[tlhIngan Hol] meaning of an {x-mo' verb-be'} sentence

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Thu Jan 9 09:06:06 PST 2020

Seeing SuStel’s reply and totally agreeing with his thought that it would be good to recast the translation so that it more clearly means exactly what is intended, I’ll go a step further and suggest that {ghaHmo’ yInwIj vIQaw’be’} very strongly suggests that she is the cause of the speaker not destroying his life. It would take remarkably loud and clear context to suggest any other meaning, and even then, it would be very reasonable to misinterpret the statement and reasonably reply with the question {yInlIj DaQaw' chay’ ‘e’ bot be'vetlh?}

{ghaHmo’}. She is the cause of what happens in the main clause.

{yInwIj vIQaw’be’.} I don’t destroy my life. This is the thing that she causes.

I also think that SuStel was wise to prefer {-Qo’} instead of {-be’} in both of his suggested translations. The spirit of the original meaning is much more that of refusing to do something instead of merely not doing it.

His suggestions are:
ghaHmo' yInwIj vIQaw' 'e' vIqaSmoHQo'.

ghaHmo' yInwIj vIQaw' 'e' vIchaw'Qo'.

Either of these is a significant improvement over the original, and if the context is so obvious that the original version works despite it completely reversing the implication of her influence on your life, then why say anything at all? It would be so obvious to everyone that, like “Hello” or “Goodbye”, which is so culturally important to explicitly say in English, but culturally important to omit in Klingon, it would be completely unnecessary to say anything about your refusal to destroy your life despite her influence toward that end, in Klingon. We’d all just know it, and leave it as an unstated, commonly known thing.

ghIlab ghewmey yIbuSHa’.

Yes. I know that people will object to me saying that, but I think it still needs saying…

I work as tech support at a major University for all the language departments. The departments have names like, “East Asian Languages and Cultures”. The languages and cultures are deeply connected. You don’t really understand the language if you don’t understand the culture of the people who use it.

Ignoring the culture and thinking of language as merely a method of encoding a meaning originating in the mind of a person in one culture to a statement in a language from a different culture without sullying the translation by considering the culture of the people who speak that language being used is an oversimplification of the function of language. Verbal communication is incomplete, and culture fills in much of the missing context. It is the largest single cache of context for any given language for those who use the language.

Most hearing people think that American Sign Language (ASL) is just a way of speaking English using your hands instead of your mouth. Hearing people have even developed several different variations on what Deaf people call “Signed English” that serve this exact purpose, and it makes Deaf people furious. They passionately despise Signed English.

Why? [raised eyebrows]

Signed English is not their language. It fails to carry with it the cultural elements of ASL.

As a very simple example, English has a word for “borrow” and a different word for “lend”, and Signed English will come up with different signs for these two different English words, simply because these are two different English words, and you need to differentiate between them when signing them in Signed English. Meanwhile, since Deaf people tend to be visually oriented and directionality is an easily conveyed visual concept, ASL has only one word, indicated by a sign that moves from the lender to the borrower. It pisses Deaf people off to suggest that they need two different signs for that one verb. Hearing people don’t understand this anger or the passion behind it because they are blind to Deaf culture.

The sign for “red” is a downward swipe with the index finger from the lower lip. Signed English changes the index finger to the finger-spelled “R” (the index and middle finger crossed) because it generally uses English initial letters for all the signs for colors. While ASL does use initialized signs for most colors, the sign for “red” is an exception, being an older sign, like “white” and “black”, neither of which are initialized. Deaf people hate “red” done with an “R” instead of the index finger, even though the difference is quite subtle.

Similarly, SE speakers often use a sign conveying the word “because”, while Deaf people universally prefer to use the rhetorical question “Why?” What difference does it make? [raised eyebrows]

The Deaf love stories, jokes, and they love interactive communication. The English version with the word “because” makes a flat, mono-directional statement. If you, instead, make a statement and then ask, “Why?” and then answer the question yourself, that makes it more like a story, and it pulls the listener in for the answer to the question. The Deaf are never confused by the question because there is a significant difference in facial expression depending on whether “Why?” is intended as a question that the speaker wants the answer to, vs. the rhetorical version where the speaker fully intends to provide the listener with the answer. Eyebrows down for a question. Eyebrows up for a rhetorical question.

“My brother gave me a bottle of scotch. Why? [eyebrows down].” Does anybody know why he gave me this? Tell me, if you know.

“My brother gave me a bottle of scotch. Why? [eyebrows up.]” Wait for it… Suspense… "It’s my birthday.”

The ASL is much more interactive, with a subjective element largely missing in the English, “My brother gave me a bottle of scotch because it’s my birthday.” It’s just so bland, like a joke badly told.

I think it’s perfectly appropriate to include cultural context when translating to and from Klingon. Okrand makes explicit references to this in TKD and in other forums, like when he interviewed on the radio and famously didn’t say, “Goodbye” before just getting up and noisily sliding his chair back and walking away from the microphone.

So, I suggest that if the context was so obvious to everyone that your botched attempt to make a statement could be interpreted according to your original intent, then it would be culturally appropriate to have just kept your mouth shut in the first place. The context would speak for itself.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Jan 9, 2020, at 8:36 AM, mayqel qunen'oS <mihkoun at gmail.com> wrote:
> Some time ago, remembering one of my ex's, I thought:
> It's preferable (that we broke up); I won't destroy my life because of her.
> maj.
> Naturally, thinking of the above in klingon, my mind created the following:
> {qaq. ghaHmo', yInwIj vIQaw'be'}
> Leaving aside the qaq, which isn't part of the problem..
> In greek/english, saying "I won't destroy my life because of her", means that "I won't allow her, to become the cause of my life's destruction".
> But the klingon {ghaHmo', yInwIj vIQaw'be'}, gives me the impression, that it can mean too:
> "She is the cause, that I don't destroy my life".
> Is this indeed the case, or does the klingon sentence, adequately express the intended meaning ?
> Or can it mean both ?
> ~ mayqel qunen'oS
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