[tlhIngan Hol] law' puS with the -taHvIS and type-9 clauses preceding each element

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Fri Feb 12 09:50:13 PST 2021

I relinquish my status as the Wagnerian Klingon. I have been superseded.

But not to be outdone just yet… Instead of just plowing in, restating what I already have decided is right (always the temptation for so many of us here, including myself), I clear my mind and restart my investigation.

Okrand’s English translation is “The fire is always hotter on someone else’s face.” We should use that as a source of insight as to what the Klingon phrase means.

The first odd thing to note is that the Klingon is a superlative, while the translation is merely a comparative. {qul tuj law’ Hoch tuj puS} means “The fire is hottest”, not “the fire is hotter”. The translation says, “the fire is hotter”.

Why would Okrand do that?

He could have said, in Klingon, perhaps more literally, *reH latlh qabDaq qul tuj law’ qabwIjDaq qul tuj puS.* He could have replaced {-wIj} with {-maj} or some other suffix or otherwise explicitly identified the other faces providing locatives for the other side of the comparison, unless he didn’t want to break up the comparative sentence with a second context-providing locative.

In other words, maybe it’s okay to either expand on the nouns, using noun phrases or relative clauses to represent nouns, or to add context to the entire comparison by preceding the whole comparison with context with dependent clauses or nouns with Type 5 suffixes or other “head of the sentence” stuff, but maybe it’s not okay to interrupt the rigid comparative grammatical structure.

So, we’ve been assuming that it might be okay to have the comparative construction interrupted by context-providing stuff that only applies to the second part of the comparison to set it apart from similar stuff applying to the first half of the comparison. Let’s look at voragh’s impressive collection of canon he looked up of Okrand using it:

< tlhutlhmeH > HIq ngeb qaq law' bIQ qaq puS
Drinking fake ale is better than drinking water. (TKW)

[Nope. No interruption. X Q law’ Y Q puS. {HIq ngeb} is a noun phrase.]

< jonlu'meH > wo'maj pop tIn law' Hoch tIn puS
Our Empire's highest bounty has been placed on his head. (ST5 notes)

[Nope. No interruption. {jonlu’meH} gives us context for the entire comparative. I disagree with the brackets, though. I think {jonlu’meH wo’maj pop} is a noun phrase. That interpretation is more consistent with Okrand’s other examples.]

< noH ghoblu'DI' > yay quv law' Hoch quv puS
In war there is nothing more honorable than victory. (TKW)

[Nope. The dependent clause provides a time stamp for the entire comparison.]

< tlhIngan wo' yuQmey chovlu'chugh > Qo'noS potlh law' Hoch potlh puS
The principal planet of the Klingon Empire, Qo'noS... (S27)

[Nope. It is interesting to see an example of a comparative sentence with a dependent clause applying to it. This extends previous canon in grammatical license, but it still doesn’t interrupt the comparative construction.]

< cha’ DISmo’ > jIH qan law’ SoH qan puS
I'm two years older than you. (Lieven < Okrand, 7/25/2016)

[Nope. Again, we have a dependent clause added before a simple comparative construction.]

< cha’ ’ujmo’ > jIH woch law’ SoH woch puS
I'm two 'ujes taller than you. (Lieven < Okrand, 7/25/2016)

[Nope. Again, we have a dependent clause added before a simple comparative construction.]

< reH latlh qabDaq > qul tuj law' Hoch tuj puS
The fire is always hotter on someone else's face. (PK)

[The most consistent way to interpret this with other canon example is to have the locative apply to the entire comparative, since we don’t have a grammatical justification for applying a locative to a noun. Locatives apply to verbs, and we have no real explanation of how it could work applied to one or both verbs in a comparative. Using other examples as guidelines, we could interpret it as “At another persons face: “The fire is hotter than everything,” which is how a Klingon expresses “The fire is hottest”.

Note that Klingon doesn’t use articles, so there’s no way to distinguish shades of meaning as we do in English between the “definite article” and the “indefinite article” (“a” and “the”), so that makes analysis a little more challenging.

It seems that we have a choice between interpreting it as “Always, the fire is hottest at another person’s face”, which comes really close to Okrand’s offered “The fire is always hotter on someone else’s face.”

The other interpretation is, “The fire on another person’s face is hotter than everything.” This interpretation is pretty clearly quite different from Okrand’s offering, and I wonder why we are still suggesting that this is what he meant.

Note that again, there is no interruption of the X Q law’ Y Q puS structure.]

< qIbDaq SuvwI''e' > SoH Dun law' Hoch Dun puS
You would be the greatest warrior in the galaxy. (ST5)

[Nope. Like the locative in the previous example, there is only one and we’re given no reason to believe that it applies only to the first half of the comparison. We additionally have the topic/focus with {SuvwI’’e’}, but again, that seems to apply to the whole comparison.

We’re not saying, “You are at your most wonderful when you are among the warriors of the galaxy.” We are setting the boundaries of the entire comparison as being the warriors of the galaxy, and then making the usual simple comparison in the form X Q law’ Y Q puS.

It’s not “You, a soldier of the galaxy, are the most wonderful.” That totally misses Okrand’s translation.]

< DujvamDaq tlhIngan nuH tu'lu'bogh > pov law' Hoch pov puS 
  ‘ej [< DujvamDaq 'op SuvwI' tu'lu'bogh > po' law' tlhIngan yo'
   SuvwI' law’ po’ puS 
It [IKC Pagh] has the best weapons and some of the finest warriors
   in the Klingon fleet.  (S7)

That last example is the most complex and interesting, and I think voragh's brackets could be better placed perhaps, thusly:

[<DujvamDaq tlhIngan nuH tu’lu’bogh> pov law’ <Hoch> pov puS] ‘ej [<DujvamDaq ‘op SuvwI’ tu’lu’bogh> po’ law’ <tlhIngan yo’ SuvwI’ law’> po’ puS.]

I used square brackets around each of the two comparisons and <> around each noun equivalent (relative clause or noun phrase). “The Klingon weapons which are found on this ship are the best and some of the soldiers who are found on this ship are more skilled than many of the warriors in the Klingon fleet."

Once again, once you compress the noun phrases and relative clauses down to nouns, the comparative grammatical construction never varies from X Q law’ Y Q puS with {Hoch} replacing X or Y to form the superlative. The thing that canon adds to what TKD told us is that you can have dependent clauses, time stamps, locatives or other Type 5 noun phrases in front of a comparative sentence to provide context for the comparison.

Any further extensions or presumptive interpretations don’t seem to have a lot of traction until Okrand provides some kind of canon to suggest that it gets more flexible than this.

I especially have issues with the idea that stuff at the beginning of the sentence can apply to the first half of the comparison and not the second half, since there is no evidence that one could possibly provide such context exclusively for the second half. The comparative structure is not a logical structure. It’s a grammatical fossil. You can’t monkey with it. It is not two chunks of grammatical stuff. It’s one chunk of grammatical stuff. You can add stuff before it, but you can’t add stuff into the middle, and since you can’t add it to the middle, you can’t apply stuff outside of the noun phrase/relative clause to apply to the first half of the comparison without also applying it to the second half.

In other words, there is no “scope” boundary within the comparative. Any “scope” context applies to the entire comparison. Okrand has never provided us with any mechanism for limiting the scope to the first or second half of the comparison, because all of these grammatical constructions that apply to Klingon clauses apply to the verb, and in a comparative, we invariably repeat the verb. Anything that applies to the first instance of the verb also applies to the second instance of the same verb.

Okrand has not provided any explanation for any grammatical mechanism for assuming otherwise.

Of course, if he does, I will have simply made a mistaken, educated guess. I’m not the authority here. He is.

Our opportunities to discuss these things with him are limited. We have to work with what we know and slowly eek greater detail from him when we can.

I can see how you logically conclude that there could be scope boundaries within the comparative grammar, but there is no evidence that the unique restrictions of this fossilized grammar fall within the valid realm of your logic. It can easily make sense to you and still be wrong.

That’s the still-searing lesson I endured with the dual-object variations on verbs with {-moH}.

charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

> On Feb 11, 2021, at 7:13 PM, De'vID <de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, 11 Feb 2021 at 23:17, Will Martin <willmartin2 at mac.com <mailto:willmartin2 at mac.com>> wrote:
> I guess I don’t get how you claim that your phrasing of “the fire is at its hottest” is more accurately what I’m saying than what I’m actually saying.
> Use another way of phrasing this if you like. What I'm saying is that the explanation of the superlative in TKD says that the formula "A Q {law'} {Hoch} Q {puS}" means that A [= fire] is more Q [= hot] compared to everything (else), i.e., to other things, and not to itself. 
> You're claiming that there is "ONE fire, and the place where it is hottest is at someone else’s face", in your own words, yes? If there is "ONE fire", then we're not comparing different fires, or comparing a fire with something else, right? I've paraphrased this as "the (one) fire is at its hottest" (i.e., in one place rather than anywhere else). Regardless of the phrasing, do you agree with the *idea* that you are talking about one fire, and comparing its hotness in one location to another, rather than comparing a fire to something else?
> Why not suggests that the other example means “You are at your most wonderful,”?
> Did you not understand why I think what you're claiming about the meanings of the two sentences makes them *dis*similar rather than similar? 
> I *did* suggest that, if {latlh qabDaq qul tuj law' Hoch tuj puS} means what you say it means (that there is one fire, and it is hottest on someone else's face), then, indeed, {qIbDaq SuvwI''e' SoH Dun law' Hoch Dun puS} might mean exactly that. Here's what I wrote:
> <It's also possible that {qIbDaq SuvwI''e' SoH Dun law' Hoch Dun puS} could, in some context, mean that the place where you are the most wonderful warrior is in this galaxy (i.e., you wouldn't be as wonderful a warrior in other galaxies as in this one).>
> One way to paraphrase "the place where you are the most wonderful warrior is in this galaxy" would be "you are at your most wonderful as a warrior in this galaxy". So I did, in fact, suggest the thing that you're suggesting I didn't!
> Why not rephrase everything that anyone says who disagrees with you?
> Because I am not rephrasing what you wrote in order to win an argument against you, or to disparage you, but to try to clarify two different meanings of "the fire is hottest". Quoting my previous message, these are:
> <(1) "the fire is hottest among other things" and (2) "the fire is at its hottest (e.g., than at any time or place)".>
> I'm not rephrasing what you wrote to change it to something else. I am just trying to distinguish two different meanings of "the fire is hottest". In the first meaning, the fire is being compared to other things. In the second meaning, the fire is being compared to itself. You insist that there is "ONE fire", correct? And that this fire is the hottest, on someone else's face? In my dialect of English, I would say "the fire is at its hottest on someone else's face" for the second case (in contrast to "the fire is the hottest thing on someone else's face" for the first). I paraphrased what you wrote simply to distinguish between these two meanings. If this is not how you would say it, we'll avoid that language. 
> Do you at least agree that there are two ways of understanding a superlative: (1) by comparing a thing to other things, and (2) by comparing a thing to itself (in another state, such as time or place)?
> I’m saying, “The fire is hottest,” and you don’t get to say that I’m saying, “The fire is at its hottest,” and convincingly pretend that that’s an error on my part for having said something I didn’t say.
> And I'm saying, "the fire is hottest" has two distinct meanings. If no one is allowed to paraphrase what you write when you write something ambiguous, in order to clarify what you mean, then you're simply never going to convince anyone of what you mean. Also, no one is trying to "pretend that's an error on [your] part". I never once suggested you made an error, only that your explanation of the superlative in the {latlh qabDaq} sentence is doing something quite different than what's explained in TKD and in other known canon comparison sentences with {Hoch} in the B position. I even suggested that it's possible that Dr. Okrand either forgot how the construction works, or deliberately ignored the established grammar, or was implicitly extending it, as possibilities that might be compatible with your explanation.
> But fine. Without paraphrasing you, then, let's just say that "the fire is hottest" has two meanings, meaning-(1) and meaning-(2). In meaning-(1), the fire is being compared to other things. In meaning-(2), it is only being compared to itself (there is "ONE fire, and the place where it is hottest is at someone else’s face"). I am saying that, as I understand TKD, meaning-(2) is excluded based on how the comparison construction is explained, and only meaning-(1) is possible. As I understand your interpretation, it's what I have called meaning-(2). If this is not correct, how so? And if it is, do you agree that it is incompatible with a strict reading of TKD? (For emphasis: I am not saying that this is an error on your part. Kahless knows that TKD is full of holes. It could be that you're right, but that using the superlative in this way is just not explained very well.)
> You asked above (sarcastically, it seems) why I didn't suggest that the {qIbDaq SuvwI''e'} sentence means "you are at your most wonderful", but that is exactly what I'm suggesting it might mean if meaning-(2) of the superlative were possible. If you think there is "ONE fire, and the place where it is hottest is at someone else’s face", then why is it not possible that there is one warrior, and the place where he is the most wonderful is in this galaxy? (The way I would say this is that "the warrior is at his most wonderful in this galaxy".)
> Also, how do you interpret the canon sentence {DujvamDaq tlhIngan nuH tu'lu'bogh pov law' Hoch pov puS}? Do you consider it a possible interpretation of this sentence that there is only one weapon, and the place where it is best is on this ship? If not, why not? If so, do you consider all superlatives which fall into the scope of a {-Daq} to be ambiguous in the same way?
> If I don't get to paraphrase you when you write something ambiguous, then you don't get to claim that there is "ONE fire" without justifying it. To me, it's pretty clear that the proverb strongly implies multiple fires. But I might be wrong about this, since its meaning has never clearly been explained. I'm simply trying to understand why you're so confident that it's talking about "ONE fire", when that interpretation appears to extend how the superlative construction is known to work.
> -- 
> De'vID
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