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

Daniel Dadap daniel at dadap.net
Fri Sep 7 16:47:43 PDT 2018

> On Sep 7, 2018, at 17:49, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
>> On 9/7/2018 5:49 PM, Daniel Dadap wrote:
>> 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's an interesting observation. If correct, what's the difference between ghaH and 'oH?

That’s exactly the question I’m asking. I’ve long thought the difference was (and I’m guessing most Klingonists think of it as):

ghaH - single language capable being
'oH - single non-language capable being or inanimate object

But since TKD never actually says this is the case, it seems possible to interpret the difference as:

ghaH - single animate being (language capable or not)
'oH - single inanimate object

The difference could be something other than the above two options, but I’m not creative enough to think of another alternative.

> To support the idea, you need to find somewhere in canon that uses ghaH or 'oH in a way that shows that difference: some being capable of using language being referred to as 'oH, or something not a being capable of using language being referred to as ghaH.

Agreed. I’d be interested to see if there are any canon examples to provide stronger evidence of one interpretation or the other. I don’t think that {'oH} for a language capable being would be something we’d look for, though, since I’m not creative enough to come up where an interpretation where a language capable being would be anything other than {ghaH}. What we want to look for is pronominal references to animate beings that are not language capable, like a targh or a bo'Degh or whatever. {'oH} would imply that it has to do with whether the referent is capable of language, and {ghaH} would imply that it has to do with whether the referent is animate.

> Personally, I think Okrand just assumed that the difference between it and he/she/him/her showed up the difference well enough. It's the fact that English they/them can cover plural it as well as he/she/him/her that warrants special mention of the difference between bIH and chaH, not the exclusivity of the capable-of-using-language status of the words.

Sure, but he/she/him/her doesn’t necessarily indicate language capability in English. Non-language capable beings can be hes and shes and hims and hers.

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> SuStel
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