[tlhIngan Hol] Mother's Day message from the Mother of the Klingon Empire

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Fri May 22 02:35:46 PDT 2020

On Sun, 10 May 2020 at 09:00, De'vID <de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com> wrote:

> For Mother's Day, {SoS} (Chancellor L'Rell, Mother of the Klingon Empire)
> sent a personalised message to my wife.
> As it contains some spoken Klingon, I thought some of you might be
> interested:
> https://www.cameo.com/v/Zvtf9z3Z5
> This is what she says:
> {chay' qImroq tuj jajmo' qapatlhmoHchu'?
> 'IwlIj tuj 'IH HoS, jajvam tuj 'IH puj.
> Qom ghub Qejlu'bogh jevtaHvIS SuS qu'.
> 'ej qul DIr Soplu'pu'pa' Dor poH tuj.}

I received a very nice message from Dr. Okrand commenting on my restoration
of the first stanza of Shex'pir's Sonnet 18.

He had previously written about {patlhmoH} that <The form {patlhmoH} would
mean "rank, assign status, sort" and also "compare."  When used with the
"compare" meaning, of course, the object of the verb is always plural>, and
so we were discussing whether "compare" is still the correct word to use to
translate the original Klingon line {chay' qImroq tuj jajmo'

In his answer, he also provides some information on a previously puzzling
grammatical anomaly from Star Trek Into Darkness.

--- begin quote ---
Your translation is indeed a worthy addition to the collected works of
Shakespeare in the original Klingon.


Since it's a poem, all kinds of rules may be expected to be broken — or,
rather, manipulated or molded or reshaped or exploited or played with. That
(among other things) is what poets do.

And that's what you've done in the second line -- making use of the
{law'/puS} construction, but substituting {HoS} and {puj} — a perfectly
legitimate (and, here, clever) thing to do.

And you've done it again in the third, using {Qom} to describe the shaking
of a bud from the bud's perspective.

And yet again in the final line, altering the expected grammatical form of
the common idiom {qul DIr yISop}.

I see why you are asking about the first line, but the way you did it is a
good solution. Your original Klingon is something along the lines of "well,
there's this summer's day here (available to use as a standard of status or
measurement of some kind), so how do I rank you?" If whoever translated
this original Klingon into 16th or 17th Century English chose to use the
word "compare," that's that person's issue.

The problem you hit upon, of course, is actually a larger one.  If the
object is two different persons (for example, one is second person and one
is third person), what prefix do you use on the verb? (Same deal if the
subject is two different persons.)

"I see the captain and you" ≟ {HoD SoH je vIlegh} or {HoD SoH je qalegh} or
{HoD SoH je Salegh} or ???

"The captain and you see me" ≟ {(jIH) mulegh HoD SoH je} or {(jIH} cholegh
HoD SoH je} or {(jIH) tulegh HoD SoH je} or ???

The answer lies in looking at first-person plural.

{maH} means "we" — that is, "you (singular or plural) and I" and also
"he/she/they and I" and also "you (singular or plural) and he/she/they and
I." When the "we/us" prefixes are used, this sometimes gets clarified:

{pI-} "we-you (singular)" and {re-} "we-you (plural)": "we" means only
"he/she/they and I," and none of the other "we" options
{ju-} "you (singular)-us" and {che-} "you (plural)-us": "us" means only
"him/her/them and me," and none of the other options

But not always:

{ma-} "we (no object)": "we" can mean any of the options
{wI-} "we-him/her/it" and {DI-} "we-them": "we" can mean any of the options
(though any third persons included in the subject are different folks from
those in the object)
{nu-} "he/she/it/they-us": "us" can mean any of the options (with the same
third third-person restriction cited for {wI-} and {DI-})

So, for these last four prefixes, how do you know what "we" (or "us")
means? The usual answer, of course, is context. But it’s also possible, and
sometimes necessary, to use full pronouns in the sentence:

{HoD wIlegh} "we see the captain" (ambiguous)


{HoD wIlegh jIH SoH je} "I and you see the captain"

{HoD wIlegh jIH ghaH je} "I and he/she see the captain"


{nulegh HoD} "the captain sees us" (ambiguous)


{jIH SoH je nulegh HoD} "the captain sees me and you"

{jIH ghaH je nulegh HoD} "the captain sees me and him/her"

(Of course, in English, it's more natural to say "you and I," "he/she and
I," and "you and me" rather than what I have above, but that's an English
issue and we're talking about Klingon.)

When the context is clear, the shorter sentences ({HoD wIlegh}, {nulegh
HoD}) will suffice. But if that's not the case, the pronouns are needed to

What all of the first-person plural prefixes have in common is "I." They
all have at least one person besides "I," but they all have "I." So as long
as there’s an "I" (and someone else) involved, a first-person plural prefix
is used — regardless of who the non-"I" is. So you can get things like:

{jIH SuvwI' je nulegh HoD} "the captain sees me and the warrior"

{SuvwI' wIlegh jIH HoD je} "I and the captain see the warrior"

{jIH SoH SuvwI' je nulegh HoD} "the captain sees me, you, and the warrior"

Maltz frowned and growled when I suggested {SuvwI' nulegh HoD} and similar
constructions. I guess this is one of those places where full pronouns
really ought to be used.

Anyway, it works the same way for the second-person. If the subject or
object is "you" and someone else, unless the someone else is "I," the
second-person plural prefix is used.

{SoH SuvwI' je lIlegh HoD} "the captain sees you and the warrior"

{SuvwI' bolegh SoH HoD je} "you and the captain see the warrior"

{SoH SuvwI' je Salegh} "I see you and the warrior"

{tulegh SoH HoD je} "you and the captain see me"

But, of course, it's more complicated than that.

In formal writing (assuming Klingons do such a thing), what's described
above is the way it works, that is, "proper" Klingon.  But in actual
day-to-day, spontaneous conversation, sentences such {SuvwI' legh HoD SoH
je} ("the captain and you see the warrior") are not entirely unknown.

One would expect {bolegh}, not just {legh}. What's going on here is that
the speaker had planned to say {SuvwI' legh HoD} and, after already
uttering the {legh}, decided to add {SoH je} but just kept on going and
didn't go back to correct {legh} to {bolegh}.  So even though {bolegh} is
considered correct and proper and what you should say, plain old {legh} may
pop up from time to time.

Note that, continuing with the example above and assuming {HoD} is
singular, it is quite unlikely to hear things like {SuvwI' lulegh HoD SoH
je}. If the speaker knew more than one person sees the warrior and
therefore used the {lu-} prefix, he/she most likely knew who these seers
were, and if one of them was {SoH}, {bo-} would be the prefix to use.

You're right about the line in "Star Trek Into Darkness" ({Qob lIb bam SoH
chuDlI' je} "You and your people are in danger") — the expected prefix
would be {bo-}. Maybe what happened here is that Uhura was speaking
informally. As noted above, occasionally and under certain circumstances,
in a sentence with a compound second- and third-person subject, a
non-prefixed verb is used (as in {SuvwI' legh HoD SoH je}). There is scant
evidence that this usage is becoming more widespread in casual speech
(though it is still not considered "correct" Klingon). So maybe Uhura chose
to speak casually or idiomatically in order to connect with her
interlocutor in some way.  In any event, I wouldn't take that particular
sentence as textbook Klingon, though it could well an example of colloquial
--- end quote ---

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