fact. Whatever steps are taken after this, they are bound to be arbitrary and subjective to some degree. With this in mind: what follows is my own opinion to a much greater extent than the previous passages, so take it with that sizeable grain of salt: To accomplish a complete and coherent translation, I will choose to draw upon my own descriptions of Matoran verbal morphology, as represented in the Learning Matoran lesson (Lesson #6, in particular). I have proposed, minimally, that verbs in Matoran may take a pronominal particle/prefix to indicate either their subject or object. One of these is the third-person singular subject-pronoun ai- “s/he/it” (which may be contracted to a-) and another is the third-person singular object pronoun akai- “him/her/it” (which may be contracted to ak-). So if an a- or ak- prefix betrays a verb, we may have a candidate in akila: a-kila or ak-ila. How to decide? The answer may be somewhat straightforward: In a standard declarative sentence, it seems reasonable to assume that the verb would take a pronoun marking the subject. In a non-declarative—specifically, an imperative sentence (i.e. a command, “Throw the disk!”, “Kill the Rahi!”, etc.)—the subject (“you”) is generally implied (in human languages, at least), and so, if the verb is marked at all, it might be a reasonable for it to take a pronoun marking the object instead of the subject. Furthermore, the ending of akila does not show clear evidence of a verbal particle (e.g., -ya), so a further step would be to analyze akila as an imperative taking a third-person singular object pronoun: ak-ila. On a less grammar-oriented note, I believe the decision to analyze akila as an imperative can also be supported by assumptions about the context of the Avohkii-inscription: This is something that was written on a powerful Kanohi mask, presumably (my presumption) to inform others about its nature or function. I think it’d reasonable to assume that whatever is written on the Avohkii could take the form of instructions—commands. Continuing on: while imperative command-forms of verbs are generally assumed to be identical to the standard citation form (compare zya in the well-known Manas zya! “Attack the monster!”), it is no stretch to allow that imperative verb-forms could undergo minor reduction. As such, the closest candidate for a verb that would reduce to an imperative form ila might be something like il-ya. Looking at already-established (i.e. already sort-of-made-up!) verbs in the Dictionary, the following appears to be a promising option: el-ya |v.| to seek out [From the stem el “seeking/searching; detection, sense” and the verbal particle ya. Basically synonymous with el-ma “to seek, search”] If we define ak-ila in this way, the resulting meaning is “Seek out him/her/it”. Presto—we have satisfied task (1) above! We have identified an action/event—and it happens that the action/event can actually be interpreted as a command, a set of instructions. Interesting, no? Combined with the earlier ke-whenu-ka, we get the following: ... ke-whenu-ka ... ak-ila “Seek out (a thing/person) originating from within a secret underground (place)” It strikes me that this would be a significant thing for someone to write as instructions on a Kanohi that was meant for a particular type of Matoran—a type of Matoran that just so happens to originate from a very particular place within the MU…Hmm. I promise I’ll stop being so vague once we get a little farther along, though it may be obvious to you by now what direction I’m taking. We’ll see... Next time.
mapaku ke whenu ka kitu akila ahano nano atuana makuta taka