tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Feb 16 07:58:25 1999

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Re: bo'Dagh'a'

: writes:
:> There is no reason for these words to exist. <Hu'>, <leS>, <ben>, and <nem>
:> are all plain old regular nouns, and as such, they can have <'ar> after
:> them, just like any other noun. For example: <ben 'ar bIbogh?> 
: Since they are "plain old regular nouns" as you say, why are the numbers
: attached to them as prefixes.  Should not the numbers be separate words
: preceding these nouns?
: peHruS

Yes, for {ben} and {nem} they do.  Numbers are *not* generally attached as prefixes.  In "Power Klingon" we heard:

	cha'vatlh ben HIq vItlhutlh. 
	I will drink Two Century Old Ale. PK  

Since this was not written down, there was some disagreement as to whether it should be {cha'vatlh ben} or {cha'vatlhben}.  Later, while discussing the question of how to say "I am X years old" on startrek.klingon (or possibly the Expert Forum, my notes are unclear), Okrand used {ben} "years ago" in context several times:

	The word {ben} can be used to mean "years old", but in Klingon, 
	one doesn't say "I am X years old". The phrase {loSmaH ben jIH}, 
	if anything, would mean "40-year-old me" or the like. It would 
	parallel {cha'vatlh ben HIq} Two Century Old Wine. "I am 40 years 
	old" would be expressed as: {loSmaH ben jIboghpu'}.

Which also verified the spelling {cha'vatlh ben HIq}.  Presumably {nem} "years from now" works the same way.  (It's never appeared in canon.)  Ditto for {Hu'} "days ago" and {leS} "days from now" - at least for larger numbers: {loSmaH Hu'} "forty days ago" like {loSmaH ben} "forty years ago".  (I know that we've never seen any examples of these, so far.)  

For very small numbers, however, which are extremely common in speech as time stamps - {wa'Hu'} "yesterday (1 day ago)", {cha'Hu'} "the day before yesterday (2 days ago)", {wa'leS} "tomorrow (1 day from now)", {cha'leS} "the day after tomorrow (2 days from now)" - we have a special case.  I suspect that the two distinct words grew together in much the same fashion as happened in many other languages.  For example, "tomorrow" and "today" were originally two separate words in English (to morrow, to day); "morrow" and "day" are still used independently.  In time the two words came to be linked by a hyphen (to-morrow, to-day), finally being written together as one word.  A similar process occurred for "today" in Russian - *segodnya* < *sego dnya* "(of) this day" - and IIRC Latin - *hodie* < something like *haec dies* or *(in) hoc diem* (Latinists please correct me).  Speakers of other languages can no doubt provide additional examples.  Note that this is generally just a spelling !
ention, not affecting pronunciation.
I wonder whether you can use {wa' Hu'} etc. in writing as two words if you wanted, for some stylistic reason, to say "one day ago" vs. the more common {wa'Hu'} "yesterday"?

Ca'Non Master of the Klingons

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