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"Is your heritage not important to you?"

Translation:SoHvaD potlhbe''a' quHlIj?

June 12, 2019



The actual option on the page that the program marks as correct reads "SoHvaD potlhbe''a' quHraj?", not "...quHlIj?", as above. , which seems to incorrectly combine the 2nd person singular pronoun "SoH" with the 2nd person plural possesive "-raj".


We wanted to include it as a possible translation since someone might interpret this as "Is you all's heritage not important to you (the individual)?" But it probably shouldn't be marked as a "best translation". I have changed the categorization to an "accepted translation" so it shouldn't show up in the exercises any more.


Someone translated this as, "Is your heritage not important for you?" It sounded odd, and I pondered for a bit on whether for was a permissible preposition here. I googled "important for you" intending just to see who else was using it that way, and found this video.


He's right. Normally You'd say "My heritage is important to me," but your heritage could be important for you, for example if it determines whether you can vote or hold a passport where you live. And I believe both ideas would be translated the same way into Klingon.


It marked my answer when the only different to my response was that I used the subject marker 'e' after quHlIj. Why would that be incorrect here?


It's the "topic" marker, not the "subject" marker. There is no emphasis, focus, or topicalization of "your heritage" in the English sentence. You can't just randomly add a suffix to a noun. The suffixes have meaning. What is your justification for adding -'e' here? (I don't mean that in a snarky way, I'm trying to figure out if I'm missing something or if our course has misled you in some way.)


Well, for starters, if you're not trying to sound snarky, maybe don't say blatantly patronizing things like "the suffixes have meaning" as if that's something I'm not aware of. :-)

That aside, I guess it's hard for me to parse the English sentence where "your heritage" isn't the topic. I see you've also done the Japanese course on here, so I'll ask you, if you were going to translate that same sentence into Japanese, wouldn't it feel intuitive to put "your heritage" at the head of the sentence with topic marker "wa?" That's what feels intuitive to me.

Anyway, it's not worth arguing about and clearly I've asked a preposterously stupid question, so I'll drop it.


Not a stupid question at all. Your response has helped me see where the problem lies and I think I can help you.

I can see how, "The suffixes have meaning," sounded snarky. I meant it to be "pithy" more than "snarky" but it's too fine a line and I shouldn't have tried.

There is some similarity to "topic" in Klingon and Japanese, but enough differences to make it misleading. Even English tends to make the general assumption that the subject of a sentence is the topic of the sentence. As far as I can tell, most languages do, but each language has a different way of addressing and marking the difference between a subject and a topic.

In English we don't mark our topics as clearly as in Japanese and Klingon, but we have ways to change the topic in an English sentence. In English this can be seen most clearly in the passive voice where the patient is moved from the object position to the subject position to make it the topic: "The man was bitten by the dog." This would normally be expressed with "the dog" in the subject position ("The dog bit the man."), but we can move "the man" to the subject position in the passive voice to make him the topic. So the Klingon sentence loD'e' chop targh winds up being equivalent to "The man was bitten by the targh."

In Japanese unless there is a separate subject, the subject is almost always marked as the topic. Many English speakers have trouble figuring out the use of the Japanese partical "ga", in large part due to the fact that we equate "topic" and "subject" too strongly in our head. The Japanese usually just state the topic and leave out a subject when it is the same as the topic, but do sometimes mark separate topics and subjects (which English almost never does and requires more complicated "focus" sentence structures to do).

Klingon works on the assumption that it is the subject that must be expressed and the topic marker is generally used when the topic is different from the subject. This is the reverse of Japanese which assumes the topic should be expressed and the subject marker is used when the subject is different from the topic. Thus the subject, in Klingon, should generally not be marked as the topic. However, there is a further difference which does allow the subject to be marked with the "topic marker" as {-'e'} is often called. It turns out that Dr. Okrand has admitted that he mistakenly used the term "topic" to refer to "focus" (English often uses "focus" structures for topicalization, so it's an easy mistake for a native English speaker to make). In other words, regardless of whether a word is the subject or the object, -'e' may be used to draw focus or emphasis to that particular word. Thus, since quHlIj is already the subject here and is not being changed from that purpose, adding -'e' has an effect like:
"Is YOUR HERITAGE not important to you?" or "As for your heritage, is it not important to you?"

So while the -'e' suffix can be used to mark a topic, it is not used on all subjects (even when they are the topic) and is only used when it adds information, like wanting to emphasize the subject (or object) or marking something as a topic separate from the subject. Thus, if the English sentence does not in some way emphasize or draw focus to the subject (or the object), it should not be marked with the "topic marker".

The use of -'e' on relative clauses with -bogh is consistent with that. The use of an additional noun marked with -'e' in a sentence that uses a subject pronoun as the verb is consistent with that (even though that word is the subject in the English equivalent sentence).

I don't view any of this discussion as arguing. Discussions like this are a valuable part of the learning process. That's why I asked for more details (even if I didn't word my response well to come off how I intended).


Thank you for the very helpful and detailed response. It's appreciated.

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