tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Nov 24 20:14:58 2009

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Re: Question about Klingon books (e.g., Gilgamesh et al.)

Michael Roney, Jr. (

On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 10:48 PM, Christopher Doty <> wrote:
> the translation of the fifth line on page 12. ÂThe
> English is "He discovered what which was unseen" and the Klingon is
> <leghbe'lu'wI' tu' ghaH>. ÂDoesn't this mean "He found the unseer"?
> Ought it not be <leghbe'lu'ghach> or <leghbe'lu'bogh wanI'>? ÂOr is
> the passive/inverse meaning of -lu' take to its extreme here?

While I'm sure DloraH will defend his translation, I'll try to answer
what I can since I'm up.

<-wI'> could be either "it" or "him". It works like English -er. So
"toaster" could equally be a minor cook who's job it is to brown
bread, as well as a household kitchen appliance.

<-ghach> is a whole different story all together.
Simple rule: Don't use it unless you know what you're doing.

> (Sidenote: is this how wanI' gets used? I've seen it here and in
> Gigamesh, but it doesn't make sense with the phenomenon
> translation...)

Heghlu'DI' mobbe'lu'chugh QaQpu' Hegh wanI'
Death is an experience best shared

This is *everything* I have on -ghach:

-ghach v9. nominalizer TKDa [In Klingon, there are many instances of
nouns and verbs being identical in form (e.g. ta' "accomplishment,
accomplish"). It is not known if all verbs can be used as nouns, but
it is known that verbs ending in suffixes (such as âHa' "undo" in
lobHa' "disobey") can never be nouns. The type 9 suffix âghach,
however, can be attached to such verbs in order to form nouns.] ï
lo'laHghach value ï lo'laHbe'ghach worthlessness ï naDHa'ghach
discommendation ï naDqa'ghach re-commendation ï TKD 4.2.9
Interview: Okrand on âghach
Z: We have many examples of single syllable words which are both verbs
and nouns, and the description of âghach given in TKD explicitly
states that you use âghach on a verb that carries a suffix. Is âghach
only used on verbs that already have suffixes, and can we otherwise
presume that any monosyllabic Klingon verb has the identical nominal
MO: Do all monosyllabic verbs have an identical nominal form? I don't
know. the phrase I used in TKD was "it is not known if all verbs can
be used as nouns." It was true when I wrote the thing and it's true
now. I wouldnât be surprised to find nouns identical to the verb forms
that no one has seen yet, I'm sure there's more. But I'm not prepared
to say that any verb is a noun and any noun is a verb. The semantic
relationship between the two is not straightforward either, there are
some, like bach, which means shoot (v) or a shot (n) where the noun is
the instrument or means of the verb. When you shoot something what you
shoot is the shot.
Z: And we have the same parallel with nob, give and gift.
MO: Exactly. Then there's another kind like leH which means maintain
or maintenance, which is different because you don't maintain a
maintenance. It's a different type of thing â it's like the verb form
is the activity and the noun describes the result of doing the verb.
Z: Almost a gerund form.
MO: Yeah. And another kind; boQ, the verb means assist but the noun
means aide, which is the doer or the agent. It's a wholly different
semantic relationship.
Z: Is there any apparent pattern to this?
MO: Not that I have discovered yet, but I think that would be worth
looking into. I think that would be a good study. That's the way to
purse it rather than all nouns can be verbs or all verbs can be nouns,
because that is not the case.When the verb is one of those adjective
type of verbs, what we have been calling stative verbs, it's different
again. There's nov which is be alien, the noun is what is described by
the verb â an alien is alien. And there's bel which means be pleased
but also means pleasure which is causation or something, pleasure
results from being pleased. And quv meaning be honored and honor. And
then there are some that are not noun/verb pairs but verb/something
else pairs. There's Do' which means be lucky but it's also an adverb
meaning luckily and batlh meaning honor the noun and also the adverb
with honor; so it's not simply that all verbs can be nouns, there are
more identical forms going on. Exactly what the patterns are isn't
apparent to me yet.
Z: When you add âghach onto a word what do you get? One argument is if
you can't add âghach onto a bare stem, and you are trying for a gerund
form, you should be able to add âtaH then âghach. Would you care to
MO: That's fine, I think it's a legitimate thing to do assuming the
verb plus âtaH is legitimate. It depends on the verb. In the
dictionary I give four examples and that's all there is. There's
value, which is used kind of like *worthness and also worthlessness,
and then discommendation and re-commendation. So what âghach means on
the basis of these is âness or âtion. âness means something like the
state of being X, or the quality of being X. *Bigness means the
quality of being big. âtion involves more activity, so it's an action
involving something. So recommendation is the action or result of
recommending, as opposed to the âness ones which are more stative in
English. The examples of
âghach there go with both kinds: the stative with âness and the
activity kind with âtion.
Z: Just to be clear, you're saying that if it is a stative verb with
âghach that you are creating a âness equivalent in English? And if
it's a more active or transitive verb you're creating a âtion type of
MO: Yes. So âghach means something like condition of being X, if X is
stative. Or action or process involved with, or maybe result of the
action, but the process involved with Y where Y is, for the lack of a
better term, an active verb.
Z: Can we use the suffix âghach on a naked stem?
MO: The answer is yes and no â and I'll elaborate so I don't leave it
at that. In general no (this is my understanding from Maltz). As far
as I can tell âghach is at least at first blush restricted to a
position following a verb suffix of another type which means 1 through
8 because it's a nine.
Z: Or a rover?
MO: Absolutely. I personally have never heard a Klingon say
tlhutlhghach. On the other hand, throw in the âtaH as we were saying
earlier and you have tlhutlhtaHghach, which means ongoing drinking or
the process of continuing drink, which is just fine but the English
translation overemphasizes the "continuing" part. Because in English
it's a separate word or phrase as opposed to just a little suffix like
it is in Klingon. So as a result of the translation it takes on a
little more oomph than it has.
Z: And yet, it feels like a very badly repaired word in English.
MO: In English right, but not in Klingon. It's just fine and
semantically even makes sense because if it's going to be one of these
â to use your word â gerund like things â a drinking, that's a
continuous thing. You don't have a drinking at a finite point in time
it has to carry on in time it has to be ongoing.
Z: So, can we use the suffix
âghach on a naked stem?
MO: The general answer to that is "no." Now having said that, can you
do it? Can you say belghach or nobghach or anything like that? Yeah
you can, but it has a feeling in Klingon kind of like the English word
*pleasureness or something or something like *collapsation â it
follows the rules, it's a âtion, an activity and all, but it doesn't
happen to work. However, â if you said it would you be understood?
Yes, but it's weird. Klingon is a little more forgiving than English,
people wouldn't jump up and down and say that's horrible and
ungrammatical, but they would say that's a unique formation. Perhaps
appropriate for the occasion, but not necessarily a word for all
Z: So, if we use âghach on a bare stemâ
MO: It's a highly marked form. It's a word you are forming for a
specific occasion and a specific effect. If you were a poet or
philosopher or hard scientist and had to describe something very
specifically these kinds of words might be appropriate but it carries
the feeling of very technical arcane vocabulary, not normal everyday
stuff. So can you say it? Yes, but you are saying more, rather than
less or neutral.
Z: And you are drawing a great deal of attention to it in the process.
MO: Right, I suppose over time some of these things could be
lexicalized, but my hunch would be if they are lexicalized they would
drop stuff. And there may even be some kind of morphological change â
what used to be the last consonant of the stem will change to the ch
âghach or something like that. There are limited examples of that type
of stuff happening in the dictionary, though not with the -âghach.
Z: Okay, if you can add âghach to a bare stem, what happens if you add
it to one of those verbs that already has a noun counterpart? Like
MO: You won't necessarily end up with a noun that means the same
thing. Remember, there is no single semantic or case relationship
between a noun and a verb, there are different ones, probably half a
dozen different relationships going on, and the âghach one will only
be one of those, and it will be a different kind, not the same thing
at all. So if you add âghach to nob you end up with *givation. If what
you mean to express is an ongoing giving, nobtaHghach, stick in the
Z: Well, if nobtaHghach means something like ongoing giving, would
nobghach mean a one-time donation?
MO: Yes, but it's a funny word for that. It could also be nobpu'ghach,
a *given. Not a past event necessarily, just finished. Now if you use
âghach, and Klingons do this, they play with their language like
everyone does, you can get some interesting semantic distinctions you
can't get otherwise. For example, you have two nouns that mean honor â
like you would expect because it's such a big deal. There's batlh and
there's quv and both are nouns meaning honor. And there's a verb
meaning honor quvmoH, that's a regular ordinary construction. So you
can have quvmoHghach which is a noun that would mean the process of
honoring. quvghach, the naked stem one, that would mean *honoredness.
It has the same odd feeling to it, but the same understandability, but
not quite as bizarre in Klingon as in English. It's a highlighter.
Z: One of the things I like about Klingon is that you can put together
combinations that give you semantic qualities that you would never
think of in English. You could take a perfective suffix and add
âghach; what would that mean?
MO: Say, give â having given â nobta'ghach, it's over already, done
already, a gift given, but not the general notion of a process of
Z: So this might be a word to describe the occasion of the last
exchange of gifts at a holiday, that event.
MO: Right, the particular instance of â as opposed to the general
notion of â something that goes on all the time. Now let's put that on
a stative verb like to be pleased. belpu'ghach, having been pleased.
It would be something like a particular instance of pleasure.
Z: Let's carry this to the next extreme. Can you have prefixes on
words that use âghach?
MO: My initial reaction is that this needs more study. That is, just
as bare stem + -ghach is okay, but weird, prefix + verb (with or
without a suffix) + -ghach is even weirder. But not unheard of, and
the semantic feel, say with legh, would be something like
*I-/you-seeing, or a sighting of you by me as a single concept. I
suppose you could say that, and people would understand it, but it's
weird. An I-seeing-you happened. I can imagine someone saying that in
English, and you'd look up and say "huh?" but know exactly what was
meant. It's following the rules, but it's following them into a place
they don't normally go.
Verbs with -ghach are very rare and highly marked. These nominalized
verbs are not generally the equivalent of simple nouns, but of
abstracts and process nouns (those in English with suffixes like
-tion), so most examples require another verb suffix in addition to
-ghach, such as -taH. These nominalized verbs never take
subject/object prefixes. HQ v3n3p10
For most of us, this means don't use -ghach except for words found in
the dictionary, until you have a really good feel for it.

~Michael Roney, Jr.
Professional Klingon Translator
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