[tlhIngan Hol] moon ph(r)ases, new adverbial {loQHa'}

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Sat May 28 18:25:27 PDT 2022

On Sat, 28 May 2022 at 03:18, Alan Anderson <qunchuy at alcaco.net> wrote:

> On Fri, May 27, 2022 at 7:02 PM SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
>> Saying something is arbitrary means there is no reason or pattern to it;
>> it's just based on whim or randomness. But these names are not without
>> reason or pattern and aren't based on whim or randomness. They were named
>> these things for reasons, and the terms have a long linguistic development.
> There is no consistent pattern to the names of the lunar phases. There are
> (at least) two separate reasons for each of the names, but there doesn't
> appear to be a reason for which name is chosen. The choice of whether to
> describe them based on their instantaneous appearance or based on their
> phase (!) in the cycle does seem arbitrary. I'll continue to think of them
> as arbitrary until someone provides a description of the pattern for
> choosing those names, and/or a reason for calling a half-illuminated view a
> "quarter" while also calling a fully-illuminated view "full.

The lunar phases were not all named at once, but at different points in
history. In many languages, the word for "month" is the same as or related
to the word for "moon". People obviously observed very early on that the
moon goes completely dark on a regular basis and that this could be used to
track time. A "new moon" is just a "new month" on lunar calendars

Bringing this to the Klingon language, there's no reason for Klingons to
call a perfectly hidden moon a "new moon", because their word for moon,
{maS}, appears to have nothing to do with their word for month, {jar}. (But
their words for month and day, {jar} and {jaj}, seem to be related
somehow.) We don't know how Klingon months correspond to lunar phases on
{Qo'noS} (do we?), but when the new month starts it would be {chu'DI' jar}
if anything, and not {chu'DI' maS}.

The next two lunar phases to be noticed are when the moon is completely lit
up, or a "full moon", and (probably because it follows the new moon) the
"crescent moon". If you ask a child (or probably almost anyone who's not a
scientist or an artist) to draw you the moon, you're going to get either a
circle or a crescent. Nobody ever draws a gibbous moon or a semicircular
moon or a new moon except under special circumstances.

Then people who studied the moon's cycles more closely (astronomers, but
probably actually astrologers) had to give names to the remaining lunar
phases. They would've noticed that the lunar phases are symmetric, so there
are actually two kinds of "crescent moon", so then they'd invent terms like
"waxing" and "waning". In English, the opposite of a "crescent moon" is a
"gibbous moon", a word that nobody uses outside of astronomy, but you have
to give it some kind of name, right? (I suppose they could've been called
the "three-eighths moon" and "five-eighths moon", but those sound ugly, and
it seems more symmetric to call them "waxing" and "waning" something.) Then
you're left with the first-quarter moon and the third-quarter moon, so why
not just call them that? Some cultures do in fact call those phases the
equivalent of "waxing half-moon" and "waning half-moon" (e.g., as Lieven
pointed out, German does).

So it's not completely arbitrary, though some parts of it are. The
expressions "new moon" ("new month") and "full moon" are universal to every
culture that's ever used the moon to keep track of the passage of time or
looked up at the night sky. Then the "crescent moon" is named for its shape
(but whether it's a "sickle" [Sichel in German] or an "eyebrow" [眉 in
Chinese] or something else is arbitrary). Then it really breaks down and
depends on the culture. In German, for example, the quarters are associated
with the middle of the quarter rather than the end as in English. So for
example in German, the "erstes Viertel" (first quarter) moon is another
name for "zunehmende Sichel" (increasing sickle, i.e., waxing crescent),
the "zweites Viertel" (second quarter) moon is what English calls "waxing
gibbous", the "drittes Viertel" (third quarter) moon is "waning gibbous",
and the "letztes Viertel" (last quarter) moon is "abnehmende Sichel"
(decreasing sickle, i.e., waning crescent). What would be called the
"first-" and "third-quarter" moons in English are "zunehmender Halbmond"
and "abnehmender Halbmond" in German. (By coincidence, in the German system
you do see one quarter of the moon in the first quarter and three quarters
in the third quarter. But you also see three quarters in the second quarter
and one quarter in the last (or fourth) quarter, so it's not based on

Anyway, what's interesting about this is that Klingons apparently have a
very different history of lunar astronomy than does Earth, because their
way of describing lunar phases is based completely on appearance, and yet
the word for "moon" is not related to the word for "month".

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