Word: ghItlhmeH Ho’DoS


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This term has been released with the gloss “writing system,” which in English usually refers to a set of graphemes (ngutlh) and the rules for using them to transcribe (qon) language. Yet the verb ghItlh is described in KGT as referring to “the act…of making marks on some surface,” apparently regardless of whether any linguistic content or symbolic representation is involved (pp. 79-80), which makes it sound as though ghItlhmeH Ho’DoS should actually mean something along the lines of “calligraphic style” or “rules of stroke order” or “engraving technique” rather than “a system for the symbolic representation of language.” So I think it is worth checking to make sure that there was no misunderstanding when Maltz revealed this term and that there is no other term that is used to refer to a system of ngutlh.

Comment below with feedback and suggestions.


  1. pIqaD is described as a subtype of ghItlhmeH Ho’DoS, so we can assume that this collocation refers to writing systems like the Roman alphabet, the Arabic abjad, Hanzi, Hangul etc.

    For calligraphic style I would say ngutlh ‘IHmoHmeH ghantoH pattern for making glyphs beautiful.
    For rules of stroke order ngutlh lIngmeH mIwmey steps for producing a glyph.
    For engraving technique ngutlh nanmeH Ho’DoS glyph gouging technique.

  2. The trouble with engraving technique in particular is that KGT makes a distinction between gouging and engraving and says the word for engrave is ghItlh. Also I think the word ngutlh should not be included the translation of that because, as was pointed out in the proposal, engraving (and ghItlh in general) need not involve any linguistic content.

    1. Clearly the semantic field of ghItlh in Klingon is much broader than any of the verbs used to translate it in English. One can describe the act of ghItlh using other verbs too, like ngoH smear, fingerpaint, and the result makes sense because there is a sense of contrast between the general ghItlh and the specific nan and ngoH

      QIn DaghItlhmeH, bInan’a’ pagh bIngoH’a’?
      To write the message, will you gouge/carve/engrave it or will you fingerpaint it?

      Obviously if no glyphs are involved then ngutlh should be omitted.

      Also, on reflection ngutlh lIngmeH HIl’aD step-by-step instructions for producing a glyph is a better fit for the target concept of my second example.

      1. “Clearly the semantic field of ghItlh in Klingon is much broader than any of the verbs used to translate it in English.”

        Hence the concern about ghItlhmeH Ho’DoS: if the word doesn’t even necessarily imply linguistic content, wouldn’t it make sense to have a way of clarifying if you’re talking about something like pIqaD or Hangeul?

        1. Once you tack on the -meH Ho’DoS, the field narrows via the process of lexicalization.

          We don’t worry about whether paH bID really refers to either a skirt or half a dress.
          Similarly if we read the sentence De’ chu’ ghItlh qeng She was carrying a newspaper, do we wonder whether that ghItlh was written on paper or in stone?
          Is a QaDmoHwI’ DIr always made out of skin?

          Lexicalization of compounds changes the semantics of their components.