[* Like the fact that Anglophones have been mispronouncing "weird" for a long time -- it comes from the same root as wary, aware, ward, and word, and refers to one language group's attitudes toward spoken magic. Words such as "würd" and "wÿrd" are the avenue along which we get "weird", and it is meant to be pronounced following the same old "I before E..." rule as all the others -- "weyrd". Amusingly (to me) the other language family's experience with spoken magic gave us "spell" (from "spiel" -- "to speak"), and I snicker every time I see the children's learning toy "Speak & Spell", as the name is unintentionally redundant.]
I've done a lot of delving into Star Trek, Star Wars, and Transformers, linguistically, over the years. Beyond learning Klingon, I also came up with a "high-ancient" form of Romulan. I've had a lot of fun with the three thousand year history of the Mandalorians vis-à-vis the rest of the galaxy, and how that's affected language**. With Transformers, I've come up with a structure by which Teletraan basically used what it gleaned of Earth history to translate the names of the occupants of the Ark into relevant analogues -- the youngest, "modern" Cybertronians' names were converted into the contemporary lingua franca, English. The older ones from early in the Great War had their names presented as Latin. And the ones from before the war (during and immediately after the Quintesson occupation) had their names conveyed in Greek. Some on the cusp between those two latter eras ended up with merged Latin and Greek names, to capture a language in the midst of rapid evolution (like Omega Supreme).
[** One tidbit: I know the EU is in abeyance at the moment, but I tend to treat much of the content as canon until it isn't -- like the post-ROTJ stuff that's now pretty much gone entirely. West End Games introduced the Thyrsian Sun Guards as one of the groups that inspired the look of the Emperor's guards, the other being the Mandalorian Death Watch. That connection percolated for years until after ROTS came out. Currently, I have a nice little backstory of a group of Mandalorians who left between Mandalore the Ultimate and Mandalore the Preserver -- who disagreed with the philosophy of conquest, because of all the hurt that had heaped on them at the hands of the Republic. The leader of this splinter group was the head of clan Thiir. They wandered for a long time, helping defend people against aggressors here and there, until they found an Echani colony world that had been so long separated from their world of origin that they felt no connection and wanted their independence. The wanderers helped them gain it, and out of gratitude, were welcomed to settle there, and the planet renamed Thyrsus in honor of the clan that still de-facto led them. Meanwhile, those of the clan who stayed with the Mandalorians had the name evolve along a different path that led to the modern Basic spelling and pronunciation of "Thire".]
So, out of all of that, I've had mando'a kicking around in my head since it was introduced. I've enjoyed seeing it swirl about and begin to coalesce, and I'm hoping it can achieve critical mass and burst forth as a functional language (at least as functional as Klingon, Lojban, or Esperanto). I've had a couple translation projects going, that have depended upon an evolving language, as well as an evolving understanding of the language. My initial post in the translation-request thread on Mercs was as follows:
General grammatical quibbles...
When casting things into future or past tense, how do I know when to use the prefix as a prefix (with an apostrophe, attached to the word), and when do I use it as a standalone word? I haven't been able to see much rhyme or reason for that.
Is 'ven' an acceptable word for the future as its own concept, or does it only exist to impart future tense on something else. Like, how would "future generations" translate?
With possessives, do I leave 'be' as a standalone word when I'm being formal in my phrasing? The equivalent of saying something like "the colour of the wall" versus "the wall's colour". And how do compound possessives work? Something like "the son of my father".
Not grammatical, but stylistic -- when describing how a sword is made, 'gotal' (made, created) is simpler, but non-specific, whereas 'nau'ur kad' (forge, lit. "light up a saber") is more specific, but kinda clumsy. And also, how would I best go about changing that latter term into the past tense?
To which Ms. Lanna helpfully replied:
I don't think there's a rule per se. I like to attach the prefixes so it's clear what they belong to and mostly because I can. :-[
Personally, speaking as miit'goran, I would say you pronounce it more like one word if you attach it with an apostrophe. A bit like 'I am' and I'm'. That is very useful for poetry.
Other than that, if we keep the comparison, the way without apostrophe could be the more formal way.
The word for 'future' is 'vencuyot'.
vencuyot adate - future people
Of is tricky.
sal be'buy'ce - colour of the helmet
buy'ce be'sal - helmet of colour
it seems strange but could work.
nau'ur kad -> ru'nau'ur kad
That's what I'd do. You know that 'ru' is a past tense marker, and if you take it off, you't back at the original term...
I applied what she'd suggested, continued bashing my brain against the limited extant material, and have gotten somewhat further. I'll post that up in a follow-u[ post, after everyone's had a chance to (hopefully) comment on this one. The process has given me some insights, though, that I've seen people dance close to, without quite hitting in some cases. Now, to it. *cracks knuckles*
It's already known how mando'a is a fairly clipped and direct language, and generally omits things like "to be" and "the" except in very formal phrasing. I can see an analogue in the difference between formal and street Japanese. The simple phrase "What is that?" in formal Japanese is "Kore wa nan desu ka?", while in street slang is "Nan da'yo?" Slight difference, neh?
There are a lot of compound words, much like in German, rather than "borrowed" words from other languages that would replace long compound words or whole phrases. English borrows a lot of words, and we tend to forget that. We'd be a lot harder-put to describe a lot of things and actions if we hadn't. My favorite example of such a compound word comes from a new clutch Porsche used on their 911 Boxter Spyder of about a decade ago: doppelkupplungsgetriebe. In English, we'd probably break that up into two or three words and maybe throw in a hyphen. To turn it around the other way, take the Japanese word hashi, for which we use an incorrect term from a Chinese implement used for an entirely different purpose: chopstick(s). Which, let's be honest, is still more concise than "pair of small, pointy sticks used for picking things up to eat".
And the parallels of which we know got me thinking about the things not addressed yet. In Arabic and ancient Hebrew, there are no vowels. The vowel sound is indicated by extra strokes added to the consonants. We use apostrophes to indicate held vowels or glottal stops between syllables, but I've seen the commentary that mando'a tends to use them inconsistently. Wondering if we might consider some stroke added to the Mandalorian glyph to indicate where the apostrophe effect would go. Which also made me start thinking about doubled letters (aliit, vhett, and proper names like Tobbi, Fenn, and Fett) and whether something similar would be in play there. And vhett got me thinking further about typographical ligatures, like the teutonic combined "o e" (œ) or old Latin combined "a e" (æ), and our own "double-u" (w)... and thinking we should come up with something similar for the mando'a "v h", for instance. I seem to recall Karen saying it's only ever in that form, and never "v" alone. Like an abugida.
One of the things I like about aurebesh is how they actually have some abugidae -- single symbols for two-letter combinations like "th"*. Heck, over in he DC Universe, the entire Kryptonian written language is abugidae -- symbols with their own names and meanings, and each of which is a two- or three-letter combination phoneme. I kinda wish Mandalorian runes had something similar -- at least for some well-known letter combinations...
[* Sidebar: We actually used to have a letter for "th" in English. It was called "thorn" and looked like this -- Þ þ. It became commonly written by medieval scribes in a way almost indistinguishable from the letter "Y", and after it wasn't adopted as a letter in typesetting, "Y" was used in its place, and thus we get "Ye Olde Shoppe" or "Hear ye, hear ye". In both cases, that's supposed to be (and was known to be at the time) pronounced "th" -- "The Olde Shoppe" and "Hear thee, hear thee".]
And some ruminations on earlier points of discussion in the Mercs thread... Did anyone ever come up with/stumble across something that works for "sacred" or "holy"? In answer to the translation for "God" (capital G -- as in, for translating the Bible), maybe go with the old Hebrew tetragrammaton for inspiration. The Name of God was not to be written down, so the four letters whose meanings translated to "I am that I am" were used as a placeholder where the Name of God was to be spoken/thought by the reader. But then the Hebrews were enslaved and the rabbinic line broken, and the Name of God was lost. Later, we came to pronounce the four letters -- Yod He Waw He, YHWH -- as "Yahweh", later Latinized as "Ieheve(h)", further corrupted in English as "Jehovah". A name that isn't actually a name. So maybe the formal mando'a for "I am that I am" done as a tetragrammaton (first letters of those runes' names)?
The other thing someone mentioned was "knight". Go back to its root to come up with a translation. It actually, interestingly, comes from the same cultural root as "samurai". The original word meant literally "servant" or "bondsman", and indicated the relationship between the knight and his lord. Both came to mean "one who serves", in the context of taking care of the spirit of the people and culture. Something involving the Manda would be a good and natural place to start, I'd think...
Depending on what (if any) discussion this sparks, I'll see how much further I can get with my translations and then post them for assistance in further refinement.