[tlhIngan Hol] {-'e'} on locatives which don't take {-Daq} and {-'e'} on time stamps

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Fri Aug 28 07:45:27 PDT 2020

On 8/28/2020 9:51 AM, Alan Anderson wrote:
> The {-'e'} suffix does not “emphasize” a noun. It marks it as the topic of a sentence, or draws focus to it. The kind of emphasis you are trying to express here is not done with syntax. It is done through vocal stress or text formatting, as in your first options.

To be fair, TKD does use the word /emphasis/ regarding *-'e',* but it 
does so in its casual layman's way.

*-'e'* appears to have the following roles:


Okrand incorrectly calls this "topic" in section 3.3.5 of TKD. Focus 
means giving exclusivity to a noun: you're saying that the given noun, 
and not some other possible noun, is what you mean. In English we do 
this through vocal stress or certain grammatical constructions. I will 
give the TKD examples (correcting an error along the way):

*jIlujpu' jIH'e'*/I, and only I, have failed. It is I who has failed.
/This is an example of using a couple of different grammatical 
constructions to show the exclusivity of the subject. Of all possible 
subjects who could have failed, I am expressing the idea that only *jIH* 

Compare with *jIlujpu' jIH* /I have failed./ There is no exclusivity 
here. I'm not saying that out of all possible subjects who could have 
failed, only *jIH* has failed. I'm not saying anything about other 
possible subjects. Maybe they failed, maybe they didn't. I haven't said.

(Notice also that expressly stating the *jIH* in this sentence doesn't 
provide focus. The only kind of emphasis explicitly stating a pronoun 
provides is clarity: yep, you heard right, I said *jIH.*)

*De''e' vItlhapnISpu'*/I needed to get the INFORMATION. It was the 
information (and not something else) that I needed.
/Here we have both English expressions: the first stresses the focus 
noun vocally; the second expresses it with a grammatical construction. 
Compare *De' vItlhapnISpu'*/I needed to get the information,/ which 
doesn't make information exclusive: I might have needed to get something 
else too, or maybe not, but this sentence doesn't concern itself with that.

In all canon, I believe we've only ever seen a focus *-'e'* on the 
object or subject of a verb.

Note that it is essentially wrong to translate a focus *-'e'* with /as 
for./ *jIlujpu' jIH'e'* does not mean /As for me, I failed,**/and 
*De''e' vItlhapnISpu'* does not mean /As for the information, I needed it./


Topic means identifying what the sentence is all about. We see topic in 
pronoun-as-to-be sentences. TKD's examples:

*puqpu' chaH qama'pu''e'*/The prisoners are children.
/*pa'DajDaq ghaHtaH la''e'*/The commander is in his quarters./

These, we are told, can also be translated /As for the prisoners, they 
are children; As for the commander, his is in his quarters./ The 
sentences are all about the final word marked with *-'e'.*

It would be incorrect to translate these as /The prisoners, and only the 
prisoners, are children/ and /The commander, and only the commander, is 
in his quarters./

We have also seen what is very likely a topic noun in *qIbDaq SuvwI''e' 
SoH Dun law' Hoch Dun puS.* Clearly, the *SuvwI'pu''e'* doesn't mean 
/warriors and only warriors,/ but it makes better sense as /As for a 
warrior, in the galaxy you are the greatest./ It's possible that *-'e'* 
might be playing a special role of "topic of a comparative/superlative" 
for which we have not been given a rule.

Okrand has said that "fronting" nouns is marked in Klingon, used for 
extra emphasis, and I believe that includes putting *-'e'* nouns at the 
front with no other indication of their grammatical purpose. He says 
doing that all the time would be like speaking in Shakespearean English 
all the time. I liken it to speaking to a child in your exasperated 
parent voice all the time. "I said get in the bathroom and brush your 

It's unclear to me whether *HaqwI''e' DaH yISam*/Find the SURGEON now!/ 
really refers to topic or focus. It would make sense as either. Topic: I 
need the surgeon! Get him! Find the surgeon now! Focus: I need the 
surgeon, not some other officer, now. Given that it's on an object, and 
given the translation showing vocal stress, if I had to guess, I'd guess 


We know that *-'e'* can mark the head noun of a relative clause. In this 
role, it doesn't seem to mean either topic or focus. You might consider 
that the "topic of the relative clause," but rather than confusing the 
issue, just say it marks the head noun of the relative clause. We know 
that the head noun of a relative clause MUST be the object or subject of 
the relative clause's verb.


Where does that leave the idea of using *-'e'* to mark time expressions 
and locative nouns? It leaves us in the usual place of "There's no rule 
against it but no supporting evidence either." It's not completely 
unreasonable to suppose that *DaSjaj'e' jIvumchoH* means /I begin work 
on Monday and only on Monday/ (focus), and it's not completely 
unreasonable to suppose that it means /As for Monday, that's the day I 
begin work/ (topic). It's not completely unreasonable to suppose that 
*naDev'e' ghoqwI' tu'lu'* means /There's a spy here and only here/ 
(focus), and it's not completely unreasonable to suppose that it means 
/As for here, there's a spy here./ It's also not unreasonable to wonder 
whether these things are allowed at all, since we've never once seen 
either of them.

And there you have it. Lots of information, no answers. *De''e' 
DatlhapnISbe'pu' 'e' vItul.*


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