[tlhIngan Hol] Noun-noun constructions with relative clauses

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Thu Nov 11 07:02:35 PST 2021

On Thu, 11 Nov 2021 at 11:51, Lieven L. Litaer <levinius at gmx.de> wrote:

> Am 09.11.2021 um 18:04 schrieb Will Martin:
> > It’s also strange that it’s forbidden to use a Type 7 suffix on the
> > second verb of a Sentence As Object construction (a ban created by
> > Okrand to cover a time when he forgot to use one)
> IIRC, it was not his fault. I believe that this rule originated in the
> incorrectly translated line {qama'pu' jonta' neH}, which one would have
> instinctly translated as {qama'pu' vIjon vIneHta'} [sic], but as the
> line was used already, Okrand had to adapt the grammar.
> This line also produced the rule that {neH} does not use {'e'}.

Everyone needs to get the story straight. Okrand did not forget to use a
type-7 suffix. The line was not incorrectly translated, but repurposed
(i.e., retconned) after it had already been filmed.

Originally, {qama'pu' jonta' neH} was supposed to mean "I told you, engines
only". They decided to use the filmed scene for a line where Kruge instead
says "I wanted prisoners." Okrand had to retroactively make that sentence
have that meaning, and did so by:
- creating the plural suffix {-pu'} for people (originally a verb suffix
only, intended to indicate past tense, which was also changed to indicate
- making {qama'} mean prisoner (and changing {ma'} to mean "accommodate",
as an inside joke; adding {ja'} to replace the original meaning of {ma'})
- splitting the original word for "engine" into the verb {jon} "capture"
and the suffix {-ta'} (and also make up a new word for engine, {QuQ})
- turning {neH}, which was originally only an adverbial, into a verb
meaning "want" (which is an exception to rule to use {'e'} for SAO)
- inventing Clipped Klingon to explain away the weird grammar

I think this is literally the most consequential sentence in the
development of the Klingon language. When one considers the backstory
behind its creation, then it's obvious that Okrand made the rule forbidding
type 7 suffixes on the second verb of an SAO quite deliberately. He
could've said that a type-7 suffix was dropped in this sentence because
it's in Clipped Klingon, because he had *already* explained away the other
oddities about that sentence that way.

Here is the relevant rule from TKD 6.2.5:
<Note that the verb in [{yaS qIppu' 'e' vIlegh}], {vIlegh} "I see it", is
neutral as to time. The past tense of the translation "(I saw...)" comes
from the verb in the first sentence, {qIppu'} "he/she hit him/her" ({-pu'}
perfective). In complex sentences of this type, the second verb never takes
an aspect suffix (section 4.2.7).>

You can see some traces that {-pu'} was originally meant to indicate past
tense. The idea here seems to be that in a SAO construction, the entire
thing has one tense (now aspect), and it's carried by a marker on the first
verb. That is, in {qama'pu' vIjonta' vIneH}, the entire action of
wanting-to-capture is in the past (or is completed). The rule is similar to
how you don't change the tense of the second verb in the corresponding
English construction: "I wanted to capture prisoners" but not "I want to
captured prisoners". (Since English is SVO and Klingon is OVS, the "second"
verb ends up being the *other* verb.)

Maybe as an English- (or German-) speaker, the translated line would've
made more sense as *{qama'pu' vIjon vIneHta'}, but in any case, the rule
that type-7 suffixes are allowed only on *one* of the verbs (and disallowed
on the other) is perfectly sensible. Okrand himself has forgotten the rule
and has written {DevwI' moj ghawran 'e' wuqta'} (should've been {DevwI'
mojta' ghawran 'e' wuq}) and {patlh luDub 'e' reH lunIDtaH} (should've been
{patlh luDubtaH reH 'e' lunID}, as the {reH} also seems to be misplaced) on
SkyBox cards 25 and 26. But I don't think there's an example of an SAO with
type-7 markers on *both* verbs, which is what I think the spirit of the
rule is intended to disallow.

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