[tlhIngan Hol] does someone vor a disease or a person ?

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Wed Aug 5 06:28:47 PDT 2020


Yep. Another long post from chargwI’. Don’t feel compelled to read it. If you have time and inclination, enjoy. Don’t do it in angst. You can skip angst by skipping the message.

Every musician knows that unlearning a wrong thing is harder than learning a new thing. That’s why, in practice, the bad temptation is to play a new tune or piece from the beginning, until you screw up and then you want to start from the beginning again, in order to get the feel of the tune up to that point,.. but by getting that feeling again, you also usually make the same mistake again, and once you’ve done it twice, the mistake becomes the way you have memorized that tune.

So, a better musician backs up just before the mistake and focuses on playing through the mistaken phrase correctly and does this repeatedly, and once she can reliably play through where the mistake had been, THEN go back to the beginning and play it, until you discover the NEXT mistake. Rinse. Repeat.

Consider that in Klingon, this issue is exacerbated by things like… we have published the Klingon Hamlet. It includes things that had not been fully resolved or vetted at the time of publication, since Okrand was not one of the editors. He wants it to be valid, though I’m not sure he’s spent the time required to have read the whole thing, so if he becomes aware of something that might not have fit his intentions for the language, he will tend to try to back-fit things to make Hamlet correct, just like he has back-fit things to make certain movie scenes that got things wrong correct.

While this complicates things, it probably makes the language closer to the nature of a natural language.

Just yesterday, a friend told me a story about a time when a Black woman — a long time friend of the family — came to visit for dinner and at the end of the meal, she stood up and sincerely asked, “Is you quality or does you stack?”

We can make fun of the incorrect conjugation of the verbs, clarifying that it should be “Are you quality, or do you stack?”, but then bring someone from a few centuries ago, or a Quaker from more recent times, and they’d correct us to say that it should be “Art thou quality, or dost thou stack?” In her subculture, her original statement is correct. That’s how most of the people she talks to would say that sentence.

Meanwhile, if you have the right context, you understand her, because she’s asking whether, in this household [as in a quality establishment], does each person carry her dirty dishes individually to the kitchen, or do you collectively stack the plates here at the table and carry the stack to the kitchen? She wanted to know the house rules for cleaning up.

Then there’s the pair of sentences that I feel certain I heard for the first time in the history of time: “We can’t do popcorn. The chickens are too short.”

It made perfect sense in context. We were practicing for a performance of “rapper”, a British form of sword dancing, where five dancers hold what they call swords, though they are actually metal straps used by coal miners to scrape the sweat off of the mules that carry the coal carts out of the mines. These are very flexible straps with a swivel-handle on one end and a non-swivel handle on the other,

Each dancer holds one end of a sword in each hand, the other ends of which are held by two other dancers. They do complex figures without anybody releasing the swords. Each of of these figures have names.

One figure is called “popcorn”, because every other dancer jumps up while the other dancers sweep the swords under their feet, then the dancers who swept the swords duck while the jumping dancers sweep their swords over the ducking dancers, and then the sweeping dancers jump while the previously jumping dancers sweep their swords under… The alternating jumping and ducking of every other dancer looks like popcorn being popped, hence the name.

As a prank, we made up a skit where we start to set up for a dance and one of the dancers says, “Sue, do you have the swords?”

Sue says, “I thought YOU brought the swords. Does anybody have the swords?”

Then everybody starts searching around, taking opportunities to do silly things with members of the audience (this is street theater, so we’re all on a plaza or some such). Then Sue opens up her backpack and pulls out five rubber chickens.

So, we were practicing with rubber chickens instead of swords, and we were figuring out what dances we could do with them, when somebody said, “We can’t do popcorn. The chickens are too short.”

So, given these two experiences where otherwise cryptic English sentences made perfect sense in context, one should come to a greater understanding of Okrand’s repeated emphasis on the importance of context.

Much of the arguments here seem based on the holy grail that is the perfect Klingon sentence that can convey complete, accurate, unambiguous meaning without context. 

The definition of a sentence as representing “a complete thought” is absurd. Most sentences vaguely point toward an incomplete thought highly dependent upon context to give it greater specificity, and we are content if the listener/reader comes close enough to understanding what we intended to convey without it becoming an argument over what we meant when we stupidly said whatever it was we said. We speak in paragraphs and whole diatribes in order to point toward the same idea from different angles because language is such a remarkably incomplete form of communication.

The greater fact is, if we really wanted to be able to speak Klingon well, instead of fixating on individual utterances, we’d do the thing most of us, including myself, are too lazy to do, and that is write or speak in sufficient volume to convey our meaning well, with or without highly complex sentences or arcane details of grammar.

It takes more time than I have.

It takes more time than YOU have.

I still have deep respect for HoD Qanqor when he took the vow and wrote nothing on this list in English. Every word was in Klingon. I learned more about the language in that one month than I’ve learned in the years before or since.

I doubt that the experience would have been as educational if I had not been assigned the task of translating everything he said for members of the list whose skill was insufficient to have understood him, because without that responsibility, I probably would have been lazy enough to have not read everything he wrote.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Aug 5, 2020, at 5:28 AM, mayqel qunen'oS <mihkoun at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> charghwI':
>> You’ve hit the biggest problem with the glosses in the word list.
>> We are left to watch canon and otherwise make assumptions about
>> what objects are appropriate for any given verb.
> 
> Indeed. And that's exactly the problem; we have to guess and proceed,
> guess and proceed, guess and proceed.. And in the end habits are
> formed, habits which are hard to break, when we receive some new
> clarification.
> 
> This is the classic case, where the words of a professor in my med
> school come to mind. He used to say:
> 
> "The human mind has an almost inexhaustible capacity to accept
> something which is new, regardless of its' level of difficulty. But
> what is nearly impossible for it, is to un-learn something which it
> already knows".
> 
> ~ Qa'yIn
> _______________________________________________
> tlhIngan-Hol mailing list
> tlhIngan-Hol at lists.kli.org
> http://lists.kli.org/listinfo.cgi/tlhingan-hol-kli.org

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