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

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Mon May 13 12:38:02 PDT 2019

On 5/13/2019 2:17 PM, Will Martin wrote:
> 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.

No he doesn't. He says "Any noun in the sentence indicating something 
other than subject or object comes first, before the object noun. Such 
nouns usually end in a Type 5 noun suffix..." He gives us the example 
from /Star Trek V,/ *qIbDaq SuvwI''e' SoH Dun law' Hoch Dun puS.* But he 
otherwise had given us no other indication that we can do this until he 
spoke to qurgh and called it marked.

Now, it's not clear to me that Okrand was specifically talking about 
topic nouns at the front of the sentence, or emphasized subject or 
objects "fronted." He mixes up the concepts of topic and focus in TKD, 
which Lawrence pointed out in an interview with him in /HolQeD./ But 
let's assume he does, indeed, refer to putting otherwise standalone 
topic nouns in front of the sentence along with locatives and ablatives 
and so on. Putting a topic noun there would fit right in with everything 
else, and there's no prohibition against doing it, but we have learned 
that it is marked to do so, so it should generally be avoided.

> 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.

As a matter of fact, it DOES mark the topic of the sentence. *puqpu' 
chaH qama'pu''e'*/as for the prisoners, they are children. As for the 
prisoners/ names the topic of the sentence. The fact that it's a 
required grammatical form doesn't change the fact that it's a topic.

> 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.

I only started pointing it out after Lawrence pointed it out to Okrand. 
I wasn't clear on the distinction myself.

> 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...

No, /focus/ is another word for what we're calling /emphasis./ This is 
different than /topic./

> 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”.

Pronoun-as-to-be sentences are not in an OVS form. They are their own 
special thing, just like the *law'/puS* sentence is its own special thing.

TKD says that in the sentences *tlhIngan jIH, yaS SoH,* and *pa'wIjDaq 
jIHtaH,* the pronouns are the subjects of the sentences. But if you've 
got a third-person noun being linked to another noun, as in *puqpu' chaH 
qama'pu''e', *the noun marked with the topic suffix is the subject.

It's easy to get confused and think of the pronoun as a verb stand-in 
because it has verb suffixes on it. But it's still a pronoun. This is 
not an OVS sentence; the Noun in <Noun Pronoun Topic*'e'*> is not an 
object. The pronoun simply "follows the noun."


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