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

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Fri Sep 7 21:16:04 PDT 2018

On Sat, 8 Sep 2018 at 04:52, Alan Anderson <qunchuy at alcaco.net> wrote:

> On Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 5:49 PM Daniel Dadap <daniel at dadap.net> wrote:
>> 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?
> On the old MSN expert forum, Marc Okrand said:
>> the question {yIH nuq?} "What is a tribble?" is exactly parallel to the
>> statement {yIH 'oH} "It is a tribble"
> [See http://klingonska.org/canon/1996-12-12b-news.txt for the full text
> of his message.]
> A tribble is an animate being. It gets the pronouns {'oH} and {nuq}, not
> {ghaH} and {'Iv}.

But Klingons hate tribbles, so it might just be the case that tribbles are
{'oH} whereas the beloved pet targ gets {ghaH}. ;-)

While it's true that TKD 5.1 does not explicitly state that the distinction
between {ghaH} and {'oH} is the same as that between {chaH} and {bIH}, the
arrangement of the table strongly suggests that this is the case:

    {jIH} I, me             {maH} we, us
    {SoH} you               {tlhIH} you (plural)
    {ghaH} he/she, him/her  {chaH} they, them
    {'oH} it                {bIH} they, them
    {'e'} that
    {net} that

It's a fairly obvious interpretation that the right column shows the plural
corresponding to the left column. The sentence immediately following this
table is: "The pronoun {chaH} they is used when it refers to a group of
beings capable of using language; otherwise, {bIH} they is used." It seems
to me that Okrand mentions this only because "they" is used for both in
English and needed clarification. If the distinction between {ghaH} and
{'oH} is in a different place than that between {chaH} and {bIH}, I'd have
expected this to be mentioned. (However, the lack of mention of such a
difference doesn't mean it doesn't exist, since TKD is meant to be a brief
grammatical sketch.)

In HolQeD 10:4, Okrand discusses birds that talk. He makes a point of
saying that the usual suffix for birds is {-mey}, but that some Klingons
use {-pu'} for birds which mimick speech. He does not mention whether they
take {'oH} or {ghaH}, which could be interpreted either way. That is, it
might be that the distinction between {'oH} and {ghaH} is so obviously the
same as between {-mey} and {-pu'} as to be not worth mentioning (and hence
those Klingons who use {-pu'} would use {ghaH}, and those who use {-mey}
would use {'oH}). Or it might be that all animals always take {'oH} (or
always take {ghaH}), and this doesn't change regardless of whether they
talk. But in the latter case, the fact that a {yIH} is referred to using
{'oH} implies that all animals are {'oH}. So in either interpretation,
{'oH} is used for animals which don't talk. What's left open is whether
those Klingons who use {-pu'} for talking birds would also use
{ghaH}/{chaH} for them.

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