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Treatise: Translating the Avohkii, pt. 1

Posted by Tolkien , in linguistics, Movies, Long Entries, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Nov 29 2013 · 385 views

[also hey look a tumblr]

Treatise: Translating the Avohkii

: Part 1 :

It has come to my attention that the novelization of the Mask of Light film includes the following passage:


mapaku una-kanokee wehnua-hakeeta ah-keelahe hanoni rahun-ahk toa-nak panokeeta makuta-tahkee ohnah-koo

This is supposed to be Nokama’s reading of the inscription found on the Avohkii. Interesting, no? Even if the novelization is only semi-canon, this could provide material for expanding our (admittedly completely made-up) knowledge of the Matoran language. Where to begin?
I began by seeking out the scene from the film itself where Nokama translates the inscription. I remember watching this years ago and hearing her utter some gibberish, but it never occurred to me that it might have been meaningful gibberish. Unfortunately for linguists attempting to reconstruct Matoran, the comparison of the film and the text from the novelization raises some problems. The bad news: The passages aren’t completely identical. The film-version is definitely truncated. The good news: While the film-version is shorter, it actually shares many elements with the novel-version. Both of these passages clearly come from the same source, and it appears that the film-version may be a pared-down form of the version presented in the book.
So which one do we use? Maybe we can use both. First off, however, we need a transcription of the passage from the film. Here’s mine:


ma'paku <break> [??] ke'wenuka'kit[?] <break> 'akila <break> [?]'hano <break> 'nano <break> 'atuana <break> ma'kuta'tak[?]

- ' indicates stress on the following syllable. This won’t play a huge role, but it does help in determining some of the word breaks.
- <break> indicates a brief pause, which I take to indicate a word-break in most cases.
- ? in brackets [?] indicates an indistinct sound. The first [??] indicates that there may have been something within the break, but it was indecipherable.
If we compare this transcription with the text from the novelization, we can further refine the analysis to include the more well-motivated word-breaks:


mapaku [?]ke wenu-kakit[?] akila [?]hano nano atuana makuta tak[?]

I’ve put a dash between wenu and kakit[?] based on the orthography of the novel-version (wehnua-hakeeta). Likewise, for now I’ve kept [?]ke separate from wenu based on ...kanokee wehnua...
[Real world intrusion here—this strikes me as very Maori, and I would not be surprised if we were dealing with a non-phonetic version of Maori text in the novelization, with the actress who voiced Nokama in the film just reading it off the script phonetically (hence the extreme reduction). That doesn’t work for everything, of course, since the novel-version includes words that don’t seem likely to be completely lost through pure phonological reduction: rahun-akh, panokeeta, etc.]
Anyways, now that we’ve compared both versions a bit, the next question is: Which one is canon? As far as I know, the novelization is only semi-canon, while the film is full-canon, at least when it comes to events. It would be easy to just drop the novel-version, but then we’d lose a significant piece of potential data. Ideally, we should be able to come up with an analysis that accounts for and is informed by both.
So here’s the plan: I will start with the film-version, taking it at face value, rather than as a truncation of the “full” version in the novelization. If we can come up with a bare-bones translation for that, the translation of the novel-version should come easily. With that in mind, I’ll revise the transcription from the film:


mapaku ke whenu ka kitu akila ahano nano atuana makuta taka

Full disclosure: In anticipation of the final analysis below, I’ve filled in the [?]-gaps from the original in a way that I think is plausible (kit[?] > kitu, [?]hano > ahano, tak[?] > taka). I’ve also modified the spelling slightly (wenu > whenu). There is definitely some potential for error here, and there will be a few more modifications before we’re finished, but this should work for now.

Next step: What could this possibly mean? We never get a straightforward translation. Here’s what Nokama says after translating the passage (taken directly from MoL): “This is the great Kanohi Mask of Light. A mask to be worn by a seventh Toa...A Toa of Light.”
That’s pretty much it. Main points: The inscription may identify the mask as the Mask of Light, but then again, it may not, since the Turaga already knew what it was—they were the ones who hid it, after all. Likewise, the fact that it can only be worn by a “Seventh Toa” wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense in the inscription, since a seventh Toa isn’t all that special—there were hundreds (more on that later!). I think it’s likely that most of the dialogue related to the inscription was, in fact, theatrics. The Turaga simply revealed to the Matoran that the mask was the MoL and that there would be a “seventh” Toa—all of which the Turaga knew beforehand.
Instead, in attempting to translate this inscription, it may be more useful to look at the origins of the MoL itself. Who wrote this inscription and why? The MoL was made on Artakha, and it was created for the specific purpose of combatting the Brotherhood of Makuta should they ever leave the straight and narrow. Artakha himself may have been the one to write the inscription, but regardless, the mask had a purpose from the beginning, and it would make sense for the inscription to pertain to that purpose: If the Makuta ever go bad, take this mask and find an Av-Matoran. I think it makes sense, at least! But we won’t know until we’ve got a translation, will we? This post has set the stage for just such an endeavor...
Next time.




Posted by Tolkien , in Movies, Life Dec 20 2011 · 88 views
the hobbit, the dark knight rises and 1 more...
First The Dark Knight Rises, now The Hobbit...How on earth am I supposed to focus with these kinds of grand, awesome, tremendously epic distractions all over the place?

How, I ask you?


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 graduate student and teaching associate at his university, currently working toward a Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics.

His primary interests include such -ologies as mythology, philology, etymology, syntax, and phonology, along with a healthy passion for historical linguistics binding all these bewildering fields together. Some less academic hobbies include reading classical literature and mythology, high and epic fantasy, science fiction, and the occasional Tolkien biography, as well as attempting (and mostly failing) to write fiction modeled after these genres.

In addition to these things, he also harbors the deep-set enjoyment of the Bionicle sets and storyline essential to any hapless LEGO geek who has made the decision to become a member of the BZPower community. Without it, he obviously wouldn't be here writing this, and you wouldn't be reading it. This fact is, in part, what inspired his lasting interest in the art of pixeling, a skill that he apparently isn't all that bad at, although you might never know it, seeing as his severe lack of motivation and excess of procrastination usually prevents him from producing anything much at all.


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= Some Writings =


Unknowledge [Review] - (Epic) Finalist in Epics Contest #7: Murder Mysteries. Unknowledge centers around the mysterious death of Toa Moihu and ensuing investigation by Toa Ros, interwoven with the quest to uncover the reality behind the dark nature of the Dedh-See Scroll. Ultimately, the truth that Ros discovers and is forced to confront may be darker than anyone could have imagined.

Judgement [Review] - (Epic) Judgement opens with a death sentence pronounced upon Toa Jor, watch-Toa of Metru Nui. It then follows the events leading up to this shocking scene, with the arrival of Toa Jovan, bearing grave news concerning the fate of the universe itself, as well as a plan to stop it.

Windows Through the Void [Review] - (Epic) Windows is a serial inspired by the old online serials of Bioniclestory.com. Serial 1 follows Takanuva, Toa of Light, as he journeys across the void to a world of dark trees and night, only to find that he must accomplish another task before his original quest can be completed.

The Time - (SS) A semi-mythic account of the origin of Avan, the first Matoran, in the Time Before Time--the Time of the Great Beings.

Despair - (SS) 1st Place winner of the 2010 Library Summer Olympics (SS category). "Despair" is a prequel to the epic Unknowledge, beginning with the arrival of a mysterious Toa in the city of Moa, deep within the Waste. His motives are unknown, as the nature of the dark Kanohi he wears. But the subsequent arrival of Toa Ros soon sets things in motion, leading up to an epic confrontation between hope and despair.

Dust - (SS) The Dark Hunter Devastator returns to Karzahni, his native land. He must find the Matoran called the Builder and retrieve a stolen tablet, but along the way his encounters with the crazed, broken Matoran and the dreaded Karzahni himself provide him with a sliver of new perspective in this land of dust and living death.

A Storm is Coming - (SS) Entrant in the (now stalled) Lesovikk's Hiatus contest. It tells the tale of Toa Lesovikk's three-day battle with a Rock Lion in a strange land where it never rains and the encounter he has there with the castaway Toa Jovan. Can Lesovikk find the strength to finish his task, or will the memories of his past defeat him? A storm is about to break.

Remember [Archive] - (SS) The Mountains of the Matoran are a strange place, but even stranger are the discoveries to be made within them. Two Agori venture deep into the heart of the mountains, and soon their plight becomes a struggle for survival as they try to escape the strange corridors of this dark place. But at the end of their journey lies a revelation more shocking than they could ever have imagined.

The Coming of the Toa - (SS) 3rd place Judges' Choice winner of Short Stories Contest #8. A glimpse into an alternate history of Bionicle, where something has gone terribly wrong. Kua seeks to discover what it is that the Matoran have lost, the darkness in their past. But can even he resist the power of the darkness that lies beneath?

The End - (SS) Nga-Ro has waited for so long in the darkness and cold of the ruined city. He has forgotten much. But now...even he must find the strength to resist the darkness of death and remember his duty. For the end has come...

The Sight - (SS) 1st place winner in the 2012 Flash Fiction Marathon (Visions Category).

The Power - (SS) 1st place winner of the 2012 Library Summer Olympics: Artistic Gymnastics Reimagine (Bionicle category).

Once Whole - (SS)

Hue #1471 - (SS)
Looming - (SS)

Static [Review] - (Co-authored Epic, OTC) Gold medalist in the 2012 Library Summer Olympics: Epics Unlimited Prompt Relay. Co-authored with Grant-Sud Rises, Velox, and Legolover-361.

Ever Up - (SS, OTC)

Long Day - (SS, OTC)
Beyond the Ridge of Tears - (SS, OTC)
The Trumpet Sounds - (SS, Blog)


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