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Learning Matoran: Lesson 6

Posted by Tolkien , in Matoran Language, Long Entries, linguistics, Language and Etymology, Bionicle Feb 12 2013 · 226 views

LEARNING MATORAN

- LESSON 6 -

 
Well, it’s been a long time. Time makes for changes. Change is scary. But after a long hiatus, I’ve worked up the motivation to post another installment of this project. Recently, I have actually been surprised to see some interest in the continuation of this endeavor, and for that I am grateful.
 
I’m afraid the changes to this conception of the Matoran Language have been significant--enough so that some of the previous lessons are now a bit outdated. This installment will deal with a more in-depth description of verbs in Matoran. Luckily, I never delved too deeply into the verbal system in previous lessons, so the changes won’t really be apparent. The pronominal system is largely intact, so check out Lesson 5 if you need a refresher. Nouns won’t make an appearance at all, so you don’t have to worry about them. One extremely minor change: I have been using the macron diacritic over a vowel to indicate a long vowel (ā, ē, ō, etc.), mainly as a space-saving convention. A double vowel is technically more in line with the orthography of Bionicle names, and it can still be used.
 
One final note: the tone of this “revised” lesson may be slightly less user-friendly than the tone of prior lessons. I’m afraid that that is an unfortunate result of the more in-depth nature of the topics discussed here. If you are really interested in learning more about some particular facet of this version of the Matoran Language, but find that the discussion here is worded obtusely or in a confusing manner, or if you have any general questions at all, feel free to leave a comment and let me know or send me a PM. Otherwise, have fun.
 
I. Verbs: Overview.
 
Verbs in Matoran are different from the typical English verb. They are made up of a stem and a verbal particle. There are three major verbal particles that will be mentioned here: ha, ya, and ma. These particles basically serve to indicate that the stem with which they are paired is of the category “verb” (rather than another category, such as “noun” or “adjective”). Some examples of common verbs are ka ma “to move”, ora ha “to speak”, and mat ya “to use/master”.
 
The combination of stem+particle will be referred to as the verbal complex.  This complex does not always form a rigid unit, since the particle can be separated from the stem in many cases. A few examples will illustrate (recall that the first person subject pronoun is o “I”):
 
1) a. o ka ma   “I move.”
    b. o ma ka   “I do move.”
    c. o ora ha   “I speak.”
    d. o ha ora   “I do speak.”
 
(1a) compared to (1b) and (1c) compared to (1d) show one particular difference in the positioning of the particle with respect to the stem. If the particle is placed before the stem, it serves to emphasize the “reality” of the event described, much as in English. Placing the particle after the verb is the more standard procedure, however. Note that, in both cases, the subject (o “I”) precedes the entire verbal complex (stem+particle). It is a general rule for subjects to precede the verbal complex (especially when they are pronominal).
 
The particle ya is slightly irregular compared to ha and ma. When it is positioned before the stem, it is essentially “split”, leaving behind a vowel i, while a is displaced before the stem as usual (mat ya > a mat i).
 
In writing, the stem and particle can be written either as separate units (as above), as a single unit (i.e., kama, maka), or as separate units joined by a dash (ka-ma, ma-ka). It is usually standard procedure to write the stem and particle as a single unit when the particle follows the stem (kama), but as separate units (joined by a dash or not) when the particle precedes the stem (ma ka, ma-ka, but not usually maka). These are not hard-and-fast rules, but I will follow them in most cases for the sake of clarity in the discussions that follow.
 
II. Verbs: Inflection.
 
Verbs in Matoran are inflected for Tense and Aspect. Tense takes the form of Present Tense, Past Tense, and Future Tense. Aspect takes the form of Imperfective Aspect (non-completed action) and Perfective Aspect  (completed action).
 
IIa. Tense.
 
Tense is encoded on the verbal particle by modification of the basic form of the particle.
 
Present Tense is the simplest, with no change to the particle:
 
2) a. oraha > o oraha “I speak.”
    b. matya > o matya “I use (smthg.)”
    c. kama > o kama “I move/go.”
 
Past Tense changes the vowel of the particle to -ō (can be written -oo or just -o in shorthand; -ō develops from earlier -ā, showing that the formation of the past tense was originally just lengthening of the particle vowel a > ā):
 
3) a. ora ha > o orahō “I spoke.”
    b. mat ya > o matyō “I used (smthg.)”
    c. ka ma > o kamō “I moved/went.”
 
Future Tense changes the vowel of the particle to (can be written -ee or just -e in shorthand; develops from an earlier diphthong -ae, showing that the formation of the future tense was originally the addition of a vowel -e to the particle vowel -a > -ae).
 
4) a. ora ha > o orahē “I will speak.”
    b. mat ya > o matyē “I will use (smthg.)”
    c. ka ma > o kamē “I will move/go.”
 
Tense inflection can also occur with the reversed particle+stem configuration, in which case the tense-marked particle is simply displaced before the stem (e.g., orahō > hō-ora, matyē > ē-mati, etc.).
 
IIb. Aspect.
 
Aspect is encoded by the addition of an aspectual particle to the verbal complex. If no aspectual particle is added, the interpretation is ambiguous between the different types of aspect (e.g., imperfective, perfective, etc.). Aspectual particles always follow the verbal complex, regardless of whether or not the complex is stem+particle (e.g., ora ha) or particle+stem (ha ora):
 
Imperfective Aspect is equivalent in meaning to the progressive construction in English (be+...-ing: "I am/was/will be playing with Legos."). It is indicated by the addition of the particle ana to the verbal complex. This particle frequently merges with the stem or particle preceding it, taking on the form of a suffix more than an independent particle. In such cases, it can be written either as -na or -‘na. The imperfective particle can be used with all tenses: present, past, and future:
 
5) With present tense:
    a. ora ha > o oraha ana > o orahana OR o oraha’na “I am speaking.”
    b. mat ya > o matya ana > o matyana OR o matya’na  “I am using (smthg.)”
    c. ka ma > o kama ana > o kamana OR o kama’na “I am moving/going.”
 
6) With past tense:
    a. ora ha > o orahō ana > o orahōna OR o orahō’na “I was speaking.”
    b. mat ya > o matyō ana > o matyōna OR o matyō’na  “I was using (smthg.)”
    c. ka ma > o kamō ana > o kamōna OR o kamō’na “I was moving/going.”
 
7) With future tense:
    a. ora ha > o orahē ana > o orahēna OR o orahē’na “I will be speaking.”
    b. mat ya > o matyē ana > o matyēna OR o matyē’na  “I will be using (smthg.)”
    c. ka ma > o kamē ana > o kamēna OR o kamē’na “I will be moving/going.”
 
These tense/aspect combinations can also occur with the reversed particle+stem configuration, in which case the aspectual particle still follows the verbal complex and instead attaches to the stem itself (rather than the particle):
 
8) With present tense:
    a. ha-ora > o ha-ora ana > o ha-orana OR o ha-ora’na   “I am speaking.”
    b. a-mati > o a-mati ana > o a-matyana   “I am using (smthg.)”
    c. ma-ka > o ma-ka ana > o ma-kana OR o ma-ka’na   “I am moving/going.”
 
9) With past tense:
    a. ha-ora > o hō-ora ana > o hō-orana OR o hō-ora’na   “I was speaking.”
    b. a-mati > o ō-mati ana > o ō-matyana   “I was using (smthg.)”
    c. ma-ka > o mō-ka ana > o mō-kana OR o mō-ka’na   “I was moving/going.”
 
10) With future tense:
    a. ha-ora > o hē-ora ana > o hē-orana OR o hē-ora’na   “I will be speaking.”
    b. a-mati > o ē-mati ana > o ē-matyana   “I will be using (smthg.)”
    c. ma-ka > o mē-ka ana > o mē-kana OR o mē-ka’na “I will be moving/going.”
 
Perfective Aspect is equivalent in meaning to the perfect construction in English (have+...-ed: "I have/had/will have played with Legos."). It is indicated by the addition of the particle anga to the verbal complex. This particle frequently merges with the stem or particle preceding it, taking on the form of a suffix more than an independent particle. In such cases, it can be written either as -nga or -‘nga. The perfective particle can also be used with all tenses: present, past, and future:
 
11) With present tense:
    a. ora ha > o oraha anga > o orahanga OR o oraha’nga “I have spoken.”
    b. mat ya > o matya anga > o matyanga OR o matya’nga  “I have used (smthg.)”
    c. ka ma > o kama anga > o kamanga OR o kama’nga “I have moved/gone.”
 
12) With past tense:
    a. ora ha > o orahō anga > o orahōnga OR o orahō’nga “I had spoken.”
    b. mat ya > o matyō anga > o matyōnga OR o matyō’nga  “I had used (smthg.)”
    c. ka ma > o kamō anga > o kamōnga OR o kamō’nga “I had moved/gone.”
 
13) With future tense:
    a. ora ha > o orahē anga > o orahēnga OR o orahē’nga “I will have spoken.”
    b. mat ya > o matyē anga > o matyēnga OR o matyē’nga  “I will have used (smthg.)”
    c. ka ma > o kamē anga > o kamēnga OR o kamē’nga “I will have moved/gone.”
 
These tense/aspect combinations can also occur with the reversed particle+stem configuration, in which case the aspectual particle still follows the verbal complex and instead attaches to the stem itself (rather than the particle):
 
14) With present tense:
    a. ha-ora > o ha-ora anga > o ha-oranga OR o ha-ora’nga   “I have spoken.”
    b. a-mati > o a-mati anga > o a-matyanga   “I have used (smthg.)”
    c. ma-ka > o ma-ka anga > o ma-kanga OR o ma-ka’nga   “I have moved/gone.”
 
15) With past tense:
    a. ha-ora > o hō-ora anga > o hō-oranga OR o hō-ora’nga   “I had spoken.”
    b. a-mati > o ō-mati anga > o ō-matyanga   “I had used (smthg.)”
    c. ma-ka > o mō-ka anga > o mō-kanga OR o mō-ka’nga   “I had moved/gone.”
 
16) With future tense:
    a. ha-ora > o hē-ora anga > o hē-oranga OR o hē-ora’nga   “I will have spoken.”
    b. a-mati > o ē-mati anga > o ē-matyanga   “I will have used (smthg.)”
    c. ma-ka > o mē-ka anga > o mē-kanga OR o mē-ka’nga “I will have moved/gone.”
 
IIc. Stem changes and irregularities.
 
Oh dear! You thought you were going to get off easy, didn’t you? Well, don’t be too nervous: most of these “irregularities” are pretty straightforward:
 
- Verbal complexes containing the particle ha exhibit a strengthening of h to kh when it occurs between vowels. Thus:
 
17) a. ora ha > orakha (basic present tense)
       b. ha ora > ha-ora (basic present tense, particle+stem order, no strengthening)
       c. ora ha ana > orakhana (present imperfective)
       d. ha-ora ana > ha-orana (present imperf., particle+stem order, no strengthening)
 
- Verbal complexes containing the particle ma in which the stem ends in a vowel (e.g., ka ma “to move/go” but not jut ma “to decay”) exhibit an assimilation of m to n in the presence of the imperfective particle ana, along with an overall reduction of the verbal complex itself. This only occurs in the present tense:
 
18) a. ka ma ana > kamana > kanna (present imperf.)
       b. ka mō ana > kamōna (past imperf., no assimilation/reduction)
       c. jut ma ana > jutmana  (present imperf., no assimilation/reduction)
 
[Does (17a) look familiar? How about (18a)? If you’re familiar with the previous Lessons (Lesson 3, to be precise), you may recognize that these “irregularities” are essentially the same as the “stem gradation” of older versions of the Matoran Language. The end result is very similar, but the original system of “stem gradation” had no real etymological basis, so it was significantly revised. Is it a blast from the past, or just a horrible over-complication? I don’t know!*]
 
*I don’t care!

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Chapter I

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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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