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Thread: Language(s) in the Titan World

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member Utsune's Avatar
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    Language(s) in the Titan World

    Language in the Titan World, more specifically the written language.



    I'm sure a lot of you have seen this already:

    (BEWARE! Although this information in the following link is present in the inside covers of the manga tankoubon, it is still somewhat major spoiler.)

    http://calorescence.tumblr.com/post/...f-the-japanese (thanks Georgie for suggesting to me)

    It's okay if you don't want to click on the spoiler! The point is, there are texts written all over the place by the author on the map design, which is basically in upside-down Japanese (in katakana, for those of you who know.)

    Normally this could have a few main explanations.
    - A little joke from the author
    - Some kind of code within the SnK universe
    - A made-up language within the SnK universe with the intention to parallel the real Japanese
    - A made-up language that has nothing to do with the "Eastern race/Japanese/Mikasa's race" (as suggested by teioh in another thread, which happens to be as plausible as the previous explanation and this post will explain why.)



    The main (& important) instance that involves 'language' in the story is perhaps the Ymir-Reiner canned food incident.



    Reiner is surprised Ymir could read the language. The above picture has been flipped upside-down.

    The text reads: ンシニ
    which is herring (ニシン) in reverse.

    (For real Japanese, you read from left to right.
    To convert this SnK language into real Japanese, flip over, read from right to left. This is however not consistent as we will see later.)

    At first, I thought there exists a language in the SnK Universe that is based on real-life Japanese. Since we know Mikasa is one of those (literally) "Eastern people," and that her name is Japanese, I assume that this upside-down Japanese language is Titan-related, and the "Eastern people" have something important to do with them.



    But the contradiction comes in when I discover more 'language' examples scattered all over the place. Thanks to a major major tip-off from Pixiv member kao, I've located those examples and edited the panels in question.

    The following two images come from the extra chapter about Ilse Langner, whose notebook is later picked up by Levi and claimed as her military gains.






    Please be patient with me while I try to explain to a point so that all of us, Japanese speakers or not, are on equal-standing with regards to how much we know.

    With the same logic as the canned food incident, we can assume the writing is upside-down to real Japanese. So the panels have been flipped over.

    The first image is when Ilse's monologue is saying "On our way back, we met Titans."

    In the same panel, her notebook reads (I've marked in blue):

    ウグウソ
    ジョキジンカ

    u gu u so
    ji yo ki ji nn ka

    Reverse the writing to get:

    so u gu u
    ka nn ji ki yo ji

    Now, the interesting thing.
    souguu = to meet/encounter
    kikanji kyojin = On our way back, Titan

    (Bits I've bolded are letters I've added in to make sense of it.)

    I have not yet bought the volumes yet so I cannot double-check the original phrase. But I am 99% sure what she writes in her notebook exactly matches her monologue in the raw. (Translated scans: "On our way back, my brigade encountered Titans.")




    Second image:

    イナ
    ラカン

    i na
    ra ka nn

    Reversing the text, and adding assumptions (bolded text):

    kyojin kara nogarerarenai = Cannot escape from Titan

    And guess what, Ilse monologue in the previous panel says: "It's impossible for a human to run away from Titans on foot."




    Other instances (I can't be bothered to highlight all of them in blue lol, too much work and it actually HURTs my eyes) include:

    Chapter 1, right before the Colossal Titan appears, a sign is shaken to swing about. Although in a very different font, it reads "douguya," meaning "Item Store." (This one is inconsistent with the notebook and canned herring (large panel): you flip, then read from left to right.)

    Chapter 12, right before Eren turns into a Titan, there's a large panel featuring the large rock Eren's about to carry. Next to the rock is a sign, titled "ooiwa," meaning "big rock" (lol.) (Again, flip, read from left to right.)

    Chapter 22, when the dude is point on the map briefing the team. On the map there are phrases like "enemy-detecting team" and "horse-cart protection" (sakutekihan and nibasha goei.) These two cases, although written upside-down, they are also not reversed. i.e. you flip them over and read left to right.

    Chapter 38: the canned herring. Although we've discussed this above, prior to the larger panel, there are two smaller panels which you can just about figure out the Japanese words on the can. BUT! Inconsistency is present again:



    The first two panels are written in reverse to the larger panel (when Reiner's reading the can.)


    The hidden text in the inside covers of the tankoubon is written upside-down, left to right, top to bottom. This is not consistent with Ilse's note book (upside-down, right to left, bottom to top.)






    Afterwords: By all means, this SnK language can simply be some random Easter Egg the author has made up, and does nothing to the main story, meaning the inconsistency in the writing system does not mean anything.

    Also, because judging from Reiner's reaction, people in the walls aren't suppose to know this writing system, but Ilse the scout writes in exactly the same language as the canned herring...! Which kinda means we're not meant to care about this writing issue lol.

    The only reason I cannot let is slide pass completely is because this language seems to play a role in the story (Reiner-Ymir incident.)

    Concerning the inconsistency on the can of herring, I'll see if the author made any changes in the tankoubon when I finally get my hands on a copy. It most probably is a mistake, but I really can't tell in which direction it's meant to be read due to the plot.





    I don't intend to come to any conclusion from this thread. My main purpose is to let people who aren't familiar with the language to gain the same insight as the ones who know it, and from then discuss what this could be all about.
    Last edited by Utsune; June 11, 2013 at 02:39 PM. Reason: Just a couple of typos my OCD won't let pass, left-right right-left error

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  3. #2
    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member kannazuki's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Thank you so much for the round up of text! I was meaning to scour through and do the same thing but it was gonna hurt my eyes too much to try to catch that (I also don't have volumes) so I REALLY appreciate that you already did.

    You've basically confirmed what I already suspected: the cans and the hidden tankoubon text match because they're written in "Old World" language (upside-down right-to-left) but the rest of it is different (upside-down left-to-right) because it's more modern, "New World" language. This is also consistent with how very old Japanese writing (you'll sometimes come across it in Japan even) was written right-to-left. A very clear clue to Japanese people. In order to do something similar in a text written in English, the equivalent would be to do something like replace modern words with their Old English equivalents or take some of the letters of modern English away and replace them with Middle English equivalents.

    There's more writing on the signboard by the 「オオイワ」-- has anyone figured that out?

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member Utsune's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Quote Originally Posted by kannazuki View Post
    Thank you so much for the round up of text! I was meaning to scour through and do the same thing but it was gonna hurt my eyes too much to try to catch that (I also don't have volumes) so I REALLY appreciate that you already did.

    You've basically confirmed what I already suspected: the cans and the hidden tankoubon text match because they're written in "Old World" language (upside-down right-to-left) but the rest of it is different (upside-down left-to-right) because it's more modern, "New World" language. This is also consistent with how very old Japanese writing (you'll sometimes come across it in Japan even) was written right-to-left. A very clear clue to Japanese people. In order to do something similar in a text written in English, the equivalent would be to do something like replace modern words with their Old English equivalents or take some of the letters of modern English away and replace them with Middle English equivalents.

    There's more writing on the signboard by the 「オオイワ」-- has anyone figured that out?
    LOL I was hoping no-one would bring that up :P Because I've been going over that for LONG and couldn't figure it out (I really thought it would be interesting to see what they have to say about that rock...)

    Oh about that modern and old language thing, I really think the same as you too, but this one bit makes me think otherwise. Ilse's journal has writing going in the OPPOSITE direction (as oppose to the Item Store sign in Chapter 1, Big Rock sign in Chapter 12, and Strategies on the whiteboard in Chapter 38.) Sorry if I was being super unclear in my previous post, I was majorly confusing myself too lol XD

    Basically, in order to translate REAL Japanese to:
    1) Ilse's journal: We write real Japanese BACKWARDS, then flip upside-down
    2) Big Rock: We write real Japanese normally, then flip
    3) Strategies: We write real Japanese normally, then flip
    4) Fish can: We write real Japanese BACKWARDS, then flip
    5) Inside-cover: We write real Japanese normally, then flip (Note that we don't know who wrote this, if this were cannon with the story)

    etc.

    But personally I'm hoping the out-of-order bits are just mistakes on Isayama's part (specifically Ilse's journal, I don't really take the inside-cover into account. For all we know it could be written by the current government)... Because I'd rather buy your explanation XD



    And then later find out this is just one big troll by Isayama..........





    Okay, onto the Big Rock issue... Since my eyes hurt I figure it'd be good fun if anyone else reading my post right now could help out too :P If you're interested anyway.

    Below is the original image already flipped upside-down for you:

    Spoiler show





    My attempt so far:
    (Try not to click on this spoiler if you intend to try the challenge because you might not be able to 'unsee' my attempt if it turned out to be wrong XD )

    Spoiler show



    Knowing a bit of Japanese might help because we're assuming the text makes sense lol. But in the end it doesn't matter really lol.

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member kannazuki's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    on a 4x8 grid, this is all I could come up with. Just any possibility for each. I wasn't trying to look for words. ^_^;

     ク     ハ     ?     ソ     ウ/キ   ヤ
     セ(マ)  メ(チ)  ?     ?     ア     ?     ?     ?
     カ/ヤ   ウ/ク   ロ     ノ     ?     ?     ?     ?
     ?     ?     オ     オ     イ     ワ

    I've also searched for Japanese sites where they might have a better clue but no luck so far...

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    Registered User 上級員 / Jyoukuuin / Sr. Member Yumpo's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    What chapter was this "Big Rock?"

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member kannazuki's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Chapter 12. If you have the raw volume (or even if they translated in already into English), a clean scan would be super lovely...

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    Registered User 上級員 / Jyoukuuin / Sr. Member Yumpo's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Spoiler show


    Annoying screentones....I could rescan it again if you guys want. Just specify the resolution. The 1st and 3rd one were scanned with 1200res, the 2nd one was with 800res. All three were reduced without scaling to 300res.
    Last edited by Yumpo; June 19, 2013 at 06:49 PM.

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member Utsune's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Yumpo I cannot thank you enough......!!!

    The scans are brilliant, I think I've got it.......... at least 80%.......... lol
    Well at least I can confirm to myself the top line is actually grass :P

    マチガ○○イゼン
    カラコノチニアル
    オオイワ

    The different parts of the sentence should be phrased like this:
    マチガ ○○イゼンカラ
    コノチニアル オオイワ

    Meaning:

    The Big Rock that has been here (on this land) (since) before the town was xxxxxx.


    Unfortunately, I still have no idea what that xxxxxx is. I have a hunch it could be "built" or "come to be" but I really can't figure out the remaining 2(?) characters...


    Also, if you read the sentence in Japanese, the Big Rock sounds like it is part of the sentence rather than the title of the sign. More precisely, the subject (Big Rock オオイワ) is placed at the end of this specific sentence (the last four characters on the sign.) If you take out the "Big Rock" and treat it as a title (i.e. make it not part of the sentence) it wouldn't sound as complete...

    My point is, basically the SnK people probably wrote from bottom to top for this sign lol. I really have no idea what Isayama is thinking :/

    ---------- Post added at 09:41 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:18 AM ----------

    Just one note before anyone quotes me on it (for good or bad lol)
    I'm actually not 100% sure on the last bit of the first line either (イゼン)
    But I'm pretty sure I can see the イ, and I can somewhat see the ン
    And イゼンカラ is a term (meaning~ before,) so I figure the hard-to-read blob in the middle could be ゼ

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member kannazuki's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Yay, THANK YOU Yumpo!!!! LOLOL... that top row was just grass.

    And yay, I think you're right, Utsune. "Tatsu" fits there for "construct." You're much, much better at finding the characters in there than I am (I'm better at figuring out people's scribbly handwritten kanji than I am at this at least, lol) but I'm pretty confident of the katakana "ta" ...and "tsu" looks very very likely. Fits the sentence well, too.

    マチガタツイゼン
    カラコノチニアル
    オオイワ

    街が建つ以前からこの地にある大岩

    As for how to read it, the entire thing is not technically a sentence but an adjectivial phrase *describing* that rock. Like 「4時に寝た人たち」 "People who went to bed at 4am," it's "Boulder that has been here since before the town was (beginning to be) built."

    This could support the time leap/loop theory! xD

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member Utsune's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Quote Originally Posted by kannazuki View Post
    Yay, THANK YOU Yumpo!!!! LOLOL... that top row was just grass.

    And yay, I think you're right, Utsune. "Tatsu" fits there for "construct." You're much, much better at finding the characters in there than I am (I'm better at figuring out people's scribbly handwritten kanji than I am at this at least, lol) but I'm pretty confident of the katakana "ta" ...and "tsu" looks very very likely. Fits the sentence well, too.

    マチガタツイゼン
    カラコノチニアル
    オオイワ

    街が建つ以前からこの地にある大岩

    As for how to read it, the entire thing is not technically a sentence but an adjectivial phrase *describing* that rock. Like 「4時に寝た人たち」 "People who went to bed at 4am," it's "Boulder that has been here since before the town was (beginning to be) built."

    This could support the time leap/loop theory! xD
    Waaaa kannzuki that's genius! Finally!! hahaha \(^^)/

    I can really see the TA now, albeit it's a really squished up TA. I can only figure out the bottom part of TSU, but as you've suggested, there is none other than TSU.

    Hmmm I'm not so sure if it relates to anything to do with Time Loop. But I really feel it is super related to the bunch of text in the inside cover of the manga (first link in the first post of this thread.) It is one of the few instances when they mention anything to do with the time before the city is built. Did they ever explain the origin of the rock btw? (first time we see it is when Armin suggests using it.) In fact, why and how did it get here? Why did they make a sign out of it lol? I always assumed it was a random piece that flew across the town when R&B kicked the door some years ago, but of course now I think otherwise (and I doubt they would keep something that reminds them of their 'shameful' defeat.)


    (And oh I had no idea that's called an adjectivial phrase haha, I guess you learn something new every day! But still doesn't change the fact they write from bottom to top lol :P One of the main reasons I automatically relate this to the text in the inside cover...)

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member kannazuki's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    I'm pretty good with English word puzzles but I could only really help with this when it was down to one word left, lol.

    It's readable upside-down and forwards (like everything except for the can if I understand correctly), yes, but that's not I was getting at. I was also making the mistake of referring to the phrase on the sign as a "sentence" but it's not. It's just a phrase describing the main noun. Like in "flower-filled tree" and "tree with lots of flowers growing in it." Neither one is a "sentence," strictly speaking. In a Japanese, the subject often comes first (doesn't have to though), but an adjectivial phrase always comes before the noun it's modifying. That's why "ooiwa" is at the end. (It's not terribly important though. It was just that it seemed to bother you that ooiwa would appear at the bottom and that was why.)

    At first I thought "oh I guess that boulder was just there then" but it then occurred to me: "Isn't this kind of suspicious?" I mean what other reason was there for a boulder to be there, before the town was even built (which I'm assuming was not long after the outer wall towns as people migrated inward from Wall Maria to Rose to Sina)? Why aren't there other big rocks that were too heavy to move, from before the town was built? Why did someone feel the need to put a sign in there specifically mentioning the boulder was in place before anyone even got there? I realize there's room for doubt, but I think it's like someone knew what was going to happen.
    Last edited by kannazuki; June 20, 2013 at 10:18 AM.

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member Utsune's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Quote Originally Posted by kannazuki View Post
    I'm pretty good with English word puzzles but I could only really help with this when it was down to one word left, lol.

    It's readable upside-down and forwards (like everything except for the can if I understand correctly), yes, but that's not I was getting at. I was also making the mistake of referring to the phrase on the sign as a "sentence" but it's not. It's just a phrase describing the main noun. Like in "flower-filled tree" and "tree with lots of flowers growing in it." Neither one is a "sentence," strictly speaking. In a Japanese, the subject often comes first (doesn't have to though), but an adjectivial phrase always comes before the noun it's modifying. That's why "ooiwa" is at the end. (It's not terribly important though. It was just that it seemed to bother you that ooiwa would appear at the bottom and that was why.)

    At first I thought "oh I guess that boulder was just there then" but it then occurred to me: "Isn't this kind of suspicious?" I mean what other reason was there for a boulder to be there, before the town was even built (which I'm assuming was not long after the outer wall towns as people migrated inward from Wall Maria to Rose to Sina)? Why aren't there other big rocks that were too heavy to move, from before the town was built? Why did someone feel the need to put a sign in there specifically mentioning the boulder was in place before anyone even got there? I realize there's room for doubt, but I think it's like someone knew what was going to happen.

    Haha yes of course I'm pretty bothered by how OOIWA is at the bottom but that's because the people in the SnK Universe would be writting upside-down otherwise, meaning the supposed 'title' of the artwork 'big rock' wouldn't be a 'title' after all lol. The one big reason we write from top to bottom is so that our hands wouldn't get in the way as we write. (btw I never 'learnt' Japanese with all those tech terms just like how most native speakers didn't 'learn' English with all the technical explanation so your lesson will come in pretty handy if I need to explain stuff in the future :P (one reason I gave up on French) This is a pretty big must-know difference after all, compared to English)

    And lol yeah I love the fact I just brainlessly assumed the rock was a piece of defeat from 5 years ago and I love even more the fact we're not supposed to know what the sign says! But, one thing for sure, even if we're not suppose to read the sign, people are bound to ask why there's a random rock in the middle of town as you've suggested and I'm pretty sure Isayama will get to it sooner or later.

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member kannazuki's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    I know I'm getting ahead of myself here with the hypothesizing but I think there's a good chance the rock was put there by someone who knew what was going to happen, even 100 years ago when the humans first migrated into the walls. Or rather, a group of people like the wall cult that knows about the secret of the titans in the walls. I think I'm going to start from around chapter 10 and start rereading all the way through, because I want to separate canon from filler, AND look more closely at what the cult was saying in court...

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    MangaHelper 英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member Utsune's Avatar
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    Re: Language(s) in the Titan World

    Quote Originally Posted by kannazuki View Post
    I know I'm getting ahead of myself here with the hypothesizing but I think there's a good chance the rock was put there by someone who knew what was going to happen, even 100 years ago when the humans first migrated into the walls. Or rather, a group of people like the wall cult that knows about the secret of the titans in the walls. I think I'm going to start from around chapter 10 and start rereading all the way through, because I want to separate canon from filler, AND look more closely at what the cult was saying in court...
    Mindblown! Not that I was speculating anythning at all, but that's gonna make me re-read as well now! :P

    ---------- Post added July 05, 2013 at 08:57 AM ---------- Previous post was June 23, 2013 at 02:10 AM ----------

    Just a small addition info to the Big Rock:

    http://www.mangapanda.com/shingeki-no-kyojin/4/17

    Turns out they really intend to use it right from the beginning, but don't have time to dig it up fully before the second attack.

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