[tlhIngan Hol] teH vs {-na'}

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Wed Aug 14 07:20:53 PDT 2019

On 8/14/2019 9:45 AM, Will Martin wrote:
> I’m suspecting you are missing something even more fundamental here 
> than language. There’s a cultural association here about “light” and 
> “darkness” that may not be directly translatable using words in 
> Klingon that refer to the presence or absence of light. Klingons may 
> simply use these words for the stuff our eyes use to form images. It 
> may have nothing to do with goodness and evil, which is clearly your 
> intent. This association between light and goodness and dark and evil 
> may very well not be universal.

But he may not be writing or translating with the intent of conveying 
the idea to Klingons. mayqel was, for example, just writing poetry about 
a character from the fiction of Tolkien, in which light and darkness are 
very much associated with good and evil, respectively. In the world of 
Tolkien, darkness is a tool of the Enemy. It has become a thing of fear 
and danger, and only the elves remember a time when the darkness was 
natural and good.

Assume for a moment that Klingons don't have the same light/darkness 
symbolism. If mayqel were writing for Klingons it would be entirely 
appropriate — even necessary — to keep the symbolism. If he /were/ 
writing for Klingons, this aspect of the fiction of Tolkien would simply 
be culturally incomprehensible, and no translation would be adequate.

I am reminded of the famous story of the anthropologists who worked with 
certain African tribes, telling the story of Hamlet to them. To this 
tribe, there was no such thing as a ghost, a chief should have many 
wives, only someone of your own age cohort has a right to enact revenge. 
The tribe's elders listened to the story, then proceeded to tell the 
anthropologist why she misinterpreted the meaning of the story, and what 
it really meant.

Nick had the same problem in translating /Hamlet,/ and his solution was 
to write his own cultural interpretation of the play to match whatever 
he wanted. One doesn't usually have this luxury.


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