[tlhIngan Hol] jar DamaSqu'bogh yIngu' vs nuq 'oH jar'e' DamaSqu'bogh

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Mon Jul 13 07:37:46 PDT 2020

You’ve touched on what is probably the one feature of Klingon that I personally contributed to… That doesn’t make me special. I’m just a guy who either came up with an idea that Okrand liked, or a guy who came up with an idea that Okrand already had come up with and didn’t tell anybody yet. Only Okrand knows for sure. The point is that a lot of us argued about this for a month or two and I came up with the answer that Okrand liked most.

In other areas of grammar, I’ve come up with ideas that Okrand completely ignored. It’s hit or miss. I’ve missed a lot, but in this one area, I hit.

In any case, the issue is that in English, we might say, “Which month do you prefer?” Or “What month do you prefer?” And not really notice or care, in Klingon, this presents a problem.

Klingon uses question words that stand in for the answer word, so that if we replace the question word with the answer word, we’ve converted the original question into the answer statement.

Klingon has question word for “Who” (noun), “What” (noun), “When” (time stamp), “Where” (locative), “How” (adverb). There is no adjectival question word “Which”. This is problematic, since most of the grammatical methods for answering “Which” are enacted by the Type 4 noun suffix:

Which weapon do you want? I want THIS weapon.

Which betleH is sharper? MY betleH is sharper.

Which team won? OUR team won.

But “Which” can also be answered by some other identifying noun in a noun-noun genitive phrase. Which month do you prefer? I prefer the month OF JUNE.

In all cases, the question “which” is answered with an identification, hence Klingon conveys the meaning of the English question word “Which” by use of the command {yIngu’}. Asking someone “which” item is X is essentially a command to have that person identify the item.

So, there is no Klingon question word for “Which”.

Going back to the earlier statement that in English we sometimes use the word “What” when we’d more accurately use the word “Which” and nobody cares, it makes a difference in Klingon because the Klingon word {nuq} is a noun. It’s never anything but a noun. You can’t use it in any question that tries to ask a question that is not answered by the statement formed by repeating the question with {nuq} replaced by the noun it stands for.

*{jarlIj qaq nuq} doesn’t work because *{jarwIj qaq maqtagh} isn’t grammatically correct. It doesn’t make sense as a Klingon sentence.

{jar DamaSqu’bogh yIngu’!} makes total sense as a Klingon sentence.

{nuq ‘oH jar’e’ DamaSqu’bogh} also makes sense, though it might be considered stylistically indirect or evasive enough to earn you a few distrusting looks. Instead of directly telling me to identify my favorite month, you are asking me what my favorite month is.

As a longtime Klingon speaker, I’m expressing an opinion here, not backed up by any grammatical rule or requirement. To me, it sounds like, “If I, or some unidentified other person, were, hypothetically speaking, to politely request that you identify your favorite month, what, in that hypothetical setting, would your answer be?”

I’d be disinclined to answer hypothetical requests. I’d just wait for you to come out and say what you mean.

I’m sure that others would just answer you. I speak for no one but myself.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Jul 13, 2020, at 8:22 AM, mayqel qunen'oS <mihkoun at gmail.com> wrote:
> There's the following link:
> http://klingonska.org/canon/1996-12-12b-news.txt
> Where 'oqranD explains why one should say {jar DamaSqu'bogh yIngu'}
> instead of {jarlIj qaq nuq?} for "what is your favorite month?".
> I've read this article, and I think I understand the reason why we
> can't say {jarlIj qaq nuq?}. But what I'm wondering is this:
> If we wrote {nuq 'oH jar'e' DamaSqu'bogh} would it be as problematic
> as the {jarlIj qaq nuq?} ?
> For ease of reference, I copy-paste here the relevant text from klingonska.
> ***************
> You suggested translating "What is your favorite month?" as:
> jarlIj qaq nuq?
> This one's a little easier to deal with.  Your sentence literally means
> "What is your preferable month?"  The basic syntax is correct.  Question
> words (in this case, nuq "what?") function the same way pronouns do in
> questions with "to be" in the English translations.  Thus, the question
> yIH nuq? "What is a tribble?" is exactly parallel the statement yIH 'oH
> "It is a tribble" (where yIH is "tribble" and 'oH is "it").  The answer to
> the question yIH nuq? ("What is a tribble?") would presumably be a
> definition or description of a tribble.  This being the case, then, the
> answer to the question jarlIj qaq nuq?  ("What is your preferable month?")
> would presumably be a definition of "your favorite month." But this is not
> what you want to find out by asking your question.  What you really mean
> to ask is something like "Of all the months, which one do you prefer?"
> The first word in your sentence, jarlIj, means "your month"  (jar "month,"
> -lIj "your").  But given that what you're really asking is "Which month do
> you prefer?" it's not really "your month" at all.  The "you" should go
> with the verb, not with "month."
> Which brings us to the verb.  You use qIb, "be preferable,"  adjectivally
> (jarlIj qIb is "your preferable month").  I think what you mean is better
> expressed by using the verb maS "prefer" with "you" as the subject: jar
> DamaS "you prefer the month."  If you want to highlight the notion of
> "most prefer," you can use the emphatic suffix -qu': jar DamaSqu' "you
> very much prefer the month."  (In this case, since "prefer" involves
> making a choice, the one chosen is automatically the one that is "most"
> preferred.)
> So what about the "what" (or "which") of your original question
> ("What/which is your favorite month?")?  When asking someone a question of
> this type, you are really asking him or her to make a choice.  So just be
> a Klingon and order them to do so: "Identify the month that you very much
> prefer!":
> jar DamaSqu'bogh yIngu'
> DamaSqu'bogh "that you very much prefer" (DamaSqu' "you very much prefer
> it" plus -bogh "which," the relative-clause marker) modifies jar "month"
> and the whole phrase jar DamaSqu'bogh "the month that you very much
> prefer" is the object of the verb ngu' ("identify"), which is preceded by
> the imperative prefix yI- ("do something to it!").
> ***************
> ~ Qa'yIn
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> tlhIngan-Hol at lists.kli.org
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