Another thing is, I believe bonesiii once mentioned that, contrary to popular belief, the "actual" Matoran language wasn't equivalent to English, and neither was Agori.
I don't recall wording it that way. Does anyone actually think that the language would be just like English? Also, what is meant by "equivalent"? Anywho, regardless of what I said, most of it isn't established, but what we know does have some key differences. Often descriptors tend to come after the nouns they modify, for example -- Metru Nui means Great City, but in word order it's City Great. So we do know for a fact that there are grammatical differences.
So, that makes me wonder about numerous other things, the most prominent of which is the Matoran alphabet that has been used since 2001. What part of it is actually "culturally correct" from a Matoran's standpoint? Could we assume that their alphabet is indeed what we have seen for years (i.e. essentially the English alphabet with a more dismal graphical interpretation), and it is just their grammar and syntax that are completely different? Or is their alphabet completely different as well?
Well this is where we can have two possible answers:
1) Forget suspension of disbelief and just realize that this is the product of English-speaking brains (or Dutch targeting English speaking kids? lol). Actually, when you get used to that, it's even possible to bring suspension back in when you realize that statistically speaking, if there are infinite random permutations of fictional alien languages, some could be very similar to English. Same can work for words that clearly are taken from real-world languages, like "Frostelus" or "Umbra" or "Nui". I prefer this one.
2) The Tolkien solution (little known unless you really get into his works including the side content), of saying that the non-English words we get are a translation into a fiction-within-fiction language. Tolkien treated the "actual" languages as something almost completely alien to the readers, but said that the ones that were meant to feel more familiar were changed in some way to make them feel more like English superficially. "Bilbo" for example is part of this "semi-translated" language, not the character's "actual" name (that was Bilba, which would sound masculine in the actual language but sounds feminine in English).
We can also imagine a cherrypicking compromise between the two, where the ones we like as-is are left intact but the ones that you don't like (I think the vast majority of us would point to Frostelus ) you assume was "really" something else (probably something with "ko" in the name somewhere). This could vary from fan to fan, in the absence of any confirmation of it for Bionicle.
I usually lean against this because many of the names seem fairly 'alien'. On the feminine/masculine note, Bionicle has never been shy about having male characters with names that don't seem stylistically much different from females.(The "a" ending is common in both for example.) That seems to me to show that the names are probably accurate.
With the alphabet specifically, any mouth designed basically like humans will be most efficient when making the same basic sounds as English and most other languages. To make strange sounds you have to go guttural or the like, and that takes more effort. This is why human languages have tended to experience vowel and consonant shifts toward the front of the mouth, away from the guttural sounds, over time (basically we got lazy ). No particular reason an alien language has to start out biased toward the guttural either, so they may have started more ideally.
This doesn't account, of course, for the "nonsense" letters like C and Q (both are really just K; qu = kw, except when c is s, etc. etc.), j (dzh), or x (ks), nor for why they wouldn't have letters for things like th, sh, etc. (although in that case the oddity is that WE don't, since we use those a lot but Bionicle languages usually don't seem to). The likelihood of an alien language just so happening to have even these impractical letters, and no different ones, is virtually nill (I mean equivalent; symbols for those sounds with exactly those rules). But these are relatively easily solved by just imagining that all "C"s are really "K"s (and Bionicle avoids "C"s anyways), and so forth.
I actually asked Greg, back when he still visited here, whether the way we have seen Matoran written (using English words in Matoran characters) is canon, or whether it would technically be written using Matoran language (i.e. "kanoka" over "disk"). He responded saying that both methods are accurate, which I didn't find to be very helpful, because it doesn't really appeal to logical sense. Matoran have two ways of writing every word, and the alternative way, if spoken aloud, would be English? I'm sure that he was just trying to keep everything that had been released prior to the time canon, but it really is a strange answer.
Offhand I don't remember this one; any chance we could get the quote?
If he literally said both methods (English using Matoran alphabet, and Matoran using Matoran alphabet), that's easily understood as meaning the one is still somewhat accurate and the other would be fully accurate (assuming the alphabet is fully accurate to begin with). It's unlikely he meant it how you seem to have taken it. But if he said something more like "they actually speak English", I can see why that would be disappointing, but that would also contradict answers I have seen, confirming that it's only "translated" into English. They do not speak English.
The way I see it; whenever you see a word in matoran, it's actualy from an older version of the dialect. Whenever they seem to use English, it's just a stand in for modern matoran.
There could be something to that, but likely it would not be anywhere near absolute. Really of course the ones we get were just whatever had the most storyline importance, enough to get names that went through legal, with less caution for the early years, and it seems statistically unlikely that those would so consistently be just ancient.
If you're onto something, though, that would be comparable to Tolkien's "Westron" (Aduni), which he translated almost entirely into English. Frostelus could thus be symbolic of something from a halfway-along "Middle Matoran" between Ancient and Modern. Frost Beetle would be entirely modern, and Kopaka would be fully ancient. The modern would still have parts from the ancient which would tend to be left untranslated.
Also, just like human names, people might tend to use the ancient instead of modern for their names.
The only serious issue with this is the number of times Greg has confirmed that a major name means this or that in Matoran, especially the mask names, with no hint that he means the ancient. Of course, we also don't know what the major differences are between ancient and modern; they might be mostly grammatical instead of stylistic.
Yes, obviously "Toa of Fire" would be "Ta Toa" in Matoran, but has it ever been explained how the names of the Toa Mata were chosen or formed by the Order of Mata Nui? Clearly, they were based on the archaic Matoran words for the six primary elements, but what if their names actually serve a different purpose in everyday Matoran speech? What if, their names are actually the adjectives deriving from the names Ta, Onu, Po, Ko, Le and Ga? So essentially, "Tahu" as an adjective and not a proper noun would literally mean "of or pertaining to fire". And thus, the title Toa Tahu would literally mean "Guardian of Fire".
All we know for sure is they were named after the elements. We don't know if those are the standard words for the elements and the prefixes are just abbreviations (though this is the most common theory) or if the prefixes themselves are the standard and the rest of the names are suffixes of unknown meaning.
Either way, I would think they would not ever put a modifier after a title (assuming the word order of titles is the same as English). Whatever comes after the title should be the name. But they might say "Tahu Toa" as a longer, more poetic or formal way of saying "Ta-Toa". Normally "Toa Tahu" would work, but in this case methinks they'd have a special rule that modifiers of the title have to come first to avoid confusing that with the Toa's personal name. So this wouldn't work with the same word order as "Metru Nui." You could, however, theoretically have "Metru Tahu" meaning Fire City (division) as a more formal version of Ta-Metru.
Also note that we don't know the proper full element names for all elements. We think (but I forget if it's confirmed) that Avohkii and Kraahkan are the names of Light and Shadow, but then Garai is clearly not the name of Gravity (Ba), so we can't just assume it. (IMO they are, and Garai is a subpower which could be translated better as Weight Control.) So in general it's easier to just go with the prefixes and save "Tahu" for the character.
Consider this, has it ever really been explained how the Turaga of Mata Nui (formerly the Toa Metru) seemed to know the names of the six Toa that would eventually come to the island and defeat the Makuta?
Between Vakama's visions, Red Star prophecies via Nixie, and legends passed down through the ages, they could have easily known their actual names. Early media claimed that they did indeed know they were coming and what masks they would wear even. They carved statues of them long before seeing them personally, such as the Gali mask statue at Ga-Koro's waterfall.
Most of that media was non-canon, so not sure if that was ever confirmed by the story team, but it seems hard to work around. Adjectives wouldn't explain knowing the masks exactly. Also, the Turaga happened to pick the exact same masks as the ones to hide around the island. So by whatever means, it seems they did know those six individuals were supposed to come.
I mean, surely, there is no reasonable explanation as to how they would, so my personal assumption is that they simply christened them according to their age-old folklore. The OoMN's reasoning could have been pretty much the same when they made the Toa Mata. Because they were a team of iconic element-wielding heroes with a very specific, very important mission. They were the Toa. So it makes a lot of sense to assume that "Toa Kopaka" could be an archaic form of "Ko Toa", meaning "Guardian/Hero of Ice".
So are you thinking that the elders actually would address them by this without knowing their names, and by luck be rightly addressing them, so the Toa don't notice? I very much doubt that but I must admit it's a cool idea. Notice, though, Nuju's speech to Kopaka in the first comic:
He confirms twice that he knows who Kopaka is (and has been waiting for him), and calls him "Kopaka". It would be very odd if this was an adjective; he'd be calling him "Icy". The noun form would of course be even weirder -- "Ice." And I think it's obvious we're supposed to get that Nuju foreknew Kopaka was coming. He stares at a Wall of Prophecy all day, yanno, he's gotta have some idea, right?
I wouldn't be surprised if their names meant nothing at all. After all, we have really weird names for government projects. Remember the name of the atomic bomb project? What does "Manhattan Project" have to do with nuclear weapons? And why was Ronald Reagan's codename "Rawhide"?
For all we know, "Helryx" could have the same name as some dish made with thornax.
I wouldn't call that nothing at all. Manhattan project was a codename, just like Rawhide, but the words themselves have etymologies, even if they were applied to obscure. Helryx is a name, so most likely describes her in some non-obscuring way. But anywho, it was always said that the naming of the Toa Mata was unusual. Normal Toa are not named after their element. Granted, with Helryx it would actually make sense, but it's just as likely she was named after some random personality trait or whatever.
In other words, all the character names definitely have meaning. But the logic of why it's applied to each individual in the way it is should vary about as much as you could imagine.
Incidentally, "Tobduk" was not that character's original name, so it's really more of a nickname or codename. Thus not the best example. But it might be more like a self-renaming, and if they name themselves in the start of their life it might work. I get the sense that Tobduk saw his old personality as gone and not applicable to his originally chosen name. Also, it's hard to imagine that a brand-new Matoran, even though he or she has full language skills immediately, would understand themselves well enough to have the most ideal names. I guess they pick something that feels best in their more naive initial states, and then just stick with it out of convenience unless there's a major event like what happened to Tobduk, or a Naming Day.