[tlhIngan Hol] Topic

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Mon Mar 4 11:25:59 PST 2019

On 3/4/2019 1:33 PM, Will Martin wrote:
>> On Mar 4, 2019, at 12:54 PM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name 
>> <mailto: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}. 

What about *neH* /only, merely?/ If it's an adverbial, then why does it 
come after a verb or noun? All the other adverbials come before the 
object of the verb. ALL the other adverbials ALWAYS appear before the 
object of the verb. ALWAYS.

Same argument, same flaw. It just /doe//s,/ because Okrand says it does. 
Okrand says *neH* /merely, only/ always comes after the noun or verb it 
modifies, so it just does. Okrand says the subject/topic of a copula 
always has an *-'e'* on it, so it just does.

You want the pattern to be absolute. It isn't. Okrand throws in 
exceptions, quirks, and flexibility all over the place, /specifically/ 
to make the language that much more realistic. You want absolute 
regularity, go learn Lojban.

> 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}.
If pronouns are acting like verbs, and subjects follow verbs, then why 
does Okrand say that the pronoun is the subject? "In the above examples, 
the subjects are pronouns." *(tlhIngan jIH, yaS SoH, puqpu' chaH).* And 
when you add another noun, that noun becomes the subject *(puqpu' chaH 

You are drawing a conclusion about the reason verb suffixes can be put 
on pronouns. I'm not convinced it is correct. I don't think that it's 
simply a matter of "pronoun becomes verb, therefore acts like verb." 
Pronouns can't take verb prefixes. Pronouns don't seem to be able to 
take all verb suffixes.

I think the explanation of why pronouns can take verb suffixes isn't 
"they're acting as verbs"; it's that the pronoun is forming a link with 
the noun, or forming a link between two nouns, and the verb suffix is 
used to describe the nature of that link. *HoD ghaH* /He is//the 
captain/ describes a link of pure identity between him and the captain. 
*HoD ghaHbe'* /He is not the captain/ describes the negation of identity 
between him and the captain. There is no "verbiness" here at all. *HoD 
ghaHmo'* /because he is the captain /says that his identity as captain 
is the cause of something. *HoD ghaH Qugh'e'*/Kruge is the captain/ 
describes a link of pure identity between Kruge and the captain. *HoD 
ghaHtaH Qugh'e'*/Kruge continues to be the captain/ describes the 
ongoing identity of Kruge as the captain. And so on.

It's certainly true that "to be" sentences aren't standard, "basic" 
sentences. The requirement of the topic marker, the apparently fluid 
nature of what is the subject, the fact that he goes out of his way to 
point out that there is no verb "to be" but that pronouns are playing 
that role, all these point to the conclusion that it's not simply that 
pronoun -> verb.

> 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.

I don't need to find a counterexample. That Klingon does not have any 
other type 5 suffixes is not because *-'e'* is weird; it's because the 
meaning of *-'e'* is nicely compatible with subjects and objects.

>>> {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.

Okrand has not ever unambiguously used *-'e'* to refer to a topic in the 
subject or object position. My prior arguments stand. I'm simply saying 
that there IS an area of ambiguity here. It is ambiguous whether a 
"migrated" object pronoun remains an object or become a non-object 
topic. It is ambiguous whether *-'e'* meanings of topic, emphasis, 
and/or focus are strictly separate. It is not ambiguous that *-'e'* has 
more than one of those meanings.

For instance, if I say *HoD leghpu'bogh puq'e' vISov,* can you be 
absolutely sure that *-'e'* is simply a relative clause disambiguator 
(focus)? If I wanted to emphasize *puq,* could I not do so? If I wanted 
to ensure that *puq* was the topic of the sentence, could I not do that?

/I know the child who saw the captain./ (focus of relative clause)
/I know the CHILD (not someone else) who saw the captain./ (emphasis)
/As for the child, I know the one who saw the captain. /(topic)

I'm not guaranteeing that all of these are possible interpretations. I'm 
simply saying that there is ambiguity. I don't think *-'e'* lives in the 
rigid box you're putting it in.

> 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?

No, we have never had an unambiguous case of *-'e'* acting as a topic on 
the subject of a basic sentence.

> 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,

NONONO.**Just being a topic doesn't automatically make it a non-subject 
non-object. The point is that it might be possible for a subject or 
object to also be a topic. We see topic-subjects all the time in 
copulas, but we haven't seen them in basic sentences. We've seen 
emphasis- and focus-subjects on basic sentences, and even on a copula in 
the Morskan dialect. We may have seen topic-objects on "migrated" 
objects, but this is unclear.

>>> 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.

/Topic:/ what the sentence is about.
/Emphasis:/ making the noun more important, exclusive.
/Focus:/ making the noun the center of attention.

The three things have some overlap, which is how I think *-'e'* works.

> 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.

*-'e'* is exceptional in that it appears in more positions than other 
type 5 nouns, yes. *-mo'* as a noun suffix is exceptional because it 
appears so infrequently. /Exceptional/ doesn't mean /breaks the rules./ 
*-'e'* simply has more uses than other type 5 suffixes. Its meaning is 

>>> 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.

*-'e'* is explained in the section called "Type 5: Syntactic markers."

>>> 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.

You need to get past "word order" as the end-all of your grammatical 
map. Type 5 suffixes apply syntactic meaning to nouns regardless of word 
order. *DujDaq* means /in/at/on/by the ship/ no matter where it appears 
in the sentence. The fact that it probably can't appear as subject is a 
side-effect of what verbs mean, not that *-Daq* has a special place in 
the sentence.


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