tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Fri Oct 30 09:21:37 2009

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Translations of type 2 suffixes with -be'

Tracy Canfield (

As TKD demonstrates, the translation of a verb with -be' depends on where it
occurs with regard to root and the other suffixes*:

"You are afraid not to kill me."


"You are not afraid to kill me."

When we look at the other type 2 suffixes, though, the English translations
don't seem as obvious.  I'm interested in hearing what others have done with


jIDoy'be' 'ej jIQongnISbe'

"I am not tired and I don't need to sleep."

That seems straightforward enough (I am sure someone will let me know if it
isn't).  Now contrast it with

jIDoy' 'ach jIQongbe'nIS

"I am tired but I need to not sleep."  (Presumably the speaker has other
responsibilities that cannot be abandoned.)

The general sense of the sentence is clear, but "I need to not sleep" is
awkward in English.  We just don't say it that way.  English speakers would
probably say something along the lines of

"... but I shouldn't sleep."
"... but I mustn't sleep."
"... but I can't sleep."  (Even though this uses the word "can't", the
speaker wouldn't mean "I am unable to sleep"; the _meaning_ is that sleeping
is inadvisable, not that it's impossible.)

The difference between the possibe translations is mostly a matter of
strength - someone who says "I shouldn't sleep" might decide to do it
anyway, but someone who says "I mustn't sleep" is going to try not to.

In general, what would be the preferred English translation of verbs with
-be'nIS?  I'm not trying to translate a specific phrase so much as I'm
looking for general patterns.

-qang seems to have a similar translation problem:


"I am willing to tell you."


"I am not willing to tell you."

? qaja'be'qang

? "I am willing to not tell you."

The English seems possible, but odd - I wouldn't expect to hear it without
extra stress on the "not", and even then it would probably only be produced
in certain specific contexts.  "I am willing to refrain from telling you"
would sound less awkward - is that an acceptable translation?

-rup is tricky too:


"They are not prepared to fire."  "They are not ready to fire."


?"They are prepared to not fire."  "They are ready to not fire."

To my ear, the English  "ready to" and "prepared to" really need to be
followed by some kind of action that will be taken.  "Prepared to not ..."
and "Ready to not ..." sound extremely awkward.  Is there a better

Some of the possibilities with -beH seem even weirder.

pojbeHbe' De'wI'

The computer is not set up to analyze it.

?pojbe'beH De'wI'

? The computer is set up not to analyze it.

That sounds like a Dilbert cartoon - we generally configure devices to do
something, rather than to not do something.

In fairness, the English sentences with -rup and -beH sound a lot better
when you add a subordinate clause:

baHbe'rup Sujeghchugh

They're prepared to not fire if you surrender.

pojbe'beH DewI' ra'pa' QeDpIn

The computer is set up not to analyze it before the science officer

Any insight is appreciated.  Thank you!

* "The scope of negation" if you'd like some jargon with that

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