[tlhIngan Hol] can we say {vay' QaQ} ?

Felix Malmenbeck felixm at kth.se
Mon Apr 6 10:15:19 PDT 2020

I certainly don't have any complaints with the phrase {qaSpu' vay' QaQ.} on grammatical grounds ({vay'} is a noun like any other), but I would ask you to consider why you are using {vay'} instead of something more specific, or simply nominalizing the verb with -wI'.

Collocations such as "something/anything <adjective>", "someone/anyone <adjective>" and "somewhere/anywhere <adjective>" is very common in English (and Swedish, and probably quite a few other Earth languages, as well). It's almost a grammatical feature in and of itself; a sort of nominalization scheme.

Something wonderful has happened.

I'm gonna show you something beautiful.

Did you see anything cool?

You're gonna meet someone new; I really hope you do.

How can we find someone qualified for this position?

Did you see anyone suspicious?

Let's go somewhere quiet.

Is there somewhere better?

Don't go anywhere dangerous!

However, in Klingon, the pattern {vay' <state verb>} is conspicuous in its absence. That doesn't mean it's never used (the Klingon corpus is limited, after all), but it should force us to ask: Are you using {vay'} because it is the best word to describe what you're saying, or is your choice influenced by your intuition from Earth languages.

You have a verb describing a state, and you want to describe some fairly general person/thing/concept that exhibits that state.
There seem to be two ways to do that in Klingon that are present in the canon:

1) Use -wI'

Although -wI' seems to be used mostly with verbs of action (SuvwI', baHwI', lengwI'...), one of its definitions is "one who is". Some examples from canon include:

reH Hegh yoHwI'pu''e'.
"Always it is the brave ones who die." (TKW)

pujwI' HIvlu'chugh quvbe'lu'.
"There is no honor in attacking the weak." (TKW)

yoHHa'wI' Sop ghaH
"He will feed on the weak-hearted" (paq'batlh)

SoHvaD quvwI' qem Hegh 'e' wIvDI' Hegh pop // Hevchugh quvwI' // 'ej 'e' DaqaSmoHchugh jIlaj
"The honorable will be rewarded // After death chooses to bring them to you, // If you make it so, I accept." (paq'batlh)

2) Use a more specific word

There are quite a few examples in canon of expressions such as {tlhIngan <state verb>}, {be' <state verb>} and {nuv <state verb>}.

One might certainly ask why these still fairly generic combinations seem to be more common than the truly generic {vay'}. I don't think that this is something that can be boiled down to a concise rule; it's more a matter of observing patterns among "native" speakers and trying to emulate them.

Consider some examples:

meH, naDev qaS wanI' ramqu'.
"Bridge, nothing happened here." (ST3)

DaH wanI' potlh taghlu'
"Now, the time had come" (paq'batlh)

pujwI'vaD nuv quvHa'vaD je Daq moj
"[Gre'thor was now] the place for the weak and dishonored."

Daq SumHa'vo' wab Huj Qoylu'
"Strange sounds come from afar" (paq'batlh)

Daq HopHa'Daq // qa'chaj nejlI' // qotar qempa'QeH je
"Not far away, // Kotar and his Qempa'keh // Are in search of their souls." (paq'batlh)


Looking over uses of {vay'} in canon, it seems that the uncertainness or generality of the referent is quite significant; either because it is not yet known/decided who or what that someone/something is, or because it is a general statement:

== Unknown ==

DaH vay' vIlarghlaH.
Now I can smell something. (CK)

chaq SoHvaD vay' vIje' vIneH.
Perhaps I'd like to buy something from you. (CK)

== General quantifier ==

naDev vay' DaSov'a'?
Do you know anyone here? (CK)

ghobe'. naDev vay' vISovbe'.
No. I don't know anyone here. (CK)

qeylIS'e' lIjlaHbe'bogh vay'
"Kahless the Unforgettable" (SkyBox S8)

wej Heghchugh vay', SuvtaH SuvwI'.
"A warrior fights to the death." (TKW)

jagh jonlaH vay'.
"The enemy can be captured." / "Somebody/Anybody can capture the enemy." (KGT)

not // vay' // Dara'qa'
"There will be // Nothing to command, // Ever again!" (paq'batlh)

So, until we have more examples, I would probably reserve the use of {vay' <state verb>} for cases where the referent needs to be truly generic or unknown. Otherwise, using something more specific seems to be the more common way to go about it, or just slap a -wI' on there.


From: tlhIngan-Hol <tlhingan-hol-bounces at lists.kli.org> on behalf of jevreh at qeylis.net <jevreh at qeylis.net>
Sent: Monday, April 6, 2020 17:26
To: tlhingan-hol at kli.org
Subject: Re: [tlhIngan Hol] can we say {vay' QaQ} ?

Wouldn't it be:

qaSpu' wanI' QaQ

Since the something is an event? I though vay' was a tangible person or item?


Sent from my iPhone

On Apr 6, 2020, at 09:35, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:

On 4/6/2020 9:04 AM, mayqel qunen'oS wrote:

In English we can say: "something good has happened", and in case
someone wonders we can say *exactly* the same in Greek too.

And now suppose we want to say this in Klingon..

Option A: {qaSpu' QaQbogh vay'}.
Option B: (qaSpu' vay' QaQ).

As far as option A goes, all's good. But there's something weird with
option B; if I read {vay' QaQ} without translating it in english I
"feel" it ok. But if I translate it as "good something", it "feels"

So, I'd like to ask:

Meaning-wise, is the {qaSpu' vay' QaQ} a "normal" construction, or is
this klingon phrase as weird as saying "(a) good something has
happened" ?

I see nothing weird about qaSpu' vay' QaQ. Would you have any problem with Haghpu' loD Sagh The serious man has laughed? They have exactly the same grammar. If you have a problem with one and not the other, your problem is with your choice of translations, not the Klingon sentence. Always translate the meaning of a sentence, not the individual words. If the best translation doesn't match the original word for word, so be it.


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