[tlhIngan Hol] Topic

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Mon Mar 4 09:54:34 PST 2019

On 3/4/2019 8:27 AM, Will Martin wrote:
> But when you look at canon, Okrand puts {-‘e’} on nouns that are 
> subjects and objects and are placed in the word order accordingly. 
> {nuqDaq ‘oH puchpa’’e’?} That’s not the topic. That’s the subject.

It certainly is the topic. /As for the bathroom, where is it?/ Okrand 
goes out of his way to point out that *-'e'* in copulas can be 
translated this way. *puchpa''e'* is the topic of the sentence. It's 
also the subject, in Okrand's terminology. I actually think /topic/ is a 
better term for it than /subject,/ because the topic in such a sentence 
isn't actually /doing/ any verb.

> {De’’e’ vItlhapnISpu’.} While the placement COULD be explained as 
> topic, the verb prefix {vI-} makes it obvious that this is the object 
> of the verb. His translation, “I needed to get the INFORMATION,” makes 
> it clear that this is emphatic, not topic.

I agree that this is emphasis. However, the prefix does not exclude a 
possible topic reading: /As for the information, I needed to get it./ 
It's got an elided pronoun: *De''e' 'oH vItlhapnISpu'.*

Between this sort of equivalence, and Okrand's mixing up of the concepts 
of topic and focus, I'm not sure how important the distinction is in 
Klingon. Being a topic may automatically bring focus.

> In Klingon, were we to see a noun at the beginning of a sentence that 
> has {-‘e’} on it and has no other grammatical explanation for its 
> placement, I suggest that would indicate topic, while adding {-‘e’} to 
> a noun that is placed as subject or object of a clause is acting as 
> emphasis instead of topic.

A noun with *-'e' *at the beginning that isn't an object must be a 
topic. A noun with *-'e'* somewhere else might or might not be topic.

Take, for instance, *HaqwI''e' DaH yISam*/Find the SURGEON now!/ On the 
one hand, it seems to be describing emphasis. On the other hand, it 
deliberately puts what was the object of the sentence *(DaH HaqwI' 
yISam)* and puts it in front of the adverbial where it can't possibly be 
interpreted as an object, but it /can/ be interpreted as a topic.

So is it just a migrated object that's just emphasized? Has it gone into 
that "header" space of syntactic nouns and adverbials where it's acting 
like a topic? /As for the surgeon, find him now!/ is a valid translation 
of the sentence, and Okrand does say that the object has been 
topicalized. I don't think you can deliver any pronouncements here; the 
waters are too murky.

> As an example, when a relative clause has both subject and object, we 
> optionally have the use of {-‘e’} to mark the head noun:
> puq qIppu’bogh yaS vIngu’.
> This could mean either “I identified the officer who hit the child,” 
> or “I identified the child who was hit by the officer.” If I want to 
> make sure you understand, I could say, {puq qIppu’bogh yaS’e’ vIngu’.}
> Note that Okrand often does not use this tool in canon, leaving 
> context to suggest whether the subject or object of the relative 
> clause is the head noun. To me, that suggests that this use is more of 
> an emphatic than topic marker.

The disambiguating *-'e'* is strictly focus, not topic.

> Also, there is no grammatical explanation for how a noun could have a 
> Type 5 suffix and yet its position in the sentence is not dictated by 
> the rule that nouns with Type 5 suffix must appear before the object 
> of the verb to which it applies. Obviously, there’s something going on 
> here that Okrand has not described well.

The rule does not say that a noun with a type 5 suffix must appear 
before the object. It says that nouns that appear before the object 
usually have type 5 suffixes. We have lots of examples of nouns 
appearing before the object that aren't marked with any suffix: they're 
all time expressions (e.g., *DaHjaj nom Soppu'*/Today they ate quickly/).

> For myself, I would not be surprised if there were two different 
> {-‘e’} suffixes. One is the one Okrand describes in the grammar 
> section of TKD and the other is the one he uses in perhaps all of his 
> canon examples. This second one is not a true Type 5 suffix because 
> the addition of this suffix has no effect on word placement.

I think the difference between topic and focus or emphasis in Klingon is 
simply not very sharp, and the ideas are related. It is always a true 
type 5 suffix, though, because there is no prohibition against putting 
type 5 suffixes on subjects or objects. You simply need a verb whose 
arguments support such a notion. There is no difficulty in understanding 
a verb whose subject or object include the syntactic notion of emphasis 
or topic.

> There are really only two reasons for calling this a Type 5 suffix:
> 1. You can’t use it with other Type 5 suffixes.
> 2. It is always the last suffix on the noun.

3. It describes a syntactic role for nouns.

4. It migrates to the ends of verbs modifying nouns.

> So, the real question is which of the following is true:
> 1. There are two different noun suffixes, one of which is a true Type 
> 5 suffix, affecting the word placement of the noun in the sentence, 
> marking the topic of the sentence, and the other which is the noun 
> equivalent of a verbal “rover” suffix (not that the suffix can rove 
> among noun suffixes, but that the noun to which the suffix is applied 
> can rove to whatever position in the sentence is appropriate, 
> different than any other Type 5 suffix), indicating emphasis and not 
> topic.
> 2. The grammatical description of {-‘e’} is fundamentally flawed 
> because it fails to explicitly describe that {-‘e’} never affects word 
> placement in the sentence as all other Type 5 noun suffixes do, and 
> {-‘e’} acts ONLY as emphatic and NEVER as topic. Okrand is apparently 
> confused about the grammatical difference between topic and emphatic, 
> or he oddly decided that while he understands the difference, his 
> target audience doesn’t understand the difference, and perhaps we 
> would understand the word “topic” while we would be confused by the 
> term “emphatic”.

3. *-'e'* works pretty much like every other syntactic noun suffix, 
applying a syntactic role to its noun. That role can be interpreted as 
emphasis, focus, or topic, depending on how it's used. The fact that 
it's a required role in an unusual position in the copula construction 
doesn't change its nature; that's a quirk of copulas, not of *-'e'.*

I think you're trying to force Klingon to conform to patterns you've 
already decided on, but it's not that rigid. Dare I say that Klingon is 
not a code?

> In any case, this is without question the least well described suffix 
> in TKD.

*-ghach* is the least-well described suffix in TKD. It has subsequently 
been better described. *-meH* is also a contender for problematical 


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