tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sun Dec 23 19:38:30 2007

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Re: "to-be" + <<-bogh>>

Doq (

On Dec 23, 2007, at 7:48 PM, qa'vaj wrote:

> --
> On Dec 23, 2007 10:56 AM, Alan Anderson <>  
> wrote:
>> With this in mind, {chom ghaHbogh} would be translated as "He who is
>> [a/the] bartender," which is exactly the same meaning as simply
>> {chom} "bartender.
> But this is focusing on the particular example, rather then the  
> principle.

The point here is that language is something that language-capable  
minds use to communicate, from one mind to another, through all the  
indirect means that language offers. We make up rules and have  
principles  to describe what we're doing when we're using language,  
but when it comes down to it, Churchill was onto something when  
someone gave him a hard time about leaving a preposition at the end of  
a sentence: "That is something up with which I shall not put!" He was  
following the rules in his answer, but he wasn't speaking what most  
people would consider effective communication through English (except  
by indirection, where he's showing why the rule is an inaccurate  
description of spoken English).

There is something more at work than the rules indicate. The example  
really is more important than the rule, and the problem with  
{jIHtaHbogh naDev vISovbe'} is that pretty much all reasonable Klingon  
speakers find it odd and confusing, and it is sufficiently unique that  
we can't compare it to anything else. There hasn't been anyone going  
"ahah!" and then explaining anything that others can get behind and use.

Instead, what we have is a piece of canon that we all look at and say,  
"Yep. It sure is canon. We all know it's right. We just aren't quite  
sure WHY it's right. Maybe if we leave it alone, we can pretend like  
it didn't happen, and if anybody uses it, verbatum, we'll nod and say,  
"Yep. You sure are speaking Klingon properly (though we don't quite  
understand why it's so proper, except that it's canon and all canon is  

I'm not against rules or principles. They are great teaching tools.  
Without them, I never could have learned to speak Klingon. Meanwhile,  
if a rule doesn't prove to be useful in the long run or if a bit of  
canon doesn't prove useful in the long run, I'm quite happy to ignore  
them. The thing I'm after is the ability to say stuff in Klingon so  
that other people can understand me.

If you come up with an example inspired by a principle and the example  
fails to communicate something meaningful to others, then that doesn't  
speak well for the principle, unless it somehow fails to be a good  
example of the principle at work.

> We could also say that  <<jIHtaHbogh naDev>> means the same thing as  
> simply
> <<naDev>>.

We don't know that it doesn't. To be honest, when I read {jIHtaHbogh  
naDev vISovbe'} I didn't think the speaker was lost. I thought he was  
either recovering from a blow to the head, or he was just too drunk to  
know where or who he was. I'm not making this up to be funny. That was  
my honest impression.

>  I just made up an example <<chom ghaHbogh>>.

No one accused you of not making up an example.

> Note that you translated as: "**He** who is [a/the] bartender".  This
> contradicts the canon <<jIHtaHbogh naDev>> which only works in the  
> canon
> sentence as "**Here** where I am".  The canon sentence doesn't work   
> if  you
> translate as "**I** who am here."  See? There is an ambiguity issue.

There are several examples of Okrand blithely offering ambiguous  
relative clauses as canon. That's not the unique aspect of it. The  
problem here is that all canon comes from a guy who, while he was the  
language's creator, doesn't speak the language all that well or that  
often. It is ironic that the KLI has several people who know the  
vocabulary and grammar better than he does. I mean, who would he speak  
it with if not someone in the KLI? And does anyone in the KLI  
regularly speak Klingon with Okrand? If they do, they keep it a secret.

My understanding is that whenever he speaks Klingon publicly, he  
prefers to read off a script he prepared. As others speak it around  
him, he is mostly quiet, uttering a few careful words now and then,  
but otherwise mostly smiling, silently.

So, the fact is, we get to practice it more than he does. So, it  
doesn't surprise me that some of the canon is pretty squirrelly.  
That's why it is rare that I grab any particular canon example and run  
very far with it, unless it opens a door to expressing something  
commonly useful.

None of this is intended to disrespect a remarkably cool person who  
single-handedly invented the most fun language on the planet, or  
perhaps beyond. It's just that canon from him is such a crap shoot.  
Sometimes it opens doors. Other times, it just... sits there...  
strange and... not particularly useful, in terms of helping me say  
stuff in the language.

> The whole point is the ambiguity between which item -  "bartender" or
> "he/she"  - is the entity intended as the head (pro)noun.  The  
> reason that I
> switched to using <<ghaH>> instead of continuing with <<jIH>> is to  
> avoid
> having the verb prefix incidentally disambiguate the head noun.

I'm not sure that's the only problem here. There are several strange  
explanations for what the principle or rule is behind this odd, early  
example, but none of them ring true for anybody who isn't the personal  
author of the theory in question. That fails the test of language.  
Mysteriously, I say something and you understand it. If I say  
something and you don't understand it, then, well, that's not as good.

>> ja' Doq:
>>> I see {ghaHbogh} as marginally meaningful, requiring really special
>>> context that is so rare as to verge on poetry. I don't see prose
>>> having much use for it in an average day.
>> I agree completely.  The only use of a similar construction I can
>> remember seeing "in the wild" was sort of a fad a great many years
>> ago.  People were applying a formulaic translation to an English
>> phrase like "the restaurant in the city" to get {vengDaq 'oHbogh
>> Qe''e'}.  I thought it was unnecessarily Klinglish then, and I still
>> think so now.
> My thinking is all prompted by <<jIHtaHbogh naDev vISovbe'>>, which is
> canon.  I don't have another specific sentence in mind, I only want to
> understand the options and principles.  I'm not prepared to assert the
> profound prescience that "to-be"+<<-bogh>> will only have obscure or  
> unwise
> usage.  You can certainly disagree.

Another post has a couple of examples that pass well. It doesn't open  
doors for me, but in some cases, it does build sentences that make  
sense. Following the principle, however, apparently also creates the  
linguistic equivalent of "write only memory". The rules build the  
words, but nobody can understand them.

>> ja'qa' qa'vaj:
>>> qaQochba' QIn ngeHpu'wI' jIHbogh jIH'e'.
>> chatlhvam vIpojlaH 'e' vInID.  vIpojlaHbe'.
>> Knowing what you tried to explain at first lets me tease out
>> something like a meaning:  "Only *I*, the message senders who I am,
>> obviously disagree you."  The errors are trivial, but they are too
>> distracting for me to concentrate on the part you're apparently
>> trying to use as an example.
>> I can render the sentence as {jIQoch QIn vIngeHbogh jIH} "I who send
>> the message disagree."  But what other "I" is there?  I think a
>> relative clause using a pronoun as a "to be" verb is superfluous to
>> the point of causing confusion.
> "*I* who am the message sender obviously disagree with you."

Several people who speak Klingon really well failed to understand your  
sentence. That's my whole point. It doesn't matter than you have  
followed a rule to make the sentence. Translation needs to be  
reversible to be meaningful. If you start with an English sentence and  
follow a set of rules to create a Klingon sentence that others can't  
translate back into English to anything remotely near what you started  
with, then your rules are suspect.

> I used one of the possible options that I outlined.  Another would be:
> qaQochba' QIn ngeHpu'wI' jIHbogh.

I think the thing that throws people is that the verb has a first  
person singular subject prefix and then you go through two third  
person nouns to get to {jIHbogh}, and it has a verb suffix on it, so  
it looks like the head noun is third person singular, so that should  
be the subject of the main clause... but the verb starts with {qa-}.  
It's jarring.

Okay, to me, it's like if you said in English, "The message writer who  
is I disagree with you." The head noun is third person, not first. I  
know now that you meant to say "I who am the message writer," but the  
point here is, what is the head noun here? Is it "I"? If it is, then,  
well, why was anybody else supposed to know that?

Your answer seems to be, "... because that's how it is in {jIHtaHbogh  
naDev vISovbe'}" The problem is that there is a far more  
comprehendible method for building Klingon relative clauses, and your  
method doesn't jive with the one everybody uses. The canon confuses us  
and so do your examples. Even if you uniquely do understand  
{jIHtaHbogh naDev vISovbe'} and you are successfully replicating the  
method to make new sentences, nobody else is understanding you.

> I forgot to add the winky after it ;)
> (BTW- You apparently see some mistakes, but didn't point them out.   
> I don't
> see anything obvious, other than maybe using <<-wI'>> on a verb  
> suffixed
> with <<-pu'>>. )

I don't think there are mistakes that can be fixed in order to make  
the sentence work that you are trying to build by the method you are  
using to build it.

> -- 
> qa'vaj
> qo'lIj DachenmoHtaH


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