[tlhIngan Hol] Relevance of language ability to third person singular pronouns

Daniel Dadap daniel at dadap.net
Fri Sep 7 14:49:09 PDT 2018

I had always thought that the distinction between {'oH} and {ghaH} was the same as the distinction between {bIH} and {chaH}, i.e., that {ghaH} is reserved for beings capable of language. It would seem natural that the singular and plural third-person pronouns would be divided up the same way, but it was recently pointed out to me that TKD never actually says that {‘oH} is for things and beings that are incapable of languages, or that {ghaH} is exclusively for language-capable beings. But just because that would seem natural doesn’t mean that it is so.

It seems to me that it is up to interpretation whether {ghaH} can be used for non-language capable beings. I can see arguments in favor of the {‘oH}/{ghaH} divide being in the same place as the {bIH}/{chaH} divide, and I can also see arguments in favor of the divide being in different places for those two pairs of pronouns.

Reasons why {ghaH} might only be for language-capable beings:
* It makes sense to think as {‘oH} and {bIH} as being singular and plural variants of a language-incapable third person pronoun, and {ghaH} and {chaH} as being singular and plural variants of a language-capable third person pronoun.
* The first- and second- person possessive suffixes are inflected based on the language capability of the possessed, regardless of the number of the possessed.

Reasons why {ghaH} might not necessarily be only for language-capable buildings:
* The third-person possessive suffixes make a distinction only for the number of the possessor, and not for language ability of the possessor, nor language ability nor number of the possessed. This suggests that while language capability does affect inflections in some places, it needn’t do so in other places that are for the most part similar for places that are inflected based on language ability.
* There is nothing suggesting that the distinction between the predisposition suffixes {-beH} and {-rup} has anything to do with language ability; in fact, I rather believe that it’s a distinction between inanimate and animate rather than between language incapable and language capable. This suggests that Klingons distinguish between inanimate and animate (with the possibility of language incapable animate beings in the animate category) at least some of the time.

What do you all think about {'oH} versus {ghaH}? Has Maltz ever said anything to point us more strongly towards one interpretation or the other, with regards to whether {ghaH} might apply to beings incapable of language?

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