tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue May 28 11:55:52 2002

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Re: Lexicographical issue...

Being the lexicographer for the KLI Web page, I feel compelled to reply.

> Hallo, my name is Cees (pr. "case", which I suppose could be 
> transcribed as "qeyS" in tlhIngan Hol) and I'm new to this list. I'm a 
> Dutch student of English at the University of Groningen and I'm 
> honoured to be a new member of the list. So you know...
> Question: I'm writing a paper for a course on lexicography and the 
> topic I've chosen is (rather daringly) which lexicographical 
> conventions are/aren't applied to the TKD and which conventions 
> still could be applied to the TKD in order to improve it (from a 
> lexicographical perspective...)

One thing to keep in mind:

Written Klingon in TKD and elsewhere in canon (defined as "anything said or 
written by Dr. Marc Okrand, the language's creator) is done with a romanized, 
phonetic system that has nothing to do with the actual way that Klingons write. 
The official word from Paramount (and echoed by Okrand) is that the Klingon 
writing system is beyond human comprehension at this time.

Since the written form is merely a phonetic representation of the spoken words, 
there are no pronunciation notations for the words and none is needed. Also, 
since Okrand has generated the language, there is no etymology.

There are problems with TKD. You will find, if you research this, that the 
English-Klingon and Klingon-English sides of the dictionary do not perfectly 
match. Quite a few words are missing from one side and a few words are not 
spelled exactly the same on each side.

My own contribution to Klingon lexicography was to cite the source of each 
word, since we've received words now from TKD, the TKD addendum, KGT (Klingon 
for the Galactic Traveler), Skybox cards, TV commercials, News lists Okrand has 
participated in, and several other sources. Before this, we'd often argue about 
whether a word was really Klingon or not. Citing the source was thus an 
important feature for this particular language more than most, since ultimately 
any official word in the language needs to be traced back to Okrand in a way 
that can be confirmed. This is not as important for most natural languages. 

What is currently lacking in any uniform, distributable form, is a Klingon 
equivalent of the OED showing canon usage of all the Klingon words and affixes 
and grammatical constructions. Okrand has repeatedly told us that like a 
natural language, the "rules" of the language are derived from observing usage, 
so the best way to know the details of the language is to study the usage more 
than take the given rules too seriously.

> One problem I've stumbled on (if it concerns the phenomenon of 
> 'nesting' in dictionaries) is the existence of English compound 
> nouns. It almost seems to me that the rules for writing Klingon 
> compound nouns are almost as much vague as the rules for writing 
> English compound nouns. Okrand mentions one compound noun in 
> the general discussion on compound nouns (Okrand 1992, p. 19) 
> and the one he mentions is written WITHOUT a space: "jolpa'." 
> BUT, in the Dictionary part of the KGT are some compound nouns 
> which are written WITH a space: "Dargh HIvje' ": teapot. This, I do 
> not understand. The question I address to the list is the following: 
> What are the rules for the construction and writing of compound 
> nouns, and what are the exceptions if there are any?

My personal understanding of this is that basically any pair of nouns can be 
combined with the space to form what Okrand has called a "possessive noun-noun 
construction", though "possessive" is probably less accurate than "genitive". 
Nouns are combined in this way as needed in combinations that are assembled for 
a single use and then perhaps never combined like that again.

Compound nouns with no space between them are more rare and seem to be mostly 
regular noun-noun genitive pairings that fossilize into a single word out of 
common usage. Okrand is the only person who can build a compound noun and 
declare it officially a part of the vocabulary. The rest of us do it now and 
then, sometimes to great effect, though we don't tend to go out of our way to 
build a compound noun when a simple pair of separate nouns will do.

Also, keep in mind as I said in the beginning, written Klingon is phonetic, so 
the existance or absence of a space between nouns may very well be a totally 
arbitrary point of verbal notation. Maybe we are just guessing. There doesn't 
seem to be a big grammatical difference in treatment of a noun-noun genitive 
constructions vs. a compound noun.
> If anyone can help me any further on this issue, I'd be 
> extraordinarily pleased, and if anyone knows anything that has 
> already been written on Klingon lexicography, than I'd be pleased if 
> that particular person would want to share that knowledge with me.

I hope this helps.

> Kind regards,
> qeyS.


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