Author Topic: Heaven and Earth  (Read 4772 times)

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Offline Yawne Zize’ite

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2012, 01:55:55 pm »
Written language is interesting in terms of sawtuteyä sociology. Once writing is invented, it can spread like the proverbial wildfire under perfect conditions. But the idea of writing down whole sentences only occurs rarely, and only in primitive states; little kingdoms with god-kings whose tax collectors start to feel a need to record all the different taxes and tributes they're collecting. (Primitive states can function without writing too; for obvious reasons we don't know much about them.) There's no need to invoke the incommunicability of tsaheylu to account for a lack of Omatikaya written records.

Once the idea of writing spreads from the petty kingdoms where it begins, especially if it's simplified by ingenious foreigners into a simple syllabary, writing can hold its own in places a "civilized" observer wouldn't expect to be literate. It's well known that the Cherokee nation became literate in nine years in Sequoyah's syllabary (which is shocking for the speed not the social conditions), but not as well known that the Cree of the Canadian subarctic became literate in a syllabary developed by a 19th-century missionary and have remained literate in syllabics until modern mandatory schooling in the Latin alphabet, despite the subarctic not having enough food to support settlements. On the other hand, the Ethiopic alphasyllabary should be nearly as simple to use but illiteracy is high in Ethiopia.

The problem with a syllabary is that as the complexity of syllables increases, the number of signs needed or the ambiguity of each sign increases, and a syllabary will fail to develop. Naʼvi has, by crude calculation, 60 onsets x 12 medials x 12 finals, plus 59 onsets x 2 pseudovowels, for 8758 possible syllables; this is far too many for a reasonable syllabary unless the syllabary is very defective. A syllabary that drops the first consonant of clusters and all final consonants, like Linear B, would still need 294 signs (21 "onsets" x 14 nuclei), which suggests that a syllabary simply will not work for Naʼvi at all. Which is a shame, since alphabets are much harder to teach and learn.

Offline Seze Mune

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2012, 06:28:43 pm »
Very interesting!  This is complicated stuff, and useful if one wants to distill a language into written form.  It sounds like it makes it (or is supposed to make it) easier to learn and express.

I'd heard about the Canadian missionary.  Good job. Without having much of a background in this, I would hazard a guess that English wouldn't be easy to distill into a syllabary.

There is a thread somewhere in Learn Na'vi which might interest you.  It refers to a photo of what appears to be writing on the walls of Grace's school house.  Any guess whether that's a syllabary for Na'vi?


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Offline Yawne Zize’ite

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2012, 08:30:10 pm »
This is what an analytic mind is good for, ma Seze Mune!  ;D
Another variable in play, with any system, is how strictly phonetically to write.  Naʼvi has a mildly "morphophonemic" orthography; the same underlying form is written even when it is pronounced a little differently. A strictly phonemic orthography would include all instances of sandhi; it would spell "tìng mikyun" as "tìm mikyun", "nìayfo" as "nayfo", etc. That style used to be considered best, but it's currently out of favor and the morphophonemic style is recommended.

I rethought the syllabary while I was out running errands. The diphthongs could be eliminated in favor of writing them as vowel+u/i. 21 onsets x 10 nuclei - 2 impossibles (null onset + pseudovowel) = 208 syllables, which is within the range of attested systems (less than Vai or Yi, more than others). It still feels like too many symbols for a wildly successful system but there's not a lot more to cut. It's still not very good; though. This idea would write a basic sentence like "sko Sahìk ke tsun oe mìftxele tsngivawvìk" as "ko Sa-hì ke tsu o-e mì-txe-le ngi-va-u-vì".

I've seen that picture (and posted in that thread!). The signs are too complex to be alphabetic letters and don't resemble any script currently in use, so they might be doodles, brand logos from Earth, or Omatikaya symbols. It's unlikely they're the remains of a syllabary, because no one practical would waste their time designing a syllabary for a language as badly suited to one as Naʼvi.

Also, your intuition is correct; English allows tens of thousands of possible syllables, and is one of the worst candidates for a syllabary around!

Offline Ateyo Te Syaksyuk

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #23 on: June 20, 2012, 12:28:58 am »
YET you still you have the problem of translating heaven and earth (or not heaven)in Na'vi concepts.
I think Puvoman's insights were most accurate.  Your difficulty is translating the Bible into Na'vi would be
to create a word ni'Navi that would convey a closeness with Ewya that would be commeasurate with the
"Glory of Heaven" but most accurately, the joy of complete immersion of Human Spirit with God spirit.

  Early text conveyed the concept of a Heaven as a throne room, but the Na'vi don't even have Kings!
But as HNM pointed out, the spiritual and religious concepts are far too different, as far as the Bible is concerned.  If human had been creating with ayswin, we wouldn't have a need for a heaven and earth because we would be immersed with oneness.

Therefore IMHO, a Bible translation should not be written for the Na'vi, but for the sawtute who wish to SEE, having no ayswin.  All who are drawn to this movie, are drawn to the truth of it.  Spirit transcends all. (Puvomun could help with the quotation.)  The Creator, however one interprets Him/Her only wants to draw the created to Itself "as a hen would gather its chicks".  This was illustrated clearly on Pandora, after tragedy struck the People did not say "WHY ME"  "Why have you abandoned us?"  They just had a sureness/trust/hope that Ewya would provide.  In this way, an "imaginary fantasy" belief system modeled a good example to me that I could apply to my own lifestyle.

Offline Niri Te

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2012, 12:30:35 am »
OK, I have a silly question here, We are already having no problem transliterating the language into English characters. For the purposes of someone writing a fanfic, since they HAVE no alphabet, why don't we just teach them OURS, and leave it as the Samoan alphabet is, purely phonetic? I may not know nearly as many words as Ateyo does, but the words that she has a lot of trouble pronouncing, I just rattle right through, due to my experiences living in Samoa for years. I just speak everything as if it were Samoan that I was reading.
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Offline Meuiama Tsamsiyu (Toruk Makto)

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #25 on: June 20, 2012, 05:43:31 am »
Ma Seze Mune. I am going to hazard a guess, that since this is blurry and hard to really distinguish, that these are images of comparable items both on Earth and Pandora that word association could cross over, 'rock, tske'. Things like that.

Anyone else have any ideas?

BTW, great find. I had not noticed this before. But have also only watched the added scenes version of the movie a handful of times.



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Offline Yawne Zize’ite

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #26 on: June 20, 2012, 08:11:09 am »
OK, I have a silly question here, We are already having no problem transliterating the language into English characters. For the purposes of someone writing a fanfic, since they HAVE no alphabet, why don't we just teach them OURS, and leave it as the Samoan alphabet is, purely phonetic? I may not know nearly as many words as Ateyo does, but the words that she has a lot of trouble pronouncing, I just rattle right through, due to my experiences living in Samoa for years. I just speak everything as if it were Samoan that I was reading.
Niri Te

You'd be surprised - I was - but that's not currently considered "best practice" in writing systems. It depends on the language, of course, and there might be no difference for Samoan. For languages that have single "meaningful elements" (morphemes) that change in pronunciation depending on the sounds around them, like English "-s" (plural) turning into the "z"-sound in words like "dogs" and "boys", the current thinking is that they should be written consistently one way (like how English writes the plural "-s" consistently) because research suggests readers past the very earliest stages derive more benefits from having consistent shapes for words and suffixes than they do from spelling words exactly as they sound. It's a close-run thing, though, and a strictly phonemic orthography works well for Finnish, the South Slavic languages, and others.

For a Naʼvi orthography (for native speakers), since the language isn't suitable for a syllabary, the current system is good. There are theoretically better bases than the Latin alphabet, but the Latin alphabet is a respectable alphabet. (It also suits human interests, so switching to another system would be hard.)

Ma Ateyo, the Naʼvi Bible, like any other major conlang translation project, has a confused audience. On the one hand, fiction-based conlangs have a fictional speaker base, and I feel that part of keeping up the fiction is writing translations intended for the fictional speaker base - for Naʼvi, the Omatikaya Naʼvi. On the other hand, the translation will be read by humans with an interest in the Naʼvi language, so I understand your point of view that a Naʼvi Bible should be written for humans, specifically the sort of humans who find Avatar more spiritually meaningful than a 16th-century Bible translation. I suspect we will have to agree to disagree on the audience to write for.

Heaven as a throne room extends the metaphor of God as a king, with heaven the place God the King rules from. I'm glad I haven't run into those passages yet, since I'm not sure how to cope best with them.

Also, have you read "The Fire Balloons" in Bradbury's The Illustrated Man? Its conclusion reminds me of your argument.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 01:03:53 pm by Yawne Zize’ite »

Offline Seze Mune

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #27 on: June 20, 2012, 09:55:49 am »
Ma Seze Mune. I am going to hazard a guess, that since this is blurry and hard to really distinguish, that these are images of comparable items both on Earth and Pandora that word association could cross over, 'rock, tske'. Things like that.

Anyone else have any ideas?

BTW, great find. I had not noticed this before. But have also only watched the added scenes version of the movie a handful of times.

Yes, it is a great find by Pa'li Makto!

Offline Human No More

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Re: Heaven and Earth
« Reply #28 on: June 25, 2012, 03:58:02 pm »
Really, I don't like the implications of translating it at all. Reminds me of the Spanish explorers who brought diseases to South America.
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