[tlhIngan Hol] Suffix position: semantically significant?

Steven Boozer sboozer at uchicago.edu
Thu Jun 7 07:45:03 PDT 2018

Lieven L. Litaer:
> Indeed this sometimes causes ambiguous situations, and if you really want 
> to avoid ambiguity, you must either rephrase it, or add suffixes like {-qu'} to
> mark the important suffix. But there's no way to change the system of the
> suffixes order. And after a while you will even get used to the correct order.
> Besides, a suffix does not only modify its preceding suffixes or word parts, it
> modifies the entire thing. It really is hard sometimes, and you cannot do 
> wordplays you may do in English by switching words.

(TKD 175):  This suffix [i.e. {-ba'}]  is used when the speaker thinks that his 
	or her assertion should be obvious to the listener. Nevertheless, 
	there is still room for doubt; the suffix does not imply as strong a 
	conviction as {-bej} certainly.

Note that Okrand said that the "assertion should be obvious to the listener", not the previous suffix or part of speech.  As Lieven said, the numbered suffixes modify the entire utterance.  It's one of Okrand's "just because" rules which we must accept.  Only Rover suffixes can be freely moved around. (Indeed, that's why they are called rovers.)  Most of our evidence comes from written texts but I imagine that in speech one could draw attention to the important suffix, if needed, by using extra stress, a slight pause, a gesture, etc.

Are there agglutinative languages where suffixes must be used in a specific order like Klingon?  If so, how do speakers of those languages emphasize one element?  Or do they?  Perhaps they're so used to listening "holistically" to the utterance that they aren't consciously aware of the order -- except when someone (a foreigner for example) gets it wrong, and then it's perceived as an ignorant mistake and not personal style.


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