[tlhIngan Hol] can the object of the {-meH} be the subject of what follows it ?

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Wed Oct 16 14:00:50 PDT 2019


I understand both the confusion and what Okrand is probably doing. I have, myself, been stressed by Okrand making what seems to be a strict definition of how things work, and then stretching that definition in a new direction without explaining it, causing me angst. [Don’t get me started on {-moH}…]

qIpmeH Qatlh’a’?

What’s probably going on here?

I think that we are accustomed to {-meH} used to make a noun PHRASE in examples like {ghojmeH taj} (a “to learn” knife) so that the verb with {-meH} is a kind of infinitive that has no subject. It’s not really a noun CLAUSE. It’s just a noun PHRASE. What kind of knife is it? It’s a “to learn” knife. Anyone who uses it would presumably be learning. It’s even more vague than {-lu’}. We don’t care about who is learning. We’re leaning more toward the general concept of learning. This knife promotes that concept.

When a verb with {-meH} describes the purpose of a verb’s action, we are accustomed to the verb with {-meH} being a dependent CLAUSE, complete with subject and maybe an object.

I think that {QIpmeH qatlh’a’?} is basically {-meH} used as if it were to be used for a noun, but it’s used on a verb, instead. It’s a kind of verb phrase instead of a verb clause. It’s the same kind of infinitive (or near infinitive, since we are so shy about calling this an infinitive). “Is it difficult to hit?”

The subtext is that if it’s not difficult to hit, I’m not going to bother with it. The whole point of hitting it is the difficulty.

Perhaps a better literal translation would be “Is it in-order-to-hit difficult?”

Much like you might consider, “Is it blue difficult?” or “is it tall difficult?” What kind of difficult are we interested in here? We’re interested in the “to hit” difficulty. It’s just describing what kind of difficult the task is. Is it a task difficult in a specific way that I’m interested in, as in the general concept of hitting something? Is it difficult to hit?

Am I making sense here? Does this help at all?

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.




> On Oct 16, 2019, at 3:46 PM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
> 
> On 10/16/2019 3:20 PM, nIqolay Q wrote:
>> On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 9:24 AM SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name <mailto:sustel at trimboli.name>> wrote:
>> Whose purpose it is will be subject to context. In this case, it's the Klingon's purpose because the Klingon is trying to get the Romulan's attention. The subject of the main clause will usually be the one acting toward the purpose, and I can't think of an example where that is not the case, but it's possible someone could construct a sentence that defies this expectation.
>> 
>> Something with a stative verb would work. SaqlaHmeH 'orwI'pu' wovqu' wovmoHwI'mey "The lights are very bright so the pilots can land."
>> (I'm ignoring sentences like qIpmeH Qatlh'a', whose grammar I find to be fairly impenetrable.)
>> 
>> They're not that impenetrable. It seems that Okrand is using the idea of "for the purpose of accomplishing something" in a somewhat different way than the examples in TKD. Those examples use XmeH Y Z to mean "Z does Y, and does so for the purpose/intent of accomplishing X". In later examples like qIpmeH Qatlh'a', it seems to be also used with stative verbs to mean something like "Z has quality Y for/regarding the purposes of accomplishing X".
>> 
>> So qIpmeH Qatlh would be "For the purposes of [one] hitting it, it is difficult" or "As far as hitting it is concerned, it is difficult" or just "It is difficult to hit." Something similar is used with Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam and tlhutlhmeH HIq ngeb qaq law' bIQ qaq puS. They're describing something's usefulness/suitability/quality/etc. towards achieving a purpose, not describing a thing happening to bring about a purpose.
>> 
>> I assume context helps listeners determine whether something like vIqIpmeH Qatlh is intended to mean "For the purposes of me hitting him, he's difficult"/"He's difficult for me to hit" or to mean "He's difficult, for the purpose of me hitting him"/"He's difficult so that I'll hit him."
> I understand how the English means that; I don't see how the Klingon means that. "Z has quality Y for/regarding the purposes of accomplishing X" isn't what the line qIpmeH Qatlh['a'] is saying. It's literally saying something is difficult so that something hits.
> 
> I feel fairly certain that this line came about due to a sloppy translation. Okrand was handed the line Difficult to hit?, which is an adjective + infinitive restricting the scope of the adjective (it's not difficult in general; it's difficult to hit) and mistook it for a verb + infinitive expressing the purpose of the verb. So he constructed a Klingon purpose clause. Being canon now, he would rather just accept the grammar now and move on. That it can be done is clear, but exactly how it means what it's supposed to mean remains inadequately explained.
> 
> -- 
> SuStel
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