My very first reaction: well, of course not. No one translates man’chi as “liking.” It would be more correct to translate it as “loyalty.”
Reading the article, I see that it spends rather more time on a plot summary of the first three books than I would prefer, and then focuses on linguistics. The linguistics part is interesting, but not as interesting as the concept of man’chi. That’s what I want to focus on.
It’s not that humans mis-translate man’chi as “liking” or “loving.” That isn’t the problem. The problem is that humans expect atevi to feel friendship or some similar positive emotion in the same contexts that humans feel that kind of positive emotions, and therefore act in the same way a human would act. Then those those expectations get in the way of predicting atevi behavior.
But man’chi doesn’t mean anything similar to “liking.” It’s a word that, when atevi use it, always means something more like “loyalty” — or so it seems to me. Speaking as someone who has read the whole series several times.
It seems to me that it works like this: man’chi is a direct sense of hierarchy; an emotional tropism toward the leader. Those individuals who all feel man’chi toward the same leader are associates and feel some positive emotion toward each other that might best be expressed as “that person can be relied on.”
Thus, for example, I don’t believe it’s correct to say that Banichi and Jago feel man’chi toward each other. They both feel man’chi toward Bren and toward Tabini, but they feel something toward each other that is different. I would argue that this is something like a sense that the other person has rock-solid reliability in the identical man’chi. Atevi do not appear to have a word for this feeling, but it seems to me that this is the feeling that replaces “friendship.”
It’s even quite possible they use the word man’chi to mean both kinds of feelings, just as English uses the world “love” to mean a boatload of different feelings. That doesn’t mean the emotion is the same, and in fact, it cannot be the same.
As it happens, English has a word for “positive emotions toward other individuals.” This word is “affiliative.” It encompasses the positive emotions a person feels toward their spouse or lover, toward their parents, towards their children, and towards their friends. All of those are positive. All of them can be called “love.” All of them are different. I hereby declare that this word — affiliative — can also be used to encompass at least three distinct types of positive emotions that atevi experience toward other individuals.
The affiliative emotions atevi feel must, at a minimum, include:
–man’chi, a feeling directed toward a leader.
–something else, possibly also called man’chi, a feeling that someone else reliably feels man’chi in the same direction and can be depended on.
–something else, probably not called man’chi, a feeling toward an individual whose loyalty is unimportant; for example, a young child. Some emotion has to cause a mother to take care of her baby. Tabini cannot feel man’chi toward his son Cajiri. He has to feel some other affiliative emotion. This is that.
It is important to note that these are all positive emotions and that it is quite all right for a human to think that an ateva feels a positive emotion toward him. The emotional experience is not the same, but it’s an emotion and it’s positive and that’s why Bren’s emotional needs can in fact largely be met by atevi.
If one defines loyalty to the leader as the central atevi emotion, and a feeling that others can be relied on to share that loyalty as the emotional glue that holds people together, then poof! Atevi social behavior at once becomes predictable. If humans had framed Atevi associations in that way to begin with, and acted in accordance with that understanding, they wouldn’t have accidentally caused the War of the Landing.