inika "energies of a star"
Note that the translation we are given for this word is unique in that it is apparently a compound of two semantic units: "energy" and "star". That's different from the single-word definitions we usually get, and it also provides us with an example of what may be a noun+noun compound. Normally, we only get noun+adjective or adjective+noun sequences (e.g. mata+nui, kofo+jaga). In contrast, the word inika is apparently an example of two nominal units combined into a single lexical unit. Fascinating. I think we can take advantage of this.
Alright, let's try to break down inika into its constituent parts (assuming we can). As stated in the previous post, I define ka as "power, energy, ability". This provides us with some immediate insight into the composition of inika: the unit ini must encode the meaning "of (a) star". Now, as it stands, we don't really have a way to separate whatever encodes "star" from whatever encodes "of", if they are even separable at all. We'll have to do some guesswork in order to move forward here.
The first issue to be addressed is whether or not we should even assume that a meaning like "of" is even encoded here. We might easily assume that ini is "star", ka is "energy", and the combination is to be translated straightforwardly as "star-energy". We could do that, of course, and that would be the end of it. Blog post over! However, my purpose here is explicitly to consider places where we might be able to postulate affixes and, by implication, units with functional/grammatical meanings exactly like "of". The word inika provides us with the opportunity to derive just that: a morpheme encoding "of". Because of this, I will choose not to set it aside.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's try to break ini down further. First off, are there any other words that might provide clues on how to analyze ini? A quick search of the available Matoran lexicon gives a few exact matches – akil-ini, iru-ini, kav-ini-ka, k-ini – although none of these have canon translations except for kini "temple", which certainly doesn't reference stars overtly. Furthermore, if we relax the search parameters a bit, there are also numerous words containing elements like in and ni.
As a side note, we may also observe that the phonetic structure of ini is a little odd in comparison to the overall patterns of Matoran syllable-structure. Most syllables in Matoran are of the form consonant+vowel, CV, but the first syllable of ini (i-ni) violates this pattern. That's interesting, and it's also interesting that this initial i- pattern shows up in a few other places as well: i-carax, i-den, i-dris, i-gnika, and i-hu.
Alright, taking everything into account, does this help us at all? I think it does, actually. Here’s how: Among the various words containing variants of ini, I'd like to draw your attention to one in particular: nixie. Nixie is the name of a Ga-Matoran astrologer – a Matoran who studies the stars and their prophecies. Wouldn’t it make sense for an astrologer's name to reference the stars? I think it would.
This leads me to the following proposal: Based on the fact that nixie clearly shows ni, I propose to analyze ini as a complex i-ni: ni "star" with a prefix i- "of, from".
Are there any further advantages to this analysis? Well, let's consider the status of this newly-postulated affix i- and compare it with the other affix that's been defined thus far, that being the verbal marker -ya. One immediate contrast presents itself: -ya is a derivative affix, meaning that it is used to derive one type of word from another. In this case, -ya would derive verbs from non-verbs (stems, nouns, whatever).
On the other hand, i- is not derivative—it is what might be called a functional or grammatical affix, meaning that it adds on to the meaning of the word to which it is applied, rather than creating a completely new word, as -ya would. In this case, i- is being applied to ni "star", which is presumably a noun, and the affix contributes the meaning "of" to the original meaning of the noun, hence "of (a) star".
So that's one difference right off the bat. Do these affixes have anything in common though? Here are a couple of ideas: Recall from the last post that I've proposed that -ya can technically be dissolved into two units, i-a, and this becomes clear when -ya is split into its circumfixal form a-...-i. So we can say that -ya is to be reconstructed as *-ia. No problem. On a different but related note: elsewhere in Matoran etymology, I've made use of a particular phonological shift whereby a sequence <ai> changes to <i>, <e>, or <a> (presumably with an intermediate <ii> stage). The advantage of this postulated sound-change is that it allows us to tie together elements of words like miru, midak, damek, and madu, as well as even metru and matau.
Alright, back to *-ia: If *-ia is the original verbal marker, we could postulate that there are other affixes constructed from the same building blocks, but simply applied in a different way (e.g. affixes that are applied to nouns as grammatical/functional affixes instead of derivative affixes). Combining this with the phonological rule described above, we may have a plausible origin for the affix i-. Here's the proposal:
The prefix i- "of, from" derives from an older form *ai-, which can also be dissolved into two units a-i.
Okay, I think we've stretched the available data about as far as we can, so here’s a disclaimer: At this point I’m entering the realm of pure speculation and invention. Follow along if you dare!
Ultimately, I would like us to have a few more grammatical/functional affixes at our disposal in order to be able to translate texts into the Matoran Language. I will propose two such affixes based on the known prefix i-, hopefully with as little invention-work as possible.
First off, we already have an affix meaning "of", which, in this case, we could also paraphrase as "from" (as in "originating from") or even "after", if we want to think in temporal terms (originating from a point in time, i.e. after a point in time?). What's the opposite of "of, from"? How about "to, toward"? Alright, what kind of affix could we use to represent this? Since this affix will express a meaning that is opposite to i-, it might make sense for that opposition to be reflected in the form of the affix itself, as follows:
Proposal 1: There is a suffix -i which derives from older *-ai and expresses a meaning "to, toward" or "(temporally) before".
So that's one more grammatical/functional affix to work with, and we've managed to derive it simply as a reversal of i-. Excellent! What else can we do? At this point I'd like to turn your attention to a Matoran narrative device that should be familiar:
"In the time before time..."
This phrase seems to be used to introduce Matoran legends/mythohistory. Note that it makes use of grammatical/functional units like "in" and "before". There's a reason I have proposed that -i expresses a meaning like "to, toward; before". We now have a means of translating part of this phrase. But what about the remaining "in"? My second proposal will provide us with a means of expressing this concept, as follows:
The concept of "in the time" can be more accurately paraphrased as "during the time". This concept of "in, during" seems to fall somewhere between "from" and "to". Based on that observation, we might postulate that a corresponding grammatical/functional affix would reflect this in-between status in the same way that -i "to, toward" reflected its opposition to i- "of, from":
Proposal 2: There is a circumfix i-...-a which is derived as a split variant of the older affixes *-ai and *ai- and expresses a meaning "in" or "(temporally) during".
This leaves us with three grammatical/functional affixes to use on nouns in Matoran, as follows:
1. i-, ai- "of, from; after"
2. i-...-a "in; during"
3. -i, -ai "to, toward; before"
To conclude, I'll make use of the second and third affixes in translating the classic phrase "In the time before time...", using vahi as a stand-in for both instances of "time" (even though technically they represent different concepts: period of time vs. time as an abstract concept):
i-vahi-a "in/during (the) time"
vahi-ai "before time"
"In the time before time..."
- I've reduced i-vahi-a to ivaha as a general rule. Technically we could represent it in a different way: ivahia, ivahi'a, etc.
- For vahai, I've used the older -ai form of the third affix when it's applied to a word already ending in -i and reduced vahi-ai to vahai. This is simply to make it clear which affix is present. Again, this could be represented differently: vahii, vahiai, etc.