[tlhIngan Hol] Noun marked with {-'e'} at the beginning of the sentence

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Mon May 13 11:17:41 PDT 2019

Okay, great things have come from this discussion exploring the use of the Type 5 noun suffix {-‘e’}.

For those relatively new to the language (if there are any here, anymore), hoping to summarize/review for the sake of clarity without upsetting anyone who thinks I’ve gotten it wrong yet again:

In TKD, Marc Okrand describes the use of {-‘e’} placed on a noun at the beginning of a sentence as making the noun the “topic” of the sentence. 

Elsewhere in TKD, it is also used on the noun in the subject position of a “to be” sentence, using a pronoun as the verb. This is not to be misinterpreted as marking that noun as the topic of the sentence. It is a separate grammatical function of the suffix {-‘e’}. {tlhIngan ghaH HoDvetlh’e’.} “That captain is a Klingon." The captain is not the topic of the sentence. It’s just the X in the grammatical construction “X is Y.” It’s a convention. Don’t try to apply outside grammatical rules to it. Just accept that this is how this is done.

In early years of the language, SuStel pointed out that in Okrand’s examples, he rarely marked the topic with {-‘e’}, but instead used {-‘e’} for emphasis or focus. He and I argued about this, and I was stubborn at the time, but more recently have noticed, that, gee, he was right. I was wrong. My bad.

It’s optionally used to mark the head noun of a relative clause, to clarify cases where the verb with {-bogh} has both a subject and an object. Note that this usage has nothing to do with being a topic. It’s just marking one of the nouns as noteworthy because it has a grammatical function both within the relative clause and also externally to the main clause the relative clause is a part of. You don’t use {-‘e’} if the relative clause has only a subject or only an object, and you don’t have to use it in any case where the head noun is obvious from context, or where the ambiguity is useful to the meaning of the sentence (or where, perhaps, you don’t mind being misunderstood).

So, the primary example Okrand gives us in TKD for {-‘e’} used as the topic of the sentence is in practice perhaps the most rare in actual use. You can recognize it because you’ll note that there is a noun at the beginning of the sentence with {-‘e’} on it that has no grammatical reason for being in the sentence without the {-‘e’}. It’s the topic, and nothing but the topic. It’s not the subject. It’s not the object. It stands apart from the {OVS} grammatical structure of the sentence, preceding it. It’s the topic because that’s all it is. It gives you a context for the rest of the sentence. You are being directed to narrow your context of ideas for the following sentence to include only the topic stated.

… or maybe SuStel called that “focus”. I get confused. Anyway...

The secondary example is similarly separate from all other uses. In a “to be” sentence, (dialects aside) it marks the noun used in the “S” position of “OVS” where “V” is a pronoun functioning as the English verb “to be”.

Any other place you see {-‘e’} used on a noun, the grammatical function of the noun is derived from its position in the sentence according to normal rules of grammar. The addition of the {-‘e’} calls your attention to that noun, either for clarity, pointing out the head noun in a relative clause, or for emphasis.

It’s a relatively unique affix because it is used for different grammatical purposes in different contexts. This can be confusing, for a beginner, but the point is, the variety of functions is limited, and those functions are consistent in their form.

I hope this helps.

It’s a thin hope, but I hope it, all the same.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On May 13, 2019, at 12:53 PM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
> On 5/13/2019 12:41 PM, mayqel qunen'oS wrote:
>> Again, sorry for my ignorance of grammar terms, but can you please explain the difference between "marked" "emphasized" and "topicalized" ?
> Marked means the wording is noticeably odd in some way. Emphasis means you are drawing attention or importance to a term. Topic means you're telling what the sentence is all about.
> Klingon -'e' serves as a topic marker in pronoun-as-to-be sentences. It serves as an emphasis marker when placed on the subject or object of a basic sentence or dependent clause. It serves as a marker of the head noun of a relative clause. And it serves as the marker of a topic noun standing on its own, but this usage is said by Okrand to be marked — using it this way seems odd to native speakers.
> -- 
> SuStel
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