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  5. "Who is Lurveng? She is the d…

"Who is Lurveng? She is the doctor."

Translation:'Iv ghaH lurveng'e'? Qel ghaH.

April 25, 2018



Comparing with the other sentence in the unit: HoDra' ghaH 'Iv''e', I am wondering if one can also translate "Who is Lurveng?" as lurveng ghaH 'Iv'e' ?



Personally, putting -'e' on a question word sounds odd to me. "As for who, is she Lurveng?" If you have to ask about it, I'm not sure how the unknown thing can be a topic that you are going to talk about.

We do have the question Sojvetlh 'oH nuq'e'. for "What is this food?" in Power Klingon (which seems equally odd to me; I would prefer Sojvetlh nuq? or nuq 'oH Sojvetlh'e'?), so perhaps lurveng ghaH 'Iv'e'? could also work.

I'll leave that up to others to answer.


Maybe a better way to think of it is in terms of the "to be" sentence. In Klingon, this kind of sentence does not follow an object-verb-subject pattern, tempting as it may be to think of a sentence like HoD ghaH lurveng'e' as having a subject (lurveng'e'), a verb (ghaH), and an object (HoD). That's not how this sentence works. Instead, it has a topic noun (lurveng'e'), a noun to link with it (HoD), and a pronoun to link them together (ghaH). The only special status that the final noun has is that it's the topic of the sentence, and since you're explicitly equating one noun with the other, you're essentially putting them on equal footing. And since they're the same entity, does it really matter which order they appear in? Is there really much difference between HoD ghaH lurveng'e' and lurveng ghaH HoD'e'? Just one of topic. If Klingons get anything else out of it, we have no data on it.

So basically, don't think of these sentences with the same gut feeling you have for English "to be" sentences. Their order appears to be somewhat variable, and they don't depend on subjects so much as topics. This course should allow them to go either way.


Do you think there's a difference between The captain is Lurveng. and Lurveng is the captain. in English? What about, say, That man over there is my uncle. and My uncle is that man over there. ?

I think there is but I'm not sure whether everyone would.


Yes, there is a difference in English, but obviously Klingon isn't English. You'll notice that in English you usually couldn't say something like "A captain is Lurveng"; you can only say "The captain is Lurveng." This implies that the subject of an English "to be" sentence must already be established—you already know what captain I'm talking about. However, the object of the English sentence could be known or not yet known: "The captain is a Vulcan"; "The captain is the Vulcan." So the English sentence takes a known subject and equates it with some other noun, whether known or not yet known. (Exception: if both nouns are not yet established, you can do it: "A Klingon is a warrior." This only works if the indefinite article is talking about an abstract concept.)

There's no reason to think that the Klingon "to be" sentence, which doesn't actually contain the same grammar as English "to be" sentences, should act in the same way. When I say lurveng ghaH HoD'e', it's not necessarily true that I have already established that there's a captain under discussion. There's no the attached to it. It might be entirely possible to say "A captain is

Now, we can't make the same analysis of the Klingon as we do with the English, because we're not native speakers and can't just "feel" which sentence is right. We can only go by examples and take our best guess as to the rule governing this. Counterexamples to our gut feeling like the one you gave may show us that we might not be able to rely on our English grammar gut feelings to accurately predict how Klingon works. Examples of this "inversion" (notice the scare quotes) are rare, which makes a blanket statement of "You can put them in any order you want" suspect. One might make an argument that using question words allow a more flexible order. Or maybe younger Klingons prefer a different order. Guessing the exact rule is next to impossible here. A complete survey of every canonical "to be" construction would be needed to draw any further conclusions, I think.

But it's definitely a mistake to declare the gut feeling of a Klingon "to be" sentence to be the same as that for an English "to be" sentence.


There's clearly a difference in English. If we were at a party and you said, "Who is that man?" It would seem very odd for me to say, "My Uncle is that man." But it's rarely a strong preference. If instead you asked, "Who is your uncle?" it would not seem odd if I answered either, "That man is my uncle," or, "my uncle is that man."

However, I actually feel that the preference is stronger in Klingon. If you asked, 'Iv ghaH tennuSlI''e'? ("As for your uncle, who is he?") then it would seem very odd for me to answer, tennuSwI' ghaH loDvetlh'e' ("As for that man, he is my uncle.").

The -'e' noun in a pronoun as verb sentence is not part of the actual sentence, which already has a subject, a verb, and an object. The -'e' is there to allow you to add an extra bit of information connecting the sentence back to what you have been talking about or to differentiate and clarify which of a number of options you mean. But the object pronoun sentence should be able to stand on its own. 'Iv ghaH? is a fine question on its own and if you want to add a clarifier as to what ghaH your talking about, then you have -'e' available to help you out. But if you're trying to ask who someone is, asking lurveng ghaH and adding 'Iv'e' as a clarifier seems a very odd way to do it. Not ungrammatical and not incomprehensible - just odd.


The Klingon "to be" sentence is not a "pronoun as verb" sentence. It remains a pronoun; it simply allows verbal suffixes, and only a subset of them. The nouns on either side of the pronoun are not strictly objects and subjects in the sense of being the done-to and the doer; they are two nouns, one of which has the focus.

The Klingon "to be" sentence is simply an irregular formula to follow; it cannot be deduced from the basic sentence.

Explain, for instance, why puch 'oH but puchpa'Daq 'oH puch'e'. If it were just your standard object-verb-subject, why isn't it puchpa'Daq puch 'oH? It's because the construction couples the two nouns without actually saying one noun "is" the other. The pronoun is not a verb meaning "to be." It's not even a pronoun meaning "to be." These are called "to be" sentences because in English we use "to be," not because the Klingon pronouns mean "to be."

So you can't simply start with the simple case of equating a noun with a pronoun, and then add another noun at the end as topic. (Why wouldn't that be torgh'e' HoD ghaH?) What you need to do is couple two nouns and specify their gender and plurality through the pronoun. Then you can add any verbal suffixes to talk about the ongoing status of your statement.

puchpa'Daq ghaHtaH HoD'e'
The coupling of captain and bathroom has an ongoing status.

tlhIngan ghaHchugh torgh'e' The coupling of Torg and Klingon is a condition being tested.

Duj 'oH'a' 'entepray''e' The coupling of ship and Enterprise is being questioned.

This is, by the way, why I cringe when I see so many course sentences for type 6 (qualification) suffixes being applied to "to be" sentences: such sentences are all about the nouns, and we have noun suffixes that do the same job. Instead of something like tlhIngan ghaHbej torgh'e' Torg is definitely a Klingon, which isn't technically wrong, it makes much more sense to say tlhInganna' ghaH torgh'e' Torg is definitely a Klingon.


I wonder whether lurveng ghaH 'Iv'e' could work for "Which of them is Lurveng?" ?


torgh'e' HoD ghaH seems fine to me.

A literal translation might be "As for Torg: he's a captain".

A bit like HaqwI''e' DaH yISam.


Except we don't say torgh'e' HoD ghaH.

TKD gives us two examples with topicalized translations:

puqpu' chaH qama'pu''e'
As for the prisoners, they are children.

pa'DajDaq ghaHtaH la''e'
As for the commander, he is in his quarters.

These already have the "as for" sense, simply by virtue of being a "to be" construction with a noun for the "subject." There is absolutely no difference in meaning between a hypothetical torgh'e' HoD ghaH As for Torg, he is the captain and the given formula HoD ghaH torgh'e' As for Torg, he is the captain.

You can logically piece together doing it topic-first, but we're told explicitly that the topic goes at the end. It's an arbitrary formula you just have to follow. The only way you're going to know you can break an arbitrary formula is if Marc Okrand arbitrarily tells you you can.

HaqwI''e' DaH yISam isn't relevant, since it's specifically about topic objects migrating in front of adverbials.


The way I like to think about it is ghah is a pronoun, but pronouns in Klingons can act as a noun, or as a verb. And whenever you use them as a verb, the sentences frequently can't be parsed properly without some way to differentiate between the two. And while it does seem an odd way to differentiate, this rule seems much simpler (and therefore seemingly non-constructed) than the almost inscrutable pronunciation rules for g+u in Spanish.


Mind your spelling: the pronoun is ghaH, not ghah.


Doh! I forgot again :(

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