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

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Sat Feb 13 00:25:43 PST 2021

TL;DR: You've shown that in other known canon instances of the comparative
(except for {Qam[taH]vIS...}), the context in front applies to the entire
comparative. Your own analysis of your interpretation of the proverb {reH
latlh qabDaq qul tuj law' Hoch tuj puS}, however, differs from your
analysis of the other sentences, and actually applies {latlh qabDaq} only
to the first half. (The only way the fire on someone else's face could be
being compared to things not on that face is if {Hoch} is outside the scope
of {latlh qabDaq}.) You're holding two mutually incompatible beliefs. Your
explanation of the grammar of the other sentences differs from your
explanation of this one, and so a reasonable conclusion is that this
sentence is an exception to the others.

On Fri, 12 Feb 2021 at 19:02, Will Martin <willmartin2 at mac.com> wrote:

> 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.

There's a line in Star Trek V, {qIpmeH Qatlh'a'}, which is supposed to mean
"(Is it) difficult to hit?" According to TKD, {-meH} means "an action is
being done in order to accomplish something, or for the purpose of
accomplishing something". It's difficult to see how a space probe is being
difficult, in order to accomplish being hit. The English sentence provides
a source of insight as to what the Klingon phrase *is intended to mean*,
but not what it actually does mean, at least according to the rules. The
English phrase "for the purpose of" has multiple meanings, only a subset of
which is the Klingon {-meH}. I think something similar is happening here.

> 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.

I don't think we can infer his motivation, and that's not the only possible
one. Another explanation is that the English sentence actually expresses a
superlative concept despite using the comparative, because of the "always".
Something which is "always more X" might just be better expressed as
"always most X". But also, even if it had been his motivation, the sentence
he ended up with seems to apply the locative only to the first half anyway,
as your own analysis below shows.

> 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.

Power Klingon was released in 1993, two years after {QamvIS Hegh qaq law'
torvIS yIn qaq puS} was spoken in Star Trek VI. Now, that sentence may be
an exception, but it shows that it's at least okay to interrupt the
comparative grammatical structure in some (possibly extremely rare) cases.

> 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:
> [...]
> [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”.

Here, I think, is where this breaks down. According to TKD, "The idea of
something being more or greater than something else (comparative) is
expressed by means of a construction which can be represented by the
following formula: A Q {law'} B Q {puS}... To express the superlative, that
something is the most or the greatest of all, the noun {Hoch} 'all' is used
in the B position".

By the rules, the comparative compares something to something else. The
superlative is a special case of this, where it's comparing something to
everything else (or everything else of its class, going by the examples).

If we go by your analysis that {latlh qabDaq} applies to the entire
construction, the only possible meaning is: "on someone else's face: the
fire is hotter than everything else (i.e., everything else on that
someone's face)". That is, maybe there are other fires on that person's
face, or there's a fire and some water, but the fire that we're talking
about is hotter than everything on that face. I don't think that's what the
sentence means, and it's clear neither do you. I think that, in going from
the Klingon {qul tuj law' Hoch tuj puS} to the English "the fire is
hottest" (or vice versa), there is a sleight-of-hand where the meaning has
changed, in the same way as between {qIpmeH Qatlh} and "difficult to hit".
The Klingon and the English are translations of each other, *but they are
not the translations with the right meaning*.

> 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 English only seems close because its meaning has changed from what the
Klingon actually says. If one translates the comparative/superlative
construction to be explicit about the fact that it expresses the "idea of
something being more or greater than something else (most or greatest of
all)", then it would be: "always, the fire is the hottest thing on someone
else's face". Now, this does actually come close to one possible meaning of
"The fire is always hotter on someone else's face", but it's not the one
you're suggesting Okrand intended.

> 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.

I disagree that this is "pretty clearly quite different from Okrand's
offering". Additionally, I think your translation "Always, the fire is
hottest at another person's face" actually *is* this interpretation. The
Klingon sentence from which you translated this, according to your
analysis, restricts the comparison to the things on someone else's face.
(The {Hoch} is within the scope of {latlh qabDaq}.) Your explanation of
what you think the proverb means indicates that you think the fire on
someone else's face *is* being compared to things not on that person's face
({qul} with the location {qabwIjDaq} or {qabmajDaq}, as you suggested
above). But in that case, {Hoch} is including things not in the scope of
{latlh qabDaq}, which implies that {latlh qabDaq} is restricted in scope to
the first half of the comparative.

> 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.]

Exactly! Now apply this same analysis to the proverb (the scope applies to
the entire comparative).

Restricting the comparison to in this galaxy, and among warriors: you are
the most wonderful; you are more wonderful than any other warrior in this
(parallel to)
Restricting the comparison to on someone else's face: the fire is hottest;
the fire is hotter than anything else on someone else's face.

And compare this with your previous analysis of the proverb:

At another person's face: the fire is hottest; the fire is hotter than
everything (including fires on my face or our faces).

Do you see how your analysis of the two sentences are actually different?
You've implicitly reduced the scope of the {latlh qabDaq} to apply only to
the first half of the comparative.

What it looks like to me is that you believe that the scope of {-Daq}
applies to the entire comparative that follows it, but you also believe
that the intended meaning of the proverb is to compare the fire on
someone's face to other things not on that person's face (in particular,
the same fire on other people's faces). These are incompatible beliefs, but
this contradiction isn't apparent to you because the way you've translated
the superlative into English obscures this.

> 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.

But if the above is true, then {latlh qabDaq qul tuj law' Hoch tuj puS}
*cannot* mean "the fire on someone else's face is hottest" in the sense
that you've explained (i.e., there is one fire, and it is hotter on someone
else's face than on my face or our face). That sentence would only have
that meaning if {Hoch} is outside the scope of {latlh qabDaq}.

> 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.

No, you have my motivation backwards. I'm not reasoning from pure logic to
how I think the grammar should work. I'm going in the other direction, from
the presumed meaning of the proverb, to what the grammar must be to produce
that meaning.

Quoting my first comment in this thread about {reH latlh qabDaq qul tuj
law' Hoch tuj puS}:

<This sentence seems to be comparing "the hotness of fire on someone else's
face" with "the hotness of everything (including one's own face)", and not
"the hotness of fire on someone else's face" with "the hotness of
everything on someone else's face". That is, the English translation is not
"The fire is always hotter than anything else on someone else's face", but
is implied to be "The hottest fire is always on someone else's face". The
{latlh qabDaq} seems to apply only to the first half of the comparison (the
{qul} and the first {tuj}).>

Now, we both seem to agree that the proverb is comparing the fire on
someone else's face with things not on that person's face. Whether it's the
same "ONE fire" on the speaker's face, or other fires elsewhere, the point
is that these are outside the scope of {latlh qabDaq}. But in that case,
that sentence *is* evidence that the scope of {latlh qabDaq} is only the
first half of the comparative. I think your own analysis clearly supports
this. It's not about whether this makes sense to me, but whether or not we
can understand the grammar in a way that's internally consistent. It is not
internally consistent to simultaneously hold that the locative cannot apply
to just half of a comparative *and* that the proverb is comparing the fire
on someone else's face to things not on that face. (Something that makes
sense to me may be wrong, but something that isn't internally consistent
definitely cannot be right.)

I actually think that Klingon is inconsistent here, because Dr. Okrand
probably just made a mistake. In the same way that when he was translating
"difficult to hit?", he looked up "in order to" and found {-meH} (which is
the wrong sense of "in order to"), I think when he was translating "the
fire is always hotter/is hottest", he reached for the superlative without
thinking carefully through what TKD says about how it works. In other
words, {reH latlh qabDaq qul tuj law' Hoch tuj puS} means "the fire on
someone's face is hotter than anything else" (by fiat), even though maybe a
strictly conservative application of the known rules doesn't support this.
(But it's also possible that he intended the comparative to be more
flexible than what's described. The {Qam[taH]vIS...} sentence, at least,
suggests that breaking up the comparative sometimes happens, but a
conservative approach would treat this and {reH latlh qabDaq...} as fixed

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