tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Thu Sep 25 09:57:31 2014

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Re: [Tlhingan-hol] Klingon Word of the Day: SIQ

lojmitti7wi7nuv ([email protected])

I'm curious as to whether this Klingon sentence predates our access to the words {tlhoy} and {'Iq}.

On Sep 25, 2014, at 10:40 AM, Steven Boozer <[email protected]> wrote:
>  chaHvaD 'Iw HIq vInob vaj tlhutlhtaH 'e' luSIQlaHbe' 
>  [translation not available]  (PB: paq'raD, Canto 15)
> --
> Voragh
> Ca'Non Master of the Klingons

I would have expected this to be either:

tlhoy 'Iw HIq vInob.


'Iw HIq 'Iq vInob.

or even

'Iw HIq vInobbogh law' law' 'Iw HIq lutlhutlhlaHbogh law' puS.

or even

'Iw HIq 'Iq vInobmo' lutlhutlhlaHtaHbe'.

The sense is that I have given them more blood wine than they could endure drinking.

But all but one of these require the use of words that have come to the vocabulary later than the majority of canon, so if this is early canon, it makes sense as a somewhat awkward work-around. The use of {vaj} is strange. It works. It just seems odd.

"I gave them blood wine. Thus, they cannot endure that they continue to drink it."

It makes no sense unless you gave them too much blood wine, which is implied, but not stated. If we didn't have words yet to express "too much", then this is one of the few ways you can express this idea. So the idea of "too much" has to be implied instead of explicit. You have to logically conclude it, instead of coming straight forward and saying it, and Klingons like to come forward and speak directly.

This makes me recognize the basic contrast between my approach to the language and that of many of the participants here. Most of the arguments I get into happen because people want to take one grammatical approach and stretch it as far as possible, while I instead like to take one idea and translate it with as many different grammatical constructions as possible.

The reason I get worked up about this (typically resulting in regret on my part) is that I'm offended at the idea that Klingon is encoded English. I really believe that it is a language, and while it has its limits, it is remarkably versatile. 

So, if you pound on one area of grammar, it feels like you are testing the limits of encoding English into the Klingon code. The motive behind your examples seems to be to discover how to map a specific English grammatical construction into a specific Klingon grammatical construction.

But if you start with an idea that you want translated, then you try to translate it as a native speaker would translate it, then you offer several different ways that it could be translated so that the recipient gets the idea of the intersection of meaning among the different translations to best understand the meaning of the original sentence.

In other words, if you see a Klingon sentence and you want to translate it for a friend, you are very likely to offer several different English sentences in order to give them a fuller idea of what the Klingon sentence likely means, depending on its context. It's only natural, because of the differences between the two languages. It's fairly rare that only one English sentence could be derived from any given Klingon sentence.

So, why not use the same kind of process going the other way?

If you have an English sentence to translate, why not see how many different useful and meaningful translations into Klingon you can come up with? Likely, none of them will be perfect plug-and-play replacements regardless of context, because Klingon is not a code. It is a language, and different languages vary in terms of areas in which they are naturally accurate in detail or vague. Things that are easy to say in one language are, by their nature, somewhat awkward to say in another language.

Most things translate. Some don't translate well, and often the grammar of the better translations vary radically from the original. "Which pie do you want?" becomes {chablIj yIwIv!} One is a question. The other is a command. These are not grammatically related.

And all of this is because the link between English and Klingon involves translation, not encoding. Just like with other languages, if you translate a sentence back and forth between English and Klingon several times (without referring back to earlier translations), in any sentence of any complexity, you will probably eventually come up with gibberish, just as you do if you do this between any other pair of languages. If Klingon were a code, this would not be true. You can go back and forth between English and pig Latin all day and not lose the original meaning. That is a code.

You can go back and forth between English and Morse Code all day and not lose the original meaning (unless you err). Ditto for ROT13 or any other form of coding.

But languages with differing grammars do not behave as codes do.

So, I recommend that people who want to learn to speak Klingon should spend more time coming up with an English sentence and, as an exercise, translate it into different Klingon sentences using different grammatical structures (like a native speaker would), and take Klingon sentences and translate each one into different English sentences with different grammatical structures.

This will make you more conversant in the language than the process of focusing on one Klingon grammatical structure and trying to figure out the one way this maps to English grammar, then test to see if the Klingon grammatical structure behaves identically to the full variety of usefulness as the English counterpart. When you do this, you are basically testing how effective Klingon is as a code for English, attempting to make its grammar map to English grammar.

This is, in my humble opinion, missing the whole point of learning Klingon. It's a language, not a code. The degree to which it can act as a code, directly mapping grammar between English to Klingon, is the degree of failure Marc Okrand has had in his mission to make it a language. For the most part, especially given the time constraints when he created the language, I think he's done a remarkably successful job of creating a good language and a bad code.

My own flaw is that I want it to be a language to such a degree that I fight these signs of failure where in one detail or another, Klingon is a code for English because Okrand needed to express something and didn't have time to come up with a more interesting way of translating it, so he just made it a lot like English in order to get the subtitle to work. It's a small subcategory of the language, but I tend to be initially blind to it, so when someone points out a direct grammatical map, I come out fighting.

I forgot a word: I stupidly come out fighting.

I regret every stupid fight I've gotten into here. If there is a hell in which people are forced to live through the replaying of their most embarrassing and miserable moments of their lives and I am sent to that hell, I'll spend a lot of time there reviewing the stupid fights I've had here.

My hope is that over time comes self-awareness and that the triggers that have prompted me to stupidly fight will be blunted by familiarity and that I will grow sufficiently patient to wait before replying, and I will listen and consider, and accept a degree of unwelcome truth and then present less inflammatory arguments aimed at the specific areas where truth really was a missed target, and try to find a more accurate truth somewhere between the way I wish things were and the way the other person wishes things were.

We choose to learn a language we don't control, much as we do in real life, since we don't control English, either, yet we somehow entertain the fantasy of gaining that control, or at least a high degree of influence, all while acknowledging that Okrand can at any time make a pronouncement that changes the rules we thought we understood.

So far, he's been nice to us.

We are fortunate that he is, by nature, such a nice person.

And smart.

And wiser than most of us.

I'd like to learn his wisdom as much as his language, though my access to his wisdom is far more limited.

Apologies for my digression.
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