[tlhIngan Hol] nuq'e' / 'Iv'e'

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Fri Nov 20 08:48:53 PST 2020

On 11/20/2020 11:14 AM, André Müller wrote:
> Thanks for the explanation and the other example.
> When I start out from the potential answer *DevwI' ghaH Qugh'e'*, this 
> is a sentence that says something about Kruge. /As for Kruge (whom we 
> have been talking about), he is the leader./ Kruge (TOP) would be the 
> old information, and *DevwI' ghaH* would be the new information. But 
> if I remember right, Uhura wasn't asking about a particular Klingon 
> man, but asked the crowd to identify their leader, or for the leader 
> to step forward. In that situation, a logical answer would be *Qugh 
> ghaH DevwI''e'*. /As for our leader, it/he is Kruge/, acknowledging 
> that the existence of a leader is a known or assumed fact in Uhura's 
> question. Personally, in her place I would have asked *'Iv ghaH 
> DevwI''e'*.

Note that I picked *Qugh* as my favorite I-need-a-Klingon's-name name. I 
haven't seen /Star Trek: Into Darkness,/ and I don't know who the leader 
being asked about there was.

> So while I can accept that the question words just replace the 
> expected noun in the answer, that just shifts the problem to there: 
> They were talking about the assumed leader, not about Kruge / that 
> particular Klingon who I think stepped out of the crowd and took off 
> his helmet. In such a situation, I could imagine Kruge being focussed, 
> but not topicalized. /Oh, KRUGE, just him, he is the leader./
> I think it's similar with the PK sentence about the dish. Wasn't it a 
> human visitor on Kronos, who got served some food, probably points at 
> it and asks what that is? In that case, the old information would be 
> the food (seen or known by both interlocutors), and the new 
> information would be the name of the dish. As for this food, what's 
> it? And the answer would be: *roqegh'Iwchab 'oH Sojvetlh'e'* (or 
> whatever it was in PK). If the answer was *Sojvetlh 'oH 
> roqegh'Iwchab'e'* (implied as an expected answer by the question in 
> PK), then this sounds like the question asked would have intended: 
> /So, Rokeg Blood Pie, you know... which one of these is it?/ Such a 
> dialogue makes only sense to me if the talk was about Rokeg Blood Pie 
> even before the food was served... basically with the waiter picking 
> up the topic from before and saying: /Remember the Rokeg Blood Pie we 
> talked about before? Well, that's that dish over there!/ (pointing to it).
> Maybe I am overanalyzing this, but the only way I can explain it is 
> that sentences of the type /*X 'oH Y'e'*/ are another category and 
> there the *-'e'* does not necessarily mark topic or focus, but just 
> the subject, which in questions then can be either the question word 
> or the old information about which is asked. If that's true, then 
> would *DevwI' ghaH 'Iv'e'* and *'Iv ghaH DevwI''e'* mean exactly the 
> same, and imply the same?
> In this hypothetical case, since their leader is Kruge and Kruge is 
> the only leader, presumably, there would not be a perceived 
> difference. But when asking about cats, then it'd be quite different: 
> *Ha'DIbaHmey bIH vIghro'mey'e'* = /As for cats, they are animals/. A 
> logical and correct thing to say. But: *vIghro'mey bIH Ha'DIbaHmey'e' 
> *= /As for animals, they are cats/. Without context, this wouldn't be 
> right, as there are many kinds of animals. It could only be understood 
> as asking about a particular group of animals (/"_the_ animals"/, 
> perhaps pointed at or talked about before).

I don't think a grammatical topic need necessarily be literally "old 
information." That's a useful descriptor most of the time, when you're 
using a topic about something already established in the sentence, but 
it neglects the case where the topic noun itself introduced the topic.

Consider: you're in an unfamiliar place and you need to pee. You 
approach someone who looks like they belong there and ask them, *nuqDaq 
'oH puchpa''e'?*

Clearly, *puchpa'* is not "old information" in the sense that it is part 
of the previous context. *puchpa''e'* itself establishes the old 
information, and the comment *nuqDaq 'oH* states the new content. The 
"old" information comes about by the speaker essentially saying "Let's 
talk about the bathroom" before asking "Where is it?" (Well, "before" in 
this case actually means "after" in Klingon grammar. It's more like 
/Where is it? The bathroom, I mean./)

So I think maybe you're overanalyzing it. I feel pretty sure that Okrand 
wasn't thinking very hard about the order of pronoun-based sentences, 
especially in the early days. I suspect that *DevwI' ghaH 'Iv'e'* and 
*'Iv ghaH DevwI''e'* are pretty much equivalent.

Regarding your example of cats, I don't see why limiting the 
interpretation of the latter sentence to "the animals" is a problem. I 
think you're mentally adding or removing English articles to Klingon 
words where they don't exist. *Ha'DIbaH* doesn't mean just /the/ animal 
or /an/ animal or animals in general; it means all of those at 
once.*Ha'DIbaH bIH vIghro''e'*/As for cats (in general), they are 
animals (a type); as for the cats (that we're talking about), they are 
animals (a type); as for cats (in general), they are the animals (that 
we're talking about); as for the cats (that we're talking about); they 
are the animals (that we're talking about)./ *vIghro' bIH 
Ha'DIbaH'e'*/As for the animals (the ones we're talking about), they are 
cats (in general); as for the animals (the ones we're talking about), 
they are the cats (the ones we're talking about)./ You've got fewer 
interpretations the latter way (not including science fiction stories 
about all animals being cats in disguise or some such), but those 
interpretations are still valid, and nothing you can do outside of 
providing context can distinguish which interpretation you intend.

I mean, in English, if I say /I want water,/ do I mean water in general, 
or /a water/ (as in a cup or bottle of water) or /some water/ (an 
unspecified quantity of water)? All of them at once, really; the 
distinction isn't important. Sometimes context will give you a reason to 
choose one of those specifically. It's the same with your Klingon 
*vIghro'* and *Ha'DIbaH,* only in Klingon you don't have the choice of 
being more specific, you can only supply context.


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