[tlhIngan Hol] vech

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Sun Jun 20 19:00:37 PDT 2021

On 6/20/2021 9:19 PM, Will Martin wrote:
> This weirdness about objects with {-moH} has always bothered me. I 
> mean, if Klingon is simply loose with what objects are, then why to we 
> bother talking about the prefix trick when we say something like {chab 
> HInob}? If objects are so loose, why even call it a trick? It’s just 
> yet another loose object. It doesn’t deserve having a specific term to 
> describe it or rules about it’s use. The only special thing about it 
> is that it was revealed to us before all the looseness with {-moH}.

It's called the "prefix trick" because /I/ called it that. I coined the 
phrase. I did so scornfully, because it seemed to me that the rule was 
created as a lame excuse for errors by Okrand in which he just 
translated English without thinking, and didn't consider the very 
straightforward rule that the verb prefix must agree with the object.

In fact, I still think Okrand was covering for sloppy, Englishy 
translations, but I also think this new information was something more: 
a sign that Okrand was thinking more carefully about the grammar of 
Klingon, and deepening it in response, deepening it beyond the simple 
"an object is an object is an object" structure it had at first. Klingon 
clearly had need of more complicated predicates, as was being 
demonstrated to him by KLI members who kept questioning his sentences 
and expressing frustration with the limitations of Klingon. I think he 
was also being asked to translate more and harder pieces, and he 
discovered that he needed to make Klingon more flexible to do this.

The "looseness" we're talking about is not a property of *-moH.* It's a 
property of Klingon objects. Consider the old sentence, *qaja'pu'*/I 
told you./ What is the object of the sentence? Apparently, it's an 
elided *SoH,* because the prefix *qa-* tells us so. So everyone said 
"The object of *ja'* is the person spoken to." But (a) that doesn't jibe 
with the gloss given in TKD, where the person being spoken to would be 
the /indirect object,/ not the direct object, and (b) we have since seen 
*ja'* take other objects, like *lut.* The solution is simple: the 
"object" of a verb might be a direct object (acted upon) or an indirect 
object (receives the result of the action), depending on how the verb is 

It just so happens that verbs with *-moH* encounter object "looseness" 
more often because verbs with *-moH* add a new entity into the semantics 
of the sentence: the causer. The old entities might still be present, so 
you have to think carefully about what is being acted upon and what is 
receiving the result of the action. But this "looseness" isn't a 
property of *-moH* itself; it's a general property of Klingon sentences 
that /might/ change things up depending on what verb  you're using and 
how you're using it.

I still call it the /prefix trick/ partly to remind myself of my foolish 
days when I thought Klingon sentences were rigid, their syntax and 
semantics invariable, and partly because that's what everybody calls it 
now, and we don't have another phrase for it. But it's not a trick; it's 
just a fact of verb prefixes, that while they must agree with an 
/object,/ they don't necessarily have to agree with a /direct/ object.


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