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

nIqolay Q niqolay0 at gmail.com
Tue Oct 15 09:46:15 PDT 2019

On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 11:09 AM Will Martin <willmartin2 at mac.com> wrote:

> Many times, you will encounter {-meH} verbs that modify a noun with no
> subject or object in the phrase. This is as close to an infinitive (like
> “to learn”, which has no subject) as Klingon has. It’s really the only time
> that a verb in a well-formed Klingon sentence has no subject; not even an
> indefinite subject. No subject at all. There are instances where such a
> verb may have a subject and perhaps even an object, but if the verb with
> {-meH} is modifying a noun, it often has neither subject nor object.

I'm not sure it's quite right to say that a {-meH} verb modifying a noun
can have no subject. Apparently it's not common for noun-purpose verbs to
use {-lu'}, but there's still an implied, vague subject: *somebody* is
learning from a {ghojmeH taj}. The subject is an unspecified person or
thing, so there's just the third-person null prefix.

It's similar to how the infinitive "to be" was translated as {taH pagh
taHbe'} (KGT, p. 194):

> There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, of a non-Klingon actor who attempted
> to play the lead in the original Klingon version of Shakespeare's <Hamlet>
> but was shouted off the stage when he began the famous soliloquy by saying,
> {taQ pagh taQbe'} ("To be weird or not to be weird"), rather than the
> correct {taH pagh taHbe'} ("To be or not to be"; literally, "[one]
> continues or [one] does not continue").
The gloss shows there's an implied [one] as the subject of the
pseudo-infinitive {taH}. I assume the reason it's in brackets is because
there's nothing explicit in the sentence marking the subject as indefinite.
(I don't know why there's no {-lu'}, but I'm not going to argue with the
Bard. I would like to ask Maltz about {-lu'} and {-meH} sometime.) This
suggests that simple verbs, when they're used in the places other languages
might use infinitives, are still conceived of as having implied subjects.

(I recall reading a while back somewhere that some languages, including
many Native American ones, don't have infinitive forms, and instead use
other constructions like an unmarked third person form, and I thought "Aha,
that must be where Klingon gets it from.")
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