[tlhIngan Hol] Speculation: ship in which I fled

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Fri Apr 27 13:29:11 PDT 2018

A conversation on DuoLingo got me thinking. Okrand said long ago that he 
could not get the head noun of a relative clause to fit anywhere except 
as the subject or object of that clause. We accept this as meaning 
Klingon doesn't allow this, though all Okrand really said was he 
couldn't see how to do it.

Consider the text of /The Klingon Dictionary:/ "The whole construction 
(relative clause plus head noun), as a unit, is used in the sentence as 
a noun." I don't know about you, but this is not the mental image of 
relative clauses I have in my head. I imagine the main clause as a line, 
the head noun "pinned" to its place on that line, and the relative 
clause dangling off of the pinned head noun. But the text of TKD may 
suggest a different picture: the head noun plus verbal clause may be an 
enclosed package, no dangling, and whatever is part of the relative 
clause is isolated from interaction with the main clause. The main 
sentence, in other words, doesn't care what part the relative clause is 
the head noun; all it cares about is that something called "relative 
clause" is acting as a noun in a particular spot.

For example, if *Duj vIleghpu'bogh* /ship which I saw/ is said to be 
equal to /X,/ then we can insert it into a main clause *vIngu'laH*/I can 
identify it/ like so: /*X*/*vIngu'laH* /I can identify X./ As far as the 
main clause is concerned, /X/ is a black box, internally any noun phrase 
it wants to be.

So, let's suppose we start with a phrase, *DujDaq jIHaw'*/I flee on a 
ship./ Let's us further suppose... and bear with me here... that we 
don't have to make the head noun the subject or object of the relative 
clause. What if we can say *DujDaq jIHaw'bogh*/ship on which I flee./ 
Being the only noun in the clause, it's the only candidate for head 
noun. Let's suppose that it is. Just suppose.

Now just take the noun phrase as a black box and stick it into the main 
sentence, *vIngu'laH*/I can identify it./**We get: *DujDaq jIHaw'bogh 
vIngu'laH* /I can identify the ship in which I fled. /As far as the main 
sentence goes, this is not a locative, just a regular noun phrase.

Yes, yes, I realize that the listener has no idea that *DujDaq 
jIHaw'bogh* is supposed to be a unit and that I'm not actually 
identifying something while I'm on a ship. I remember that Okrand didn't 
agree to this in his interview. All I'm saying is, it doesn't /actually/ 
contradict TKD, and Okrand didn't /actually/ say you can't do it. The 
phrasing used in TKD makes such a construction not completely impossible.

There's one major problem with this idea: if you need to use 
main-sentence syntactic suffixes on the relative clause, you have to 
attach them to the head noun, which means the main sentence /does/ see 
the inner parts of the relative clause, so it's not really a black box 
after all.

Note: I'm not advocating for this idea here. I'm just publicly 
speculating. The Ship In Which I Fled Problem is one of those things 
that I constantly run up against and would like to pound into the ground.


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