tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Nov 20 00:01:30 2002

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Re: QeD De'wI' ngermey

>>  The point of a language is not that it live. It is not that it evolve
>>  naturally. The point of a language is that it do what the language
>>  community wants it to do. Usually these are the same thing. With
>>  artificial languages, they are not.

>The community?  Or the majority? 

The community. If the minority doesn't like what the majority does 
with the language, the community inevitably breaks down. That's 
schism; and artificial languages are very susceptible to it. To have 
a schism in Klingon is manifestly stupid; and we preempt that schism 
by conservatism, and backwards compatibility with canon. The schism's 
already happened with Proechel anyway (due in some part to me 
ridiculing his rendering of "strange man = stranger" as "loD taQ"; I 
have a lot to answer for, I know, but I stand by that.)

Backwards compatibility does not mean 'unchanging'. It means 
backwards compatibility. It means you can call a stack "ghom" or 
"tlhegh" or "*Staq*" or whatever, but not make up a new word like 

Why? Because if authority is wrested from Okrand, not only will we 
get Viacom on our collective arses, but Klingon stops being Klingon, 
and starts being yet another a priori language. I mean, does anyone 
here *care* what the Zvelebils are doing with Vulcan? Or Herman 
Miller with Ferengi? Ask yourself why not.

No mythos, no Klingon; no canon, no mythos. That's what this 
community says. If you don't have the mythos, what the hell *is* the 
point of Klingon? If you want typological eccentricity, why not just 
learn Hixkaryana (or English) and be done with it?

>Ooo, but you see, back in 1887, Esperanto was intending to become a real

Laux kiu? Oni celis Esperanton kiel duan helplingvon por la homaro, 
sed ne kiel unuan lingvon de iu ajn, kaj certe ne kiel denaskan 
lingvon. Oni intence netusxebligis la fundamenton -- tute ne 
karakterizajxo de t.n. 'naturaj' homlingvoj. Do kiel gxi estus 
'reala' lingvo?

Part of the problem here is a difference in what is meant by 'real' 
and 'toy' language. Klingon will not evolve like English. That makes 
it not real. Klingon will stay anchored to the mythos and the canon. 
That likely makes it a toy language. Yeah, so? At least we've *got* a 
language, which is more than I can say for Elvish. And it's a 
language that does just fine for most purposes we put it to. What's 
wrong with  that? What's missing?

What's the Klingon for 'dance', you said, pointing out how lame it 
was to render it as "callisthenics"? Pure presumption. What's the 
Pitjantjara for 'computer geek'? If Klingons don't dance (and you 
can't assume they do, unless Viacom tells you they do -- since they 
control the mythos), then why should they have a word for it? And if 
you read KGT, you'll find (a) we do have a word for dance, mI'; and 
(b) mI' is closer to callisthenics anyway. Why *should* Klingon have 
one-to-one maps with English vocab? It shouldn't; and indeed, Okrand 
makes a point of disrupting any such expectation whenever he adds 

>So if I raised a groundswell of support for people who wanted to determine
>a line of succession for canon source rights, and the vast majority of
>people on the list supported it...  I couldn't do it?  By your own
>argument, the language will do what the community wants it to do, so what
>if the community decided to change its current tack?

If you convinced everyone, then everyone would speak Nouveau Klingon; 
and every time someone with a copy of TKD popped in and found Nouveau 
Klingon incompatible with Klingon Ancien, they'd opt right back out. 
Klingon might be a more living language; but it wouldn't be the 
Klingon people recognise from the TKD and sign up for.

Since you would not in fact convince everyone, you would get schism 
instead. Congratulations. The point of the conservatism is to 
*preempt* schism. And if you think current Klingon is not adequate to 
conveying what you want, I can only repeat what other list 
participants have said: try it and see for yourself.

>How many other people is the conservative hardline going to drive away?
>You almost sound proud that you weeded out some people with contrary

Yeah, whatever. The point about Beesley was that he was *so* 
conservative, he refused to write any Klingon, since he felt any 
attempt to do so would be uncanonical.

>Au contrare, you have all but reinforced my point that Klingon is being
>used as a cipher for English.  Look at the major "advancements" in
>Klingon:  Three plays by Shakespeare transcribed into Klingon.

Two. And Gilgamesh.

>jatmey is
>being produced, yes, but at what rate?

Your complaints to the KLI. My understanding is that the problem is 
organisational, not in the language community.

>The people who regularly speak the language here compose relatively
>short social notes; I see few detailed conversations being held in Klingon

It has happened, and does happen, even if rarely. You're neglecting 
what goes on at the qep'a'mey and qepHommey. A whole lot does. (My 
thanks to Qov and Holtej for two ja'chuqmey that I will treasure for 
a while. Holtej, it was the "why is deixis pronounced like that" one 
--- for the sheer thrill of speaking about etymology and phonology in 
a language 'lacking' the means to do so. Qov, I don't even remember 
what we talked about --- apart from Latvia and flying --- but it was 

>I have to admit, Krankor's desk reference was
>fascinating, and I look forward to seeing his column in the next HolQeD,
>but even then, his column does little to advance the language so much as
>it merely attempts to reaffirm what already is.

I won't revisit my animus against Krankor, other than to say that 
someone who does not participate in this forum with any regularity is 
not well qualified in my book to pass judgement on what goes on in 
it. Since I'm about alone in that opinion, let's pass that over. But 
when you say that about Klingon needing to advance, and Krankor not 
enabling that, then I must conclude, once again, that you don't know 
how artificial languages work. Krankor is doing the completely right 
thing for an artificial language. ALs either are conservative, and 
evolve with backward compatibility, or they schism and die. It's not 
like natural languages change to the point of mutual 
unintelligibility after 10 years, either.

And again, what is it you think Klingon is lacking? Compsci 
terminology? For god's sake, borrow it from English and be done with 
it; that's what just about every other language does too --- the ones 
with more pride just calque instead of outright taking the phonemes 
across. Not enough subordinators? Not enough adverbs? Then you're 
being Anglocentric: lots of languages in the world do just fine with 
grammars not at all dissimilar from Klingon's. (Where do you think 
Okrand got his notions in the first place?) How do we entrust Klingon 
evolution to a committee of non-Okrands (or at least non-linguists), 
and *not* ensure Klingon ends up looking more and more like English? 
And do you really envisage control of Klingon being handed over to a 
triumvirate of Bernie Comrie, d'Armand Speers, and Nick Nicholas as 
card-carrying linguists? (Oh, and we'll have to find a slot for David 
rimboli --- poQqu'pu'mo' :-) Why? Who died and made us God?

And you see, it's because everyone will ask that (and we are 
responsible to people interested in Klingon outside the KLI), that it 
will not happen.

>>  and if anything, it
>>  has displayed more resiliance than many an artificial language
>>  anchored to its creator.

>Few other languages have the distinction of having been used in a half
>dozen popular movies, four television series, and a fat selection of
>novels.  Don't confuse the fandom interest aspect of Klingon with any kind
>of inherent linguistic resilience.

Pft. The distinction belongs to the Klingon brand (and even that it 
shares with Ford's Klingonaase); only the movies have any real 
tlhIngan Hol, and even Frasier has better tlhIngan Hol than the TV 
series. I am speaking explicitly of the community of this mailing 
list --- a sizeable minority of which *are not even Trekkies*. I know 
I'm not one any more. Playing along with the mythos isn't fandom. 
Something else has been going on here. And the language as used here 
has been remarkably resilient through the long years Okrand had 
nothing to do with us.

>The language has evolved
>-- in several jumps, all corresponding to the publication of a new book or
>audio cassette.  This is not evolution, though, these are bulk injections
>of fresh material from a single source.

The -'e' relativiser head thing wasn't Okrand; it was Krankor. The 
war against nominalisations wasn't Okrand; it was charghwI'. As I 
keep saying: the linguistic norms elaborated here are distinctive, 
and they are not all Okrandian; they bear the imprint of many of us. 
They  are also not injections, as we do not give ourselves the 
authority to make injections; they are true evolutions, maintaining 
continuity with the past.

>>  But you can't harangue an entire language
>>  community out of its ideology.

>  Is it an ideology based on fear or complacency?

There's nothing wrong with fear or complacency in themselves. Would 
you rather a Klingon fearlessly and uncomplacently severed from the 
mythos, in which people could make up (or get  from a Klingon 
Academie) new words for data processing? But then, *why would anyone 
want to learn such a language*?

Fear and complacency are a big part of what keeps communities 
together. (Not a popular thing to say to individualist Americans, but 
that's another thread.) With everyone brave and innovative, you get 
communities of one. And we are to trade our fear (of severing links 
with canon) and complacency (of having to devise new canon)... for 

The older I get, the more argumentative; so be it. But Qov is right; 
this is a stage learners go through, and as a result we do give it 
short shrift. Paul, tell us what exactly it is you feel you cannot 
say, and we'll work on it. But this whole "rescue Klingon from 
Okrand"... honestly, Guido said it much more forcefully, and to my 
mind more convincingly, in the early nineties. (It was his flame on 
Okrand's vIychorgh.) And if Okrand gets run over by a bus? *shrug* 
Then we've had a nice innings. We'll get no more monomorphemic roots. 
That's OK. We've had workarounds before, we'll have them again.

Underneath all this, there is a big problem with working with a 
language under Viacom's thumb, which won't let you publish your own 
dictionary. That's what is doing Klingon in. But sever Klingon from 
Viacom, and you effectively sever it from the mythos; and you're left 
with Zvelebil Vulcan and Miller Ferengi. Whatever conservatism the 
mailing list is shoving at you, there's your real problem.

If you want a freely evolving language with no mythos-bound or 
corporate restraints, the world has 6000 of them occuring naturally, 
and easily over 1000 artificially. But Quenya ain't it, and neither 
is Klingon.

And does the world *really* need a Klingon compsci textbook? Is this 
the big pressing need in the language? Doesn't Swahili need one more? 
What *is* it that you think Klingon should be used for, so as it can 
stop being a toy, and that it isn't being used for now? And I come 
back to this: why shouldn't Klingon be a toy language? Why does it 
have to be 'real'? What do we gain from it being real, that we're 
missing out on from it being a toy?
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* Dr Nick Nicholas,  French & Italian Studies *
  University of Melbourne, Australia   
*    "Eschewing obfuscatory verbosity of locutional rendering, the       *
  circumscriptional appelations are excised." --- W. Mann & S. Thompson,
* _Rhetorical Structure Theory: A Theory of Text Organisation_, 1987.    *
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