tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Jun 29 08:13:49 2009

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Klingon cardinal directions

Steven Boozer (

>>> {'ev}  "area northwestward, area towards the northwest" (n.)
>>> Not exactly north, but it'll do.  Klingons have only three cardinal
>>> directions:
>>> 'ev
>>>   \
>>>    \______ chan
>>>    /
>>>   /
>>> tIng

Michael Everson:
>> That's cool. Where are those words from?

>HolQeD, Vol.8, No.4.
>See the New Canonical Klingon Words list, which is incomplete but is
>apparently much more up to date than what you're using.

Okrand originally introduced them on the old startrek.klingon mailing list:

From:       Marc Okrand 
Newsgroups: startrek.klingon
Date:       Sun, 21 Nov 1999
Subject:    Re: Cardinal Directions (to Marc Okrand)

Kamala KordaS wrote... 
>What are the cardinal directions in tlhIngan Hol? 
>  east 
>  west 
>  south 
>  north 
>As well as all the variants of directions such as northeast, southeast etc. 
>If Mr. Okrand could answer that would be great. I have been unable to 
>locate any reference to these directions in the Dictionaries or other 
>books by Mr. Okrand. 

Traditionally, in dealing with orientation, bearings, headings, and so forth, Klingons have divided things up into three, not four, primary directions or compass points.

There are three nouns for these principal points. The translations of these words using terminology familiar to the Federation are a little awkward, but they give an idea of the meanings:

{chan}  "area eastward" or "area towards the east"
{'ev}   "area northwestward" or "area towards the northwest"
{tIng}  "area southwestward" or "area towards the southwest"

While the four main compass points used in the Federation (north, east, south, west) are distributed evenly (that is, they are 90 degrees apart from each other: north is 90 degrees away from east, east is 90 degrees away from south, and so on), this is not the case in the Klingon system. The three directions are not evenly spaced (that is, they are not 120 degrees apart from each other). Instead, the areas associated with {'ev} and {tIng} are closer to each other than either is to the area associated with {chan}. (The areas associated with {'ev} and {tIng} are something like 100 degrees apart from each other, and each is 130 degrees away from the area associated with {chan}.)

English words like "east" and "southwest" are, as noted, just convenient tags for what the Klingon words mean. Since {chan} actually refers to that part of the landscape in the direction of the sunrise, "east" is a reasonable English counterpart. The standard translations of {'ev} and {tIng} follow from the standard translation of {chan}. But Klingon {chan} does not work the same as English "east." From the Klingon point of view, 
it makes no sense to say that something is "in the east." One can go towards the east, something can be to the east of something else, but nothing can actually be "in" the east. No matter how far eastward you go, there's something still to your east. Thus the awkward translations "area eastward, area towards the east" and so forth. (And, of course, the same can be said for the other directions.)

These Klingon direction nouns work in the same manner as other nouns of location (nouns used to express prepositional concepts) such as {Dung} "area above," {bIng} "area below," and {retlh} "area beside, area next to." Thus, just as {nagh Dung}, literally "rock area-above" or "rock's area-above" is used for "above the rock," {veng chan}, literally "city area-eastward" or "city's eastward area" is commonly translated "east of the city."

Depending on the sentence in which the phrase is used, the second noun in this construction (in this case {chan} "area eastward") could take the locative suffix {-Daq}, as in:

{veng chanDaq jIwam}  "I hunt east of the city"

The "city in the east" (actually, "city toward the east") or "eastern city" would be the "area-eastward city": {chan veng}.

Again, if appropriate, the locative suffix {-Daq} follows the second noun:

{chan vengDaq jIwam}  "I hunt in the city in the east"

The "city's east," meaning "the eastern part of the city," would make use of {yoS} "area, district": {veng chan yoS} (literally "city area-eastward district" or "city's eastward-area's district").

The directional nouns may also be used with possessive suffixes. For example (switching from the east, for the sake of variety):

{'evwIj}  "northwest of me" (literally "my area-northwestward")
{'evmaj}  "northwest of us" (literally "our area-northwestward") 

These words may also be translated "northwest of here." 

For example:

{'evmajDaq jIwampu'}  "I have hunted northwest of here"

This works only when the speaker is indeed "here" (that is, referring to the place in which he or she is currently speaking). If, however, "here" is a place on a map that the speaker is pointing to, "northwest of here" would be something along the lines of {Daqvam 'ev}, literally "this-location area-northwestward" or "this place's area-northwestward".

To express directions between the three cardinal points, the nouns are compounded. Thus, halfway between "southwest" and "east" (that is, halfway between {tIng} "area southwestward" and {chan} "area eastward)" is {tIng chan} (literally "area-southwestward area-eastward" or "area-southwestward's area-eastward" or, for short, "southwest's east"). Similarly, halfway between "northwest" and "east" is {'ev chan}. Logically, these words could come in the other order (that is, {chan tIng} or {chan 'ev}), but, for whatever reason, {chan} always comes second. The area halfway between "northwest" and "southwest" is expressed as either {'ev tIng} or {tIng 'ev}, with neither version significantly more common than the other.

To get even more specific, it is possible to make a compound of three words (though two would always be the same): {'ev chan 'ev} would be a direction halfway between {'ev chan} and {'ev}; {'ev chan chan} would be a direction halfway between {'ev chan} and {chan}.

How this extends to even finer tuning is something pretty much lost except to those knowledgeable in the old ways of navigating. In more recent times, those needing to express directions with greater precision use (numerical) instrumental readouts.

There is an idiomatic expression still heard with reasonable frequency which makes use of all three cardinal direction terms:

{tIngvo' 'evDaq chanDaq}

Literally, this means "from area-southwestward to area-northwestward to area eastward", but the idiom means "all around, all over, all over the place." It is used in the same place in a sentence that the noun {Dat} "everywhere" might be used, but it is much more emphatic:

{tIngvo' 'evDaq chanDaq jIlengpu'}  "I've traveled all over the place"
A more archaic form of the idiom is {tIngvo' 'evDaq 'evvo' chanDaq} (literally, "from area-southwestward to area-northwestward, from area-northwestward to area eastward"), but the three-word version (without the repetition of {'ev}) has all but totally replaced it.

Finally, it should be noted that none of this terminology ever was adapted for navigation in space. Klingons have made use of the system common throughout the galaxy by which courses, bearings, coordinates, and so forth are given numerically:

{He wej pagh Soch DoD cha'}  "course 3-0-7-mark-2"


>>> Not exactly north, but it'll do.

>> If the goal is to translate something close to "north", it's fine. But 
>> is the direction really the important concept to focus on?

Michael Everson:
>Assuming that cold winds blow from that direction, why not?

If I read Okrand's post right, Terran north corresponds to the direction Klingons would call {'ev chan 'ev} - however *{'ev chan 'ev SuS} would be a bit wordy for "North Wind" and, as ghunchu'wI' points out, the precise direction isn't really the point.

Canon Master of the Klingons

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