[tlhIngan Hol] action based language

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Mon Nov 9 06:17:02 PST 2020

On 11/9/2020 8:28 AM, Lieven L. Litaer wrote:
> I am so used to teaching that Klingon is an action-based language, that
> I have forgotten, on what this is based. There are many situations
> expressed with nouns in Terran languages which are expressed using a
> verb in Klingon.
> But where was this stated?
> (I'm not nitpicking, just seriously asking) 

I was just thinking about this on my commute to work this morning. This 
is a thing that is commonly stated by Klingonists, and I think somewhat 
carelessly. It's usually stated that Klingon is "verb-centric." I don't 
think it's something that Okrand has published or said.

It's true that a lot of Klingon sentences are just one word, a verb, 
which doesn't usually happen in English. It's also true that some 
English prepositions can be translated as verbal clauses in Klingon, 
though a lot of them can also be translated as noun phrases. And it's 
also true that English adjectives often turn into Klingon verbs. In 
those ways, Klingon has more reliance on verbs than English does.

I don't think this is a useful way to put it, especially since it's 
often thrown at newbies as if it's an important point that will help 
them understand Klingon better. There aren't as many situations where 
English nouns turn into Klingon verbs as I think the people saying this 
like to believe. To demote the noun to lesser status in Klingon is, I 
think, a mistake. Nouns can dance around at the fronts of sentences 
doing all sorts of interesting things: telling us the time, location, 
target, beneficiary, reason, topic. Every verb is either supporting a 
noun to modify it (acting adjectivally) or forced to conjugate with a 
prefix indicating its object and subject (both nouns or noun phrases). 
There are two verb suffixes that turn verbs into nouns but none that 
turn nouns into verbs. Verbs are nearly always monosyllabic, and 
sometimes have to double-up in meanings, but nouns can take any form and 
be unique. Nouns can modify each other in endless combinations; verbs 
can only modify each other in the clumsy sentence-as-object construction 
or by just using short, one-word sentences in rapid succession.

I don't tell people that Klingon is verb-centric. I focus more on 
strategies of translating prepositions, adjectives, and genitives into 
constructions that exist in Klingon.


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