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Old 02-18-2010, 01:21 AM
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RedEyeSky RedEyeSky is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: England
Posts: 11

This is all excellent and helpful, thank you all VERY much - it's nice to know other people are interested, because when I looked around online the main focus appeared to be on the Minbari, and their culture.

I don't have the script books, and won't be likely to be getting them any time soon, so yes if it's okay I'll take away what's new here and make amendments, and (I can't put a time-frame on it) try to hunt down some of the other stuff, which I found online, and also spy out Narn words and names from the books I do have.

Jan, I don't THINK there are any other scenes with spoken Narn in them - except that I ran across a mention online that at the end of By Any Means Necessary, during the G'Quan Eth ritual, G'Kar speaks a few words in Narn after the prayer we hear - is that factual? (Also, from the scripts - is it G'Quan or G'Quon, again I've seen both, and I'm pretty sure one of the books has the spelling G'Kwan - just to add to the fun?!)

Regarding canonicity, I'd like to run an idea by you good people - I found that the Boxtree books already contradicted some things in the series (I'll need to re-read the relevant ones to be able to list them all) so I'd vote for a 3-level grading:

1. being from the movies or TV series scripts - gold standard, so to speak;

2. being identified as from the books, RPG material and comics (if anyone identifies any of these, or mentions any new material from them, that is);

3. being found online, so possibly from some published B5 material that no-one who's posted here has seen, and also significant enough (eg filling a needed gap, or well-thought out) to be worthy of inclusion.

I don't see me spending the time needed to backtrack all the words I found on the web (especially where they are a 2 or 3 letter word, which even with careful search terms is still going to be a pain in the pouch) though I'll give it a punt when I get the odd few minutes - as I said, the stuff I have so far that's from the web was found over what was probably many hours, wandering about while also doing other stuff, kinda like the google spider.

It's going to be literally impossible to please everyone with a project like this (even JMS couldn't please everyone with every ep) so I'm starting as I mean to go on: I'll work hard on an area while it's an interesting challenge, and call it done when I've got bored with it, pending someone else turning up with a nice canon clarification, complete with sourse (as for example Jan did with Shtag).

Also, one example of where problems will clearly arise regarding online research is the example below: Jan, you give Chon-Kar as the spelling for the blood oath, from the script (level 1 canonicity) - but in the Boxtree book Blood Oath it's spelled Shon Kar (p2, about two-thirds down the page), and that's the spelling that's been erroneously repeated all over the web.

And I won't get into the differences between the apostrophes and dashes inserted willy nilly into words!

So that's how I'd like to go on with this myself: I have a couple of questions if I may, if anyone here has a few spare minutes and wants to work on this with me?

If anyone has any B5 stuff and remembers where there's a scene with Narn ships, or Narn characters outside the ones in the 5-season series and Boxtree novels, please if you get a mo could you post the names up, with a VERY quick context?

And if there's a significant scene in anything outside the Boxtree books/series with any mentions of a Narn cultural or social custom, could you please give me a quick description, along with your opinion on its canonicity/credibility?

As an example, Blood Oath mentions that it used to be the custom for Narn widows to commit suicide when their husbands died (about which, I keep changing my mind about the credibility) and has quite a lot of other - I almost hesitate to say information - about Narn culture, some of which feels right, some of which doesn't.

And the comics Duet for Human & Narn In C Sharp/Coda~B Flat - of which I've only read the Lurker's synopsis - have some other points which seem a bit lame: I note that JMS's comment on the Lurker's page seems a little lukewarm as well.

The only thing they have to offer of value is a change on the rather monotonous naming convention seen elsewhere - as far as I'm aware, only General Balashar (Blood Oath) and Greegil (in the comic) have managed to avoid the ubiquitous apostrophes...

And to digress a bit more, I find that the convention of Narn names falls into the old bad habit of giving aliens a monolithic culture, with a single language and single naming convention - but that's as far as I'm going down that route.

@Macbeth, we know that very often the series shows us people talking in their own language, and we hear it as being English: well, if you read some of the Narn words so far, even the 100% canon ones, it's not inconceivable that G'Kar's song when heard by human ears closely resembles the one-note howling in the Narn opera heard in Geometry of Shadows?

If you listen to human opera, you'll hear that notes and phrases are carried for distorted lengths of time, and with spoken Narn hardly being a musical language in the first place (unlike Centuari) it's possible that sans translation, that musical little interlude sounds like cats with their tails caught in rusty trapdoors!


Edit to add, having watched the scene in Midnight again:

I'm going to stay with my meaning for Zhen, going by the inflection heard in the guy's voice when he addresses G'Kar: he goes on his knees, says "Zhen", then reaches out as he clearly pauses and then says "davu" - at which point G'Kar cuts him short. It's probably just the way the actor presented it: nonetheless his tone sounds more like, "Sir," (pause) "sorry-" than a single apology.

The other possibility from the way he says it is some form of exclamation, along the lines a human might say, "Christ, SORRY!" (or even at a stretch if "Zhen" is the Narn word for "It was a terrible cock-up," pause, "sorry") - but by this point we're getting into hair-splitting: unless this was all written from a dictionary, I think the actor just had the two words, and presented them as someone would who was on a secretive mission, neck-deep in trouble - and then been dragged before a very annoyed senior member of his own government, by a bunch of angry aliens.

Also... having just watched this scene a half-dozen times, I'm loathe to say this because it's 100% NOT intended as an argument (one can hardly argue with a book, anyway ) but, I also don't think that what G'Kar says actually SOUNDS like "Shtag" despite the script.

The single word he says seems to end with either a "t", "d" or "s" sound, and the vowel sound is more like the "o" in "not"... which adds a further level to the issue of canonicity - of what are (to step completely out of universe for a mo) completely nonsense sounds, performed by actors on the day, as compared to the nonsense words put in by the scriptwriters - and then dissected and examined 16 years later, and probably held up to a scrutiny they were almost certainly not designed to withstand.

Am I bailing on this one? Opinions welcome, I can't tell, if there is or ever was a Narn dictionary of even the roughest sort before this scene was written and shot, then we'd have more to go on: for now I'm staying with this and going to leave "Tchot" (what G'Kar sounds to me to be saying, on several replays) and ADD "Shtag", as that's equally canon.

I can understand if and why people have a problem with that: nonetheless, I can't hear anything like "Shtag", so if anyone has a mo and can listen to that scene (34m36s in) I'd appreciate outside input, on what the word spoken by G'Kar sounds like in the recording. I've got to leave it at this for now, if anyone can expand on it then please do.
"Chance favors the warrior."

Last edited by RedEyeSky; 02-18-2010 at 02:27 AM.
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