Jump to content

  • Log in with Facebook Log in with Twitter Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account

Welcome to BZPower!

Hi there, while we hope you enjoy browsing through the site, there's a lot more you can do if you register. Some perks of joining include:
  • Create your own topics, participate in existing discussions, and vote in polls
  • Show off your creations, stories, art, music, and movies
  • Enter contests to win free LEGO sets and other prizes
  • Participate in raffles to win LEGO prizes
  • Organize with other members to attend or send your MOCs to LEGO fan events all over the world
  • Much, much more!
Enjoy your visit!

In a hole in the ground there lived...


TLoO: Chapter 10 - An Okotoan Grammar

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Mar 07 2015 · 948 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 10: An Okotoan Grammar


We have reached the end, so let’s go out with a bang, shall we? All of the previous posts have been solely focused on breaking down the small dataset available to us and fleshing out the form and meaning of various words/lexical items, which is basically just vocabulary-building. But if we want Okotoan to be usable in any form, we’ve gotta mix in a bit of grammar at some point, right? Right. The time has come.

Table of Contents:

1. Syntax

2. Verbs

3. Nouns

4. Other

5. Glossary

1. Syntax

There are two primary rules of syntactic composition (and semantic interpretation) that apply very broadly in Okotoan, as follows:

Rule 1. A modifying element placed before the element it modifies receives an indirect/abstract/non-physical interpretation,

Rule 2. A modifying element placed after the element it modifies receives a direct/concrete/physical interpretation.

A couple of specific applications of this rule to note:

Subjects are positioned before the verb. This expresses the concept that subjects are in an indirect/abstract relation to the action of the verb, since subjects can express various concepts, including “causer”, “initiator”, or just “thing about which the verb expresses an action/property” (depending on the verb).

Objects are positioned after the verb. This expresses the concept that objects are in a dirrect/concrete relation to the action of the verb, indicating the entity which is directly affected by that action.

Taken together, this means that the primary word order of Okotoan is Subject – Verb – Object (SVO), very much like English (and a large number of other human languages).

2. Verbs

Verbs are usually formed directly from basic stems (e.g. k- “to do, act”, e- “to originate, begin, exist”).

A subclass of transitive verbs (verbs that require an object of some kind) is formed by the application of a marker -k (derived from k- “to do, act”; blatantly copied from Matoran -kha, which derives from kya “to do, act”). This can lead to related pairs of verbs such as e- “to originate, begin, exist” alongside ek- “to make smthg.; to cause to exist”.

2.1 Subject-marking

Subjects of verbs are marked by suffixes added directly to the verbal stem, indicating the person/number of the subject. Each suffix has two forms, depending on whether the verb stem ends in a consonant or vowel:

1 -e (after consonants) OR -we (after vowels) = “I”
2 -i OR -wi = “you”
3 -a OR -wa = “she/he/it”

Plural: Add the plural marker -to after the suffixes for 1st/2nd/3rd person.

2.1.1 Examples

1. ke I act.” (= k- “to do, act” + -e “1st person”)
2. ketoWe act.” (= k- + -e + -to “plural”)
3. ki You act.” (= k- + -i “2nd person”)
4. kito You all act.”
5. kaShe/he/it acts.” (= k- + -a “3rd person”)
6. katoThey act.”
7. oweI exist.” (= o- “to exist, remain” + -we “1st person”)
8. owiYou exist.” (= o- + -wi “2nd person”)
9. owaShe/he/it exists.” (= o- + -wa “3rd person”)
10. Ekimu owa. “Ekimu exists.”

- The 1st person marker comes from the stem e “making, originating” (the stem o “place, location, point” was also considered, but this would make the Okotoan 1st person marker identical to Matoran!). The 2nd person marker comes from the noun marker -i, which indicates animate individuals, a common implication of the 2nd person in general (you generally address speech to animate, rather than inanimate, things). The 3rd person marker comes from the noun marker -a, which indicates general nouns--things, objects, and people.
- The suffix-variants with -w- that are used after vowels derive from the addition of the stem u “skill, ability”, which covers the semantic domain of “instrument”, as well as “perspective”. This sound was eventually lost after consonants.

2.2 Tense

Tense is marked on verbs by prefixes added directly to the verbal stem, indicating present, past, and future tense. Each prefix has two forms, depending on whether the verbal stem begins in a consonant or vowel:

Present: o- (before consonants), ok- (before vowels)
Past: e- OR ek-
Future: u- OR uk-, w-

4.2.1 Examples

1. Ekimu o-ka. “Ekimu acts.”
2. Ekimu e-ka. “Ekimu acted.”
3. Ekimu u-ka. “Ekimu will act.”
4. Mu ok-owa. “The mask exists.”
5. Mu ek-owa. “The mask existed
6. Mu uk-owa. OR Mu w-owa. “The mask will exist.”

- The present-marker comes from the stem o “place, location, point”, specifying “(current) temporal location”. The past-marker comes from the stem e “making, originating”, specifying “temporal origination”. The future-marker comes from the stem u “skill, ability”, via metaphorical extension from “ability” to “possibility”, and eventually to “temporal possibility; future”.
- The prefix-variants with -k- that are used before vowels derive from the addition of the stem k- “action”, under the assumption that, at an older stage in the language, tense was marked by a second “placeholder” verb (k-) which then fused with the primary verb stem.
- Interesting: We can construct an alternate etymology for the name Okoto using a verbal template instead of a nounal one. The complex ok-o-we-to would translate to “we exist/remain” (ok- “present tense”, -o- “to exist, remain”, -we- “first person”, -to “plural”), and according to basic assumptions about sound change, it would undergo eventual phonological reduction along the following lines: okoweto > okoueto > okouto > okoto.
- Also interesting: An alternate etymology for the name of Ekimu presents itself. The sentence eki mu would translate to “you acted (with respect to) masks”, with eki deriving from e- “past tense” + k- “to do, act” + -i “2nd person”, plus an object mu “mask(s)”.

3. Nouns

Nouns can be formed directly from basic stems (e.g. u “skill, ability”) as well as by the addition of derivative suffixes such as -a “general noun” and -i “animate noun”.

Nouns can be marked for plural number via the suffix -to, which is attached directly to the noun-stem.

Nouns can also be marked for possession by the addition of a set of independent markers for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person possessors, which are placed before the noun which is possessed, expressing that the noun bears a concrete relation to the possessor.

1 we “mine” (pl. weto “ours”)
2 wi “yours” (pl. wito “yours”)
3 wa “hers/his/its” (pl. wato “theirs”)

If the possessor is another noun (rather than just a pronoun), it is placed before wa, followed by the possessed noun: [possessor] + wa + [possessed].

Lastly, nouns can be marked to express various spatio-temporal properties (location, movement, instrumentality, etc.). These markers can be expressed as affixes (suffixes/prefixes) or as independent words (prepositions/postpositions), as desired. Since, in most cases, they express direct/concrete/physical relationships, it is suggested that these markers be placed after the nouns they modify (not an absolute rule!).

o “in, at, on (position)”
e “from, out of, before (origin, startpoint)”
u “by, with (instrument)”
mo “to, toward (endpoint)” (< m+o, lit. “completion+location”)
omo “after, following; outside” (< o+mo, lit. “location+endpoint”)
wo “through, via, across” (< u+o, lit. “instrument+location”)
owo “during (process); like, as” (< o+wo, lit. “location+process”)

3.1 Examples:

1. eki-to “maker-s
2. kuta-to “hoarder-s
3. oko-to “land-s
4. we okomy land”
5. wi tayour group/hoard”
6. wato mutheir mask”
7. Ekimu wa muEkimu’s mask”
8. oko-o in/at/on (the) land”
9. ta-e from/out of (the) group/hoard/collection”
10. tu-u by/with mastery” OR u-tu, because tu ends in a vowel
11. toa-motoward (the) master/hero” OR mo-toa
12. oko-omo outside (the) land”
13. oko-wothrough/via/across (the) land”
14. e-owoduring (the) making”
15. wato oko-to mo “toward our land-s”

- Interesting: Example 3 above offers an interesting alternative etymology for the word Okoto; one that is appropriate, considering that Okoto is divided into multiple regions or “lands”.

4. Other

4.1 Expressing Negation

Negation (i.e. “not”) is normally marked on verbs by the prefix um-, which is added before the prefixes marking tense. (This prefix is derived from a combination of the stems u “possibility” and m- “covering; completion”, yielding a sense of “completion” or “limitation” of possibility, i.e. “no possibility, negation”).

Alternately, negation can be marked by addition of the independent morpheme uma “nothing, never” (< um-a “negation+thing”) placed before the verb.

4.1.1 Examples

1. Umeke “I did not act.”
2. Uma eke “I did not act. / I never acted.”
3. Makuta umokewa “Makuta does not originate/begin.”
4. Makuta uma okewa “Makuta does not originate/begin. / Makuta never originates/begins.”

4.2 Questions

Two types of questions (“interrogatives”) can be formed: Yes/No-Questions (“Did you get the mask?”) and WH-Questions (“What did you get?” “Where did you get it?” “Who are you?”, etc.).

- Yes/No-Questions are formed simply by the addition of rising intonation at the end of a sentence (similar to English, Spanish, and numerous other human languages).

- WH-Questions are also formed via rising intonation, but coupled with a special set of interrogative (pro)nouns derived from the base-form at- (a combination of the stems a “thing, object, person” and t- “non-specificity”, hence “non-specific thing/object/person”).

ata “who/what”
atomo “where”
atowo “when”
atowe “why”
atu “how”

The element ata should be placed before or after the verb based on whether or not it corresponds to the subject or object. All of the other elements are adverbial in nature and can be placed basically anywhere in the sentence.

4.2.1 Examples

1. Ekimu eka? “Did Ekimu act?” (Yes/No-Q)
2. Ukeki mu? “Will you make the mask?” (Yes/No-Q. Verb = ek- “to make smthg.”)
3. Ata ekeka mu?Who/what made the mask?” (WH-Q)
4. Ekimu ekeka ata?What did Ekimu make?” (WH-Q)
5. Atomo Ekimu ekeka mu?Where did Ekimu make the mask?” (WH-Q)
6. Ekimu ekeka mu atowo?When did Ekimu make the mask?” (WH-Q)
7. Ekimu atu ekeka mu?How did Ekimu make the mask?” (WH-Q)

4.3 Commands

An imperative (command) is constructed by using the bare form of the stem, without any tense-marking, in combination with the 2nd person suffix -i. Negative imperatives are formed by adding either the negative prefix um- to the stem or by placing the independent negative element uma “nothing, never” before the verb.

4.3.1 Examples

1. Eki mu! “Make the mask!”
2. Ki! “Do it!”
3. Uma ki! “Don’t do it!”
4. Ewi! “Begin/originate!”
5. Umewi! “Don’t begin/originate!”
6. Owi! “Exist! / Be!”

4.4 Complex clauses

4.4.1 Coordinating Conjunctions

These independent morphemes are used to join together elements of the same type (e.g. nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs, clauses with clauses) in a symmetrical fashion, such that both elements are independent (“coordinated”).

omo “and, plus” (< o+mo, lit. “location+endpoint”)
me “but, except” (< m+e, “separation, exception”, lit. “completion+origin”)
ome “or” (< o+me, lit. “location+separation/exception”)
we “for, because” (< u+e, lit. “instrument+origin”)

4.4.2 Subordinating Conjunctions

These two morphemes are used to join together elements (usually clauses) in an asymmetrical fashion, such that one element is subordinate or dependent upon the other element. Respectively, they are used to turn a full clause into the object of a verb or into a modifier of a noun (a relative clause).

mo “that” = Complementizer. This morpheme attaches to verbs, indicating that a following clause is the object (or “complement”) of said verb.

ata “that” = Relativizer. This morpheme attaches to nouns, indicating that a following clause is a modifier of the noun.

4.4.3 Examples

1. Makuta omo Ekimu okowato ekimuto. “Makuta and Ekimu are Mask Makers.”
2. Ekimu okeka, me Makuta otaka. “Ekimu makes, but Makuta hoards.”
3. Okeki, ome otaki? “Do you make, or do you hoard?”
4. Makuta ekoka ekimu, we ekeka muto. “Makuta was a Mask Maker, for he made masks.”
5. Okike-mo Ekimu weka mu. “I want Ekimu to make the mask” (lit. “I want that Ekimu will make the mask.”)
6. Mu-ata Ekimu ekeka... “The mask that Ekimu made...”
7. Ekimu okika-mo Makuta uma weka mu. “Ekimu wants Makuta to not make the mask.” (lit. “Ekimu wants that Makuta will not make the mask.”)

5. Glossary:

Basic Stems:

Note: The meanings of these stems are slightly expanded from those outlined in Chapter 9, and a few additional stems have been added.

a |stm.| “thing, object, person”
e |stm.| “making, originating; origination; past” (< *i-)
i |stm.| “animacy, intentionality”
iu |stm.| “sensation, feeling, sight, knowledge” (< *i-u)
k- |stm.| “acting, doing; action”
ko |stm.| “solidity, solid-ness; ?ice”
m- |stm.| “covering; completion; past”
o |stm.| “location, place, point; specificity; existing, remaining; present”
t- |stm.| “plurality, mass; non-specificity”
u |stm.| “skill, ability; instrument, perspective; possibility, future” (< *p-)


-a |aff.| “general noun (thing, object, person)”
-i |aff.| “animate noun”
-k |aff.| “transitive verb (verb taking an object)”
-o |aff.| “general adjective (property, attribute)”


ata |n.| “thing, object”
ati |n.| “person, individual”
ati-ota |n.| “community, society”
atu |n.| “crafted object, product; (piece of) art”
atuki |n.| “crafter, producer” (< *atukui)
ea |n.| “beginning, start, origin” (< *eo-a)
eki |n.| “maker” (< *ekui)
eki-atu |n.| “crafter, artisan”
ekimu |n.| “mask maker” (< *eki-mau)
ga |n.| “liquid, non-solidity; variety, variability, change; activity, movement; water” (< *k-a)
gali |n.| “(ocean) tide, current; cyclicity, reactivity; humor, comedy; lit. ‘generation of variability/change’” (< *ga-li, see le |n.|)
ianu |n.| “darkness; blindness; lit. ‘restriction of sensation’” (< *iua-nu)
iawo |n.| “light; sight, vision; lit. ‘endurance/unrestrictedness of sensation’” (< *iua-po)
i(w)a “sensation, feeling; discovery, knowledge, understanding” (< *iua)
ka |n.| “(an) act, deed”
ki |n.| “agent, causer, actor” (< *kui)
ko |n.| “solidity, solid (substance), rigidity; structure, arrangement; ice” (< *k-o)
kopaka “snow-drift, blizzard; slickness, slipperiness; lit. ‘wandering/drifting of ice’” (< ko-paka)
ku |n.| “action”
ku-ata |n.| “tool, weapon; appendage (arm, leg, hand), manipulator; lit. ‘thing/object of action’”
kuta |n.| “hoarder” (< *kuita)
la |n.| “diffusor, generator; teacher, elder; seed; lit. ‘thing of dispersal/growth/generation’” (< *le-a)
le |n.| “diffusion, dispersal, circulation; generation, growth; jungle, plant-life; air, wind; lit. ‘multiplicity of origins’” (< *te < *t-i)
leo |n.| “(a) generation, stage, step, link; lit. ‘point of dispersal/growth/generation’” (< *lea-o)
lewa |n.| “chaos; lit. ‘freedom of generation/growth’” (< *le-pa)
ma |n.| “covering, mask”
makuta |n.| “mask hoarder” (< *mau-kuta)
moka |n.| “protection, safety”
moko |n.| “house, building, roofed dwelling-place; lit. ‘solid/stable covered-location’” (< m-oko)
mu |n.| “mask” (< *mau)
nu |n.| “restriction, limitation, boundedness; earth, ground; rest, sleep, inactivity; ability/perspective related to covering” (< *m-p)
o |n.| “place, location, point”
oga |n.| “body of water; lake, pond”
ogato |n.| “ocean, sea”
oki |n.| “inhabitant, dweller” (< *okoi)
oko |n.| “land, place, home, region”
okoa |n.| “city, town” (< *okoua)
okoto |n.| “great land/place/home” (< oko-to)
oku |n.| “constructed landmark, monument, temple” (< *okou)
ola |n.| “tree, plant” (< *ole-a)
ole |n.| “forested area; group of trees/plants”
oleto |n.| “jungle, forest”
oma |n.| “end, finish, completion” (< *o-uma)
oni |n.| “miner, delver, cave-dweller; hermit, meditator” (< *onu-i)
onu |n.| “underground, below-ground; refuge, resting place”
onua |n.| “underworld, the deep; silence, rest, meditation” (< *onui-a)
onuto |n.| “cave-system, subterranean world”
opo |n.| “above-ground, surface”
opoto |n.| “plain(s), overworld”
ota |n.| “network, system, arrangement, organization; team; lit. ‘group/collection of points’” (< *otoa)
otaga |n.| “volcano”
otagato |n.| “volcanic region”
otaki |n.| “organizer, networker; lit. ‘agent of network/systems’”
pa |n.| “possibility, potential; freedom, autonomy” (< *p-a)
paka |n.| “wandering, drifting; journey” (< *paki-a)
paki |n.| “wanderer, rogue; lit. ‘agent of possibility/autonomy’”
po |n.| “endurance, fortitude, strength; stone, rock; lit. ‘existing/remaining related to ability/perspective’” (< *p-o)
ta |n.| “hoard, group, collection” (< *toa)
ta |n.| “plurality; expansion, proliferation, consumption; fire, burning; lit. ‘multiplicity of things/objects’” (< *t-a)
taga |n.| “magma; lit. ‘liquid fire’”
to |n.| “largeness, greatness”
toa |n.| “master, hero” (< *toua)
toa-ota |n.| “Toa Team; team of heroes/masters” (< ota-toa)
tu |n.| “mastery; lit. ‘skill of greatness’” (< *tou)
tu |n.| “versatility, adaptability, application, usefulness” (< *t-u)
tua |n.| “tool, device, instrument, implement; lit. ‘versatile/useful object’” (< *tuoa )
tula |n.| “innovator, leader; lit. ‘teacher/elder of adaptability/versatility’ (< *tulea)
tulaga |n.| “protector, preserver, caretaker; lit. ‘leader related to/against change/variability’”
u |n.| “skill, ability; possibility”
uma |n.| “nothing, absence”
uwa |n.| “time” (< *upa)


Note: Because all verbs require the addition of prefixes and suffixes indicating tense and person/number, I have used the notation “-stem-” to distinguish verbs from other entries.

-e- |v.| “to originate, begin, exist; to be (stative)”
-ek- |v.| “to make/create smthg.”
-ewo- |v.| “to go; lit. ‘to move away’” (see -wo-)
-ga- |v.| “to vary, change; to flow”
-i- |v.| “to intend, decide”
-ik- |v.| “to cause, initiate”
-iuk- |v.| to find, discover; to seek out; lit. ‘to know intentionally (abstract)’” (see -uk-)
-k- |v.| “to do, act”
-ki- |v.| “to want, wish, desire”
-ku- |v.| “to change/become different, alternate, vary”
-kuk- |v.| “to affect, influence, apply; to change smthg., manipulate”
-le- |v.| “to disperse, spread, circulate; to generate, manifest”
-lek- |v.| “to engender, spawn”
-li- |v.| “to speak, say; to transmit, convey information” (see -le-)
-m- |v.| “to complete, finish, establish”
-m(i)k- |v.| “to stop smthg.; to end, cut off”
-mowo- |v.| “to come; lit. ‘to move toward’” (see -wo-)
-nu- |v.| “to restrict, limit; to rest, sleep”
-o- |v.| “to be in/at location; to exist; to be (stative)”
-ok- |v.| “to put/place smthg. (location); to locate, specify”
-om- |v.| “to arrive; to end, finish, complete”
-om(i)k- |v.| “to bring smthg.; lit. ‘to make arrive (with)’; to accomplish, achieve”
-t- |v.| “to grow, increase, become larger”
-tak- |v.| “to collect, group, amass, hoard”
-uk- |v.| “to know, think; lit. ‘make possibility/perspective’”
-uki- |v.| “to see, observe; lit. ‘to know intentionally (concrete)’” (see -uk-)
-wo- |v.| “to move”


eo |adj.| “first, initial” (< *eo-o, see ea |n.|)
galo |adj.| “reactive; cyclic; humorous, comedic”
go |adj.| “variable, changeable; flowing, watery” (< *gao, see ga |n.|)
ko |adj.| “active, eventful” (< *k-o)
ko(o) |adj.| “solid, stable, firm, concrete; frozen, icy” (< *ko-o)
kopako |adj.| “slippery”
lewo |adj.| “chaotic”
lo |adj.| “dispersed; growing” (< *le-o)
mo |adj.| “covered, separated; completed, finished; distant”
no |adj.| “restful, sleepy”
omo |adj.| “last, final” (< *oum-o, see oma |n.|)
pako |adj.| “lost, direction-less”
po |adj.| “above, over; unrestricted, free; resistant, strong”
to |adj.| “great, large; plural, many”
towo |adj.| “masterful, heroic; brave, courageous” (< *touo)
wo |adj.| “skillful, competent, capable”


TLoO: Chapter 9

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Language and Etymology Mar 04 2015 · 644 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 9


At this stage, we have reached what I think is, for all intents and purposes, “ground zero” for the language of Okoto. We have picked apart, decomposed, rendered down, and theoretically dismantled almost the entirety of the dataset established in Chapter 1 (to the near-exclusion of the names of the Masters, which continue to have an uncertain status). What more is there to do? Quite a bit, it turns out. This post will focus on tying up some loose ends and looking forward to the next chapter (Chapter 10), which will conclude this series of posts by outlining a pretty extensive grammar for the Okotoan Language.

For now, though, here’s what I’d like to do: In the interests of completionism, I’d like to reduce all of the lexical elements that we have so far down to their most basic forms and then define those forms as “stems” from which new words are/can be created. The meanings of these stems will be appropriately abstract, and it will be possible to define them as any word-category (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.) depending on what they are combined with. This system will serve us well, I think, in the interests of future vocabulary-expansion, as well as the construction of a grammar.

With this goal in mind, we have, luckily, already done most of this work. Elements in the glossary like k- “acting, doing”, e “making, creating” and m- “covering” already provide examples of what I have in mind, but there are a few entries that could be further redefined as stems (the noun-markers -a and -i, for example, might be raised to the status of basic stems indicating “thing, object, person” and “animacy, intentionality”), and there is at least one entry to “largeness, greatness” that can be further broken down. We’ll focus on the latter entry first, and then return to the former, concluding with a glossary of basic stems:

Proposal 1: The element to can be dissolved into two elements: t- and -o. Let t- be a stem-element indicating the general concept of “plurality”, while o translates as “place, location”. Furthermore, let the semantic domain covered by o extend from “place, location” to the concept of “point, specific(ity)”, yielding, in combination with t-, t+o “plurality of points/locations; largeness/greatness”.

With that done, we have exhausted the repertoire of undissolved lexical elements, and all that’s left is to redefine the bulk of the entries that we have derived as basic stems, with appropriately abstract/expanded meanings. These “extended” meanings are somewhat arbitrary, although I hope the connection with the originally-postulated meaning remains clear (e.g. o “location, place” > “point, specificity” > “existing, remaining”; m- “covering” > “completion”, u “skill, ability” > “instrument(ality)”, etc.). I think the following list of stems provides a sufficiently rich pool for future vocabulary construction:

Proposal 2: The following entries constitute basic stems from which the majority of words in the Okotoan Language are derived:

a |stm.| “thing, object, person”
e |stm.| “making, originating; origination”
i |stm.| “animacy, intentionality”
k- |stm.| “acting, doing; action”
ko |stm.| “solidity, solid-ness; ?ice”
m- |stm.| “covering; completion”
o |stm.| “location, place, point; specificity; existing, remaining”
t- |stm.| “plurality, mass; non-specificity”
u |stm.| “skill, ability; instrument(ality)”

As mentioned, the next chapter will be the final chapter in this series. Stay tuned!


TLoO: Chapter 8

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Language and Etymology Mar 03 2015 · 680 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 8


For this post, let’s return to a part of the dataset that we haven’t discussed for a while: the reconstructed element *kui “agent”. Elsewhere, we’ve been successful in breaking down the words toa, ta, okoto by delving into their reconstructed history and making some comparative observations. Let’s see what we can do with *kui, shall we?

First, note that the element *kui has been translated only as “agent” thus far, and that this is actually a somewhat semantically complex concept. In order to get at the basic components of the word, we’ll need identify the semantic components of what it means to be an agent, and we can do that via paraphrase, as follows:

Assumption: The concept of “agent” can be paraphrased as “an individual who is able to act intentionally”, which can be broken down into at least three parts: [intentional individual], [ability], and [action].

With that in mind, let’s have an observation:

Observation: The element *kui contains the sequence u, which has been elsewhere assigned an independent meaning of “skill, ability”.

And now, a pretty straightforward proposal:

Proposal 1: The element *kui can be decomposed into u “skill, ability” and the remaining elements k- and -i.

With this proposal, we have assigned the [ability] part of the meaning of “agent” to u, leaving two units that have yet to be specified. Luckily, we also have two remaining word-units: k- and -i. At this point I will note that -i would fit nicely next to the general noun marker -a as a suffix capable of deriving nouns, but the question is, what kind of nouns? The following two proposals will flesh things out:

Proposal 2: Let k- be a stem-element representing the general concept of “acting, doing” (similar to how e represents the general concept of “making”). Together with u “ability, skill”, these could form an independent complex ku “action”.

Proposal 3: Let -i be a suffix which derives specifically animate (or “intentional”) nouns, contrasting with the general noun suffix -a, which does not specify animacy. In combination with ku “action”, this would yield a complex *ku-i “an intentional individual defined by action”, in other words, “an agent”.

So the upshot of these proposals is that we have assigned the [action] component of the meaning of “agent” to the stem k- and the [intentional individual] component to the suffix -i.


- Applying a variety of assumptions accumulated in previous posts, we have succesfully decomposed the reconstructed term *kui “agent” into three separate elements, corresponding to three semantic components of the meaning of “agency” ([action], [ability], and [intentional individual]): the stem k- “acting, doing”, u “skill, ability”, and a noun-marker -i “animate noun”.

Current Glossary:

-a “general noun (thing, object, person)”
e “?making, ?creating”
eki “maker” (< *ekui)
ekimu “mask maker”
-i “animate noun”
k- “acting, doing” (basic stem)
ki “agent” (< *kui)
ko “solidity, solid-ness; ?ice”
ku “action”
kuta “hoarder” (< *kuita)
m- “covering” (basic stem)
ma “covering, mask”
makuta “mask hoarder”
mu “mask” (< *mau)
o “place, location”
oko “land, place, home”
okoto “great land/place/home”
ta “hoard, group, collection” (< *toa)
to “largeness, greatness”
toa “master, hero” (< *toua)
tu “skill of greatness; mastery” (< *tou)
u “skill, ability”


TLoO: Chapter 7

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Feb 22 2015 · 760 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 7


At this point, I think we’ve pretty much eked out all the information we reasonably can from the topic of the words toa/ta/okoto without having to rely on anything other than the contents of the dataset and some basic hypothesizing. With that in mind, we could stop...or we could move into realms of more-or-less pure speculation. I’ll take the latter choice in this post for the sake of creativity and completionism. In particular, we still haven’t defined the word oko in its entirety, but I think it’s still possible.

Recall that we are unsure whether or not the names of the Masters (Tahu, Gali, Onua, etc.) should count as authentic Okotoan names. Thus far, I’ve attempted to flesh out an Okotoan Language without relying on these names for data, since their status is still up in the air. However, if we were to admit the Toa-names to some limited extent, it might provide us with further options for deciphering the word oko. I’m thinking in particular of the sequence /ko/ in /oko/ and its parallel in the name Kopaka (/kopaka/), the Master of Ice. Assuming that the elemental prefixes of the Matoran Language are, to some extent, preserved in Okotoan, this would mean that ko could be translated as “ice”.

However, rather than simply copying Matoran wholesale, I’d like to put a slight twist on it: Instead of “ice”, why not think of ko as referring to a more general concept...something like “solid” or “solidity, solid-ness”, in the sense of ice being a solid form of matter (contrasting with liquid, gas, etc.)? This interpretation of ko seems a bit more reasonable if we’re trying to figure out how it would fit into a term like oko, which we’ve thus far assumed to mean something like “land”, “landmass” or “place”. A further benefit of this analysis is that it allows us to place ko alongside other “basic” or irreducible stems like to “greatness, largeness”. This leads naturally to a formal proposal:

Proposal 1: The element ko is a lexical component of the Okotoan Language and may be translated as “solidity, solid-ness”.

Of course, we can’t stop there! We’ve determined a plausible meaning for one part of the word oko, so that just leaves the remaining piece o- to be defined. Considering that we’ve thus far assumed that oko should refer to some kind of place or location (e.g. “land” or “home” in the previous posts), it might make sense to assign a similar meaning to o, which would imply a direct/concrete modifying relation between o (the primary element) and ko (the modifier), which is placed after the primary element. Here’s the proposal:

Proposal 2: The element o translates to “place, location”. In combination with ko “solidity, solid-ness”, this means that the complex o-ko translates to “place of solidity (with direct/concrete relation); solid place, foundation; land, home”.


- We made the decision to incorporate a small bit of data from the names of the Masters—the element ko from Kopaka—in order to derive a meaning for the as-yet-undefined element oko in Okoto. The stem ko is defined as “solidity, solid-ness” (referencing the status of “ice” as a solid, contrasting with liquids, gases, etc.). Furthermore, we have defined the remaining element o in o-ko as “place, location”, yielding a final meaning of “solid place, foundation; land, home”.

Current Glossary:

-a “general noun (thing, object, person)”
e “?making, ?creating”
eki “maker” (< *ekui)
ekimu “mask maker”
ki “agent” (< *kui)
ko “solidity, solid-ness; ?ice”
kuta “hoarder” (< *kuita)
m- “covering” (basic stem)
ma “covering, mask”
makuta “mask hoarder”
mu “mask” (< *mau)
o “place, location”
oko “land, place, home”
okoto “great land/place/home”
ta “hoard, group, collection” (< *toa)
to “largeness, greatness”
toa “master, hero” (< *toua)
tu “skill of greatness; mastery” (< *tou)
u “skill, ability”


TLoO: Chapter 6

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Feb 19 2015 · 664 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 6


In the previous post, we managed to break down the reconstructed term *toua into a few constituent parts and assign meanings to those parts. The element u translated to “skill, ability” and the element -a “general noun marker (person, object, thing)”, but the element to wasn’t fleshed out beyond the idea that it signified something like “greatness” and was somehow connected to the previously established word ta “?hoarding, ?grouping”. This post, we’ll try to get a bit more specific as to the meaning of this elusive element to in the contexts in which it arises. Let’s start with the following observation, which repeats what we already know:

Observation: The sequence /t/ plus /a/ or /o/ occurs in *toua “master, hero”, ta “group, hoard, collection”, and the word okoto.

Ideally, all of these surface forms could be related to a common root with a common meaning, thereby providing us with yet another lexical building block for our Okotoan glossary. With that goal in mind, we can use the regular sound change patterns we’ve already established to make a few deductions about what the “base form” of this /t+vowel/ sequence is. For example, the sequence /to/ shows up in both /toua/ and /okoto/, i.e. in the middle of a word and at the end of a word. If we decided to trace /to/ back to an older vowel-sequence like we did for /au/, /ui/, etc., we’d expect it to exhibit variation in these two positions. Instead, it’s identical (and in fact forms a part of a different vowel sequence /ou/ in /toua/). Now consider the sequence /ta/: it shows up only at the end of a word (cf. kuta); hence, if it traced back to an older vowel sequence, the sequence would have to be of the form /vowel+a/, since the other sound change rules all preserve the second vowel in word-final position. So it seems likely that /to/ in /toua/ and /okoto/ is the “base form”, while /ta/ is a form derived from an older stage /t+vowel+a/. Using these comparative deductions, we can arrive at the following proposals:

Proposal 1: The element to in *toua “master, hero” and okoto translates to “largeness, greatness” (parallel to Matoran nui “large, great”).

Proposal 2: The term ta “?hoarding, ?grouping” can be traced back to an older form *toa, consisting of the element to “greatness, largeness” combined with the element -a “general noun (person, object, thing)”, and can therefore be translated literally as “largeness of things (direct/concrete relation)”, or, more generally, as a noun signifying “hoard, group, collection”.

Phonological Rule 4:
Subpart 4a: /oa/ becomes /a/ word-finally. Example: /toa/ > /ta/.
Subpart 4b: /oa/ becomes /o/ elsewhere. No example available.

With that, we have managed to tie up the etymologies of both toa “master, hero” (< *toua, lit. “person of mastery [= ‘skill of greatness’]”) and ta “group, hoard, collection” (< *toa, lit. “largeness of things”) in a way that takes maximal advantage of their shared elements (e.g. to “largeness, greatness” and -a “general noun”) and follows the exact same phonological rules as every other etymological pairing.

The only thing left to comment on is the composition of the word okoto. I’ve already proposed that to translates to “greatness, largeness”, so that leaves only oko to decipher. Admittedly, there are very few cues left to us, at this point, and because this post is becoming overlong, I’ll simply leave it with the following proposal:

Proposal 3: The element oko translates to something that refers to a landmass or dwelling place, e.g. “land, place, home”, and it is modified by to “largeness, greatness” with a direct/concrete interpretation, hence “physically large”. This means that oko-to would translate roughly to “Great Land/Place/Home” (once again, parallel to the Matoran tradition of denoting placenames via the modifier nui “great”).


- We have identified and extracted the common element to in the terms toa “master, hero”, ta “group, hoard, collection”, and okoto, defined this word-element as “largeness, greatness”, and provided an account of its appearance in each term.
- Along the way, we’ve derived a fourth phonological rule affecting the vowel-sequence /oa/ (> /a/ word-finally, /o/ elsewhere).
- Lastly, we’ve proposed a preliminary translation of the word okoto, consisting of the element oko and to: Okoto “Great Land/Place/Home”.

Current Glossary:

-a “general noun (thing, object, person)”
e “?making, ?creating”
eki “maker” (< *ekui)
ekimu “mask maker”
ki “agent” (< *kui)
kuta “hoarder” (< *kuita)
m- “covering” (basic stem)
ma “covering, mask”
makuta “mask hoarder”
mu “mask” (< *mau)
oko “?land, place, home” (unclear)
okoto “great ?land/place/home”
ta “hoard, group, collection” (< *toa)
to “largeness, greatness”
toa “master, hero” (< *toua)
tu “skill of greatness; mastery” (< *tou)
u “skill, ability”


TLoO: Chapter 5

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Feb 15 2015 · 577 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 5


Let’s continue with the breakdown of the word toa (< *toua). In order to delve a bit deeper, we will need a point of comparison, and I think this can be provided by bringing in the remaining reliably-native word Okoto. Connecting these two terms—one a title and the other the name of an island—might seem tenuous, but with the background we’ve already set up, I’m confident we can make some important headway.

However, unlike the previous instances where we were able to use comparison, this time we aren’t able to compare the meaning of these terms, since one of them (Okoto) doesn’t have a meaning (nor any clear indications as to what it could mean…yet!). So instead of starting with a comparison of meaning, we’ll have to start with a comparison of the surface form of these words only, and go from there:

Observation: The reconstructed term *toua (and its modern derivative toa) exhibits a sequence /to/. The word okoto also exhibits this sequence in isolation.

Based on these facts, we could conclude that there is a discrete unit to which is combined in various ways. This would imply that *toua is to be separated into at least two parts: *to-ua. Now, a further observation about the surface form of another word which has been previously assigned a meaning:

Observation: The reconstructed term *mau “mask” incorporates /u/.

Adding this into the mix, we might assume that -u in itself constitutes a separable element in both *mau and *toua, hence *ma-u and *to-u-a. As a consequence, this could further lead us to assume that the sequence /ma/ in *ma-u and the sequence /a/ in *to-u-a also constitute separable elements. Here’s a list of all the discrete units (whether they are independent words or some kind of affix) that we can derive, according to these assumptions:

tou- (in *tou-a)
to (in *to-u, oko-to)
ma (in *ma-u)
u (in *to-u, *ma-u)
a (in *tou-a)

Now at last we have a (tenuous) point of comparison in the form of the reconstructed elements *mau “mask” and *tou “???”, which forms a subpart of *tou-a “master, hero”. Using this comparison, we may be able to derive a meaning for each of the distinct elements, with a little creativity.

For this, we’ll have to consider some aspects of Okotoan culture in order to come to a conclusion on what the concepts of “mask” and “master, hero” might have in common. First, let’s consider the concept of masks on Okoto. They are clearly special, but in a somewhat different way than the Kanohi of the Matoran were. Okotoan masks have power, but they are also clearly valuable as products of artistry and skill, as evidenced by the prestige of the Mask Makers. Next, let’s think about the meaning of *toua “master, hero”. It’s pretty uncontroversial to say that a “master” is someone who is maximally skillful at whatever it is they do. At this point, you may already see where I’m going with this, so let’s codify it into a proposal:

Proposal 1: The element u translates roughly to “skill” or “ability”.

Alright, now let’s see how this would apply to *ma-u and *to-u-a. In the first case, it seems reasonable to assume that u would be a modifier indicating that the mask-object (represented by ma) is a product of (the Mask Maker’s) skill or ability. This works quite well, since u is placed second, giving it a direct/concrete interpretation:

ma-u = “a ?mask/object/ma with a direct/concrete relation to skill/ability”, i.e. something that is physically characterized by the application of skillfulness.

As for *to-u-a, we still don’t have meanings for to- or -a, so it’s a bit more difficult to characterize the function of u here. At the same time, we know that the result should be a term meaning “master, hero”, and this might lead us to assume that u “skill, ability”, in this case, is actually the primary element, with to- and -a being modifiers of some kind that intensify the meaning of “skill” (i.e. to “great skill, mastery”) and add the meaning of “an individual” to the word (“an individual with great skill/mastery; a master”). It should be noted that we already have the word ta “?hoarding, ?grouping” available as a comparison for to, and we could, in a preliminary way, assume that to expresses “greatness” in some sense, since ta seems to be related to concepts of groups or plurality (I’ll leave that to explore in a later post). That just leaves -a, and here’s the proposal:

Proposal 2: -a indicates a general noun (thing, object, person).

So bringing everything together, the complex form to-u would, at this stage in our analysis, translate roughly to “skill of ?greatness” (u “skill, ability” is the primary element, modified by to “?greatness” with an indirect/abstract interpretation), and in combination with -a “general noun (thing, object, person)”, that would yield:

tou-a = “a person/thing characterized by great skill/mastery; mastery-person”, i.e. a “master”.

At this point, I am tempted to continue and apply this conception of -a to the element ma, which has thus far only been defined as “mask/object”. Let’s go for it! Here’s the proposal:

Proposal 3: The element ma generally translates to “covering, mask”, and can be decomposed into the stem-element m- “covering” and the general noun marker -a.


- Using comparative methodology, we have broken down the reconstructed terms *mau and *toua into the units ma, to, u and a, and then we have made an attempt to furnish these units with meanings. In particular, u is translated as “skill, ability”, -a is translated as a general noun-marker for persons/things, and ma is translated as “covering, mask” (derived from a basic stem m- “covering” combined with -a), whereas to has been assigned the intermediate definition “?greatness” to be fleshed out later.

Current Glossary:

-a “general noun (thing, object, person)”
e “?making, ?creating”
eki “maker” (< *ekui)
ekimu “mask maker”
ki “agent” (< *kui)
kuta “hoarder” (< *kuita)
m- “covering” (basic stem)
ma “covering, mask”
makuta “mask hoarder”
mu “mask” (< *mau)
ta “?hoarding, ?grouping”
to “?greatness” (unclear)
toa “master, hero” (< *toua)
*tou “skill of ?greatness; mastery” (unclear; would become tu in the modern form of Okotoan)
u “skill, ability”


TLoO: Chapter 4

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Feb 12 2015 · 537 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 4


That’ll do for the names Ekimu and Makuta for the time being. Now let’s turn to another part of the dataset, one word in particular: Toa. I’ve already hinted at how I intend to incorporate this term into the sketch of the Okotoan Language, so might as well get on with it:

Assumption: The term toa translates to “master” or “hero”.

Where do we go from here? Because we only have one term to look at, there isn’t quite the same opportunity for comparative reconstruction that we’ve had previously. However, we can still apply some of the knowledge we’ve pieced together related to phonological rules.

Observation: In all other instances of two-vowel sequences, phonological rules have reduced the sequence to a single vowel, so we would expect /oa/ to be subject to a similar rule (for example, /oa/ becoming /a/ at the ends of words, /o/ elsewhere). However, no such reduction applies in this case.

It could, of course, be that /oa/ is simply “immune” to this class of sound changes...but that’s a bit of a dead-end if our aim is to actually make progress in constructing the Okotoan Language. So, instead, here’s another option to consider:

Proposal: Reduction does apply to /oa/, but in a different way: The sequence /oa/ derives from an older sequence /oua/, which is indeed subject to phonological reduction, but in such a way that it results in the modern sequence /oa/. This means that the term toa derives from an older stage *toua.

Phonological Rule 3:
Subpart 3a: /ou/ > /u/ word-finally.
Subpart 3b: /ou/ > /o/ elsewhere. Example: /toua/ > /toa/.

Once again, we are able to use the exact same pattern of sound change that applies to sequences like /au/ and /ui/, this time affecting a postulated sequence /ou/ in such a way that it results in the preservation of a two-vowel sequence in the modern form of a word.


- We’ve assigned the meaning “master” or “hero” to the word toa, and also reconstructed an older form of this word, *toua, based on observations about the occurrence of postulated two-vowel sequences elsewhere in the language.
- Along the way, we’ve derived a third phonological rule affecting the vowel-sequence /ou/ (> /u/ word-finally, /o/ elsewhere).

Current Glossary:

e “?making, ?creating”
eki “maker” (< *ekui)
ekimu “mask maker”
ki “agent” (< *kui)
kuta “hoarder” (< *kuita)
makuta “mask hoarder”
mu “mask” (< *mau)
ta “?hoarding, ?grouping”
toa “master, hero” (< *toua)


TLoO: Chapter 3

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Language and Etymology Feb 10 2015 · 652 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 3


Now that we’ve taken the first step in breaking down the dataset, it’s time to go a bit further. Recall that, thus far, we’ve decomposed the names ekimu and makuta into eki “maker” plus *mau “mask” (“mask maker”) and *mau “mask” plus kuta “hoarder” (“mask hoarder”). For this post, let’s focus on these newly-derived elements eki and kuta and try to break them down even further.

First of all, consider their meanings: “maker” and “hoarder”. Both of these constitute “agentive” nouns, indicated by the English suffix -er. This common element of agentivity can easily provide us with a point of comparison, in the same way that we used the common element of “mask” in the previous post. Therefore:

Assumption: The words eki and kuta both incorporate a morpheme corresponding to “agent”.

And from there we can move immediately to an observation:

Observation: There is a common sequence /k+vowel/ in both words, /e-ki/ and /ku-ta/.

The variation between /ki/ and /ku/ presents us with a situation that is almost identical with the situation involving /ma/ ~ /mu/ in the previous post, in which case, to keep things maximally simple, we can apply the exact same methodology in order to derive /ki/ ~ /ku/ from a common etymological source, parallel to the derivation of /ma/ ~ /mu/ from the reconstructed *mau.

Proposal 1: The sequence /ki/ in /eki/ and the sequence /ku/ in /kuta/ can both be traced back to an older common form *kui “agent”. Furthermore, the vowel-sequence /ui/ is affected by the following phonological rule, which has two subparts:

Phonological Rule 2:
Subpart 2a: /ui/ becomes /i/ word-finally. Example: /ekui/ > /eki/.
Subpart 2b: /ui/ becomes /u/ elsewhere. Example: /kuita/ > /kuta/.

This phonological rule is modeled on the first phonological rule affecting /au/ and operates according to the exact same principles, i.e. the first vowel in a sequence of two vowels is deleted in word-final position, while the second vowel deletes elsewhere. This kind of rule-based simplicity is desirable, I would say, on grounds of parsimony, so it’s fortunate that we can take advantage of it once again!

Now that we’ve extracted *kui “agent” from eki and kuta, we are left with the challenge of assigning appropriate meanings to the remnants of these terms: e- on the one hand and -ta on the other. First, let’s consider the meanings of eki and kuta in relation to our new assumption about *kui “agent”: The term eki “maker” would derive from the complex e-kui, translating to something like “?agent of making; make-er”, while the term kuta would derive from kui-ta, translating to something like “?agent of hoarding; hoard-er”, in which case we can assign rough meanings to our remaining elements, e “?making” and ta “?hoarding”.

This once again leaves the question of the syntactic/semantic difference between the two terms. In both cases, the primary element is *kui “agent”, with e “?making” placed as a modifier before *kui and ta “?hoarding” placed as a modifier after *kui. Here’s how these facts play out:

e-kui = “agent with an abstract/indirect relation to making”, i.e. not a “direct” maker (creating things from nothing), but a builder or someone who makes things out of materials (one step removed from the initial process of creation)

kui-ta = “agent with concrete relation to hoards/groups”, i.e. someone who directly/physically collects objects into definable groups.


- We have decomposed the words eki “maker” and kuta “hoarder” into the reconstructed element *kui “agent”, modified in the former case by the element e “?making, ?creating” and in the latter case by the element ta “?hoarding, ?grouping”.
- Along the way, we’ve derived a second phonological rule affecting the vowel-sequence /ui/ (> /i/ word-finally, /u/ elsewhere).

Current Glossary:

e “?making, ?creating”
eki “maker” (< *ekui)
ekimu “mask maker”
*kui “agent” (would become ki in the modern form of Okotoan)
kuta “hoarder” (< *kuita)
makuta “mask hoarder”
mu “mask” (< *mau)
ta “?hoarding, ?grouping”


TLoO: Chapter 2

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Feb 08 2015 · 776 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 2


(Note that the material in this post is basically a culled-down/revised version of this post.)

Now that we’ve collected a dataset, the next step in the project to construct an Okotoan Language is to take a part of that dataset and attempt to break it down into smaller units. The best way to do this is to assign some reasonable meanings to a few of the terms available and then use a bit of comparative methodology and some etymological know-how to decompose the words.

Ekimu is referred to by the title of “Mask Maker”, while Makuta is referred to by the title of “Mask Hoarder”. As suggested in the original topic, these titles could work well as the meanings of the names Ekimu and Makuta, and I will adopt this idea in order to proceed:

Assumption: The names Ekimu and Makuta translate, respectively, to “Mask Maker” and “Mask Hoarder”.

The advantage to this assumption is that it provides us with a basis for comparing the names. Both titles contain a meaning-element (or “morpheme”) signifying “mask”, so by comparing the two Okotoan names, we should be able to identify and isolate the common element.

Observations: There is a common sequence /m+vowel/ in both names, /eki-mu/ and /ma-kuta/. Both names also contain a sequence of /k/ between vowels, /eki-mu/ in the first case and /m-aku-ta/ in the second.

Both of these options could work, although they both come with a different set of assumptions/consequences. In the first case, we’d have to postulate that the sequences /-mu/ and /ma-/ both map to the morpheme “mask”, and the remaining portions of these words—/eki-/ and /-kuta/—map to the meanings “maker” and “hoarder”, respectively. In the second case, “mask” would be signified by the sequences /eki-/ and /-aku-/, with the morphemes for “maker” and “hoarder” represented by the sequences /-mu/ and /m-...-ta/.

I believe the first option is preferable on the following grounds:

First, splitting the names into /eki-mu/ and /ma-kuta/ is, in general, more uniform than splitting them into /eki-mu/ and /m-aku-ta/, because it results in both names being reduced to two clear morphemic elements (/eki+mu/ and /ma+kuta/), matching the assumed English translations (“mask+maker” and “mask+hoarder”) in a straightforward manner. This contrasts with the second option, which would reduce one name to two morphemic units (/eki+mu/), but the second name to (at least) three (/m+aku+ta/), unless we make some further hypotheses about the composition of these names (e.g. /ekimu/ should be divided into /eki+m+u/ to mirror /m+aku+ta/). On grounds of parsimony (i.e. simplicity), therefore, I believe the first option is better.

Second, assuming that the sequences /mu/ and /ma/ are connected requires only one unified phonological rule affecting a single vowel, such that the vowels /u/ (in /mu/) and /a/ (in /ma/) both originate from a common source. In contrast, assuming that /eki/ and /aku/ are etymologically connected requires at least two rules, since two vowels are involved: /e/ and /a/ must trace back to one common source, and /i/ and /u/ trace back to another. Therefore, I believe that the first option wins out once again on grounds of parsimony (i.e. wanting to assume the minimum number of rules).

With that said, here is how the first option would play out:

Proposal 1: The sequence /mu/ in /ekimu/ and the sequence /ma/ in /makuta/ can both be traced back to an older common form *mau “mask” (the asterisk denotes a reconstructed form). Furthermore, the vowel-sequence /au/ is affected by the following phonological rule, which has two subparts:

Phonological Rule 1:
Subpart 1a: /au/ becomes /u/ at the ends of words (“word-finally”). Example: /ekimau/ > /ekimu/.
Subpart 1b: /au/ becomes /a/ everywhere else (“elsewhere”). Example: /maukuta/ > /makuta/.

Now that we’ve accounted for the phonological differences between the manifestations of the morpheme *mau “mask” in the two names, one task remains: explaining the syntactic difference between the combination of elements in each name. In the case of /ekimu/, the element *mau is placed second (/eki-mau/), while in the case of /makuta/, *mau is placed first (/mau-kuta/). Why is this? Does it matter? Ideally, I think we should have an explanation available, and towards that end, I’ll put forward a proposal inspired in part by the rules which apply to how adjectives modify nouns in the Matoran Language. First, the proposal; then, an explanation:

Proposal 2: A modifying element placed before the element it modifies receives an indirect/abstract/non-physical interpretation, while a modifying element placed after another element receives a direct/concrete/physical interpretation.

Note that, while this rule of syntactic/semantic composition matches the rules of the Matoran Language in principle (i.e. in that the syntactic position of modifiers influences their interpretation), in application it’s actually the opposite! In Matoran, adjectives received concrete interpretations when placed before nouns and abstract interpretations when placed after. In Okotoan, the situation is reversed: before = abstract, after = concrete. Don’t worry: this decision wasn’t made on a whim, luckily. It was the result of some intense thought as to the appropriate characterization of the meanings of the names Ekimu and Makuta, as well as a few other names/terms (which will be discussed in later posts). Furthermore, this proposal is a reversal of the proposal I made in the original post, which matched up with Matoran exactly. Ideas change. Pay it no mind! =P And anyways, it feels a bit more appropriate to have a distinct difference between Okotoan and Matoran, rather than having Okotoan be an exact replica.

Now, let’s see how these ideas apply to the composition of our two names:

First of all, we need to determine for both names what is the modifying element and what is the “primary” element (the “head”) in order to determine the interpretation (indirect/abstract vs. direct/concrete). In both cases, the elements representing “maker” (eki) and “hoarder” (kuta) are clearly the primary elements, meaning that the element *mau “mask” is the modifier for both terms. Here’s how this plays out:

eki-mau = “maker with concrete/direct relation to masks” (the modifier *mau is placed after the primary element eki)

mau-kuta = “hoarder with abstract/indirect relation to masks” (the modifier *mau is placed before the primary element kuta)


- We have assumed that the names Ekimu and Makuta translate to “Mask Maker” and “Mask Hoarder”, respectively.
- We have decomposed the names Ekimu and Makuta into the elements eki “maker” and kuta “hoarder”, both modified by the reconstructed element *mau “mask”.
- Along the way, we’ve derived one phonological rule affecting the vowel-sequence /au/ (> /u/ word-finally, /a/ elsewhere), as well as a rule of syntactic/semantic composition (modifiers are interpreted as indirect/abstract when placed before the thing they modify, direct/concrete when placed after).

Current Glossary:

eki “maker”
ekimu “mask maker”
kuta “hoarder”
makuta “mask hoarder”
*mau “mask” (would become mu in the modern form of Okotoan)


The Language of Okoto: Chapter 1

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, Language and Etymology, Matoran Language, Bionicle, linguistics Feb 07 2015 · 638 views
here we go again

The Language of Okoto


I’m afraid I have indeed succumbed to the secret vice once again. It was probably inevitable, even though the linguistic material incorporated into Generation 2 of Bionicle is admittedly quite a bit less than the material that was available in Generation 1. Ultimately, however, I decided that the lack of material shouldn’t deter creativity, and so this series of posts has grown and expanded to a pretty decent size (roughly 10 posts) over the past month or so.

Before getting to the issue at hand, I’ll note that I am indebted to this topic for some of the inspiration, so credit where credit is due! I posted a first sketch of these ideas in that topic, and I encourage others to join in on the conversation there. The reason I’ve decided to splinter this off into a series of blog posts is...well, there’s a lot of material here, and I have no desire to squash other people’s creativity, which this material would threaten to do if I just flooded the topic with it. Instead, consider this my personal take on the language of the inhabitants of Okoto. These posts will proceed in a series of stages or “chapters”, each building on the proposals and conclusions of the last, and they will continue for as long as I feel like I have something to say. Also, as usual, I’ll be cross-posting everything on my other blog for the perusal of the tumblr community. Alright, enough chit-chat. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Let’s start with a brief discussion of the data that is available for the language of the Okotoans. First, there is the name of the island itself, Okoto. Secondly, there are the names of the two brothers Ekimu and Makuta. These three names/terms are presented as authentically Okotoan in all G2 media sources, even though Makuta clearly mirrors the Matoran term from G1. For our purposes here, let’s assume that the match-up between the Matoran Language and the Okotoan Language when it comes to Makuta’s name is an homage/coincidence.

Next, we have to consider the names of the G2 Toa/Masters: Tahu, Gali, Lewa, Kopaka, Onua, and Pohatu. These are also definitively Matoran names, but they could be included as authentic Okotoan names via the same criteria by which Makuta can be included (i.e. coincidence). However, there is one problem: we don’t yet know anything about the connection that these Toa have—if any—with the Toa Mata of the G1 universe. If the G2 universe is indeed somehow connected to the G1 universe (which remains a possibility given the hints about the Mask of Time), and, hence, the Masters are actually the same beings as the G1 Toa Mata, then this poses a problem for the inclusion of these names as native to the Okotoan Language, since they would still be Matoran in origin—simply transferred from one universe to another.

It has, of course, been noted that the Protectors clearly gave the Masters their names shortly after the Masters crashlanded, and this might be seen as an argument for the native-status of these names. Then again, it could also very easily be that these names have been passed down to the Protectors in connection with Ekimu’s Prophecy of Heroes (or some other prophecy); hence still non-native. Only time will tell, in this case.

The last thing to consider is the term Toa itself. To me, this word seems to fall more-or-less under the same criteria as Makuta’s name, but that’s mainly because the title of Toa seems to already have a uniquely Okotoan meaning of “Master” (note: seems to—not necessarily confirmed, but I think it’s a pretty solid hypthesis).

Okay, with that out of the way, here is the dataset that is available to us and from which we can begin to assemble a language:

Native terms:


Possibly native terms (unconfirmed):


Chapter I

Posted Image


"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?





LEGO/Bionicle enthusiast

a total nerd


0 user(s) viewing

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

Recent Comments