tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Jan 16 23:23:08 2002

Back to archive top level

To this year's listing

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]

Re: Hech (was: Re: SajwIj)

From: "Sean Healy" <>

> >How do you determine that the subject of SENTENCE must be the same as the
> >subject of /Hech/?  Because two canonical examples do so?  I can imagine
> >other possibilities.  For instance,
> >
> >tach wIghoS maH 'e' vIHech jIH.
> >I intended for us to go to the bar.
> Well, I didn't think this would be okay, since 1) it splits up the
> and the 'to', and 2) No canon examples (none I know of) support this use.
> Since you seemed to be uncomfortable with examples which lacked the 'to'
> when translated into English, I thought you would be equally uncomfortable
> with examples that split the word up this way.  Guess I thought wrong.
> I say 'you' here, but I assume this is the general usage.)

You misunderstand.  I try to avoid making Klingon sentences based on the
English translation.  Klingon sentences should be interpretable and
constructible without any reference at all to English, once you know the

The trouble is that our knowledge of that vocabulary is limited to (a) the
definitions provided by Marc Okrand and (b) canonical usage.  Okrand
provides his definitions in English, therefore we must understand their
meaning with the terms he uses.  He did not include prepositions and pieces
of infinitives in these definitions casually (though he did do so
non-uniformly); take /DIl/ for instance.  Its definition is "pay for," not
"pay."  Depending on which one you think it is, you'll get a very different
sentence.  It doesn't matter one iota how you eventually write that Klingon
sentence and how you translate it back to English, as long as the meaning of
the word /DIl/ is what in English we would call "pay for."

Sometimes the definitions are not enough.  There has never been an end to
the controversy of how to use /jeS/ "participate."  In English, you almost
always participate IN something, but the definition in Klingon isn't
"participate in."  So is /qep vIjeS/ valid for "I participate in the
meeting," or is it as incorrect as "I participate the meeting"?  Does one
have to say /qepDaq jIjeS/ or /qepvaD jIjeS/ or maybe even /qep'e' jIjeS/?

This is why canonical usage is so important.  Unfortunately, most canonical
usage doesn't make clear what you CAN'T do, only what you CAN.  The people
who think you CAN do a certain thing are always at an advantage, because the
opposite argument can't be proven without explicit information from Okrand
(an asymmetrical argument).  This leads to declarations like "I'll keep
doing it until Okrand says otherwise," which is a cop-out, since it's easy
to have your side proven if it's true, but impossible to have it proven
false if it's not.

Sometimes Okrand changes his mind (or clarifies something that looked like
it was otherwise).  /qIm/ "pay attention" was later found (on the MSN pages,
I believe) to be "pay attention to," but only from a sentence Okrand wrote.
(Personally, I think he wasn't "paying attention" to whether the verb had
that "to" in the definition -- he should have used /buS/.)

So I don't accept or reject a Klingon sentence based on what its English
translation looks like, but I do accept or reject certain uses of verbs
based on what their English definitions are.

> That's why I wanted to formulate an exception; basing Klingon on the
> definition makes me uncomfortable, so I wanted to define it in terms of
> Klingon grammar.  Too bad Okrand wasn't more specific about this.

Let's put it another way: to understand the meaning of Klingon words (not
sentences, words), you MUST know what those words mean.  You must know
precisely what /Qong/ means, and what /qIm/ means, and what /jeS/ means, and
what /Hech/ means.  HOW do you know what those words mean?  By their English
definitions.  Your entire understanding of the meanings of those words is
based on what Okrand wrote in English.  As I said, this isn't a grammatical
issue, it's one of meaning.  Go ahead, stick any old object onto /Hech/ . .
. but wait!  Does it make SENSE?  That depends on what /Hech/ REALLY means.

Stardate 2045.7

Back to archive top level