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Speaking In Tongues?

Morhek February 11, 2009 User blog:Morhek

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Goingtoactivatehalo

The Demon and the abomination look on in awe before the sanctity of the Prophets!

I recently started trying to transcribe all of the Prophet of Regret's sermon from Halo 2. It started out of curiosity during one of the cutscenes, and I downloaded it from HBO just to see what he was saying. And as I transcribed it, I realised that his may be the Prophet of Regret speaking in his species' native language - and that nobody has yet bothered to try to write it down!

So I played through Delta Halo again, killing the enemies in the bridge control room and then just...listened. And I wrote. And some of the results have been surprising. So far, I have what I hope to be a complete collection of his chanting:

  • Mana sendi wai tu
  • Wentaru sengu noda
  • Wanteh sendi wai tuoh
  • Awantu zendu
  • Dorenu senwa noda
  • Lengwaru sena nodanga

While most of it seems to be gibberish (at least, to me) I double-checked, and the word Awantu is Lugandan.[1] Could it be that Regret is chanting in an african language?

The very last chanting of Delta Halo, during the cutscene, consists of:

  • Lare seho kepi aweh; wanteh sepi nore; vadam-

At that point, the chant is cut off by Cortana in one of her frequently less-than-helpful outbursts. But it has served its purpose, allowing me a second insight into the San'Shyuum language. I note that Vadum is not just a Sangheili name, but the Latin word for "ford" or "shallows."[2] Is the Prophet's native language a mixture of Latin and Lugandan?

It wouldn't be the first time a science fiction story did so. The Ewoks of Star Wars speak in the Kalmyk language, in Philip K. Dick's Martian Time Slip, the martians speak a language similar to an Australian aboriginal dialect, and various other authors/directors have assigned their aliens random human languages because they sound appropriately alien. Is this the case with the Halo Prophets? Of course, Africa was important to the Forerunners, and there may be a more intricate connection - is the Prophet's use of words from two human languages evidence of past contact? Or that human languages still contain examples of the original Forerunner dialect?

I also notice that many of the chants adhere to two of the famous songs in Halo; the gregorian chant that it is so well known for, and Heretic, Hero from Halo 2. It may well be that these two are notable songs from the Covenant, with lyrics to go with them. As Microsoft expands the Halo universe (for better or for worse), I hope that they can expand on the cultures of the individual Covenant species, and deepen the Halo universe still further.

References

  1. Random guys blog in Lugandan contains the word "awantu"
  2. Translation Site

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