[tlhIngan Hol] Explicit pronouns again

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Mon Oct 12 08:03:55 PDT 2020

This thread already has excellent responses. My intent is to add a slightly different detail. What we’re really talking about here is redundancy.

Redundancy is a normal part of any language. It’s built into the grammar of most languages, any time that you have different words that “agree” grammatically, you have redundancy.

One of the primary functions of redundancy is that it allows you to miss a word or two from a sentence because someone is muttering or there is background noise or your attention had not yet become focused on listening or… whatever. The point is that we don’t always year every syllable of what someone says to us, but we usually can understand them anyway because of the redundancy of syntactic and/or semantic elements in the sentence.

Klingon is spare with redundancy. If there’s a single thing about Klingon that marks it as highly unusual among natural languages, it has less redundancy than most, as evidenced by the commonly omitted plural suffix on nouns whenever there is other grammatical evidence that the noun is plural. Most languages don’t do that.

And so, {HIq vItlhutlh} has only one redundant element. {HIq} is a third person noun and {vI-} points to a third person object, and {HIq} appears in the position of a noun that, without a Type 5 suffix, is expected to be the object of the verb.

So, {HIq} is redundantly identified as the object of the verb by both its position and by the verb prefix.

When we make it {HIq vItlhutlh jIH}, we are merely adding a redundant reference to the subject of the sentence. We didn’t need it to get the meaning, unless someone slammed a door or coughed during {vI-}, but just in case you didn’t hear {jI-}, we have {jIH}. I’m simply making sure you got the message that I drank the alcoholic beverage.

If I make it {HIq vItlhutlh jIH’e’}, I’m not merely making the first person singular subject of the sentence redundantly stated for clarity, I’m pointing out to you that the whole reason I uttered this sentence was to point out that *I* drank the alcoholic beverage. The important element of the sentence is the subject. It’s not just a syntactic redundancy for clarity, it’s a semantic emphasis. {HIq vItlhutlh} and {HIq vItlhutlh jIH} mean the same thing, but {HIq vItlhutlh jIH’e’} means something slightly different.

It’s the same subject. It’s the same object. It’s the same verb, but in terms of meaning, the subject now means something different than it did in the other two versions of the sentence. Now, it’s not merely the person speaking. It is both the person speaking AND it is the focus of the sentence. 

Does that clarify the difference?

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Oct 11, 2020, at 9:45 AM, Luis Chaparro Caballero <luis.chaparro at web.de> wrote:
> Hi, thank you for your quick answer.
> Lieven L. Litaer:
>> Your name seems a bit Spanish, so maybe looking at that language also
>> helps. If I remember correctly, you don't use any pronouns in Spanish
>> ("Aprendo español") but you COULD for emphasis: "Yo aprendo español"
> Yes, I'm from Spain and you are right about the use of personal pronouns in Spanish. I pointed at it when I asked this question in this thread: http://lists.kli.org/pipermail/tlhingan-hol-kli.org/2020-September/015788.html
> But there - at least I interpreted it so - I understood this comparison wasn't right.
> SuStel:
>> HIq vItlhutlh jIH
>> I drink the liquor.
>> In case anyone isn't sure who does the drinking, I make it clear that it's me.
> I'm probably confused, since I'm a beginner and I hope I'm not annoying you with my questions. If so, I'm sorry, maybe that's not the right forum for me. But in the thread I mention above, you told me there is no semantic difference between *yaS vIlegh* and *yaS vIlegh jIH*, so I cannot understand your new example properly. Regarding what you told me in September I would have expected: *HIq vItlhutlh jIH'e'*. Adding only *jIH* without *-'e'* sounds for me similar to that use of Spanish I spoke about in that thread (and Lieven L. Litaer mentions here). In Duolingo we find this example: *jIqet jIH 'ach bIyIt SoH* (translated: "*I* run but *you* walk.")
> Thank you for your patience!
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