[tlhIngan Hol] {ngIq} again

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Sun Jun 12 18:28:14 PDT 2022

Dr. Okrand had already previously clarified the meaning of {ngIq}, but
apparently it isn't clear enough. When we first went through the paq'batlh,
we thought the passages with {ngIq} were pretty clear, based on the
explanation already given. None of those passages were changed in the 2nd
edition. Someone asked us to go through the passages with {ngIq} again, so
we did, and again, they all seemed pretty clear based on the previously
revealed information about {ngIq}.

Since it's not really clear to us what the issue with {ngIq} is, let me try
to explain its meaning, and if anything is still unclear by the end of
this, reply to this email and I'll forward your questions to Dr. Okrand.

To summarise what's already known:
* {ngIq} precedes noun which is not explicitly plural (meaning it doesn't
have a plural suffix, and isn't an inherently plural noun) and {ngIq X} is
grammatically singular, but references a group of Xs. It always implies
that there are (or could be) other Xs.
* {Hoch S} (with singular S) and {ngIq S} can both be translated as "each
S". {Hoch S} means "each S, considered individually". {Hoch P} where P is a
plural means "all Ps, considered collectively" or "every P". {ngIq S} can't
be translated as "every S".
* The difference between {Hoch S} and {ngIq S} is that {ngIq} has a
sequential meaning. {Hoch X} focuses on each X as a member of a group of
Xs; {ngIq X} focuses on one X as an individual X.
* {ngIq} can be translated as "single" or "individual", but only in the
sense or with the implication that one is talking about a "single" or
"individual" X out of a bunch of Xs. (I think this is where the confusion
originates, because "single" or "individual" in English can mean "singular"
or "unique", but that's not covered by {ngIq}.)
* The example Dr. Okrand gave was {ngIq mIch wIHotlh} "we scan the sectors
one by one", or "we scan each individual sector one after the other". The
implication is that there are multiple sectors. {Hoch mIch wIHotlh} means
"we scan each sector", with no sense that there's any relation or sequence
to them.
* If the sequence doesn't matter, {Hoch X} and {ngIq X} are
interchangeable, but there are cases where {ngIq X} and {Hoch X} have
different meanings or consequences.

Let's look at the examples from Klingon Monopoly first:

{ngIq raQ - 150 QaS} "outposts cost 150 each"
{ngIq raQvaD cha'maH vagh QaS yInob} "For each outpost pay 25 forces"
{ngIq gholvo' wa'maH QaS yItlhap} "Collect 10 forces from every player"
{ngIq gholvaD vaghmaH QaS yInob} "Pay each player 50 forces"

These are representative only. These sentences are repeated with different
values in the game itself, depending on the card, but that's irrelevant

{ngIq X} means "one X out of a bunch of Xs", so {ngIq raQ} means "each X".
In most cases, {Hoch X} means the same thing. However, consider {ngIq
gholvaD vaghmaH QaS yInob}. Suppose that you have 100 forces, and are
playing against players A, B, and C, whom the game's rules define that you
have to pay in that order. In that case, {ngIq ghol} "each player, one
after another" is explicit that you have to pay players A and B first, and
then you declare bankruptcy or call an auction or however you deal with
owing 50 troops to player C. {Hoch ghol} "each player" would not be so
clear in that case.

I think the Klingon Monopoly examples are very clear. (Does anyone think

Now, let's look at the usages in the paq'batlh. There are three. I think
the first two are clear, and it's the third one that causes problems for
some people.

{yerchajvo' Haw' / qamchIynganpu' / ngIq nuv luHoH / molor vaghvatlh}
"The people of Qam-Chee, / They fled their territory,  And were killed one
by one. / By the five hundred of Molor"

It's clear that {ngIq nuv} refers to the people of Qam-Chee.

This is what Dr. Okrand wrote about this passage:
<Regarding p. 135 — This says that Molor’s warriors killed each individual
Qam-chee person separately. They didn’t, for example, use an explosive to
kill a bunch of them together or fire a machine gun into a crowd. (Granted,
the technology didn’t exist, but no matter.) Again, “one by one” is a
reasonable English way to express this.>

{nIteb chegh molor ngIq ghoqwI' / joqwI''e' cha'bogh qeylIS / luDel 'e' ra'
"One by one Molor’s scouts return, / He asks them which banner / Kahless
marches under."

Again, it's clear there are multiple spies. (They're the elided subject of

This is what Dr. Okrand wrote about this passage:
<Regarding p. 139 — {ngIq} shows that we’re talking about one individual
{ghoqwI’} at a time, not the group as a whole, so it means something like
“each (single individual) of Molor’s (group of) scouts returned” as opposed
to “all of the scouts returned” or “the whole group of scouts returned” or
even simply "the scouts returned." The presence of {nIteb}
clarifies/amplifies that each of these individuals returned alone,
unaccompanied. So “one by one” is a good idiomatic English way to express
all of that.>

(Does anyone think these two lines are unclear?)

Now, let's look at the last example. I'm not going to quote the entire
thing, because the context for the {ngIq tonSaw' lo'} line is set up by
everything in the chapter titled {Hay' chaH} up to that point.

Here's a snippet of the English:
"And they battle, for three hours, / Kahless’s bat'leth sparks, / And
Molor’s mighty sword roars. [...]
In the first hour, / Kahless cut off Molor’s beard, [...]
In the second hour, / Kahless broke Molor’s sword in half, [...]
It was not long, by the third hour, / Before Kahless struck his bat'leth /
Right into Molor’s hearts, ripping them out.
In one single move, he removed the hearts,
In one single move, he restored his honor,
In one single move, the battle was done."

In Klingon, the last segment is:
{tugh qaStaHvIS rep wejDIch / molor cha' tIqDu' DuQchu' qeylIS / 'ej lel
ngIq tonSaw' lo' 'ej tIqDu' lel
ngIq tonSaw' lo' 'ej quvqa'
ngIq tonSaw' lo' 'ej rIn may'}

The lines preceding {ngIq tonSaw' lo'} describe a sequence or series of
moves, e.g., clashing swords, Kahless cutting off Molor's beard, more
clashing swords, Kahless breaking Molor's sword in half, even more clashing
swords (with Molor's broken sword at this point), and finally, Kahless
striking Molor and ripping out his hearts. It's after this last move is
described that the {ngIq tonSaw' lo'} line appears.

The line is translated as "In a single move". The Klingon is, in my
opinion, actually much clearer than the English here. {ngIq tonSaw'} means
"one move out of a bunch of moves". That is, it means "a single move" with
the implication that it's one move isolated out of a bunch. This is what
Kahless does: in a single move (out of a bunch of moves), he removed
Molor's hearts.

In other words, using {ngIq} relates the move that Kahless used (which
ripped out Molor's hearts) to all of the moves in the series, several of
which are described in that chapter. (Presumably there were many moves in
the hours-long battle which were not explicitly described.) It's "a single
move" because it focuses on that one move, which removed Molor's hearts and
ended the battle, as opposed to other actual or potential moves (or
sequence of moves) which might've done this, but didn't. The reason that
{ngIq tonSaw'} does not mean "each move" here, and the three repeated {ngIq
tonSaw'} do not refer to three different moves, is context.

In isolation, {ngIq tonSaw' lo'} *could* mean "he used the moves one by
one". I guess if Klingon Monopoly had a card that said {ngIq tonSaw' yIlo'}
it would mean "use each move". But the complete line, {ngIq tonSaw' lo' 'ej
tIqDu' lel}, works against this interpretation, because "he used the moves
one by one and removed the hearts" doesn't make sense in the context of the
story, which just told the reader that Kahless' last move in his battle
against Molor was to remove his hearts. This line occurs in a chapter in
which the moves Kahless used against Molor are described individually,
ending with this one final move. In context, it can't mean anything other
than "in a single move (out of the moves used by Kahless)". That is, it
means something like "he used a single move (out of the bunch of moves he
used) and ripped out the hearts", focusing on this one move out of the

The way {ngIq X} is used is that it picks out one X out of a bunch of Xs.
It actually has the same meaning in all of the sentences in which it
appears. I think the {ngIq tonSaw' lo'} line stands out because, in all the
other other sentences, {ngIq X} could be translated as "each X", whereas in
this line it can't. But this isn't because {ngIq X} means two different
things in English, it's because context dictates how it should be
translated in Klingon.

There's actually one place in the paq'batlh where "one by one" wasn't
translated using {ngIq}. When I pointed this out, Dr. Okrand wrote: <“One
by one” — or any other phrase — doesn’t have to be translated the same way
each time unless the repetition is intentional.>

About why the other two usages of {ngIq} in the paq'batlh are translated
using "one by one", Dr. Okrand wrote:
<The notion of sequence, of “one after the other,” comes from the way the
world (universe? galaxy?) works. Unless things are happening
simultaneously, they’re happening one after the other.>

As for the repeated {ngIq tonSaw' lo'} referring to three separate moves,
it seems impossible to interpret those lines that way. Or, at least, it
seems not to be any easier to misinterpret that way than the
thrice-repeated "in a single move" in English. As for the suggested
revision {wa' tonSaw' lo'}, Dr. Okrand wrote:
<As for {wa’} repeated three times meaning three separate moves — I suppose
that’s a possible interpretation, though if that’s what was intended, it
would probably be {wa’ tonSaw’… latlh tonSaw’} or maybe {tonSaw’ wa’DIch…
tonSaw’ cha’DIch…} or maybe there’d be a {ghIq} or two in there someplace.>

Dr. Okrand's conclusion here:
<I think {ngIq} is better than {wa’}. Kahless and Molor have been fighting
for three hours, slamming their swords into each other (even though Molor’s
sword was broken), with no one victorious. Finally, it was one move all by
itself — not a series of moves, not a repeated move — that achieved

Maybe a reason for the confusion is that, generally speaking, Klingon
vocabulary maps mostly neatly into ideas which are easy to describe or
delineate in English. With {ngIq}, we're getting an idea that's actually
pretty well-defined, but doesn't map neatly into English. It seems to have
some senses of the word "single" in English but not others, and seems to
differentiate between senses of "each" that English doesn't (namely, "each"
carrying a sense of sequentiality or temporality).

"I'm carrying just a single bat'leth." - This is {wa'}, not {ngIq}.
"I have ten widgets. A single one costs one darsek." - This is {ngIq}, and
would be translated using "each" but (usually) not "one by one".
"I have ten books. I read each of them." - This is {ngIq}, and might be
translated either with "each" or "one by one" (assuming that one can't read
multiple books simultaneously).
"There are three houses. The first was made of straw. It was destroyed by
the wolf. The second was made of wood. It was destroyed by the wolf. The
third was made of brick. The wolf could not destroy this house. With a
single house, the wolf was defeated." - This is {ngIq}, and might be
translated as "single" or "individual" but not as "each" or with "one by

Evidently, the English "single" has some overlap with both {wa'} and
{ngIq}, and the Klingon {ngIq} has some overlap with both "each" and
"single". But {ngIq} is a well-defined concept in Klingon. It just doesn't
correspond exactly to anything in English.

To summarise, {ngIq} picks out one thing out of a sequence of identical
things ("identical" only in the sense that they can be described by the
same noun). If the sentence applies to all of them, then "each X" or "X,
one by one" are possible ways to translate {ngIq X}, depending on whether
the fact that the Xs are in a sequence matters. If the sentence applies to
just one X that is especially picked out, then {ngIq X} can be translated
as "a single X" or "an individual X". This does not mean "a unique X", but
rather "a single X out of a bunch of Xs".

Is anything about the usage of {ngIq} still unclear?

(If there's really a serious problem with {ngIq}, there's a small window in
which those lines can be revised to be more clear in the 2ed of the
paq'batlh, so let me know ASAP.)

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