Maltz on Sonnet 18

For Mother's Day 2020 Mary Chieffo (aka Chancellor L'Rell) sent a personalised message to David Yonge-Mallo's wife on (1)

The message contained some Klingon phrases, the first stanza from Shakespeare's Sonnet 18:
Klingon restoration Shakespeare version
chay' qImroq tuj jajmo' qapatlhmoHchu'? Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
'IwlIj tuj 'IH HoS, jajvam tuj 'IH puj. Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
Qom ghub Qejlu'bogh jevtaHvIS SuS qu'. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
'ej qul DIr Soplu'pu'pa' Dor poH tuj. And summer's lease hath all too short a date;

David received a message from Marc Okrand commenting on his restoration of the sonnet. They had previously written about patlhmoH, so then they were discussing whether "compare" is still the correct word to use to translate the original Klingon line chay' qImroq tuj jajmo' qapatlhmoHchu'.

In his answer, he also provides some information on a previously puzzling grammatical anomaly from Star Trek Into Darkness.

[...] [personal comments removed]

Your translation is indeed a worthy addition to the collected works of Shakespeare in the original Klingon.


Since it's a poem, all kinds of rules may be expected to be broken – or, rather, manipulated or molded or reshaped or exploited or played with. That (among other things) is what poets do.

And that's what you've done in the second line – making use of the law'/puS construction, but substituting HoS and puj – a perfectly legitimate (and, here, clever) thing to do.

And you've done it again in the third, using Qom to describe the shaking of a bud from the bud's perspective.

And yet again in the final line, altering the expected grammatical form of the common idiom qul DIr yISop.

I see why you are asking about the first line, but the way you did it is a good solution. Your original Klingon is something along the lines of "well, there's this summer's day here (available to use as a standard of status or measurement of some kind), so how do I rank you?" If whoever translated this original Klingon into 16th or 17th Century English chose to use the word "compare," that's that person's issue.

The problem you hit upon, of course, is actually a larger one. If the object is two different persons (for example, one is second person and one is third person), what prefix do you use on the verb? (Same deal if the subject is two different persons.)
"I see the captain and you" ≟ HoD SoH je vIlegh or HoD SoH je qalegh or HoD SoH je Salegh or ???
"The captain and you see me" ≟ (jIH) mulegh HoD SoH je or (jIH) cholegh HoD SoH je or (jIH) tulegh HoD SoH je or ???
The answer lies in looking at first-person plural.

maH means "we" – that is, "you (singular or plural) and I" and also "he/she/they and I" and also "you (singular or plural) and he/she/they and I." When the "we/us" prefixes are used, this sometimes gets clarified:
pI- "we-you (singular)" and re- "we-you (plural)": "we" means only "he/she/they and I," and none of the other "we" options
ju- "you (singular)-us" and che- "you (plural)-us": "us" means only "him/her/them and me," and none of the other options

But not always:
ma- "we (no object)": "we" can mean any of the options
wI- "we-him/her/it" and DI- "we-them": "we" can mean any of the options (though any third persons included in the subject are different folks from those in the object)
nu- "he/she/it/they-us": "us" can mean any of the options (with the same third third-person restriction cited for wI- and DI-)

So, for these last four prefixes, how do you know what "we" (or "us") means? The usual answer, of course, is context. But it’s also possible, and sometimes necessary, to use full pronouns in the sentence:
HoD wIlegh "we see the captain" (ambiguous)
HoD wIlegh jIH SoH je "I and you see the captain"
HoD wIlegh jIH ghaH je "I and he/she see the captain"
nulegh HoD "the captain sees us" (ambiguous)


jIH SoH je nulegh HoD "the captain sees me and you"
jIH ghaH je nulegh HoD "the captain sees me and him/her"
(Of course, in English, it's more natural to say "you and I," "he/she and I," and "you and me" rather than what I have above, but that's an English issue and we're talking about Klingon.)

When the context is clear, the shorter sentences (HoD wIlegh, nulegh HoD) will suffice. But if that's not the case, the pronouns are needed to disambiguate.

What all of the first-person plural prefixes have in common is "I." They all have at least one person besides "I," but they all have "I." So as long as there’s an "I" (and someone else) involved, a first-person plural prefix is used – regardless of who the non-"I" is. So you can get things like:

jIH SuvwI' je nulegh HoD "the captain sees me and the warrior"
SuvwI' wIlegh jIH HoD je "I and the captain see the warrior"
jIH SoH SuvwI' je nulegh HoD "the captain sees me, you, and the warrior"

Maltz frowned and growled when I suggested SuvwI' nulegh HoD and similar constructions. I guess this is one of those places where full pronouns really ought to be used.

Anyway, it works the same way for the second-person. If the subject or object is "you" and someone else, unless the someone else is "I," the second-person plural prefix is used.
SoH SuvwI' je lIlegh HoD "the captain sees you and the warrior"
SuvwI' bolegh SoH HoD je "you and the captain see the warrior"
SoH SuvwI' je Salegh "I see you and the warrior"
tulegh SoH HoD je "you and the captain see me"
But, of course, it's more complicated than that.

In formal writing (assuming Klingons do such a thing), what's described above is the way it works, that is, "proper" Klingon. But in actual day-to-day, spontaneous conversation, sentences such SuvwI' legh HoD SoH je ("the captain and you see the warrior") are not entirely unknown.

One would expect bolegh, not just legh. What's going on here is that the speaker had planned to say SuvwI' legh HoD and, after already uttering the legh, decided to add SoH je but just kept on going and didn't go back to correct legh to bolegh. So even though bolegh is considered correct and proper and what you should say, plain old legh may pop up from time to time.

Note that, continuing with the example above and assuming HoD is singular, it is quite unlikely to hear things like SuvwI' lulegh HoD SoH je. If the speaker knew more than one person sees the warrior and therefore used the lu- prefix, he/she most likely knew who these seers were, and if one of them was SoH, bo- would be the prefix to use.

You're right about the line in Star Trek Into Darkness (Qob lIb bam SoH chuDlI' je "You and your people are in danger") – the expected prefix would be bo-. Maybe what happened here is that Uhura was speaking informally. As noted above, occasionally and under certain circumstances, in a sentence with a compound second- and third-person subject, a non-prefixed verb is used (as in SuvwI' legh HoD SoH je). There is scant evidence that this usage is becoming more widespread in casual speech (though it is still not considered "correct" Klingon). So maybe Uhura chose to speak casually or idiomatically in order to connect with her interlocutor in some way. In any event, I wouldn't take that particular sentence as textbook Klingon, though it could well an example of colloquial Klingon.

Category: Canon    Latest edit: 27 May 2020, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 25 May 2020 by KlingonTeacher
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