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  5. "Kahless and Lukara admired e…

"Kahless and Lukara admired each other."

Translation:Ho'chuq qeylIS luqara' je.

July 13, 2018



This may seem like a silly question, but please bear with me. When translating a compound subject like this from English to Klingon, I sometimes wonder whether the person listed first in the English sentence should come first in the Klingon as well, e.g. 'Kahless and Lukara' = "qeyliS luqara' je", or the opposite: "luqara' qeyliS je."

It's true that in every other language, the person or item listed first in one language should also be listed first in the other. However, (1) the OVS syntax structure in Klingon sometimes has me questioning this, and (2) Klingon is not like most other languages. :-) So, I just wanted to confirm that the word order in compound subjects (or objects) is indeed the same in Klingon as it is in English.


Sometimes there can be a subtle impact of the order that information is imparted or revealed. Perhaps you put one name first to indicate that they are more important. Or perhaps you hold the most surprising noun for last to elicit a greater reaction. Or maybe you find a particular order of nouns to be more poetic. It can be even more dramatic when you are talking about the order in which you present two conjoined sentences or a subordinate clause and it's main clause. When they are placed in a certain order to produce a certain effect, it is often (though not always) possible to maintain that order and that effect in Klingon. For that reason, we teach, in this course, that the order should be maintained when possible.

In addition to that, since this course is currently a written medium only, we want to do everything we can to disrupt the possibility of trying to read the sentences from back to front. Klingon is intended to be a primarily spoken language and we do hope one day (in the distant future, if at all) to add audio to the course. When you are listening to spoken Klingon it is impossible to hear the sentence back to front. You have to get used to dealing with the elements in an order that is unfamiliar until you get used to also being able to hear them and make sense of them in that order. Allowing the "OVS syntax structure" to dictate order past those required means that it increases the ease of reading the visual sentence in reverse order rather than forcing your brain to deal with the unfamiliar order. By forcing the nouns into a matching order for that part of the sentence, we, in some small way, disrupt that temptation and encourage seeing the parts of the sentence for themselves rather than as reversed English.

All that being said, most of the time the two things really are equal and there is no real difference in which goes first and which goes second. If you were doing translations for the Klingon ambassador, then I think most of the time it really wouldn't matter what order you translated the names in. But I hope you can see why, for this course, we decided to make it important.


Oh, I agree, it is important to keep some semblance of structure to it as a baseline. Of course there's always emphasis, and poetic nuances, but those are exceptions to the rule - and we need to have the established baseline, or the rule, to have something to compare them to, and contrast them against. And I see your point about not wanting to read the sentences backwards - it's a bit too counterintuitive to the very nature of spoken language, where we HAVE to start at the beginning.

I suppose I'm just getting too philosophical again, looking for a concept that's too totally alien to natural language. I do that sometimes. :-) You guys are doing a fabulous job on this course; and thanks for the extended replies. A lingot for each of you!


That basic Klingon sentences take the order Object-Verb-Subject, and that English sentences tend to take the order Subject-Verb-Object, does NOT mean that Klingon is backwards English. I know it can be tempting to think that way, but drive that thought out of your head now. It's not true.

Conjoined nouns are conjoined in exactly the same way as in English, except the conjunction goes at the end instead of before the final noun. There is no reason to change the order.

This is not just a choice of the Duolingo course. This is how Marc Okrand explains noun conjunctions in The Klingon Dictionary, and how he always translates them. From TKD, for instance:

DeS 'uS je an arm and a leg

From The Klingon Way:

tay'taHbe' 'Iw bIQ je. Blood and water don't mix.

reH tay' ghot tuqDaj je. One is always of his tribe.

qaStaHvIS wej puq poHmey vav puqloDpu' puqloDpu'chaj je quvHa'moH vav. The dishonor of the father dishonors his sons and their sons for three generations.

Qu' DataghDI' 'aqtu' mellota' je tIqaw. When you begin a mission, remember Aktuh and Melota.

And so on.

Notice that verb/sentence conjunctions work exactly the same as in English: the 'ej or other conjunction comes before the final verbal phrase.


I don't think it's a feature of the language as such, your list of nouns should just as easily be read right-to-left, as it could be read left-to-right. With Klingon it's often easier to get a flowing translation when reading right-to-left. However, it seems to be a decision of the course to only accept the nouns in the same order, I assume to ensure each is correctly translated.


Thanks, that makes sense. Although right-to-left would seem to fit better, more flowing, as you say, with the OVS word order. I just wondered if there might be any languages where the word order in such compounds might actually be reversed as a rule. I can't think of any offhand as such (except perhaps with pronouns where there are such rules, such as in English where "I" or "me" is always last), but a real-life example comes to mind: when learning the words for family relationships, English tends (generally speaking) to put the female first in couples where one member of each sex is included: mom and dad, aunt and uncle, nieces and nephews, etc. Russian, on the other hand, like many other Slavic languages, lists such pairs male first: dad and mom, uncle and aunt, nephews and nieces. This causes considerable confusion and consternation, especially among Russian speakers working the reverse course, trying to translate the given Russian sentences into English. They can't figure out why the word order is effectively reversed, when normally, it's a given that items are translated in the same order as originally listed. :-)

Just an outside-the-box thought.

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