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

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Thu Jan 9 13:33:37 PST 2020

On 1/9/2020 3:41 PM, Will Martin wrote:
> 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."

No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that inside the game, you 
have to play the part of a non-Klingon learning Klingon without any 
Klingons around. You have to pretend that Klingons are real. And if 
Klingons were real, you couldn't go around telling people how they use 
their own language when you haven't actually asked one.

And if you don't play that game, if you assume the role of arbiter of 
Klingon language according to observed Klingon stereotypes, what 
validity does that have? Why should you be able to dictate what Klingons 
would or wouldn't do? Who are you to tell the world what you're allowed 
to say in Klingon?

The game is that we're all students of a language spoken by a native 
population which we have extremely limited access to. We're trying to 
learn how those native speakers use their language. We can't declare how 
their culture affects their language, because we can't ask them how 
their culture affects their language, except when Okrand relays that 

> 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?

We update our understanding of the vocabulary by studying the examples 
and information given to us by Okrand. We can update our understanding 
of the way Klingon culture affects their language the same way: by 
studying the examples and information given to us by Okrand. What we 
can't do is invent ways in which Klingon culture affects their language, 
because that violates the game.

> 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.

But you're taking a step too far. You're not just saying "We know this 
about Klingon culture"; you're saying "We know this about Klingon 
culture, and that means a Klingon would say this and not this in the 
Klingon language." But where does this information about what a Klingon 
would or would not say come from? From you, not from Okrand, not from 
Star Trek.

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

I'm saying that the only way you can use the culture part of the game to 
control the language part of the game is when we've been told how the 
culture part controls the language part.

Go ahead and talk about how Klingon has no /hello/ or /thank you./ Go 
ahead and talk about how Klingons prefer to be forceful. Go ahead and 
talk about how Klingons prefer accuracy over approximation. These are 
all things we know to be true. But don't then tell me that one of my 
sentences is inappropriate because it is "vague, wittering, and 
indecisive." Don't tell me that I shouldn't even bother to try to 
translate a sentence because a Klingon would never respond in such a 
way. Don't tell me that I can't say anything approximately. These are 
not facts about the Klingon language.

> 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.

Since you're misunderstanding what I'm saying, your perception of my 
"vote" is inaccurate. I'm playing the game by saying that we don't know 
the exact cultural effects on Klingon, so we shouldn't constrain people 
according to one person's evaluation of that culture. You, on the other 
hand, tell people why what they want to say is wrong, because of your 
estimation of what a Klingon would do. My vote doesn't count more; I 
just stay within the boundaries of the game.

> 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?

What makes you think that linguists don't want culture in their language 
studies? That's ludicrous.

A linguist studying a language will not take the language on the one 
hand, and the culture on the other hand, and conclude that the culture 
causes the speakers of that language to say X or Y.  A linguist will ask 
those speakers whether or how they say X or Y, and whether the culture 
plays a role in that.

> 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.

Here, we are not Klingons. The game is not that we pretend to be 
Klingons. The game is that we are studying the language of the Klingons. 
The game is that Okrand is in contact with a Klingon and transmits that 
Klingon's linguistic — and cultural — information on to us.

Now, if you want to pretend to be a Klingon, that's fine... but your 
behavior is not canonical Klingon. You can choose to say what you like 
for whatever reason you like. But when someone asks "How do you say this 
in Klingon?" they're not asking you to pretend to be a Klingon at them.

> 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.

It is a language spoken by fictional persons who have a fictional 
culture. And to engage with it, we have adopted the premise that Okrand 
is in contact with a single Klingon who transmits his linguistic 
information to us. All we know comes to us through Okrand.

> 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.

We do not play fictional linguists.

> 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.

Real Klingon language has no real native culture. Therefore it is 
impossible to make declarations about what you're allowed to say in it 
based on cultural impacts.

> Why… so… seeeeeeeeerious?

You're the one who posts five-page diatribes. I'm just insisting you 
stick to the game. If we don't have the premise of Okrand talking to 
Maltz as our only source of information, then we have chaos. You can 
make up your own Klingon culture. I can make up my own words. Klingon 
consists only of TKD, TKW, and KGT, because those are the only actual 
books Okrand has published on the subject, and everything on the KLI's 
new words list is unofficial and wrong. Klingon is just a Star Trek 
novelty book, and it doesn't matter if I think *nug neh* means /hello,/ 
and I'm damn well going to sell it on my tote bags, and why are these 
guys in T-shirts pestering me about it?

> 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?

Email is for old people. The serious Klingon student is on Facebook. 
Didn't you know?

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

The language is real. It was developed by a linguist named Marc Okrand 
to give characters in a movie their own language, and he published a 
novelty book about it that pretends to be written in the universe of 
that movie, by people who don't natively speak the language it 
describes. We enter this universe by accepting the book's premise and 
learning along with its fictional target audience. In that universe, we 
are not Klingons. We study their language and culture, but we do not 
have first-hand information. Once we leave that universe, we have 
learned the real-life language of Klingon, but we cannot modify or 
dictate the rules of that language outside of the universe it comes 
from. If we want to pretend to be Klingons, we do so not in the universe 
in which we learned Klingon, where we are non-Klingon students, but in a 
universe in which we are Klingons who know everything about the 
language. But that universe does not affect the other. I don't visit 
your I'm-a-Klingon universe, so I don't play by your rules. But you DO 
visit the Okrand-speaks-to-Maltz universe along with me, and that is 
where we MUST accept that Klingon is defined for us. This list supports 
the Okrand-speaks-to-Maltz universe, not the charghwI'-is-a-Klingon 

As for my name, that's mostly a handle I use on the Internet. I also go 
by /Stormcrow/ on many forums. It provides a unique identity that leans 
into the theme of the thing and provides my audience with a cue: when I 
use my Klingon name, it means I'm talking in or about Klingon.


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