Over the years, I’ve messed around with a few ideas about the languages of Bionicle, the Matoran Language especially. While messing around, I’ve happened to stumble across certain patterns in the pool of Matoran words that we have access to – patterns that consistently stand out as meaningful. This topic is about one of those patterns, and a pretty minor one at that. Here, let me throw some words atcha:
crast, keras, carapar, kardas
What a mish-mash! The Kanohi Crast, Mask of Repulsion; Keras, a species of Rahi crab; Carapar, a Barraki warlord; and the Kardas Dragon, a...well...it’s a dragon. What's all this? Seems kind of random, right? On the surface, maybe so, but my hope is that by the time you reach the end of this post, you’ll see that things might not be as random as they look.
Put simply, these words look/sound alike in some ways, and I think that, if we do some informed guesswork, we can also postulate a common thread of meaning, thereby tying together these seemingly disconnected points of data into a coherent whole. That’s the purpose of this topic: to put forward a proposal to derive elements of (at least) these four Matoran words from a common etymological source. And hey, if we can do that, who knows what further insights we might gain into Matoran etymology? Gotta start somewhere. Let’s begin.
2. Analysis: Initial Proposal
First, some preliminaries: Do you want to take Matoran etymology seriously? Hey, me too! Isn’t it great? But what does "taking it seriously" mean? It pretty much just means that whatever theory we propose must be acceptable within already-established Bionicle canon, and we must make the fewest unfounded assumptions possible, or try to, at least. Those’re the rules. Alright, so where do we start? Let’s start with the facts. We actually have a lot of facts to work with:
- First, there are the words themselves, from which we can identify patterns and (surface) similarities. In this case, I’ve started by saying crast looks/sounds kinda like keras, which looks/sounds kinda like carapar, kardas, and so on. Deep thinking here.
- Second, we have official translations for some of the words. In this case, we know the meaning of precisely one of the words under analysis: crast "repulsion". One down!
- Third, we can draw upon general knowledge about the in-universe context of these words, including the ones for which there is no official translation. In spite of the absence of a translation, we can usually make some pretty well-educated guesses based on the entities to which these words are assigned in the Bionicle world.
So those are the guiding principles. Pretty straightforward, no? I’ve already noted the surface similarities between the different words and the fact that we have a translation for one of them, so the third point bears some further explanation. What is the in-universe context of the words that we don’t have translations for, these being keras, carapar, and kardas? Here are my ideas as to what’s relevant:
Starting with Keras: It’s a species of Rahi crab, plain and simple. What defines crabs? Shells? Claws? Eye-stalks? Gangly legs? Keeping in mind the analogy with crast, let’s go with the first choice, shells. Is it plausible that the Matoran name of a species of crab might reference the fact that these crabs have shells? Crabs are creatures with shells, and shells could be said to repulse or resist outside threats. Interesting.
Next up, Carapar: A Barraki warlord, pretty rough character...eventually mutated into a crab-like form, complete with shell and claws. Irony? Destiny? In addition, if we break the fourth wall for a moment here, the name is pretty obviously taken from "carapace". Even so, would it be that much of a stretch considering Carapar’s background and personality (to the extent that he had one) to theorize that his name might’ve had a metaphorical connection to something like "repulsion"? Think "resistance" or "obstinancy". There are lots of options, but these seem reasonable to me.
Moving on, the last item on the list is Kardas: A Rahi dragon, a pretty powerful beast, whose defining ability is the power to emit blasts of "concussive force". I don’t think that much needs to be said there, actually. The connection between "concussive force" and "repulsion" shouldn’t be too hard to make. Let’s run with it. Time to try formulating a proposal:
Initial Proposal: Based on their surface similarity to each other and the word crast, as well as some minimal assumptions about the in-universe entities that these words refer to, I propose that the words keras, carapar, and kardas all incorporate a meaning within a semantic domain that includes "repulsion".
That seems like a lot of words for not much of a proposal, and it is. Gotta make sure this thing is iron-clad, if possible. Baby steps!
3. Analysis: Revised Proposal
The logical progression from the proposal above would be to see if we can identify precisely what part of crast, keras, carapar, and kardas encodes the meaning of "repulsion", and, even more theoretically, if we can use comparative reconstruction to come up with a "basic stem" from which these words descend historically. The first step isn’t all that hard. What are the common elements amongst these words?
crast < cra-st
keras < ker-as or kera-s
carapar < car-apar or cara-par
kardas < kar-das
The results are in: cra, ker(a), car(a), and kar all appear to be potential candidates for "repulsion" (or some broader, related meaning) within their respective words. Alright, next, we actually have some spelling variation going on with <c> vs. <k>. Let’s normalize that, shall we? That gives us kra, ker(a), and kar(a), and we’ve easily reduced the options by one, merging car(a) and kar. Putting forward another conjecture, it is possible that the ker(a)/kar(a) contrast could just be a matter of phonological variation (or even another spelling difference). Of course, the distinction could actually be significant, but for now let’s take the leap and merge those two as well. That leaves us with two options: kra and kar(a).
Can we go any further? Well, for human language, these forms kra and kar(a) could easily be descended from a common root. For example, if we take *kar as the original form (the * indicates a reconstructed stem), it could undergo a process of "metathesis", which is a fancy word for "the sounds get switched", and end up as kra. On the other hand, we might postulate *kara as the original, with simple reduction of the first syllable: kara > kra. Either way works, and at this point we could safely leave it as is.
We could...but you know what? Let’s not. Let’s go one tiny step further and pin down *kar(a) as our final reconstructed form, for no other reason than that it covers both possible reconstructions. Minor point. Whew!
Alright, after all that, here’s the official revised proposal, incorporating an expanded version of the first proposal:
(a) The four variants, namely cra (< cra-st), car(a) (< cara-par), ker(a) (< kera-s), and kar (< kar-das), all derive from one common stem, which I propose to reconstruct as *kar(a).
(b) Based on their surface similarity to each other and the already-translated word crast, as well as some minimal assumptions about the in-universe references of these words, I further propose that the stem *kar(a) covers a semantic domain containing abstract concepts such as "repulsion" or "resistance", as well as potentially more concrete meanings such as "shell, barrier" or even "concussive force; (destructive?) application of power".
4. Final Remarks
And that’s the gist of it, folks. Before I conclude though, here are some suggestions for future research. The following is a short list of words whose analyses, I believe, become immediately accessible to us if the etymology proposed above holds true. In no particular order:
karda "heart" < kar-da (repulsion...concussive force/energy...engine?)
karzahni < kar-zahni (a being who rejected his original purpose?)
krekka < kre-kka? (brute force, anyone?)
pakari "strength" < pa-kar-i (leaning more towards "application of power", perhaps?)
cordak "desolation" < cor-dak (bit of a stretch, perhaps)
icarax < i-cara-x, i-car-ax?
krana < kra-na
parakrekks < para-kre-kks? (cf. krekk-a)
I’ll leave it at that. Comments are welcome. Have fun with it.
P.S. If you're interested in a more uninhibited (but also somewhat outdated) interpretation of the proposal sketched here, check it out, yo.