[tlhIngan Hol] Topic

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Mon Mar 4 10:33:39 PST 2019

See below…

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Mar 4, 2019, at 12:54 PM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
> 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.
The issue here is the word’s placement in the sentence. If it’s not the subject, then why is it the last word in the sentence? All the other words with Type 5 suffix come before the verb. ALL the other words with Type 5 suffix ALWAYS appear before the verb. Even {-Daq}. ALWAYS. Only subjects follow verbs, and yes, this “verb" is a pronoun, but Okrand himself says it’s being used as a verb. That’s why it can take certain verbal suffixes, like {-taH}.

There are more reasons for interpreting the word following the pronoun as a subject than there are for interpreting it as topic. It may very well be topic, but it’s certainly the subject, and no other Type 5 suffix is ever presented on a subject.

Also, it’s use in relative clauses is commonly on the subject of the verb with {-bogh}. Again, this is the only Type 5 suffix ever applied to a subject. Please find a counterexample. I await revelation.

>> {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.
Many years ago, I thought you were wrong to suggest that Okrand’s use of {-‘e’} was not to mark the topic, as he stated, but actually to note “emphasis”, in your earlier arguments or “focus” in your later arguments, but despite my stubborn determination to accept Okrand’s DESCRIPTION instead of his examples, you argued well, and over time, I came to agree with you.

I’ll confess, it’s a little weird to hear you arguing against a point that you successfully impressed me with in the past. I do openly apologize for my earlier stubbornness. I think I was wrong. I think you were right.

The question remains as to whether or not a noun can be marked with {-‘e’} at the beginning of a sentence, like other Type 5 suffixed nouns, functioning as topic, but not subject or object. I know that the description suggests this would be the case, but I’m not sure we actually have any canon examples. Do you know of any?

If you interpret that last word of sentence in a “to-be” use of a pronoun-as-verb to be subject, then all examples of {-‘e’} given that I can recall involve it being applied to subjects or objects. Despite the opportunity to use it to mark the topic as a non-subject, non-object at the beginning of a sentence implied by the description, I don’t remember actually seeing this anywhere in canon. Admittedly, I’m no canon expert. Surely, someone who is could come up with an example, right?

>> 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.
That’s my belief, though again, I haven’t seen that case occur of {-‘e’} used as expected, given the grammatical description.
> 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.



That’s the revelation I was looking for. Thank you… except that it also is obviously the direct object. In ASL, the topic is often the direct object, and it is marked with raised eyebrows, just like Klingon marks the topic with {-‘e’}. 

So, it’s not quite the example I was looking for. It’s pretty close, though. Nice work.
> 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.
True. This is why I suspect this is a topic Okrand could do well to clarify. I wish he would. If someone has access to him, they might make good use of that limited access to suggest that we’d appreciate more detail here on proper usage. But, that’s my priority. Maybe this doesn’t bother anybody else. I can accept that.

>> 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.
I likely know less linguistic jargon than you do. That’s not a dig. Jargon is useful, and if I want to talk with linguists, I ought to learn more of it.

>> 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).
Point taken.

But my point was not that you need a Type 5 to appear before the object. My point is that the normal position for nouns with Type 5 is before the object, and {-‘e’} is exceptional to that norm. Even {-Daq}, which doesn’t precede the object because it applies to the object never applies to a word following the verb it’s noun is grammatically linked to.

>> 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.
Likely, this is the root of {-‘e’}’s exceptionalism. 

>> 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.
Good. Well done. You are right, though #3 is the murky one. Likely, the murkiness is over the apparent lack of focus (so to speak) over the difference between topic and focus.

>> 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?
Again, well done. I accept this as a good argument, well stated.

>> 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 understanding.
I’d still put {-‘e’} high on the list, simply because of the lack of examples of it being used on nouns that are the topic of a sentence, but not subject or object, and to better explain why it is so different from other Type 5 suffixes in terms of word order. The example you gave of the moved adverbial would be insightful were it to be directly addressed with the word order explained to provide a better guideline for us, as we construct our own Klingon sentences.
> -- 
> SuStel
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