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

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Mon Sep 10 21:35:28 PDT 2018

On Mon, 10 Sep 2018 at 22:23, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:

> So lemme get this straight. You guys think that *ghaH* is for any
> singular thing the speaker believes can communicate in some way, *'oH* is
> for any singular thing the speaker believes cannot communicate in any way,
> *chaH* is for plural beings capable of using language regardless of what
> you think about them, and *bIH* is for plural things not capable of using
> languages regardless of what you thinking about them. Except at night, on
> Tuesday, of course.
Well, I don't. I think the {'oH}/{bIH} distinction is exactly the same as
the {ghaH}/{chaH} one. I don't see how the table in TKD 5.1 can be
interpreted in any other way. It's obviously arranged with the singular
forms in one column and their corresponding plurals in the other. The
absence of a comment is, I think, evidence, that the obvious interpretation
is right, as it would be notable (danger! danger!) otherwise.

It's also pretty clear that Okrand intended Klingon noun classes to be
split along language-using-beings, body parts, and other things. The
{-rup}/{-beH} distinction is an exception, and was invented to turn a line
of dialogue originally spoken in English into Klingon. He's barely used or
mentioned it since its invention. When a word (or a homophone) is used for
both a body part and a non-body-part ({Ho'}, or {DeSqIv}), he's been
careful to point out which plural suffix it uses. He's used {-pu'} on
{latlh} when it refers to beings.

What other people have been getting at is what happens if the speaker isn't
sure whether the being uses language or not. The "rules" may say that this
and that applies to language-using beings or not regardless of what you
think about them. But the speaker necessarily has to judge whether the
thing or being they're talking about uses language or not. In most cases
(Humans, Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons on one side, tribbles, rocks,
starships, on the other), it's clear. But what about {qaryoq'a'} or
{vIlInHoD}? Maltz tells us that the usual plural is {-mey}, but some
speakers prefer {-pu'}. He leaves unstated whether to use {'oH} or {ghaH},
but it seems obvious to me that those who use {-mey} would use {'oH}, and
those who use {-pu'} would use {ghaH}.

Okrand has given us rules. He's also pointed out that some people interpret
the rules differently. That's how rules actually work in real life. Nothing
surprising here.

Now, I wonder, are there any instances in Star Trek where it's ambiguous
whether something is a body part? For example, a creature with detachable
autonomous limbs? Or what about a space amoeba? Are its internal organelles
(or whatever distinguishable parts it has) body parts? What if they're made
of identifiable things, like half-digested planets? Does the space amoeba
have internal {yuQmey} or {yuQDu'}?

> You don't think that Okrand just got tired of saying "capable of using
> language" and shortened it to "communicate"?
I think he's referring to slightly differently things, though. In TKD, when
he talks about beings "capable of language", he's laying down the rules for
what a grammar book would say. When he has subsequently explained that it's
about whether the speaker believes something can communicate or not, he's
talking about how people interpret the rules.

Also, qurgh's observation from qep'a' 2015 is an example of what I mean
when I say that {HolQeD} is a source of canon (when Okrand's words are
relayed through other people):

> (qurgh, 11/10/2015):  I had a conversation with Marc about 'oH and ghaH
and animals when I was at the qepHom. He said that if you (the speaker)
believe you can communicate with a creature, then it's a ghaH, if you don't
believe you can communicate with a creature, then it's 'oH. It's down the
personal beliefs of the speaker, not a set formula.

I think that some people wouldn't consider this to be authoritative, since
it's hearsay, like hearsay about things Okrand has said at performances of
the Washington Shakespeare Company and whatnot. But if this same statement
had appeared in HolQeD, it would (probably) be considered a canon
interpretation of how to decide between using {'oH} and {ghaH} by most.

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