[tlhIngan Hol] Objects

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Thu Aug 19 12:00:09 PDT 2021

While I’ve used the language for a lot of years, I will confess to specific bone-headedness in terms of missing some basic concepts. While there were early challenges I worked past, there’s one I’m just starting to realize I think I’ve misunderstood for decades.

It’s harder to change to understand something that you’ve misunderstood than it is to begin to understand something you more simply didn’t understand. It’s like there’s a spreadsheet with a cell for the thing you want to understand. It’s easier to spot an empty cell and fill it than it is to realize that you have corrupt data in a cell that needs replacing.

Okrand explains to us about null prefixes. I’m dimly beginning to suspect that there is also at least one null suffix.

My vague memory of an interview with Okrand more than a decade ago, includes times when I used the word “transitive” and Okrand corrected me to say “takes an object”. This happened repeatedly because I was stupid enough to fail to recognize my stupidity. 

Also, in TKD, it talks about word order as “Object Verb Subject” and uses the word “Object” quite a bit, but I can’t find an instance of him using the term “Direct Object”.

I think I’ve been inserting the idea of a Direct Object into a language that doesn’t distinguish Direct Objects from other kinds of Objects. In other words, Klingon doesn’t have a Direct Object or an Indirect Object. It just has Objects. Some are supplemented in syntactical information by Type 5 suffixes, and some aren’t.

This would explain the “prefix trick” and the {-moH} sentences I have despised for so many years. In other words, a noun might optionally take {-vaD} and have the same meaning in a sentence whether the {-vaD} is present or not. What I’ve been taking as a specific Direct Object might instead more simply be an unspecified kind of object, and what I think of as a Direct Object is more simply an object that perhaps takes a null Type 5 suffix, or more simply, it’s an unspecified type of object that has no possible Type 5 suffix that could be applied to it in the given sentence.

So, in {be’nalwI’ vIghojmoH}, {tlhIngan Hol vIghojmoH}, and {be’nalwI’vaD tlhIngnan Hol vIghojmoH}, {be’nalwI’} is never a Direct Object. It’s just an object, and in the first sentence, the {-vaD} isn’t necessary and is unstated, and the verb prefix doesn’t indicate that it is the Direct Object of the verb. It simply agrees with its status as an Object, not explicitly identified by a Type 5 suffix. In the last sentence, the {-vaD} is present for clarity’s sake.

In other words, {-vaD} is akin to a plural suffix. If you already know the noun is plural, you don’t need a plural suffix. If you know that a noun is a beneficiary, you don’t need {-vaD}. It’s not wrong to explicitly use it, but it’s just not essential. It’s a language, not a computer program. Just because you CAN use a Type 5 suffix doesn’t mean you have to.

Similarly, that also explains why certain verbs don’t require {-Daq} for nouns that obviously have a locative function. Meanwhile, it makes sense that over time, verbs that commonly have locative-nouns as objects might more formally decide when to use the {-Daq} and when to not use the {-Daq} in order to more give more nuance into the nature of the use of the locative with that verb, so you can differentiate whether you are going to a river (destination) or going in a river (route, or vehicle), etc. This kind of nuance doesn’t work for other verbs because location isn’t a core part of the meaning of most verbs.

Of course this idea of more generic Objects also leaves open the following possibilities for which we have no canon, but until such canon appears, this is only unverified conjecture:

tlhIngan Hol’e’ be’nalwI’ vIghojmoH.

tlhIngan Hol’e’ be’nalwI’vaD jIghojmoH.

In that last example, the prefix indicates no object because the Type 5 suffixes already identify nouns that are objects, so there’s no need to redundantly point to them with the prefix.

Also, the “prefix trick” isn’t really even a trick. If I’d understood the optional nature of Type 5 noun suffixes, then the following would already make sense:

chab qanob.

The prefix indicates one object, {SoH}, and positionally, there’s another object {chab}. Context tells you that {SoH} is the beneficiary, so the {-vaD} is wholly unnecessary, and {chab} doesn’t need a Type 5 Suffix to explain its grammatical relationship to the verb.

I’m guessing that SuStel has been trying to explain this to me for years, but I couldn’t begin to understand that which I had misunderstood because it was an unknown unknown, as a former member of the military industrial congressional complex once put it.

Or perhaps more likely, he’s about to explain how I have once again gotten it wrong, and someone will be entertained by the ensuing thread. In any case, it gives one distraction from The State Of The World at the moment, and anything that can do that is worthwhile.


charghwI’ ‘utlh
(ghaH, ghaH, -Daj)

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