[tlhIngan Hol] doubly {-meH}ed nouns

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Wed May 15 12:36:26 PDT 2019

My reasoning is not seriously flawed. Saying it is doesn’t make it so. We can have differences of opinion without either of us being wrong.

… [believe it or not, I just omitted a LOT of stuff. Thank me for that.]

My point is that Klingon is a language, not a code, and ideally, if you want to actually understand it, you should speak it like a language, instead of taking English text and figuring out how to perfectly encode it into the one and only true and correct method to produce the one and only truely correct translation. That’s not how language works. That’s not how translation works.

For all you native English speakers, do you really believe that if you have an idea, that idea can only be expressed with one specific grammatical construction and word choice in English? Thought = sentence?

That’s an absurd idea.

So, if you want to speak English well, you should practice expressing one idea several different ways, and then see what works best. Use different grammar and vocabulary. This is how you can become better with the language.

The same is true for Klingon.

If you can only think of one way to express a given idea in Klingon, then you are neither very good with the language, nor are you building the skill set needed to become better at it.

Yes, I’m better at this than a beginner is because I’ve had decades of exposure to the grammar and vocabulary. I get that. But I’m not just saying this because this is how I think, so everyone should think like me.

I’m saying this because I genuinely believe that even at early stages, you learn much more by trying to express the same idea in Klingon using different vocabulary and grammar choices than you learn if you pick up a screwdriver and do everything possible that you can think of to do with a screwdriver before picking up a hammer and doing everything you can possibly think of with a hammer, and then pick up a hack saw and do everything you can possibly think of with a hacksaw.

That’s not really how you learn to fix things with tools. It’s just dicking around.

And for decades, the majority of arguments on this list have been fueled by people just dicking around, which also explains why, out of the many hundreds of people who have joined this list over the years, so few of them have actually become skilled with the use of the language.

You don’t really learn the language by dicking around with its individual pieces.

I know you’d like to. You are not alone in this. Many dozens have preceded you. Many dozens will follow. Rarely do they join the ranks of skilled speakers of the language, despite their dominance on this list. They have stubbornly argued for decades… Well, typically for a year or so and then they go away and get replaced by someone else doing the same thing. There is no end to people wanting to do this. Especially linguists.

It’s the futile thing that happens here a lot. Maybe it sustains interest in the language in a perverse way, but it doesn’t really teach us much. It doesn’t really improve our skill as much as the proponents would suggest.

I know: That sounds like I’m saying that your reasoning is seriously flawed.

My intent is less to convey that idea than to suggest that this list has been around for a long time. There have been many verbal battles fought over how far one can stretch a given Klingon grammatical construction. Those battles pass and new ones replace them of remarkably similar character. Like Sisyphus, we roll our stone up the hill and it rolls back down again, over and over. Birds pluck out our liver and it grows back.

And yet we still don’t do a remarkably good job of teaching people how to speak the language, because we are too distracted by passionate arguments over individual points of grammar, instead of learning how to speak the language well enough that we could just write everything in Klingon and communicate with each other without having to include English translations for everything we write in Klingon [to be polite to beginners]. We started a list just for writing anything in Klingon AND I WAS THE ONLY PERSON WHO USED IT. That is an exaggeration, but certainly I wrote well over half of the messages on that list, not because I’m more skilled but because apparently most of the other skilled people around at the time didn’t have as much interest in using the language as they had in arguing about it in English.

If we wanted to learn how to communicate in Klingon, we would practice saying a single thing multiple ways, using different vocabulary and grammar, and then look at the list of what we came up with and decide which choice worked best. We would then more quickly learn how to shorten the list, with fewer failures appearing on it. Pretty soon, we’d just be able to think in Klingon and write or speak in it.

My one actual contribution to the language was a result of that practice. We didn’t have a question word for “which”, as in “Which weapon do you want?” 

Because I wasn’t attached to the specific grammatical construction of a question, it occurred to me that the idea at the core of “Which weapon do you want?” is the command, “Choose your weapon!” So, we don’t need no stinkin’ question word for “which”. A language that didn’t have that word could still express the same idea. So, the language doesn’t need the word.

Okrand thought the idea was cool. It stuck. It became the official way to do it.

No, I’m not really special for coming up with this. Meanwhile, my method of looking around at ALL the grammar and vocabulary that I know and trying to build more than one way to express whatever it is I’m trying to say is a very useful approach to learning the language, and I honestly think it is underused among this population.

I think that if more people tried to do this more often, we’d have a lot more functional Klingon speakers on this list than we do.

Anybody can read a section describing a grammatical construction in TKD and then tear into it on the list, challenging the world to contest your personal interpretation of what you can do with that specific grammatical construction.

It’s been done to death here. For decades. Yet here we are, our rock rolling down the hill again; our liver growing back.

It would be much more challenging for you to take what you’ve already learned and try to say one thing at least three unrelated ways, and then take another thing you’d like to say and say it three unrelated ways… or maybe take one thing and say it a dozen ways. Someone asked how to say, “I love you,” in Klingon, and I filled a page with really good ideas. None were the one and only perfect encoding of the words “I love you,” in Klingon, but each conveyed the idea a lot better than {qamuSHa’}, which is a dry, passionless encoding of the words “I love you.” It’s exactly as vague-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness in Klingon as the English original. If you really mean it, you’d say it some other way.

That’s what I think is missing here. Start with the spark behind the idea and let it illuminate multiple, different expressions, and see which one shines brightest.

I honestly believe that’s a better way to learn the language.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On May 15, 2019, at 5:10 AM, mayqel qunen'oS <mihkoun at gmail.com> wrote:
> charghwI',
> your reasoning is seriously flawed..
> In order to really learn something, one has to explore everything,
> even if it is to learn what he should avoid doing.
> ...
> So, for the benefit of everyone, and the klingon language, which you
> and all of us here love, please get your act together.
> ~ m. qunen'oS
> Ca'Non Ca'Non Ca'Non holiest
> _______________________________________________
> tlhIngan-Hol mailing list
> tlhIngan-Hol at lists.kli.org
> http://lists.kli.org/listinfo.cgi/tlhingan-hol-kli.org

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