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

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Thu Oct 17 11:43:10 PDT 2019

I think we’re pretty close to being on the same page here.

There was a time when I mistakenly thought that verbs with {-meH} worked one way modifying nouns (as infinitives) and a different way modifying verbs (as dependent clauses), and I was corrected. Canon examples of whole clauses modifying nouns were produced. There weren’t any infinitive-like examples when the {-meH} verb modified the main verb, however. So, that’s been the model I’ve been working with in the intervening years.

And this is why I said that MOST OF THE TIME, nouns modified by a verb with {-meH} had this quasi-infinitive form. I didn’t say always, because there are counterexamples. Still, the majority of examples fit this pattern, so trying to discount this as a valid interpretation of the form is a hard argument to win. It’s pretty clear that the verb with {-meH} usually has no subject when it modifies a noun.

In that model, nouns could be modified by infinitive {-meH} verbs or by {-meH} clauses, but verbs only were modified by {-meH} clauses. Again, my model was incomplete.

So, maybe there is no significance in this split between infinitive {-meH} and {-meH} clauses. Maybe the significant difference is that stative verbs and nouns are alike, and action verbs are different.

A {-meH} clause describes the purpose of an action, but for a stative verb or a noun, maybe as you say, it is more tightly bound to that which it modifies in a way that is more loosely bound to the concept of purpose.

For a noun, it defines the type of noun, setting it apart from the larger class of nouns not bound by the {-meH} verb. The world has many kinds of knives. A to-learn knife is a specific subset, defined by the {-meH} verb. It is defined not so much by an action of someone learning as it is by the infinitive concept of learning. Here, “learn” is an abstract concept. It’s a “learn-knife”, a “to learn knife”, an “in order to learn” knife. The whole reason we’re using {ghojmeH} is to separate out this type of knife from all others.

So, let’s apply this idea to the canon quote I’ve always hated so much: {Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam}.

This day is good. What kind of good is it? There are many kinds of good. This day is in-order-that-one-dies good. I suspect the {-lu’} is optional, and he might have tossed it in so that nobody would be confused, suspecting that he’d put a verb suffix on a noun.

Part of the discussion has already brought up the topic of how close an indefinite subject is to an infinitive. One has no subject. The other has an undetermined subject.

Maybe there was some kind of subtle thing Okrand was trying to do here by including {-lu’}. Maybe it was just whim. Unless he explains the example, and he probably never will, we have to guess.

My point is that while you notice a difference when Okrand applies a {-meH} verb to a stative verb, my interpretation of that difference is that he’s telling us the adverbial quality of that stative verb that sets it apart from other kinds of that state. Days can be good in many kinds of ways, but THIS day is good in the for-the-purpose-that-somebody-dies way. It’s not just generically good. It’s specifically good. It has a peculiar and unique quality of goodness that I’m describing here.

To stretch things back to the concept of purpose, what is the purpose-quality of the goodness that today has? It has a “in order that one dies” purpose-quality of goodness. It may generally stink as far as days go. It might be an otherwise boring day, having no noteworthy generic goodness to it. 

But, by god, when differentiating the specific kind of goodness that has relates to the purpose of somebody dying, today is that kind of good.

Especially if their throat is slit by a running man using a {ghojmeH taj}.

At night.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Oct 17, 2019, at 10:40 AM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
> On 10/16/2019 5:00 PM, Will Martin wrote:
>> 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?”
> I had the same thought, but it kind of falls down when we remember the most prominent example of this phenomenon: Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam. This sentence explicitly mentions its (indefinite) subject, so it is not infinitive.
> However, there's no rule I'm aware of that says purpose-marked verbs modifying nouns have to be infinitive. In fact, we know there is no such rule, since we have qaSuchmeH 'eb opportunity for me to visit you.
> So whether a purpose-marked verb is infinitive or not is not prescribed in the grammar, which is a big reason why I avoid casually declaring anything to be infinitive in Klingon.
> But it's still possible to view purpose clauses as closer-bound to their verbs than other dependent clauses. They are, after all, described as a different class than the other "subordinate" clauses, and they do only appear in front of a verb. It may be that such clauses can be tightly bound to a verb to mean what we're talking about.
> However, they're not always this way. Our first purpose clause modifying a verb is jagh luHoHmeH jagh lunejtaH. Notice that the object of nej comes between nej and the purpose clause. This argues against luHoHmeH lunejtaH being some kind of "verb phrase" that gets treated as a verb the way a noun phrase gets treated as a noun. The purpose clause here really is a separate clause.
> Maybe the "verb phrase" idea is valid when the main verb is a verb of quality but not a verb of action. Who knows? This is why I keep saying we don't really know why qIpmeH Qatlh'a' and Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam mean what they mean. The mechanics of the purpose clause are too unclear for us to be able to explain them; we just have to take them on faith that they work.
> -- 
> SuStel
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