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In a hole in the ground there lived...


Learning Matoran: Lesson 4

Posted by Tolkien , Jan 31 2011 · 417 views
Language and Etymology
Lhe ke ovahi o,
gaa kaira teraio’na
a Taka a Kraa, e’ Arta a Khar.
Ie te ngie zyo.
I ava e’ awa ekamo.

During that time,
Two brothers ruled
Light and Dark, Arta and Khar
They strove against each other
And the first cast down the second.

-- From “The Legend of the Bionicle”


My, folks, it's been a while. Don't worry. I'm not dead or anything. The project continues!

In fact, it's like...it's like I can't stop.


Help me.


=l Nouns II l=

Recall again the basic structure of the Matoran Noun System: particles placed before, after, or around the noun which indicate the purpose of the noun in a sentence. Thus far, we have seen the first three of these particles—the Case Particles—dealing with the grammatical roles of Subject, Object, and Possession. Six particles remain, and these are split into two groups: Motion and Time/Location. We'll deal with the first group here.

Motion Particles:

The three-fold particle structure is repeated for particles indicating Motion. Otherwise, the Motion particles are rather straightforward.


The particle ii, placed before the noun, specifies motion toward, at, or into a noun. The plural form is nii.

wahi – “region”
ii wahi – “toward/into (a/the) region”
nii wahi – “toward/into regions”


Motion through, by/beside, or past a noun is expressed by the particle wo…a, with the plural form mo..a. This type of particle differs from the other particles discussed thus far, in that it consists of two parts—one placed before the noun and one placed after, but both forming a single particle. Therefore:

wahi – “region”
wo wahi a – “through/by (a/the) region”
mo wahi a – “through/by regions”

Technically, particles such as this would probably be classified as “circumpositions” (think preposition: before the noun; circumposition: around the noun). But, for the sake of simplicity, we will hold to the “particle” definition.

“From/Out of”

The last of the Motion particles is ka (plural nga), expressing motion out of, away, or originating from a noun. It is always placed after the noun.

wahi – “region”
wahi ka – “from/out of (a/the) region”
wahi nga – “from/out of regions”

This concludes the discussion of particles expressing Motion.

Simple Sentences:

Lastly in this lesson, I’d like to lay out some simple sentences, using vocabulary referenced in previous lessons.

Ne matoran ii wahi kamo.
"Matoran (pl.) went toward (the/a) region"

First, we have matoran with the nominative plural particle ne. This is, of course, the Subject of the sentence. Next, there's wahi preceded by the singular motion particle ii "to/toward". And lastly, we have the verb kamo, past tense (note the suffix -o) of kama "to move, go".

Rahi ui matoran wo wahi a kanna.
"The Matoran’s Rahi goes through the region."

The subject here is rahi (lacking the optional nominative particle i), and it is modified by matoran with the singular genitive (possessive) particle ui. Again we have wahi, now surrounded by the motion particle wo...a "through/by". This is followed by the verb: kanna (from kama) with gradation to show the present tense.

Wahi ka rahi kanne.
"The Rahi will go out of the region."

This sentence begins with wahi followed by the motion particle ka "out of/away from". Next we have the subject rahi, which in turn performs the action of the verb kanne (future tense, with both gradation and the suffix -e).

Something to notice in these sentences is the word order—the placement of nouns, verbs, etc. within the structure of a sentence. Matoran word order is less restricted than English word order, and thus we can see in the third sentence that the phrase wahi ka “out of the region” precedes the subject rahi: “Out of the region the Rahi will go.” This is not necessarily a standard structure for English, but in Matoran it is completely permissible, along with a variety of other permutations. For example, one could also say Kanne wahi ka rahi. "Will go out of region Rahi," or even Kanne rahi wahi ka. "Will go Rahi out of region."

Vocabulary and Exercises:

Here are some practice exercises focusing on some of the elements in this (and previous) lessons.

First, try translating these English sentences into Matoran:
1) "The Matoran spoke words."
2) "The Turaga's Rahi attacked the village." (<use terya as the verb)
3) "The Toa went to the city."
4) "The Matoran went to the Turaga's village."

Next, try translating these simple Matoran sentences into English:
1) Rahi kamo koro ka.
2) Matoran ea kanohi kharmo.
3) Ohanne toa ii suva.
4) Turaga orakha na oro.

And here's some useful (if rather random) vocabulary to help with both tasks.

kanohi, n. mask of power
kanoka, n. disk of power
koro, n. village
metii, n. head
metru, n. city
mua, n. rahi cat, tiger
oro, n. word
suva, n. shrine, gathering place
ussa, n. steed (< think "Ussal" crab)

atuma, v. to think, consider
kharma, v. to make, form
ohama, v. to come, move toward (Note: verbs such as ohama usually take particles of Motion on their objects)

If you happen to be interested in more vocabulary, take a look at the two volumes of the Matoran Dictionary.


Probably next on the docket: Lesson 5—Pronouns and Adjectives.



An Entry

Posted by Tolkien , Jan 11 2011 · 63 views
=l A Storm is Coming l=

A blog entry containing a contest entry. So two entries, technically. But only one of them really matters...

I'd surely appreciate it if you'd read it and tell me what you think. smile.gif



Listening To:

Posted by Tolkien , Jan 02 2011 · 43 views


Spectacular stuff, this.

And it never gets old, if you know what I mean.



Þæt Nīwe Gēar Cymen Hæfþ!*

Posted by Tolkien , Jan 02 2011 · 44 views
Happy New Year, people. I think it's going to be an interesting one.


Well, next on the docket is graduate school, starting in about three weeks. So far, I'm looking forward to it.

And since it's definitely a tradition now, here are my upcoming classes for the spring:

Old English Literature (Old English this semester was incredible, and this will be even better. Especially since the professor is one of the editors on the newest edition of Beowulf. Hey...haven't I mentioned that before? << Speaking of which, the Beowulf edition in that entry is the textbook. Heh, preemptive textbook-buying wins.)
Syntax (Hm...let's hope I remember my X-Bar theory...I haven't studied syntax for two or three years. Are they still drawing trees?!)
Phonology and Phonetics (I'm really looking forward to this class, since Phonology [and Morphology!] is definitely my strong suit in the linguistics field. Plus, I've known the professor for three years. That's always nice.)

Only three this time around? Yep, that's a full load. Problem is that it costs as much as four undergraduate courses. Ouch.


In other, non-academic news, I saw Tron: Legacy last week. Some comments:

» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

*translation: The New Year has come!



A Pleasant Surprise...

Posted by Tolkien , Dec 26 2010 · 58 views
I know I'm late on the draw, but I just wanted to post an entry expressing my thanks to BZP Reporter Senjo for the complimentary news article on Despair, as well as to the people who consequently went to read the story and gave their thoughtful responses. It's all been very encouraging.




Posted by Tolkien , Dec 20 2010 · 31 views

B.A. Get!




Posted by Tolkien , Nov 08 2010 · 67 views
Oh look, an SS.



[Wow, first time I've used that emote...like...ever.]


Learning Matoran: Lesson 3

Posted by Tolkien , Oct 27 2010 · 400 views
Language and Etymology
Ke ovahi o kii vahi,
ne kharra noie ma
ke kraa o karho,
Kii usmo Mata Nui
A avo inihe ka.

In the time before time
The builders of this world
Labored in Darkness,
Before the Great Spirit brought
Light out of the Heavens.

--From "The Legend of the Bionicle"

=l Intro to Verbs l=

Verbs in Matoran are slightly different from Nouns in that they do not rely solely on grammatical particles. There are some areas where particles are used, but overall these are not prevalent.

Verbs in Matoran indicate Tense (present, past, etc.), as well as Aspect—the “nature” of an action, finished or unfinished (if this is important to express). These functions are indicated by inflections, either in the form of suffixes or in the form of a process I will refer to as “gradation”, both of which are applied to the stem of the verb.

In this lesson, the three Tenses—Present, Past, and Future—will be discussed, in addition to the overall appearance of verbs.

General Appearance

Verbs in Matoran can be identified by their distinctive endings, which take the form of suffixes affixed to the verbal stem. There are a variety of these suffixes, but the four most common are -ma, -ha, -ya and -ai.


-ma – kama “to move”
-ha – oraha “to speak”
-ya – matya “to use”
-ai – terai “to struggle, strive”

Other suffixes include -ne, -re, and -we. These will be discussed in later lessons.

Basic Present Tense and Gradation

The present tense of a verb indicates an action which occurs in the present time.

The present tense is indicated by applying gradation to the verb-stem. Gradation refers to a process by which the consonants of the verbal suffixes are altered. The four primary suffixes listed above are gradated in the following way:

-ma becomes -nna
-ha becomes -kha
-ya/-ai* does not undergo gradation (although some exceptions)

*To clarify, the -ya/-ai suffixes are not normally gradated, but there are some verbs in which they undergo irregular changes. These instances will be discussed later.

The following are some examples of gradation at work in forming the present tense. I have listed the infinitive form of the verb (equivalent to the English “to [verb]”), followed by the present tense form. It can be seen that, in the case of the -ya/-ai stems, the present tense form is the same as the infinitive.

kama – “to move”
kanna – “move”

oraha – “to speak”
orakha – “speak”

matya – “to use”
matya – “use”

terai – “to struggle, strive”
terai – “struggle, strive”

Basic Past Tense

The basic past tense indicates an action that occurred before the present time.

It is formed with the suffix -o, which replaces the final vowel of the verb stem. Thus:

kama – “to move”
kamo – “moved”

oraha – “to speak”
oraho – “spoke”

matya – “to use”
matyo – “used”

terai – “to struggle, strive”
teraio – “struggled, strove”

Note the past tense inflection of terai, where the suffix does not replace a final vowel and is instead added directly to the stem.

Basic Future Tense

The basic future tense indicates an action occurring in the future, after the present time.

It is formed by a combination of gradation and the suffix -e, which replaces the final vowel of the verb stem in the same way as the past tense suffix.

kama – “to move”
kanne – “will move”

oraha – “to speak”
orakhe – “will speak”

matya – “to use”
matye – “will use”

terai – “to struggle, strive”
teraie – “will struggle, strive”

As in the past tense, the inflection of terai shows that the future tense suffix does not replace the final vowel.


Next up: Lesson 4—Nouns Continued.



Learning Matoran: Lesson 2

Posted by Tolkien , Oct 22 2010 · 450 views
Language and Etymology
Oe a gauru ur a terenye.
Vemo Mata Nui na lhihke lhia,
K’a kaihe a karnye a terevua.
Oe lhe na veta ovemo.

We were separate, and without purpose
So the Great Spirit gave us the Three Virtues:
Unity, Duty, and Destiny.
And these gifts we embraced.

--from “The Legend of Mata Nui”

=l Intro to Nouns l=

At the most basic level, Matoran and English nouns are, well, nouns. They represent persons, places, things, ideas, etc. Grammatically, however, Matoran nouns exhibit some features that are quite different from those in English.

The most pervasive feature of Matoran nouns is the system of grammatical particles by which the roles of different nouns are defined. Particles are function words which can indicate the grammatical roles of nouns, verbs, and/or adjectives in a sentence. In English, some prepositions actually approach the category of “particle” in some verbal constructions.

There are 9 particles in all, split into 3 distinct groups: Case, Motion, and Time/Location. The first group—Case particles—is the most vital to understand and will be discussed first.

[Although the other two categories of Motion and Time/Location should technically also be considered cases, I will separate them here because of the fact that they have much in common with adverbial elements.]

Case Particles:

First, it would be appropriate to explain the concept of Case. If you know or have taken a language like German, Dutch, or even Latin, you’ll know exactly what case is: the role that a noun plays within the structure of a sentence.

In English grammar, the roles of Subject, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Possessive, etc. are all functions of case. These roles are primarily indicated in English grammar by “word-order”: the placement of a noun in a sentence.

For example, the subject of a sentence is usually placed before the verb, while a direct or indirect object normally follows the verb. In many other languages, these roles can be indicated in a variety of different ways (inflection, for example), and word order is not emphasized as much.

This is the situation in Matoran, with different cases being indicated by particles, rather than word-order or inflection (suffixes, prefixes, etc.). As mentioned above, there are three particles to indicate case: subject, object, and possessive.

Subject (Nominative) Case

The Subject (or Nominative) Case, as evidenced by its name, marks the Subject of a sentence—the noun which performs the action of the verb.

It can be indicated by the particle word i, but this is not actually required and can frequently be dropped. Therefore:

matoran “Matoran”
(i) matoran “Matoran (as subject of sentence)" << Parentheses indicate that the particle is optional.

As can be seen, this particle is always placed before the noun. There is also a plural form of the particle: ne (also placed before the noun):

ne matoran “Matoran (pl., as subject of sentence)”

Object (Objective) Case

The Object (or Objective) Case marks a noun as the Direct or Indirect Object of a sentence—the noun which receives the action of the verb or to/for whom the action is done.

It is indicated by the particle a or ea (both are interchangeable). Like the Subject Particle, these are also placed before the noun. The plural forms of the Object Particle are na or nea. Examples:

a/ea matoran “Matoran (as direct or indirect object of verb)”
na/nea matoran “Matoran (pl.)”

Distinguishing whether or not the Objective Case is used as a direct or indirect object is a topic that will be discussed in a later lesson.

Possessive (Genitive) Case

The Possessive (or Genitive) Case indicates the possessor of an object—a noun which possesses another noun.

It takes the particle ui or wa (also interchangeable), which differ from the other two case particles in that they can be placed before or after the noun, depending on the sentence. The plural forms of the Possessive Particle are mi or ma. Examples:

rahi ui/wa matoran – “Matoran’s Rahi” (Matoran = possessor)
rahi matoran ui/wa – “Matoran’s Rahi”
rahi mi/ma matoran – (pl.)
rahi matoran mi/ma – (pl.)

Although the particle can be placed before or after the noun, it should be noted that the possessor-noun (here matoran) always follows the noun which is possessed (rahi).

Etymologically, the origin of the two distinct particle forms for the Genitive Case can be traced to a much earlier stage of the Matoran Language when ui and wa indicated, respectively, possessor and possessed. In time, the role of wa was decreased, and eventually it came to be used simply as a variant of ui.


Now that we have these three basic cases, we are one step closer to being able to compose simple sentences. The only thing lacking is Verbs, and these will be covered (somewhat) in the next lesson: Lesson 3—Intro to Verbs. Stay tuned.



Learning Matoran: Lesson 1

Posted by Tolkien , in Language and Etymology, Matoran Language Oct 17 2010 · 861 views
Language and Etymology

Ke ovahi o kii vahi,
Mata Nui uamo.
inihe ka usmo ia ngie,
ke orna hu Matoran,
lhe ii arta.

In the time before time
The Great Spirit descended
Out of the Heavens carrying we,
The ones called the Matoran
To this paradise.

--First lines of "The Legend of Mata Nui"

=l Preface l=

First, I must make a confession. For the past ten (or so) years, my primary hobby has been an obsession with constructing languages: "conlanging". In the words of J.R.R himself, it is the "secret vice". And, as might be expected, I have not been able to keep it from spilling over into my interest of Bionicle. This is the result: an attempt to formulate a grammar of the Matoran Language (using the basis of the dictionary already posted elsewhere in the blog).

As a basic principle, I have attempted to imitate some grammatical structures common to Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian, Māori, and Samoa. Ultimately, however, the majority of the grammar is more or less arbitrary (or "a-priori"). And, of course, this means that (almost) the entirety of the grammar presented here is non-canon.

But now to the point! This grammar will be posted in a series of lessons designed specifically for "beginners" (or, at least, "people who aren't hard-core linguistics-people"). A good general knowledge of "grammar" and "phonetics" will be an advantage to any reader here, but I will aim to present linguistic concepts in the least jargon-heavy manner I can come up with (no promises style_emoticons/default/tongue.gif). I'll be starting out with a discussion of phonology in this post, followed by posts on Nouns, Verbs, the Matoran Alphabet itself, Adjectives, Syntax (Sentence Structure), etc.

Enjoy, if you will.

Or as the Matoran say:

A kanga ri o'atukhe.

=l Lesson 1 l=

Basic Pronunciation

First, it's best to establish that, while Matoran obviously don't have the same vocal organs as humans (teeth? tongues? what?!), they are capable of producing a similar array of sounds; or, at least, similar enough that we humans can come pretty close.

With that said, here's a basic list of the principal sounds of Matoran with English equivalents where necessary. Unless otherwise specified, all sounds are pronounced as in English:


c – as <k>, except at the beginning of some words, where it is pronounced as <s> (an unfortunate hold-over from English orthography...>.<)
ch – always <k>
f – also spelled <ph> (a more archaic orthographic convention in Matoran)
g – always as in "dog"
kh –like the German <ch>, harsher than English <h> (would be called a "velar fricative")
j – optionally pronounced as in "jar" or "yard" (like <y>)
ng – as in "sing" at the beginning of a word; as in "finger" in all other positions
r – trilled, as Spanish <r>
rh – not trilled, more like English <r>
th – as in "think" (very rare)


a – as in "all"
e – as in "rate"
i – as in "machine"
o – as in "go"
u – as in "loose"
y – as German <ü> (rare sound). Pronouncing <i> ("machine") while rounding the lips like <u> ("loose") gives a close approximation.

All vowels can be either short or long. Long vowels are written simply by doubling the letter (aa, ee, oo, etc.) and are held twice as long as short vowels.

If you haven't dealt with spelling systems other than English before, the most important thing to remember is that every letter represents a sound—every letter is pronounced. There are no "silent letters" in Matoran, and there are only a few "digraphs" (two consonants with one sound: th, ch, etc.).


And that concludes Lesson 1. Thanks for reading if you got this far. Next up: Lesson 2--Intro to Nouns, which will hopefully be a little more interesting.


Chapter I

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"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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