Discussion between Will Martin and Marc Okrand on the topic of quotation from HolQeD 7.4

WM: Okay, then in terms of "usually" could you address the best use of tlhob

MO: What I intended to do with tlhob, though not necessarily what I intended to do with tlhob when I first wrote the dictionary...  The language has evolved from what I set out to do for the movie to what I set out to do for the dictionary to what I set out to do for...  It keeps changing. 

But what I wanted to do with tlhob and ghel is to distinguish between two different meanings for the English verb "ask."  There are two "ask's."  There's the "ask" where you ask a question and there's "ask" where you make a request.  I wanted it to be two different verbs, though apparently there are times when the "request" verb is used to ask a question as well.  [PK: lutlhob naDevvo' vaS'a'Daq majaHlaH'a'?] So maybe the way it works is that ghel can ask a question and only ask a question and the other one can mean that and is also use to request or plead or something like that. 

WM: And particularly, since the word tlhob was there longer, perhaps the need for ghel was there before the word ghel was there. 

I see something interesting in terms of the use of tlhob as the second verb in a Sentence As Object construction and also the verb SIv, which was really interesting. 

MO: That one, yes.  I've wondered about that a lot.  I spent a good chunk of one summer, one or two summers ago, -- I'm not trying to make a pun here, but - wondering about how that works.  How do you say, "I wonder."  I was going around asking people, "How do you say, 'I wonder who's kissing her now?'" after that song.  I was getting utterly confused about how to do it.  I was trying to figure out what's the best way to do it in Klingon and I don't have an answer.  But that's a really good question.  I'm not sure what to do with that.  The other ones I'm more comfortable with, but I'm having trouble figuring out the semantics of it in English, much less in Klingon. 

The other verbs of speech, I feel better about. 

WM: Do you see a division about which ones would be appropriate used as verbs of speech? 

MO: Very few.  Verbs of speech are "say" verbs, like jatlh and ja'

WM: In English, we use many of them. 

MO: Yes.  In English, we say, "Give me some water," he said.  "Give me some water," he pleaded.  "Give me some water," he yelled. 

WM: He added.  He begged.  He opined. 

MO: Exactly.  I think that's an English thing to do.  That's not a Klingon thing to do.  In Klingon, you jatlh and you ja'.  That's about it.  The guard asked the prisoner a question.  He replied.  He said, "[gestures a quotation he never quite made]"

[After the interview, I made the following three lines of examples to show how this worked:

  • qama' yu' 'avwI'.  jatlh Qu'lIj DarIn'a'? 
  • avwI' jang qama'.  jatlh tugh.  vIrInmeH taj vIpoQ. 
  • mon 'avwI'.  jatlh chotojmeH bInIDchu'ta'. 
Dr. Okrand modified one sentence and said he accepted them as valid, but wanted it noted that they were my sentences and not his, in his words, "a suggestion by you, okayed by me." - WM]

WM: So, basically, in Klingon, you would just use jatlh a lot.  If someone is asking a question, would you state the question and say jatlh

MO: If it's a direct quotation, I would.  Yes.  If it's an indirect question...  How would you do indirect quotation? 

WM: Is there such a beast as indirect quotation in Klingon? 

MO: That's a good question. 

WM: Would that be something handled with the pronoun 'e'

MO: It could. 

WM: In the example where you used that with the verb tlhob it was such an example that because of the person and number of the subject and object, you couldn't tell if it was a direct or indirect quotation.  Since it had the 'e' it wasn't technically a quotation at all.  That was the reason I was drawn toward the concept that it would be an indirect quotation.  It was the "I asked you command this ship..." 

MO: That's not a quotation at all.  That's just an "I ask you to do something." 

WM: That's kind of what I think of as an indirect quotation.  "I ask you to do that." 

MO: If that's how you are defining it, that's fine.  I have no problem with that.  An indirect quotation the way I'm thinking of it, I'm not sure it is a technical term.  "The person had said he would show up this afternoon."  The direct quotation would be, "The person said, "I will show up this afternoon." 

WM: You can tell the difference in that because of the difference in person. 

MO: Right.  But if I'm referring to me, and I say, "The person said I will show up this afternoon," then, which is that? 

WM: Well, you have to know which you are saying.  But in an example like, "I ask you to command the ship and..." 

MO: It doesn't matter again.  I wouldn't call that an indirect quotation in the way that I'm using it now.  Maybe this is a clearer example of an indirect quotation: "The warrior said the bloodwine was cold" (which, in English, could also be "The warrior said that the bloodwine was cold"). 

WM: Okay. 

MO: The way I see I see the verbs of speech, there may be more than just ja' and jatlh, but there is only a small number of words, unlike English.  You have to use a separate sentence for the replying, pleading, screaming.  "He screamed.  He said, 'Come help me.'" 

WM: Since a direct quotation grammatically looks like two separate sentences, you are saying that it would now look like three separate sentences at that point.  You'd have one describing what style of verbalization he was having, one saying "he said" and one giving the quotation. 

MO: Yes. 

WM: Very interesting. 

While I feel that any examples that exist deserve respect and are certainly what we have to go by, I don't feel like you should perpetually be bound to every utterance because you wind up with one of two things happening.  Either you become overly restricted in your ability to use the language, or the language becomes very confusing because there is so much splintering because everything is equally... 

MO: Well you have to remember that it is a spoken, living language.  What we say in English and what we write in English is not necessarily the same thing.  Klingon is the same way.  What people say and what people say they say is not necessarily the same thing.  There's kind of an ideal way of doing it and people have different ideas about what is permissible and what is not permissible.  Maybe there's some old stick-in-the-mud who says "No" and someone else says, "No, that's alright.  There's nothing wrong with that." 

And the course to follow for a student probably falls somewhere between.  You don't want to go too fast and loose or too far afield because then nobody will understand what you are doing.  You won't have any rules at all.  You don't want to be too rigorous, either.  It's not math. 

One of the things that I think about when I read what people have to say about Klingon sometimes is when someone argues that things have to be one way, I think, "No, it shouldn't always be like that."  It should be like that in maybe 75% or 80% of the cases, but not 100%.  Languages don't work that way.  Maybe Vulcan does, I don't know. 

WM: It would be a good candidate for it. 

I know that I've been, myself, more of a formalist in that my own interest has been less in encoding English sentences into Klingon and say, "There!  It's done!"  than it is to create something that, once it is in Klingon, anyone who knows the language would then be able to understand it well.  I feel like the burden is on the person moving the thought into the language instead on the person who is supposed to be able to figure out whatever it is I just said. 

MO: Right. 

WM: Just to mention particular verbs in terms of whether they can be used for speech or not, you are saying that ghel is a word that would probably not be used typically as a verb of speech.  That even if you are asking a question you would still tend to use ja' or jatlh

MO: Yes.  "He asked me.  He said, 'blah, blah, blah.'"  Or "He said, 'blah, blah, blah.' He asked me."  It doesn't matter. 

WM: jang - "answer" would be similar? 

MO: Yes. 

WM: And tlhob would similarly be... 

MO: tlhob also has the non-quoting sense. 

WM: Things you would unlikely use for speech are bach, chel... 

MO: bach is slang.  The rules might be a little bit different.  For non-slang... 

WM: chup "suggest."  jach "cry out."  SIv "wonder." 

MO: I've got to figure out what to do about "wonder."  That summer, the more I thought about it the more confused I got. 

WM: Are there any other verbs of speech that you would care to comment on? 

MO: Are there any other verbs of speech? 

WM: And a typical direct object of ja' would be the person addressed and a typical object of the verb jatlh would be the thing you say. 

MO: The speech event. 

WM: I like that term. 

MO: Including a direct quote.  I'm telling a story.  He "blah, blah, blah" jatlh