Maltz Online

Maltz has been a busy fellow,
passing along several insightful
tidbits (via Marc Okrand) to the online
community. The following selections
are reprinted with permission. --LMS

Traditionally, in dealing with
orientation, bearings, headings, and
so forth, Klingons have divided
things up into three, not four,
primary directions or compass

There are three nouns for these
principal points. The translation of
these words using terminology
familiar to the Federation are a little
awkward, but they give an idea of
the meanings:

area eastward / area towards the east

area northwestward /
area towards the northwest

area southwestward /
area towards the southwest

While the four main compass
points used in the Federation (north,
east, south, west) are distributed
evenly (that is, they are 90 degrees
apart from each other: north is 90
degrees away from east, east is 90
degrees away from south, and so
on), this is not the case in the
Klingon system. The three directions
are not evenly spaced(that is, they
are not 120 degrees apart from each
other). Instead, the areas associated
with 'ev and tIng are closer to each
other than either is the the area
associated with chan. (The areas
associated with 'ev and tIng are
something like 100 degrees apart
from each other, and each is 130
degrees away from the area
associated with chan.)

English words like "east" and
"southwest" are, as noted, just
convenient tags for what the
Klingon words mean. Since chan
actually refers to that part of the
landscape in the direction of the
sunrise, "east" is a reasonable
English counterpart. The standard
translations of 'ev and tIng follow
from the standard translation of
chan. But Klingon chan does not
work the same as English "east."
From the Klingon point of view, it
makes no sense to say that
something is "in the east." One can
go towards the east, something can
be to the east of something else, but
nothing can actually be "in" the
east. No matter how far eastward
you go, there's something still to
your east. Thus the awkward
translations "area eastward, area
towards the east" and so forth. (And,
of course, the same can be said for
the other directions.)

These Klingon direction nouns
work in the same manner as other
nouns of location (nouns used to
express prepositional concepts) such
as Dung area above, bIng area below,
and retlh area beside, area next to.
Thus, just as nagh Dung, literally
rock area-above or rock's area-above is
used for "above the rock," veng
, literally city area-eastward or
city's eastward area is commonly
translated "east of the city."

Depending on the sentence in
which the phrase is used, the second
noun in this construction could take
the locative suffix -Daq, as in:

veng chanDaq jIwam
I hunt east of the city

The "city in the east" (actually,
"city toward the east") or "eastern
city" should be the area-eastword city
chan veng.

Again, if appropriate, the
locative suffix -Daq follows the
second noun:

chan vengDaq jIwam
I hunt in the city in the east

The city's east, meaning "the
eastern part of the city," would
make use of yoS area, district: veng
chan yoS
(literally city areal-eastward
district or city's eastward-area's

The directional nouns may also
be used with possessive suffixes. For
example (switching from the east,
for the sake of variety):

northwest of me
(literally "my area-northwestward")

northwest of us
(literally "our area-northwestward")

These words may also be
translated "northwest of here." For

'evmajDaq jIwampu'
I have hunted northwest of here

This work only when the
speaker is indeed "here" (that is,
she is currently speaking). If,
however, "here is a place on a map
that the speaker is pointing to,
"northwest of here" would be
something along the lines of
Daqvam 'ev, literally this-location
area-northwestward or this place's

In the standard dialect of
Klingon (ta' Hol) and in most other
dialects, the locative nouns (or
nouns of location, or nouns
expressing prepositional concepts)
do not take possessive suffixes, while
in the dialect of the Sakrej region,
they do.

The directional nouns (chan,
'ev, tIng), on the other hand, take
possessive suffixes in all dialects (or
at least in all dialects studied to

It is also possible (though the
Sakrej folks tend not to do this) to
use the full pronoun plus locative
noun construction with the
directional nouns: jIH chan "east of
me" (literally I area eastward). There
is a slight meaning difference
between jIH chan, using the full
pronoun, and chanwIj, using the
possessive suffix, however. The
construction with the full pronoun
emphasize the pronoun (in this
case "I," the speaker him-herself) as
the reference point; the construction
with the pronominal suffix is more
neutral. Thus, chanwIj is east of me,
east of where I am, east of here but
jIH chan is east of ME, to MY east.

Perhaps what occurred
historically (though there may well
be other explanations) is that the
speakers of the Sakrej dialect took a
grammatical rule which had a
restriction ("possessive suffixes may
follow directional noun, but not
other locative nouns") and
generalized it (applied it more
broadly) by eliminating the
restriction ("possessive suffixes may
follow locative nouns" --- or maybe
even, simply, "possessive suffixes
may follow nouns"). In theory, it
could have happened the other way
around. The speakers of some dialect
--- including ta' Hol --- could have
interpreted the rule to be "possessive
suffixes never follow locative nouns
except for directional nouns" and
then made the rule apply more
generally by dropping the exception
(yielding "possessive suffixes never
follow locative nouns"). But this
didn't happen.

To express directions between
the three cardinal points, the nouns
are compounded. Thus, halfway
between southwest and east (that is,
halfway between tIng area
southwestward and chan area
eastward) is tIng chan (literally area-
southwestward area-eastward or area-
southwestward's area-eastward or, for
short, southwest's east). Similarly,
halfway between northwest and east
is 'ev chan. Logically, these words
could come in the other order (that
is, chan tIng or chan 'ev), but, for
whatever reason, chan always comes

The area halfway between
northwest and southwest is
expressed as either 'ev tIng or tIng
, with neither version
significantly more common than
the other.

To get even more specific, it is
possible to make a compound of
three words (though two would
always be the same): 'ev chan 'ev
would be a direction halfway
between 'ev chan and 'ev; 'ev chan
would be a direction halfway
between 'ev chan and chan.

How this extends to even finer
tuning is something pretty much
lost except to those knowledgeable
in the old ways of navigating. In
more recent times, those needing to
express directions with greater
precision use (numerical)
instrumental readouts.

There is an idiomatic expression
still head with reasonable frequency
which makes use of all three
cardinal direction terms:

tIngvo' 'evDaq chanDaq

Literally, this means from area-
southwestward to area-northwestward
to area eastward" (-Daq, the locative
suffix, here indicating to), but the
idiom means "all around, all over,
all over the place." It is used in the
same place in a sentence in that the
noun Dat everywhere might be used,
but it is much more emphatic:

tIngvo' 'evDaq chanDaq jIlengpu'
I've traveled all over the place

A more archaic form of the
idiom is tIngvo' 'evDaq 'evvo'
(literally, from area-
southwestward to area-northwestward,
from area-northwestward to area
eastward), but the three-word
version (without the repetition of
'ev) has all but totally replaced it.

Finally, it should be noted that
none of this terminology ever was
adapted for navigation in space.
Klingons have made use of the
system common throughout the
galaxy by which courses, bearings,
coordinates, and so forth are given

He wej pagh Soch DoD cha'
course 3-0-7-mark-2


There is an adverbial which
means "then" in the sense of "at
that time" (as opposed to
"subsequently"). And there is also an
idiom meaning something like "by
that time."

The adverbial is ngugh. It is
used mainly to emphasize that a
particular event occurred at the
same time as something else, though
ngugh doesn't indicate what that
time is. Something else in the
discussion makes that clear. ngugh
does not mean "at some (vague)
time in the past" or "at some
(unknown) time in the future." For

vagh SanID ben buDbe' wamI'pu'.
ngugh Ho'Hu'chaj lo' chaH,
'ach DaH tajmey lo'.

5,000 years ago, hunters were not
lazy. Then (at that time) they used
their teeth, but now they use knives.

DungluQ tIHIv.
ngugh Qongbe' chaH.

Attack them at noon!
They won't be sleeping then. /
Attack them at noon.
They're not sleeping then.

Note that in each case ngugh
then refers to a time specified earlier
in the discussion (here, "5,000 years
ago" and "noon"). In the second
example, the adverbial ngugh could
be left out, and the basic meaning
could still be the same ("Attack
them at noon! They won't be
sleeping.") With ngugh, however
the speaker is emphasizing the time
element. The first example also
could be recast without ngugh (e.g.,
the second sentence could be two:
Ho'Du'chaj lo' chaH. DaH tajmey
They used their teeth. Now they use
knives.). With ngugh, however, the
contrast between "then" and "now"
is highlighted.

The time reference need not
occur in the immediately preceding
sentence or clause (as it does in the
examples above); it could be earlier
in the discourse. Since ngugh points
to or refers back to a previously
established time reference, if that
time reference is not clear (or is
missing), an utterance containing
ngugh would not make much sense.
If someone asks "When?" after
hearing a sentence containing
ngugh, unless the question resulted
from inattentiveness, ngugh was
probably used inappropriately.

In addition to ngugh, there is
an idiomatic expression involving
the suffix -DI' when, as soon as used
to mean "by that time, by the time
that occurred (or will
occur)." The event that has occurred
(or will occur) is typically expressed
in the immediately preceding
sentence or clause, though it could
have been uttered earlier.

The idiom is found in two
forms. The shorter (and more
frequently heard) version is the
single word pumDI' when it falls.
The longer version consists of
pumDI' followed by a subject noun
specifying what falls. The most
common noun heard is 'etlh sword,
blande (thus: pumDI' 'etlh, literally
when the blade falls). Presumably the
expression originally referred to a
fight between two combatants
wielding bladed weapons. The time
at which one of them dropped the
weapon and was thus defeated (or
was as good as defeated) was a
significant moment.

Some speakers, however, are
rather creative and use nouns other
than 'etlh. For example:

pumDI' DaS
when the boot falls

pumDI' 'obmaQ
when the ax falls

pumDI' nagh
when the stone falls

pumDI' rutlh
when the wheel falls

There seems to be no restriction
on what noun may be used here, as
long as it is something that could
possibly fall. (Thus pumDI' QoQ
whun the music falls would not be

Choosing one noun or another
to use in the idiomatic phrase is a
form of word play. Depending on
the topic being discussed, the noun
could add a touch of irony or even
humor. In any event, the choice of
noun does not change the idiomatic
meaning of the phrase. pumDI' X,
where X is the subject noun, is used
to mean "by then, by that time."

The idiom might be used when
talking about a feast that had taken
place a few nights ago. If a guest
arrived late --- after the eating had
already begin --- one might say
something like:

tagha' pawpu' meb
'ach pumDI' Heghpu' qagh


tagha' pawpu' meb
'ach pumDI' 'etlh Heghpu' qagh

The guest finally arrived,
but by then the gagh had died."

Unlike subordinate clauses in
general, pumDI' X, when used
idiomatically, always precedes the
main clause (Hughpu' qagh in the
example above). When idiomatic
usage is not involved, subordinate
clauses may either precede or follow
the main clause.