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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

Sexism in the Klingon language?

Disclaimer: 1) Maybe I shouldn't open this can of worms, but no one claimed that I was wise. 2) I'm not trying to claim anything, accuse anyone, change anything, or otherwise cause a ruckus. I'm just noting things that I'm seeing.

Okay, so here it is: The word for woman is be'. The suffix to say not is be'.

Is there an underlying concept that women are "not?" Something like "man is" and "woman is not man?" I know that would be loDbe', but I'm not meaning literally "not man." Just a general negative "not?"

October 17, 2019

25 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tortitudette

I appreciate the question, and that you're being sensitive to how language can influence the way we understand things, but as a relatively new learner I'd like to add to what seems to be a consensus among the leading speakers here.

One reason I've recently taken up learning Klingon is that three of my four lorpu' (I'm a woman who only has brothers, so can use one gender neutral term for my nephew and nieces) are be'Hompu', and I like the idea of being able to introduce my lorbe'pu' to a culture of warriors, where, sure, you can call a woman 'IH, but if you want to compliment her, you're much better off using yoH or HoS. And I have to admit, when my eldest lorbe' and I were last at the zoo, I was beyond thrilled when we were learning about how female California Condors protect their nests, and she said "Wow. SuvwI' ghaH." We'll get to the ghaH vs. 'oH language-capable distinction some time in the future, but for now I'm just really glad that she's enjoying a culture that encourages her to be bold and proud over shy or retiring.

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Qov-jIH-je

BTW if you're on Facebook there are Klingon speaker/learner (we'll all learners) communities for both English and French (speculating from your username) speakers, and it kind of looks like you can't get enough Klingon from enough angles in your life, so you might be interested the conversations there.

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tortitudette

Oh wow that's great -- I'm not on Facebook, but this may be the very thing that changes my mind. Thank you!

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

Do you have a link to the specific groups you're talking about?

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdmcowan

English is the most active, followed by German (for some reason there's two), then French, and the Spanish group bascially has no activity. But here they are:

English: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LearnKlingon/
German: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KlingonischLernen/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/126423874645875/
French: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2075805242678735/
Spanish: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AprendaKlingon/

There might be others I don't know about.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdmcowan

I think most, if not all, of the groups might have challenge questions that you have to answer to confirm you are not a bot and that you can read and follow directions. Make sure to answer the questions if you want to join the groups.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

So there really isn't a translation for "Hi?"

And any of the other banal phrases: "How's it going?", " What's up?", or "How are you?".

To go at it the Klingon way would be to say something like "I'm new and learning Klingon."?

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

I don't know about the non-English ones, but the English one had questions. My request is pending now.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdmcowan

Did you answer the questions?

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

Hmm, interesting: we've replied to so many posts that the reply button is no longer available. lol

Yes, I answered the questions. This morning I saw that my request had been approved, and I've posted a "Hi, I'm new" post.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Qov-jIH-je

But Aaron, have you learned nothing? Don't say "hi" just get on with the business you came for. :-)

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

lol, I don't know how to say Hi. Or any other greeting like that. I guess I could say something like "I'm seeing you now?"

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Qov-jIH-je

Good! Than you have learned. While you can craft a Klingon phrase that roughly approximates any one of a number of English or other language Terran greetings, the Klingon way is not to do so. Say "It is good to see you again, Torg" only if you were blind for a bit or, Torg had been invisible. Say "Are you healthy?" only if you are perhaps a doctor or a military recruiter. Otherwise skip straight to the meat.

I get in trouble all the time for doing this in English. I literally wrote "good morning" on the top of my briefing pad the other day so I would remember to say it, and allow the other person to say it, before briefing him on flight conditions. Because for some reason in many Terran cultures it is required to waste a few seconds of time in this ritual before getting to work.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Qov-jIH-je

Nope, there is no Klingon greeting ritual akin to our exchange of "hi how are you" or "yo, how's it hanging" or "Good morning, a pleasure to see you again, sir."

No ritual parting speech, either. The true most difficult part of speaking Klingon is not the verb prefixes, but that after a weekend of fun with the friends I see in person only once or twice a year, I say, pawlI' lupwI'wIj, and walk away without another word.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidTrimb3

You can also call a man 'IH, another gender-neutral word.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tortitudette

Oh definitely, and way back in the first few lessons I remember being very pleased when Worf is pretty and Mara is handsome were accepted answers for 'IH wo'rIv and 'IH mara. I didn't express it very well, but I meant to convey that watching my lorpu' grow has increased my appreciation for the fact that one's physical appearance is relatively low on the list of valued qualities in Klingon culture.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdmcowan

It's just cooincidence and the two syllables are unrelated. Sort of like how in English large dance parties are not actually spherical (balls are not held in balls). Other features of the language indicate a significant equality. Within Star Trek, Klingon society is shown to have some sexist aspects, but it is very inconsistent. If anything perhaps this syllable indicates the opposite of what you suggest. After all, ta'laHbe' means, "he can't accomplish it," and adding a space for ta'laH be' means, "the woman can accomplish it."

By the way, you can't add verb suffixes (like -be') to nouns, so loDbe' is meaningless.

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Qov-jIH-je

be' jIH. loD jIHbe' (I'm a woman, not a man) and I'll second what Jeremy says. There are no structures in the language where the word be' meaning woman comes off as being the negation of a man. Feel free to use it as a mnemonic though, to remember both -be' and be'. You probably couldn't forget either now if you tried!

Klingon is actually quite a gender neutral language. The only time a form of address or speech is different between genders is for certain family relationships (e.g. brother vs. sister, or cousin who is the child of a sibling the same sex as a parent vs cousin who is the child of a sibling the opposite sex of a parent). In fact when Klingonists are speaking about people whose gender we don't know, we'll switch to Klingon, or just use Klingon pronouns, because ghaH refers to everyone who uses language, be they male, female, cis, trans, non-binary joq.

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidTrimb3

You can have entire conversations or read entire stories where you never learn the genders of the people or animals involved. The only way you find this out is if someone says something like loD ghaH. If it's not relevant, they don't say it and you don't learn it.

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

Cool, thank you :D

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

My dad just sent me qay'be'. I looked up qay' and found that it means "problem" or "hassle."

The first thing I read from that was "problem-woman," so "the woman is the/a problem."

I didn't read it as "problem-not."

I'm going to have to get better at where the be' suffix is attached meaning "woman/female" and when the suffix means "not."

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdmcowan

One big clue is whether it is on a noun or a verb.

The suffix -be' (meaning "not") is a verb suffix and can only go on verbs: qay'be' ("not a problem"), bIlughbe' ("you are wrong"), jISaHbe' ("I don't care"), etc.

The word be' (meaning "female") is a noun and is sometimes combined with other nouns to indicate a female type of that person/thing: lorbe' ("female cousin or niece"), puqbe' ("daughter"), be'nal ("wife"), etc. These kinds of combinations where they are written as one word are almost always family relationships. For most other indications of female people/things they are written as two words with a genetive connection: tlhIngan be' ("Klingon female"), be' targh ("female targ"), be' nISwI' ("the woman's disruptor"), etc.

The -be' suffix cannot be placed on a noun. The noun be' is not meaningful when attached to a verb. The sentence qay' be' (with a space in between the verb and the noun) means, "The woman is a problem." With no space between, it has to be the verb suffix -be' ("not").

Note also, that there are other words ending in the letters be' that do not have any relation to either of these: rewbe' ("citizen"), 'obe' ("order, group"), etc. The exclamation ghobe' is probably related to the -be' suffix, but there is no known verb gho and it definitely does NOT mean either circle-not or circle-female.

You are capable of holding many English homophones in your head and distinguishing between them based on context. I'm sure you will learn to do the same in Klingon as it becomes more familiar to you.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AaronTurne

Interesting: I would not have categorized problem (qay) or correct (lugh) as verbs.

As I am writing this, I don't know how I would categorize them, but I would not have initially categorized them as verbs.

October 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdmcowan

Regardless of how you or I might want to categorize them, in Klingon grammar, they are verbs. They are a specific type of verb which Okrand sometimes calls "verbs of quality". They cannot take objects, they can be used as adjectives, and they can be used in comparatives. I like to call them "be verbs" because they can be identified in The Klingon Dictionary because their first definition begins with "be" ("be a problem", "be correct").

October 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidTrimb3

But be careful: some verb definitions that aren't verbs of quality still start with be. For instance, bop be about.

October 19, 2019
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