tel vs. banal
I tried to reblog your question @officious-seeing-eye-bitch with this answer and couldn’t, and I also can’t tag you! But I hope this is a little helpful.
tel abelas = “nothing sorry” or “not sorry” or “not sorrow” or maybe even “empty sorrow” - or “I’m not” when used as a response to “I’m sorry.”
banal abelas = “To the Void with your sorrow” or “Your sorrow is nothingness” or “Dark sorrow” or “(You were/are/I was) Never sorry” or “Blighted sorrow”
ROUGH AND UNCERTAIN. Yes. The difference between tel and banal:
The translation of tel as “nothing” comes from Ameridan in Jaws of Hakkon, the quest “Where Once We Walked.” Ameridan translates the name “Telanadas” as “nothing is inevitable.”*
*Note that this is is exactly the fan translation of Solas’ response to the nightmare demon in the Fade. “Banal nadas” was untranslated in the subtitles, and popularized in fandom before Hakkon came out as “nothing is inevitable.” The unconfirmed theory is that this new ancient Elvhen wording for “nothing is inevitable,” telanadas, was provided by the writers to course-correct the fan translation of Solas’ words in the Fade.
tel also appears as “nothing,” or as a confused concept of nothing, in the old bedtime song about Mythal which starts “Ir sa tel‘nal,” roughly translated by our in-game source as “I am empty, filled with nothing(?),” (sic) (ref DA:I Codex entry Torn Notebook in the Deep Roads, Section 3)
The translation of tel as “not” comes from Wisdom in the quest All New, Faded for Her. “Tel'abelas,” the spirit says to Solas, and the subtitles directly translate these words to “I’m not.” So clearly, you can see from just that that all of the translation of Wisdom’s words done in the subtitles should not be used to cipher the language. Notably Wisdom’s words are only translated in subtitles for an Elven Inquisitor, so we can assume her words are filtered through the Inquisitor’s broken understanding of the language.
What is displayed as Wisdom’s dialogue in translation is clearly an interpretation of Wisdom’s meaning, and not a direct representation of how each word she speaks translates into English. Her full subtitled dialogue is “I’m not. I’m happy. I’m me again.” from her spoken Elvhen “Tel’abelas. Enasal. Ir tel'him.”
Solas says: “Lethallin. Ir abelas.” ( “I’m sorry.” is what’s translated in an Elven Inquisitor’s subtitles.)
A one-to-one translation of Wisdom’s response would be: “Nothing’sorrow. Joyful relief/joy in triumph over loss. I become not/I become nothing.”
When a sad romanced Inquisitor responds to Solas saying “Ir abelas, vhenan” ( “I am sorrowful/sorry.) by saying “Tel abelas. If you care, give me the truth.” they could be saying so many things! Possible translations include:
- “I’m not,” a standard conversational answer to ir abelas meaning you don’t feel the same as the person who feels sorrow.
- “Not sorry” as in, I’m not sorry (sameish as above)
- “Not sorry” as in, you’re not sorry, an accusation
- “Not sorrow” as in, I reject that sorrow - I don’t want sorrow in our story
- Or even, in this case, the meaning of “Tel abelas” in-context could be “Don’t apologize.”
- “Nothing’sorrow,” sorrow is nothing (maybe meaning useless)
- “Nothing’sorrow,” nothing to be sorry for (I doubt it’s this one lol)
:) Elvhen is a mess.
(Tel also appears a bunch of times in the song Where Willows Wail, but that is a discussion for another time.)
The Inquisitor flings “banal” at Solas a couple times if they’re angry. If they’re like, “Ma harel lasa,” and he’s like “Only by omission,” they’re like, “Ma lasa banal’ghilana!” to which he replies “What would you have had me say?” etc.
@slayerofkillabee made a great post about the banal’abelas banal’vhenan breakup option (since deactivated) here (link!).
I will now expand on this, keeping in mind that Elvhen is a not-language. :)
The word banal is translated three times in Dragon Age materials. It appears in other untranslated sentences, but we have three sort of solid-ish refs for what it might mean.
In the name of the Vir Banal’ras armor: “Most Dalish hunters follow the Vir Tanadhal, the “Way of Three Trees” that consists of three codes of wisdom to which they adhere. Seldom spoken of, however, is a fourth way: the Vir Banal'ras, the “Way of Shadow.” Assuming it when a debt of blood must be repaid, such hunters dedicate themselves to vengeance and nothing else. Thus were born the legends of Dalish assassins.” (emphasis mine)
Banalhan: A name for the Blight or its place of origin; the place of nothing. (World of Thedas Vol 1, presented as a vocabulary word)
(*deep heavy breathing* Okay so I have a lot of HCs about the place where the Blight comes from, what it’s name is (I think we have already been given this name in the game) and what its defining feature is, but I’m selfishly and foolishly withholding this HC to write it in as a reveal for a fic I’m writing. Doubtless someone else is going to come up with what I’ve worked out before me and post it and I’m going to just try and enjoy it when the devs confirm it lol and not be petty.)
But basically, banal is taken to mean “nothing” because of “banalh an” meaning “place of nothing,” but potentially this is a false equivalence of this phrase.
Banal could mean shadow/nothing/Void/Blight.
And banal means never, from that same old bedtime song about Mythal which says “Banal malas elgara,” translated by our in-game source as “Never yours the sun.” (sic) (ref DA:I Codex entry Torn Notebook in the Deep Roads, Section 3) (Let’s also note that ‘not having the sun’ and ‘being in shadow’ are pretty similar concepts, for fun.)
The context of banal in the Crestwood scene is:
“And I am sorry. I distracted you from your duty. It will never happen again.”
“Wait. What? You bring me here, take the vallaslin from my face, and now you just end it?”
“I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt you.”
amazing dialogue wheel option “YOUR LOSS, ASSHOLE.” =
When an angry broken up Inquisitor responds to Solas saying “I never wanted to hurt you” by saying “Banal’abelas! Banal’vhenan!” with the intent of “your loss, asshole,” they could be saying wayyy too many things. Possible translations include:
- “Nothingness sorrow! Nothingness heart!” (Either I or you feel no sorrow, either I or you have no heart.)
- “Your sorrow is nothingness! Your heart is nothingness!”
- “To the Void with your sorrow! To the Void with your heart!”
- “Shadow sorrow! Shadow heart!”
- “Dark sorrow! Dark heart!”
- “(You were/I was) Never sorry! (I was) Never your heart!/We were never hearts!”
- “The Blight is sorrow! You were never my home!”
- “You were never sorrowful! The Blight is your home!”
- “Blighted sorrow! Blighted heart!”
All with the overarching sentiment of “YOUR LOSS ASSHOLE” which honestly bless Lavellans who choose this option, I love you.
Of course translations of these phrases are not limited to just what I’ve posted here. But maybe this gets a little closer to clarifying how these two words could be diverging in general sentiment.