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Learning Matoran: Lesson 7

Posted by Tolkien , in Matoran Language, Long Entries, linguistics, Language and Etymology, Bionicle Feb 18 2013 · 643 views

- LESSON 7 -

We’re back! Might as well jump right in. This lesson, we’ll be looking at some aspects of the paradigms for nouns and pronouns. It's fun! I promise.
I. Nouns and Pronouns: Overview.
As you may have guessed, nouns in Matoran are a bit different from typical English nouns. Just like verbs, they are generally made up of a stem and they may take a variety of particles expressing different relationships between the noun and other elements (verbs, other nouns, etc.) in the sentence. Unlike verbs, however, nouns in Matoran do not take a dedicated set of particles in the same way as verbs. For example, many nouns are simply stems in their own right, while all verb-stems must be paired with a verbal particle. Nominal particles do exist, of course, and some of them function in similarly to verbal particles, i.e. indicating that the stem with which they are paired is of the category “noun”, rather than some other category. Such particles would technically be referred to as “derivational”, and they contrast with the “functional” particles that are more abundant for nouns. These functional particles will be the primary subject of the following discussions. In this respect, verbal particles are both derivational and functional: they indicate that the stem is a verb, in addition to encoding functional content such as Tense. In contrast, nominal particles are mostly functional, encoding content such as “subject”, “object”, “possessor”, etc. Regardless, as in the case of verbs, the combination of stem+particle will be referred to as the nominal complex when necessary.
Pronouns follow the same paradigms as nouns, although they are, in many respects, more irregular. Originally, pronouns took nominal particles identically to nouns, and they therefore encoded the same functional content (“object”, “possessor” etc.). With time, however, pronoun+particle sequences merged drastically, such that, in current stages of Matoran, they form single units.
We will begin with a discussion of the subject forms of pronouns (the simplest paradigm) before moving on to a discussion of the paradigms for a few of the essential nominal particles, a complete discussion of the other (more complicated) paradigms being delayed until later.
II. Pronouns: Subject Forms.

Before we get to a discussion of particles and the nominal complex, we’ll start off with some simple things. For this section, all you need worry about are the subject forms of pronouns (these were called “nominative” in previous lessons—same function). In anticipation of future discussion, however, it will be good to know that the “subject” category contrasts with the “objective” category, which, for nouns, includes a basic “objective” particle indicating direct/indirect object status (I threw the snowball.), as well as a range of more descriptive markers indicating spatial and temporal positions (“I arrived in Ko-Koro before sundown.”), along with aspectual contours of events (“I threw the snowball to Kopeke” vs. “I threw the snowball at Kopeke” vs. “I threw the snowball toward Kopeke”, etc.).  
The subject forms of pronouns for first-person through “fourth-person” (an impersonal/generic pronoun “one, some”) are as follows (the particle indicates plural number):
   Sg.       Plural
1 o          o nā
2 oa        oa nā
3 ai         ai nā
4 ua       ua nā
You can see that the paradigms for the plural pronouns are actually much simpler now than they were in previous lessons. Rejoice! Subject-pronouns are usually positioned directly before the verb. This is a fairly rigid rule; however, due to the variability of word order in Matoran, an object or other element could intervene between the subject-pronoun and verb. This is much more common when the subject is non-pronominal, however. The following examples will illustrate:
1) a. o okoma   “I sleep.” (oko ma “to sleep; to pause/rest”)
    b. ai nā okonnā   “They are sleeping.” 
    c. oa orahō   “You spoke.”
    d. ai orahōna   “He was speaking.”
    e. o nā kamē   “We will go.”
    f. ua orakha “One speaks...” (example context: “One should speak only when spoken to...”)
    g. airahi oa akumō “You saw Rahi.” (aku ma “to see”; airahi < ai-rahi. The particle ai is objective.)
    h. oa airahi akumō “You saw Rahi.”

The patterns of combination here are very straightforward. Note that (1g), which exhibits a full nominal object preceding the pronominal subject and the verb, would be more standard than (1h), which has a full nominal object intervening between subject and verb, although (1h) is certainly not ungrammatical.
III. Nominal Particles: Introduction.
Now that you’re aware of the overall structure of the nominal complex and you’ve been introduced to the subject-forms of pronouns, it’s time to jump into the first few types of nominal particles. These are the subject particle, the basic objective particle, and the possessive particle.
IIIa. The Subject Particle.
As its name suggests, the subject particle indicates that the noun is the subject of a sentence (generally the agent). The particle takes the form ai or ka, and is always positioned after the noun. The ai form generally occurs with stems ending in a consonant (ussal ai or ussalai), but can also occur with stems ending in a or a long vowel (or diphthong), in which case it is frequently shortened to -‘i (mata ai > mata’i; kolhī ai > kolhī’I, hau ai > hau’i). The ka form generally occurs with stems ending in a short vowel other than a (hoto ka, rhotu ka). As usual, the particle can be written as a separate word or attached to the noun either directly or with a dash.
One exception to the usage rules of ai/ka is as follows: if a stem ends with n, ka is frequently used instead of ai and merges with the noun stem itself, forming -nga: matoran-ka > matoranga.
Also, note that the subject particle is actual optional in many cases! For example, if a noun is placed directly before the verb (a common pattern), and information from context makes it possible to distinguish between the subject and object, the subject particle can be dropped. There is, in fact, an interesting interplay between word order and particle-marking that will be discussed in a later lesson.
IIIb. The Basic Objective Particle.
The basic objective particle indicates that the noun is a direct or indirect object, depending on the context and the verb involved. It is the most commonly used of the objective particles. The particle itself takes the form of ai or ak. The ai form generally occurs with nouns beginning in a consonant (rahi > ai rahi), while the ak form is used with nouns beginning in a vowel (ak ussal). As you can see, the particle is always positioned before the noun, and can be written as a separate word or attached to the noun either directly or with a dash (ai rahi, ai-rahi, airahi; ak ussal, ak-ussal, akussal).
One exception to the usage rules of ai/ak is as follows: if a stem begins with n, ak is frequently used instead of ai and merges with the noun stem itself, forming ang-: ak-nohi > angohi. This mirrors the exception to the usage rules of the subject pronoun discussed above.
Finally, note that, much like the subject particle, the basic objective particle is also optional in many cases, depending on the context, the presence of other forms of marking, and the word order. This interplay between factors will be discussed in-depth in a later section.
IIIc. Examples.
Now that you know something about the subject and basic objective particles, a few examples are in order:
2) a. matoranga ak-ussal usyōna.   "The Matoran was riding the Ussal." (us ya “to ride”)
    b. ai-piraka toa’i zyōna.   "The Toa attacked the Piraka." (zya “to attack”)
    c. turaga’i orahē  ai-matoran nā. "The Turaga spoke to the Matoran (pl.)."
    d. kanohika crasyō ak-azal. “The Kanohi repelled the attack.” (cras ya “to repel”, azal “attack”)
    e. gehelai galya.   “The river flows.” (gehel “river, stream”, gal ya “to flow”)
    f. angenu toa’i vikimē. “The Toa cut the grass.” (angenu < ak-nenu  “grass”, viki ma “to cut”)
    g. brakasai matyō ak-enerui. “The Brakas used (climbed) the vine.”
IIId. The Possessive Particle.
The possessive particle indicates—you guessed it—possession! It is attached to the possessor-noun (the noun that possesses something: Tahu’s mask, Makuta’s evil plan). The particle comes in two different flavors, each of which is historically descended from a single possessive marker. These two forms are wai, which is always placed before the noun, and ui or u’i, which is always placed after the noun. The wai form frequently truncates to wa- when the stem begins with a vowel. In addition, as you can see, the possessor-noun itself (stem+particle or particle+stem) is positioned after the noun it possesses.
Both of these markers descend from a single historical marker *-uai, which was originally placed after the noun. Recall, however, that in the case of verbs, verbal particles may be displaced before the stem to which they are attached. This is, in fact, a consistent pattern that extends beyond verbal particles, and the variation in the forms of the possessive particle are one of the results. Indeed, this concept of “variable position” will feature prominently in future discussions of the remaining objective particles.
A few examples, to conclude:
3) a. ussal wai-huki   “Hewkii’s ussal”
     b. onoto matoranui   “Matoran’s tool” (onoto “tool”)
     c. azahi pirakau’i   “Piraka’s crime” (azahi “crime”)
     d. onuyo wa-ihu   “Ihu’s mountain” (truncation of wai to wa; (o)nuyo “mountain”)

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