[tlhIngan Hol] Disturbing irregularities

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Thu Jun 23 04:53:17 PDT 2016

On 23 June 2016 at 12:45, mayqel qunenoS <mihkoun at gmail.com> wrote:
> De'vID :
>> Question words (in this case, nuq "what?") function the same way
>> pronouns do in questions with "to be" in the English translations.

This snippet is actually from Okrand.

When you're quoting, please keep the attribution straight so people
don't get confused.

> This means that the {'Iv} and {nuq} don't mean just "who" or "what",
> but their actual meaning is "who is" and "what is" ?

In the specific context of using them as "pronouns", yes. This is the
same as how {ghaH} means "he/she is" in such constructions.

> De'vID :
>> Thus, the question yIH nuq? "What is a tribble?" is exactly parallel
>> the statement yIH 'oH "It is a tribble" (where yIH is "tribble" and
>> 'oH is "it"). The answer to the question yIH nuq? ("What is a
>> tribble?") would presumably be a definition or description of a
>> tribble.]

Again, this is Okrand, not me.

> 1. I can't understand this sentence : "Thus, the question yIH nuq?
> "What is a tribble?" is exactly parallel the statement yIH 'oH "It is
> a tribble".

{nuq} is a pronoun. {'oH} is a pronoun. Both sentences are of the form
{yIH [pronoun]}. What is confusing about this?

> 2. {yIH nuq} and {nuq yIH} are the same, and they mean "what is a
> tribble" right ?

{yIH nuq} means "what is a tribble?"

{nuq yIH} is presumably clipped for {nuq 'oH yIH'e'}, which is
literally "a tribble is what?" But that's just how this type of
question is formed: by replacing the answer with {nuq}.

In any language, there are multiple ways to construct a sentence or
question with the same meaning. Why is this troublesome to you?

> 3. How do I ask "who is a/the tribble?"

A tribble is not a person. What exactly do you want to ask?

If there were a number of changelings one of whom is in the shape of a
tribble, and for some reason I wanted someone to identify the tribble,
I'd ask {yIH yIngu'}.

[This being the case, then, the answer to the question jarlIj qaq nuq?
 ("What is your preferable month?") would presumably be a definition
of "your favorite month." But this is not what you want to find out by
asking your question.  What you really mean to ask is something like
"Of all the months, which one do you prefer?"]

I suggest you read the entirety of that post.

> De'vID :
>> {'Iv ghaH} - the expected answer to this is a sentence of the form {X ghaH},
>> e.g., {Duy ghaH}. {ghaH 'Iv} - the expected answer to this is a definition or
>> description of "him". {Duy ghaH} is an acceptable answer, but you
>> might also answer {qepvammo' DIvI'vaD SutlhmeH naDev ngeHpu' DIvI'} or
>> something that describes the person.
> 1. So, {'Iv ghaH} and {ghaH 'Iv} are the same, and they mean "what is
> he" ? But then why don't we use {nuq} ?

It's the same difference as between "who is he?" and "what is he?" in
English. You _can_ ask {nuq ghaH} or {ghaH nuq}, but then you're
asking something different.

> 2. If I want to ask "who is he", do I use {'Iv ghaH}, {ghaH 'Iv}, or
> can I use both ?

What, actually, is the meaning you intend to express? In the most
general instance of just wanting to know who someone is, either one is

If you're asking to identify someone (out of a line-up or something),
the right construction to use is actually something with {ngu'}.

{'Iv ghaH} restricts the answer to {X ghaH}, going strictly by TKD
(and, as I've said, TKD is only a grammatical sketch and in real use I
doubt Klingon is actually as strict as that). {ghaH 'Iv} does not.
Unless you're writing poetry or a grammar textbook, this subtle
difference between the two doesn't matter to you.

Also, {'Iv ghaH} is from TKD, whereas {ghaH 'Iv} is only allowed by
grammar introduced by Okrand later. So if you want to communicate with
people who have only TKD without confusing them, {'Iv ghaH} may be

> This is by far the single most confusing part of klingon I have
> encountered, from the first day I started studying it.

You're making it more confusing than it has to be. There are some
confusing areas of Klingon grammar, but question words isn't really
one of them.


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