Subject: Re: Cardinal Directions (to Marc Okrand)
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 23:53:05 -0500
From: "Marc Okrand" <email@example.com
Kamala KordaS wrote in message
>What are the cardinal directions in tlhIngan Hol?
>As well as all the variants of directions such as
>northeast, southeast etc. If Mr. Okrand could answer
>that would be great. I have been unable to locate any
>reference to these directions in the Dictionaries or
>other books by Mr. Okrand.
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
tIng "area southwestward" or "area towards the
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
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
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
'evmaj "northwest of us" (literally "our
(<-wIj> "my," <-maj> "our")
These words may also be translated "northwest of here."
'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>
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
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)
There is an idiomatic expression still heard with
reasonable frequency which makes use of all three cardinal
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
He wej pagh Soch DoD cha' "course 3-0-7-mark-2"
(<He> "course," <wej> "three," <pagh>, "zero," <Soch>
"seven," <DoD> "mark," <cha'> "two")
The new navigation probably of HerQ origin. This article wasn't as useful as I thought it was. Do I have a talent for reading things into text that are not there, or what?