Klingons and Kafka?

Once, long ago, I promised to do a bit on my forays into Klingon language. Here it is! In preparation for a presentation on Klingon that I will be doing next week, I figured I better brush up on the syntactical structures. And what better way than to translate a classic text into Klingon? I pondered the books readily available to me (i.e. the one’s sitting next to me at my desk) and I made a decision. Kafka — The Metamorphosis. The work is slow, so I only have one sentence done. But I picked a doozy! The opening line: “As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

In my best Klingon:

wa’ po Qongvo’ vempu’ ghe’ghor SamSa najmeymo’ SujmoHpu’, tu”eghpu’ QongDajDaqDaq DolHom’e’ choHlu’pu’.

A literal, non-grammatically corrected, reading of my Klingon approximates:

One morning from sleep awoke Gregor Samsa because dreams caused him to become disturbed, he discovered himself in his bed into a diminutive entity something indefinite had changed him.

When corrected:

One morning, when Gregor Samsa awoke from sleep because dreams caused him to become disturbed, he discovered himself in his bed, changed into a diminutive entity by something indefinite.

A few notes:

1) I picked the word DolHom’e’ (diminutive entity) as the equivalent of monstrous vermin. Klingon does have a word for cockroach (vetlh) and bug (ghew), but I felt that neither of these words could live up to the hype of Kafka’s “ungeheueren Ungeziefer.” I know ungeheueren is supposed to be more like “huge,” but in terms of Klingon mentality, diminutive seemed more appropriate. I use the word “entity” because I want Gregor’s Being to be shrouded. I’ve italicized the retranslated phrase because of a wonderful Klingon construct. The ‘e’ at the end of the word signifies an added importance; thus I make that word the most important in the sentence even though it cannot grammatically have the most prominent part.

2) Something indefinite: this phrase is added purely because Klingon must designate the subject of each verb.

3) Klingon has no adjectives, so many English constructs present huge difficulties! This is the reason “his dreams disturbed him.” “Unsettling dreams” is impossible to convey as such.

4) Bed: I’ve cheated a bit in my literal translation… QongDajDaqDaq actually translates to “In his place of sleep.”

5) The name: The letters of “Gregor Samsa” just don’t work in Klingon. Therefore, I’ve approximated the sounds with “ghe’ghor SamSa.”

Visit the Klingon Language Institute for pronunciation and other stuff!

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    • DW
    • April 21st, 2010

    There is a … Klingon Language INSTITUTE?

    Ludwig WIttgenstein, eat your heart out!

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