- "Their language doesn't translate in a literal manner, and each word has multiple meanings."
The member species of the Covenant have their own unique languages. However, the Sangheili language came to serve as the lingua franca throughout the entire Covenant Empire, and as such, many names of member species are derived from the Sangheili. Not all races spoke the same language due to evolutionary design restrictions; for example, the Yanme'e could only communicate through a cacophony of high-pitched clicks and screeches. To facilitate easier communications between member species, translation software is used on Covenant ships to decipher words.
Text, or writing, in the Covenant appears to be mostly triangle shapes and composed almost completely of equilateral triangles, except for a single dash-like shape that seems to serve the function of a period. The triangular characters have been seen oriented both in the horizontal left-to-right direction and in a vertical right-to-left direction. Whether all of the species that are or were in the Covenant use this form of text is currently unknown.
Before the release of Halo 2, the official website at Halo2.com was made to look like a Covenant computer complete with a Covenant language. This language was a simple cipher with the triangular characters. In addition to Halo2.com, a released wallpaper contained triangular characters that made use of this cipher. After the Halo2.com site, the cipher changed. Two wallpapers were released with an entirely new cipher still using the triangular characters. Neither this cipher or the previous one have been used subsequently, though the triangular characters are still commonly used.
- Main article: Unggoy
Their native language is composed of dog-like barks, squeaks, and grunts. Though largely unintelligible to most humans, translation software is able to decipher the meanings of these. The word "Unggoy" itself is not a word from their vocabulary - rather, it is the Sangheili name for their species. Unggoy are also fully capable of speaking a variety of human languages, a fact in which they take great pride.
- Main article: Kig-Yar
Kig-yar language seems to consist of a range of hisses, growls, screeches, snarls, and squawks, though it is intelligible to other members of the Covenant. In addition, Kig-Yar are also capable of speaking the human English language in a rasped manner. However, most Kig-Yar are unable to form a proper "f" sound in speech. Likewise, it can be surmised that they can speak the Sangheili language. Known words of the Kig-Yar language include:
- Irukan - The name of a type of grain.
- Mev-ut - Jackal equivalent of a bounty.
- Jha-sig - A kind of ailment.
- Shaks - A type of game played by Kig-Yar.
- Main article: Huragok
Huragok are the only known species in the Covenant to possess more than one language. One is a verbal language, consisting of musical whistles and chirps, used to convey orders between Huragok and their superiors, usually a Shipmaster and their crew. The second is a sign language, using the different shapes and positions of tentacles to convey different meanings. The Huragok sign language can be learned by other species, including San 'Shyuum and Unggoy, though the inferior finger dexterity of the latter makes forming the shapes a cumbersome task.
- Main article: Yanme'e
Yanme'e use a system of chirps, clicks and buzzes to convey information between other members of the hive, rubbing their wings together to produce such sounds, similar to Earth crickets. Translator units are required for other species to understand them. Combat units will usually elect an attache to serve as a translator, learning how the other races communicate and relaying the relevant information to the other Yanme'e.
- Main article: Lekgolo
Lekgolo communication with other species is problematic at best. Between different Mgalekgolo forms they use resonance that only their own species can hear and understand. For inter-species communications, Mgalekgolo are capable of speaking at least the Sangheili language.
- Main article: Jiralhanae
The native Jiralhanae language is animalistic, incorporating a wide range of sounds from growls and barks, to full-out howls and roars, though Jiralhanae also express emotions through scents and musks. Young Jiralhanae have difficulty controlling the release of these scents, but learn how to moderate them as they grow older. A communal howl is often made by the Pack Chieftain as a sign of celebration, and failure to participate in the howl is a serious affront to the Chieftain's authority. Jiralhanae are also capable of speaking the Sangheili language.[verification needed]
- Main article: Sangheili
Though originating with the Sangheili, their language has come to be the Covenant lingua franca, used to connect the different races and species. It is seemingly based upon the Forerunner language, likely pieced together from fragments recovered on Forerunner relics. Curiously, in several instances of Forerunner-related terminology, the Sangheili appear to use the English translations of the original Forerunner terms, as for "Forerunner", "Requiem", "Reclaimer", "Didact", and "Librarian".[note 1]
A few words, and their meanings, are known:
- Unggoy - Grunt
- Kig-yar - Jackal
- Sangheili - Elite
- Yanme'e - Drone
- Jiralhanae - Brute
- Lekgolo - Hunter
- San 'Shyuum - Prophet
- Huragok - Engineer (taken from the Forerunner name "Huragok")
- Domo'ingænen - Human[note 2]
- Wort - Go
- Kaidon - Clan leader
- Neru Pe 'Odosima - Servants of the Abiding Truth
- A'ul - Lump of wood
- Utshans - Shipmaster[note 2]
- Nishum - Intestinal parasite; a common insult towards humans
- Jishiua - Hand[note 2]
- Jin'e - Soul[note 2]
- Laqil - New Llanelli
- Nou - Cognate with English "no", both as a negative response and as an interjection.
- Ei - Cognate with English "No" and "not"
- Idaiuk/idaiuko/idaiuxo - Brother, loyal friend. Suffix probably indicates politeness,respect or emotion.
- Meo/meio - refers to a group in which the speaker is a part of.[note 2]
- Tashi - refers to a third group, which the speaker is not part of. Also means different.[note 2]
- Kutashi - refers to something that is very different, like an alien or in some cases human.[note 2]
- Koyakumo - Vector[note 2]
- Magatshi - Approach[note 2]
- Pe - Truth
- Odosima - Servant(s)
- Neru - Abiding/eternal
- Main article: San 'Shyuum
Based on religious sermons by the Prophet of Regret on Delta Halo, the native Prophet language is similar to Medieval Gregorian-style chanting. Whether this is spoken by all San 'Shyuum, or if it is a special dialect for religious purposes is unknown.
- The languages in their original form are heard in Halo: Combat Evolved. In Halo 2, their words are translated for the convenience of the player. Elites in Halo: CE spoke a deep, warbling tongue. This was achieved by reversing the voice acting of David Scully. The ever popular "Wort, wort, wort!" shouted by many Elites during gameplay is actually "Go, go, go!" reversed and sped up. The hissing-like language of the Jackals is actually the English language reversed. This, and the other Covenant languages (Drones, Hunters), have remained the same since Halo 2.
- Conversations from the Universe contains letters written by the Prophets of Truth and Supposition. The writing in these letters resembles English, with various alterations. This may be due to a connection between Covenant or Forerunner texts and English texts, or simply thanks to literary license on Bungie's behalf.
List of appearances
- ^ It should be noted that in Spartan Ops subtitles, these terms are phonetically transliterated from Sangheili speech (e.g. "Daidakt", "Laibrarian", "Ricleima") rather than using their proper spellings.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i This is a phonetic spelling. The proper rendering has not been confirmed in canon.
- ^ Halo: First Strike, page 156
- ^ a b c d Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
- ^ a b c d e f g h Halo: Contact Harvest, page 311
- ^ Halo Encyclopedia, pages 148-149
- ^ Halo: Uprising
- ^ Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Part 1
- ^ Conversations from the Universe
- ^ Bestiarum
- ^ Halo: Combat Evolved
- ^ a b Halo 2
- ^ a b Halo 3
- ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 156-157
- ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 394
- ^ Halo: The Thursday War, page 62
- ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 218
- ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 274
- ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 218
- ^ Halo: First Strike
- ^ Halo Encyclopedia
- ^ Halo 4, Spartan Ops
- ^ a b c d e f g h Halo 4 - Terminal 1
- ^ a b EliteSpeak
- ^ Halo: The Cole Protocol
- ^ Halo: Glasslands
- ^ Halo: The Thursday War, page 24
- ^ Halo: The Thursday War, page 79
- ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 295
- ^ In Halo: Combat Evolved, Elites often yell "No!" when overwhelmed or stuck by plasma grenades.