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Roots & Stems



Oh hi. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? At least, it’s been a while since I posted anything of substance here. I’ve actually been pretty freakishly active on my tumblr blog over the last couple of months, although not so much in recent weeks. That’s due to the fact that the academic year has once again begun, and my time is now mostly consumed by a combination of teaching and coursework. woo

But, in spite of that, I have managed to eke out something that might be of interest to the Matoran language enthusiasts that still lurk hither. It’s something that has been in development for a long time, and it’s bound to continue developing in future, as usual, but I felt like it had reach a sufficient stage of maturation to post. So here it is:




One of the most difficult (and yet, most satisfying) parts of thinking about Matoran etymology is seeing just how far we can reduce the set of original root-stems that might have formed the lexical inventory of the Matoran language in its most ancient state (i.e. the state of the language as programmed by the Great Beings). This has pretty much been a constant preoccupation of mine, since every additional stem that we have to posit in order to sufficiently derive all known Matoran words is technically an additional departure from the canon. Ideally, we’d be able to derive every Matoran word by relying solely on a small pool of well-motivated stems which are combined in consistent and logical ways to create the complex forms we see. Over the past several years, this pool has fluctuated wildly, but overall I’m happy to say that it has grown consistently smaller. In fact, at this point in the project, I can say with pretty good certainty that it is possible to derive every known Matoran word from a pool of stems consisting of about 16 elemental stems (ta, ga, le, (o)nu, po/pa, ko, vo, fa, bo, de, fe, ce, su, ba, av, kra, no/na) plus roughly 16 additional stems with varying semantic values. An entire lexicon and grammatical system derived from the combination of ~32 primitive items? Seems like a pretty good result to me! =p

And that finally brings me to the point of this entry: a provisional list of the ~32 stems coupled with the semantic domains that they (supposedly) cover. I won’t attempt to provide any justification for these other than to direct you (as always) to the Matoran Dictionary and the Matoran Grammar, where most, if not all, of these stems manifest in one form or another.




TA -- fire; courage/bravery; essence, being; cause/initiation, inception

GA -- water; purity; progression

LE -- air; cohesiveness, accuracy; habituality

(O)NU -- earth; firmness, steadfastness; past-orientation, memory

PO/PA -- stone; strength, stolidness; reliability, friendliness; present-orientation

KO -- ice; clarity, knowledge, sight; foresight, future-orientation

VO -- lightning; energy; movement, conduction/transmission; ability

FA -- magnetism; field, range, limitation; perfectivity

BO -- plant-life; permanence; patience, stativity

DE -- sonics; ?sensitivity, ?precision

FE -- iron; metal; invention, innovation

CE -- psionics; mind; (epistemic) possibility

SU -- plasma; consumption, conversion; (deontic) necessity

BA -- gravity; weight, balance

AV -- light; enlightenment, ?revelation

KRA -- shadow; obscurity

NO/NA -- protodermis, substance, matter; the protodermic Elements




KA -- unity; power, energy, potential; ?system-normality (?> HA)

MA -- duty; control, use, mastery

VA -- destiny; time

HA -- system-normality; ?activity, process (?> HU)

HI -- thing, object (> hi); part (> ki); intensive (> -k)

HU -- activity, process

RO -- unit, individuation

ZA -- schematic, plan, structure

AR -- affirmation, presence, realis (ar-); application, realization (> ­-ar)

UR -- negation, absence, irealis (ur-); antonymy (> -ur)

WA -- mass, quantity, magnitude; ?relation, property

AI -- basis of deictic grammatical affixes (> ai-, -ai, i-...-a; > ai-ai > i-ai > yai > YI)

IA -- basis of non-deictic derivative affixes (> -ya, a-...-i; -a-wa-i > -aui > -ui)

YI -- contact, connection, together(ness) (< AI+AI)

?LA -- positivity, goodness (?< LE)

?NI -- ?being, star (?< NO/NA)

?SI -- possibility, variation (?< CE)

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