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

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Thu Jan 9 12:41:26 PST 2020

Your argument is rational and well stated. I believe that I understand your perspective fairly well.

The main thing your argument misses is that we ARE playing a game here, and while you object to me saying, “The game suggests that you probably shouldn't say X,” you are, yourself, saying, “You can't say anything about the cultural part of the game because the cultural rules of the game might change at any time, depending on the whim of any Star Trek Universe author, script writer, or Okrand."

The vocabulary changes with regularity, modified by those same authors, script writers, and Okrand. The grammar gets changed from time to time, as with the deeper level of explanations revealed about {-choH} years after TKD came out. The Appendix changed the grammar after the original TKD came out. Why can’t we use what we know about the culture just like we use what we know about the vocabulary and grammar?

You are restricting my free speech as much as you appear to be trying to stop me from restricting someone else’s, even though I’m not really trying to restrict it. I’m just enjoying the part of the game we play that Klingons are real and they have both language and culture, because if they did, then you wouldn’t REALLY understand the finer points of the language without understanding the culture.

In other words, you are saying that we can’t play the culture part of the game.

Meanwhile, nothing in the rules of the list suggest that, in fact, we can’t play the culture part of the game, so long as it relates to the language part of the game. You might be the one person who persistently insists on this, and if that is true, I wonder why your vote carries so much more weight than anybody else’s.

I respect your vote a lot. You are really good with the language, and you’ve put a lot of work into it for a lot of years. I can fully hold that respect without dropping it, as I also honestly believe that other people’s votes, including my own, count, too.

If I were hearing from more voices than yours that this is a forbidden thing that I should never do, I wouldn’t come back to it now and then, because I don’t want to screw up this list, or the KLI, or the language, but, well, the culture game is a fun idea and I quite honestly don’t understand why we have to always reject it, nipping it in the bud before it does some horrible, unstated thing to the language or to the KLI or to this mailing list.

There are at least three different populations on this list, and none of them should be trying to exclude the others:

1. Linguists, interested in this language because, well, it’s a language. It should be studied like other languages.

2. Star Trek enthusiasts who think Klingons are cool, and hey, they’ve got a language, and we should study it because it’s Klingon, and Klingons are cool.

3. Me. I’m not a linguist, and oddly enough, I’m not even a Star Trek enthusiast. I watched TOS because my girlfriend did, and then I watched TNG because it was well done and interesting. None of the later TV series grabbed me quite the same, since they strayed so far from Roddenberry’s vision which was more interesting to me than the darker, politically complex and soap-opera drama-queen-esque vision of subsequent Star Trek writers. I watched the movies because I love most movies that can make me feel like I’m in a place that would be impossible for me to be in within my limited, real-world experience, and I stumbled into this mailing list because a co-worker was looking at his computer and laughing himself silly at the whole idea that this list was forming, and when I saw what he was laughing at, I weirdly didn’t think it was as ridiculous as he did. I thought it was interesting.

It was a complete accident that I became one of the founding members of the KLI, as weird and random as Okrand’s accidental stumbling into being asked to make up some sounds for an actor to make in ST2, pretending to be saying something in Vulcan that means what the English subtitles say, and that accident leading to being asked to make more sounds for actors to make in ST3, evolving into what is now the Klingon language.

The Klingon language is, for me, kind of like one of those movies that makes me feel like I’m somewhere I can’t actually be.

I like being there.

I know I’m not really there, but if I were, wouldn’t that be cool?

What if I had a bumpy forehead and I could speak this language, and shoot a disruptor, and beam onto a ship and go to other planets that all have air so I can walk around without dying? Wouldn’t that be cool?

And learning the language became part of being in that place I can’t possibly be, here in the real world.

So, now, I’m supposed to separate speaking the language from being in that place I can’t possibly be, and give up the cool part so I can do the academic thing I was never all that interested in, because you, and so far as I can tell, only you, think I have to do that to be here.

That’s like a joke, badly told.

Don’t we have a sense of humor here?

Why does this have to be a cold, academic study of language with all reference to culture peeled away from it? Okrand didn’t create this language without reference to the culture of its fictitious speakers. Why do we have to bleach out all references to the culture? Why do the linguists win? Why do the Trekkers and I lose?

Why can’t we all get along? There is room at the table for every one of us.

We do have to play the game to be here. In the game, Klingon is a real language, and it’s spoken by a somewhat brutish warrior race with a passion for honor and testosterone. Here, we are not Merry Men.

And this isn’t Esperanto: A language without a people or a culture. It’s not COBOL. It’s not Morse Code.

It is a language spoken by persons who have a culture.

You could, as a fictional linguist, seriously study that fictional language as if it belonged to those fictional people in that fictional culture. As a real linguist, you could play the same game as the rest of us and let us play with the culture.

Or, you can insist that this list is really just for linguists, and the only reason this list exists is to study Klingon as a language that doesn’t have any real people speaking it. Klingons are fiction. Klingon culture is fiction. The Klingon language is non-fiction.

Why… so… seeeeeeeeerious?

I know which version I prefer. Am I really so alone here? Is it true that everyone who isn’t a real linguist or a linguist wannabe has dried up and blown away? Am I the last one left with a simultaneous interest in fantasy and grammar?

If so, I guess I ought to dry up and blow away, too and stop irritating these learned academics while they argue the finer points of this real language without a real planet.

I mean, if it is so important that the language is non-fiction, but the culture is fiction, why use a Klingon name?

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Jan 9, 2020, at 1:40 PM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
> On 1/9/2020 12:06 PM, Will Martin wrote:
>> I think it’s perfectly appropriate to include cultural context when translating to and from Klingon. 
> You keep wanting to do this, and you keep ignoring the big problem with it: Klingons aren't real.
> Klingons are whatever the writers say they are in the episodes or movies in which they appear. They do what the writers need them to do and say what the writers need them to say. We accept what Okrand says about them as true because that's the game we're playing, and we can watch shows and movies and recognize cultural traits. What we can't do is say "Klingons tend to act like X, so in their language they wouldn't say Y."
> There are no Klingons that people who aren't Okrand can go and ask to confirm or refute their hypotheses. Imagine someone was learning to speak American English. They wonder how to say "I don't believe in guns" in English. Their friend, who is also studying American English, says, "You can't say that in America, because Americans love their guns and wouldn't be caught dead not carrying one." Not only does this derive from an over-the-top stereotype, it's just not true: the statement can be said in English, even by Americans.
> While culture and language are clearly and strongly tied together, one's culture does not dictate everything that can be said in one's language. People violate taboos all the time. Taboos have varying seriousness. Monocultures are not real, even for Klingons. Unless Okrand tells us a cultural restriction about Klingon, we cannot assume any. When real Klingons beam down and start talking to us, we can revise this restriction.
> -- 
> SuStel
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