tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sat Jun 27 14:52:30 2009

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Re: Klingon translation

Doq (

I'm not sure that anybody has done a good job here of describing WHY  
using a question as the direct object of {'e'} is so controversial,  
and why Okrand avoids it. I will try to do so with examples I make up  
as illustrations:

nuHvetlh vImaS

I prefer that weapon.

nuHvetlh chonob 'e' vImaS.

I prefer that you give me that weapon. (I'm using the prefix trick  
here -- it could also be {jIHvaD nuHvetlh Danob 'e' vImaS.})

Notice that I'm definitely not saying "I prefer that weapon that you  
give me." The {'e'} is not referring to the weapon. It is referring to  
the action of you giving me that weapon.

*nuq chonob 'e' vImaS.*

This is jibberish. "I prefer that what do you give me?" Even if you  
break it down to two sentences it remains gibberish: "What do you give  
me? I prefer that." The word "that" does not refer to the thing you  
give me. It refers to the entire question "What do you give me?", and  
as such, the whole construction is nonsensical.

The question word {nuq} is not, by definition, a relative pronoun.  
Klingon doesn't have relative pronouns.

You can't squeeze Klingon question words into the role of a relative  
pronoun, no matter how sensible that might seem in English. You can't  
even do it obliquely, or slyly or any other kind of way. It's the  
wrong tool for the job.

The pronoun {'e'} always refers to the entire sentence that precedes  
it. If that sentence were a question, it would not refer to the answer  
to that question. It refers to the entire question, which never seems  
to make sense, which is the point of this entire controversy.

In my earlier example, if I wanted to say "I prefer that weapon that  
you give me," I'd say {nuHvetlh chonobbogh vImaS.} See how remarkably  
different that is from {nuHvetlh chonob 'e' vImaS}? The pronoun {'e'}  
is the wrong tool to try to convey this idea of a relative pronoun,  
and it does not succeed as a tool that allows you to use a question  
word as a relative pronoun.

So far as I can remember, the only reason anyone has even tried to use  
a {'e'} to represent a question has been attempts to use question  
words as relative pronouns. If it were possible to use {'e'} to refer  
to a question, it would have to be some kind of construction not aimed  
at using the question word as a relative pronoun. So far, nobody has  
needed to do that, hence the absence of canon or even really good non- 
canon examples of such a grammatical construction.

Anyone who approaches this particular translation using {'Iv} as a  
relative pronoun, trying to use {'e'} to make it work has glossed over  
this inconvenient truth. There is no single solution for this. You  
have to look at each idea that you are trying to convey and tell that  
story in Klingon, where relative clauses use {-bogh} and where {'Iv}  
is a question word, and where {'e'} refers to an entire sentence and  
not the answer to a presented question as the direct object of another  

nIychon's translation was beautiful. Aspire to that elegance.

My clunkier attempt might be:

qaDchuq neH pemHov SuSna' bIr je. paw lengwI'.
HoSchaj tobmeH Qu' lu'ogh: nuvvamvo' SutDaj tuQHa'moH QapwI'.
SuSqu' SuSna', 'ach SutDaj 'uchchu' lengwI'.
lengwI' tujqu'moH pemHov. tuQHa' lengwI'.
Qapchu' pemHov. jegh SuSna'.

I guess that proves that the Sun is a fool, since he obviously  
expected the wind to respect him.


On Jun 26, 2009, at 8:40 PM, ghunchu'wI' wrote:

> On Jun 26, 2009, at 12:43 PM, Michael Everson wrote:
>>> In my dictionary, the
>>> pronoun {'e'} stands for the previous sentence, not for a
>>> hypothetical meta-answer to an indirect question.
>> "The previous sentence" must be a declarative sentence, and cannot be
>> a question?
> Correct, at least according to Marc Okrand (as reported by DloraH).
> Using the pronoun {'e'} to refer to something other than a
> declarative statement might not actually be forbidden as a point of
> grammar, but going by the strict meaning of the words, using a
> question doesn't make sense.  Neither does an imperative.
>>> If you really need the most
>>> literal translation, try {'Iv HoS law' latlh HoS puS} instead.
>> Evidently 'Iv HoS law' hasn't got a verb/adjective.
> Sure it does:  {HoS} "be strong"
> {'Iv HoS law' latlh HoS puS"} "Who is stronger than the other one?"
> -- ghunchu'wI'

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