[tlhIngan Hol] Relative Clauses vs. Question Words

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Mon Nov 9 09:20:10 PST 2020


Reminded of Relative Clauses by the thread on whether or not Klingon is verb-centric, and reminded that in English, we have Relative Pronouns that are identical to Question Words, these two things united in my study of American Sign Language on the topic of what they call Rhetorical Questions.

Okay, that packs a lot in not enough words.

In ASL, instead of signing, “I am the person who said that Klingon is verb-centric,” I’d sign the question, “Who said that Klingon is verb-centric?” and then I’d raise my eyebrows and pause. I would then smile, return my eyebrows to a normal position and point to myself. They call this a Rhetorical Question because when I ask it, I’m not expecting you to answer. I’m setting you up to expect ME to answer. I would have lowered my eyebrows instead of raising them, if I were actually asking a question I wanted you to answer.

So, in English, we would instead tend to say, “I am the person who said that Klingon is verb-centric,” using the word “who” as a relative pronoun, instead of as a question word, though in other contexts, this is a question word.

In Klingon, we might say {tlhIngan Hol jatlhlu’DI’, wot potlh law’ Hoch potlh puS. jatlhboghpu’ nuv wa'DIch jIH.} That would use the Relative Clause to explain that the first person who said it was me.

I could have gone the ASL way and said, {tlhIngan Hol jatlhlu’DI’, wot potlh law’ Hoch potlh puS. jatlhpu’bogh nuv wa'DIch wa’DIch ghaH ‘Iv’e’? jIH! jIjatlhpu’ jIH’e’!}

The second version rambles on a bit and perhaps carries with it a prick-like sense of self-importance, but it is another way to cast the meaning without the use of the Relative Clause construction. 

Then again, you can always split it out into another sentence. {tlhIngan Hol jatlhlu’DI’, wot potlh law’ Hoch potlh puS. jatlhlu’DI’ nuv wa’DIch. nuvvam jIH.}

Then again, the use of the word {wa’DIch} feels somewhat awkward. Maybe {jatlhpa’ latlhpu’} as a dependent clause would move the meaning from a noun (the first subject to perform the action} to a verb (the first performance of the action).

None of this is important. Just overthinking things, as usual.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

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