Newsgroup message of November 21, 1998

Subject: Re: Cardinal Directions

Summary

Somebody asked for words like north, east, south, west.

Source

Newsgroup: Klingon Usenet Forum
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 23:53:05 -0500

Quote

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

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

chan "area eastward" or "area towards the east"
'ev "area northwestward" or "area towards the northwest"
tIng "area southwestward" or "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 to 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" (nagh "rock") is used for "above the rock," veng chan, literally "city area-eastward" or "city's eastward area" (veng "city") is commonly translated "east of the city."

Depending on the sentence in which the phrase is used, the second noun in this construction (in this case chan "area eastward") could take the locative suffix -Daq, as in:

veng chanDaq jIwam "I hunt east of the city"
(veng "city," chan "area eastward," jIwam "I hunt")

The "city in the east" (actually, "city toward the east") or "eastern city" would be the "area-eastward 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 area-eastward district" or "city's eastward-area's district").

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

'evwIj "northwest of me" (literally "my area-northwestward")
'evmaj "northwest of us" (literally "our area-northwestward")
(-wIj "my," -maj "our")

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

'evmajDaq jIwampu' "I have hunted northwest of here"
('evmaj "northwest of us," -Daq "locative suffix," jIwampu' "I have hunted")

This works only when the speaker is indeed "here" (that is, referring to the place in which he or 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 area-northwestward" (Daq "location, site," -vam "this").

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 second. The area halfway between "northwest" and "southwest" is expressed as either 'ev tIng or tIng 'ev, 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 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 heard 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" (-vo' "from," -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 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"
(jIlengpu' "I have traveled")

A more archaic form of the idiom is tIngvo' 'evDaq 'evvo' chanDaq (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 numerically:

He wej pagh Soch DoD cha' "course 3-0-7-mark-2"
(He "course," wej "three," pagh, "zero," Soch "seven," DoD "mark," cha' "two")

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