[tlhIngan Hol] can we apply {ngagh} to humans ?

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Wed Dec 18 11:43:56 PST 2019

On 12/18/2019 2:09 PM, qurgh lungqIj wrote:
> On Wed, Dec 18, 2019 at 12:50 PM SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name 
> <mailto:sustel at trimboli.name>> wrote:
>     On 12/18/2019 12:24 PM, qurgh lungqIj wrote:
>>     Klingons mate. Humans mate too. They might label it "making
>>     love", "having sex", "shagging", "doing it", "making the beast
>>     with two backs" or something else to try to differentiate it from
>>     what the rest of the biological world does, but it's still mating.
>     Sure, but what we're interested in is labels, or words. Outside of
>     a science-fiction context, nobody speaking modern English says
>     /mate/ to refer to people having sex.
> I know people who speak modern English and use mate to refer to people 
> having sex outside of sci-fi. You really shouldn't make 
> generalizations about a billion and a half people unless you 
> personally know them all.

I do. I know them all. Personally.

I'll allow the exception that the socially awkward types who gravitate 
to science fiction and talk in a way that others consider weird might 
say that people /mate/ with each other outside of a science fiction 
context. But that's the exception that proves the rule: the way these 
people talk is considered weird.

I'll also allow the possibility of anthropological jargon that might use 
the word that way.

But not in a mainstream way.

Can you give an example in which someone would non-weirdly talk about 
people mating?

>>         Or is it primarily used for animals ?
>>     Humans and Klingons *are *animals.
>     But languages usually distinguish between people and non-people,
>     and Klingon basically does this in its capable-of-using-language
>     suffixes and its pronouns. The distinction here may be important
>     in Klingon. It is in English.
> But often Klingon does the opposite of what languages usually do. If 
> something is important to English, it's probably not important for 
> Klingon.

This is demonstrably untrue. "Do the opposite of other languages" was 
not a design goal of Klingon. "Seem alien" was a design goal, but this 
mostly manifested in its unlikely sound inventory, its uncommon OVS 
syntax, and its color words. Far, far more often, Klingon works the SAME 
as other languages, especially English. Sometimes it does so so well it 
seems apparently that Okrand didn't even notice he was doing it until it 
was pointed out to him (e.g., the prefix trick).

You simply can't judge Klingon grammar by assuming that however English 
handles something, Klingon does the opposite.

> I don't think Klingon uses those suffixes and pronouns to 
> distinguish between "people" and "non-people", but between if the 
> speaker believes that "thing" can, or cannot, communicate with them.

Which is why I said Klingon "basically" does this. If we could divorce 
Klingon from Star Trek and speak it only in the real world, the 
difference between /capable of using language/ and /person/ would be 
almost zero. (Any exceptions are still only theoretical at this point.) 
A lot of the things we don't call people in the real world would be 
called people in the Star Trek universe. A horta, for instance, is a 
person. The actual list of things that are capable of language but are 
not people is small, and a lot of them are considered edge-cases. A 
starship computer, for instance: it's certainly not a person, but does 
it use language? I'd bet even Klingons would hesitate to answer that.

So no, /capable of using language/ is not identical to /person,/ but 
neither is it very far away. It's certainly close enough to recognize 
that saying that "Humans and Klingons are animals" doesn't really 
address the question raised. WE are the ones who brought up the 
person-vs-animal argument of *ngagh/nga'chuq *as pure speculation; if 
you'd rather frame it as 
capable-of-using-language-vs-not-capable-of-using-language**argument of 
*ngagh/nga'chuq,* then do so.

> Something could consider itself "people" but lack the ability to 
> communicate that to a Klingon speaker, or a Klingon speaker might 
> misunderstand something as being communication when it's not.

At this point you seem to be questioning the meaning of the word 
/people./ In a real-world dictionary you'll find that it means a human 
being. As I alluded to above, in a universe with Klingons, living 
rock-pizzas, energy beings, and sentient androids, the meanings of the 
words /person/ and /people/ will be a bit broader. Whether a Klingon 
correctly recognizes a thing as language-capable or not is the Klingon's 
problem, not the language's problem.

    "Wowee," said Zaphod, "Zappo."

    "Incredible!" breathed Arthur, "the people...! The things...!"

    "The things," said Ford Prefect quietly, "are also people."

    "The people..." resumed Arthur, "the... other people..."


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