[tlhIngan Hol] Glue words, adjectives, "active" speech ..and the future

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Mon Jun 22 09:42:50 PDT 2020


Most people are not very acquainted with Native American languages. Okrand is.

A common feature of Native American languages is this construction of words out of elemental affixes. While this exists in English, it’s not nearly as common as the use of what are being called “glue words” here, and I’d previously heard called “helper words”.

In the 1920s, Cherokee had a word for “automobile” built out of elements that were part of the language before they were exposed to automobiles. Those were the days of prominent headlights, so the word for automobile was “It stares”. As headlights became less prominent, the word changed to “It moves around on rubber cushions”. Again, it wasn’t really a new word. It was a new combination of affixes applied to “it”.

Likely, Okrand’s familiarity with this very much not English feature of Native American languages combined with his need to build a large vocabulary quickly by making one word expandable in a fixed set of ways. Combine that with wanting something also not English in style.

The genius I see here is Okrand’s ability to come up with affixes as versatile as these. As quickly as he threw the language together, there aren’t a lot of obvious gaps that should have been filled by affixes he didn’t come up with in the very first edition of the Klingon Dictionary. More than anything else about the language, that’s the thing I find awe inspiring.

How could he do that without crippling the language far worse that Klingon now is?

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Jun 22, 2020, at 11:55 AM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
> 
> On 6/22/2020 11:35 AM, mayqel qunen'oS wrote:
>> SuStel:
>>> The grammar of Klingon is quite simplified compared to English
>> Indeed, but isn't this the genius of klingon ?
> Eh... I don't know if this was genius instead of mere simplicity. It was a language written to be a coffee-table novelty and to produce a few lines of verisimilitudinous language for a movie. I don't think what you perceive of as elegance was really meant to be. It happens to appeal to your tastes — and mine. But I don't think Okrand actually imagined he was inventing something of exquisite aesthetics. If anything, I think he was thought he was doing the opposite, and the joke was that Klingons were so alien their aesthetic sensibilities were just unfathomable.
> 
> I think Okrand's subsequent translations show that he DOES value simpler sentences with fewer "glue words," but I don't think this design feature was driven by his desire for elegance in the language.
> 
> -- 
> SuStel
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