[tlhIngan Hol] Verbs of measure

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Thu Mar 28 08:14:55 PDT 2019

{vIta’be’pu’} is not specifically linked to THE sentence that precedes it. You can always have implied pronouns referring to the context of the conversation up to this point or the situation you find yourself in. The point I’m objecting to is this idea that you should present two sentences next to each other and have an implied subject or object of the second sentence be formally recognized as being limited to the content of the previous single sentence.

What do I have to say to make this clear? Why am I perpetually misunderstood on this simple topic?

Okrand came up with the Sentence As Object construction as formal grammar for the language. He invented the pronouns {‘e’} and {net}. They have no usage in the language at all, outside of this single grammatical construction.

He did not let us use either of these as pronouns in the Subject position and he did not come up with new pronouns that could do that. He intentionally created this asymmetry in the language. It’s like the way he gave us {t} and {D}, breaking the kind of symmetry that human languages have in tongue placement for these two consonants. A Klingon {D} is not a voiced Klingon {t}. He did this on purpose.

How many times do I have to say that, yes, in conversation, you can imply an earlier sentence is represented by the unstated subject of a subsequent sentence and not violate any grammar rules? How many times do I have to explain that when you do this, you rely on it being obvious that the subject of that new sentence means what you think it means?

It never means “the previous sentence”. It always means, “the context of what we are talking about”.  If the previous sentence happens to be the context that we are talking about, fine. No problem. But it could just as easily be some other sentence that was stated earlier than the previous sentence, or it could even be a sentence that was never explicitly stated but understood as the topic of the three hour meeting we’ve all been having together. It could even be something other than a sentence; just a topic or fragment of a sentence. It could be Voldemort’s name. It could be anything that any appropriate pronoun implied by the verb prefix represents.

{‘e’} and {net} have a known, specific meaning. They always mean, “the previous sentence”. They don’t mean “Something you said five minutes ago and we’re all still talking about, but the previous sentence was about something else”. Meanwhile, this unspoken pronoun that represents something could represent ANYTHING. It is not grammatically bound to the previous sentence. You could not blame someone for misunderstanding you if you’d been focused on talking about an important subject, and then uttered a non-sequitur and in the next sentence did this unspoken pronoun thing to represent your non-sequitur, while the person you are speaking to assumes that you are still talking about this general context you’ve been discussing in a focused way for a long duration.

That’s what makes it hideous.

You are mentally assuming that this unspoken topic has to be the previous sentence. It doesn’t. That’s why, if you do this a lot, you will quite probably be misunderstood at some point, because you are pretending that you have discovered the missing Sentence As Subject grammatical construction that Okrand forgot to give us, and you haven’t. There isn’t one. It’s not simply there, but undescribed by TKD. It’s not there at all.

Yes, you can find examples where it was sort of done that way, but it doesn’t prove what you are seeking to make it prove. It’s like being in a room and having someone turn on a lightbulb and you assume it must be morning, because the rising Sun causes the room to go from darkness to light, and it doesn’t occur to you that maybe some other thing is causing the effect that you are noticing.

You can always imply The Topic We Are All Talking About is the unstated subject or object of a sentence. You can’t always assume that the sentence preceding the current sentence is The Topic That We Are All Talking About. You can’t always assume that an unstated subject or object of a sentence definitely is nothing other than the sentence that was uttered just before this new sentence.

Is there something else I could possibly say to make this clearer? It’s not ungrammatical. It’s just not as clear or generally useful as certain persons would perhaps like it to be. Wanting it to be that way doesn’t make it that way.

It’s not banned. You can do it. You probably shouldn’t do it very often, because it can easily be confusing. You will have gone through the process of expressing an idea without perhaps going back and looking at the result to see if it actually succeeds in expressing what you intended for it to express.

You will quite naturally come up with this kind of expression in specific contexts and it will work fine. You just can’t assume that it’s a general rule that will always work for you. Making that assumption would be hideous.

That’s my objection. Making the assumption that this is a generally useful construction that skips past the problem of not having a Sentence As Subject grammatical construction is a mistake.


It’s not that I haven’t noticed any canon that could be interpreted this way because it also could be interpreted other ways. In this case, canon proves nothing because you can’t know that an unstated subject or object is consistently representative of the previous sentence and nothing other than the previous sentence the way that you can know that {‘e’} and {net} represent the previous sentence and nothing but the previous sentence.

I apologize for what is likely to be interpreted as tone in this and recent messages. I just get really frustrated when I feel like I’ve explained something and then someone comes up with yet another fragment of misunderstanding what I though I just explained. I’m fine with that the first or second or third time, but by the fifth or sixth time, it’s like this alternate persona shoves me out of the way and takes over the keyboard. I fight to retain control, and I lose the battle. This jerk who says rude stuff takes over. It’s like Jeckle and Hyde. It’s like ST3 when Kruge whips out his disruptor and wastes a perfectly good crewman and then growls, {Ha’DIbaH}.

I don’t admire myself for this. It makes me unpopular. It’s the thing that has repeatedly driven me to take a break and leave the list for extended periods in order to stop being this confrontational person that I really am not in any other context. The passion is inexplicable, and counterproductive.

jIja’egh: yItlhuH neH. nuHlIj yIpepHa’. QemDaq nuH yIcheghmoH.

I respect the work you’ve put into this, and I don’t think that this practice is ungrammatical. I just think it’s not something that one can generally rely on because the implied pronouns of verb prefixes can represent a wide spectrum of entities that reach far beyond the previous sentence, and if you assume that your listener or reader will know exactly what that pronoun represents, you might be wrong. You might be misled into believing that it is obvious, when in fact it isn’t.

That’s why it doesn’t work as a generalized rule. You don’t have control over the scope of what the implied pronoun represents to your listener/reader the way you do in SAO.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Mar 27, 2019, at 1:43 PM, nIqolay Q <niqolay0 at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 1:07 PM Will Martin <willmartin2 at mac.com <mailto:willmartin2 at mac.com>> wrote: 
> I mean, if you can just imagine a pronoun that can act as subject of the second sentence and represent the first sentence, why not just imagine a pronoun acting as object of the second sentence that represents the first sentence? Poof! No need for {‘e’} or {net}. Any sentence can just be invisibly represented by any unstated pronoun acting as subject or object in the following sentence.
> You can already do that. For example, 
> TKD: vIta'pu'be'. I didn't do it.
> There's also this dialogue from ST6:
> https://www.kli.org/tlhIngan-Hol/2006/May/msg00201.html <https://www.kli.org/tlhIngan-Hol/2006/May/msg00201.html>
> Chang:   narghta'?  narghta'.
>              ([They have] Escaped.)
> Grokh:   qay'be'. Daq SovlaHbe'taH qIrq.
>              (Kirk cannot know the location of the peace conference.)
>              {It does not matter ... Kirk cannot know the location.}
> Chang:   DaSovbej'a'?  bISuDrup'a'?
>              (Are you sure? Will you take that chance?)
>              {Are you sure [of that]? ... Are you willing to take that
>               chance?}
> DaSovbej'a' has an unstated pronoun as object, referring to Grokh's sentence. (Grokh's sentence also uses qay'be', with an unstated subject referring to Chang's earlier statement that Kirk and Spock had escaped.) Leaving out 'e' might cause confusion if there's something else in the context that might also work as a third-person subject, and the two sentences may feel less connected into a single thought, but it's not the end of the world if you leave it out.
> So, I repeat, it is not ungrammatical. It is merely hideous. You can’t rely on your reader/listener to consistently realize, “OH, I GET IT. THAT UNSTATED SUBJECT OF THE SECOND VERB REPRESTENTS THE ENTIRE PREVIOUS SENTENCE. WHAT A GREAT IDEA? WHY DIDN’T OKRAND THINK OF THAT?
> He did think of that, at least four times. I mentioned them in my earlier posts. I assume the reason he did not spell this out formally is because he didn't think he needed to explain to his audience how to use "it".
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