[tlhIngan Hol] {neH} as in "the only"

Steven Boozer sboozer at uchicago.edu
Tue Jul 5 13:57:06 PDT 2022

ghunchu’wI’ had a relevant conversation with Okrand:

(ghunchu'wI', 7/16/2012):  I once ordered {bIQ neH} to drink at a restaurant. Marc Okrand, sitting across the table from me, suggested that I really meant {bIQ mob}.  That would have been proper if I were not having anything else.  As I did intend to order food as well, however, my usage was correct.  I wanted 'mere water' as opposed to “water alone”.

FYI {mob} “be alone” in canon:

Heghlu'DI' mobbe'lu'chugh QaQqu' Hegh wanI'
Death is an experience best shared.  (TKW)

mob qeylIS ngeng HeHDaq yIt
And Kahless was alone walking along the shore (PB)

(Lieven, qepHom 2017, 11/2017):  An odd number is {mI' mob}.  An even number is {mI' mobHa'}.

And don’t forget the adverbial {nIteb} “alone, acting alone, on one's own”:

jagh DajeymeH nIteb yISuvrup
To defeat the enemy, be ready to fight alone. PK

nIteb SuvnIS DevwI'
A leader must stand alone ("A leader must fight alone").TKW

nIteb DujlIj yIchIj
Navigate your vessel alone. TKW

nIteb Qob qaD jup 'e' chaw'be' SuvwI'
A warrior does not let a friend face danger alone. TKW

nIteb peghoS, HatlhDaq peleng
to go their separate ways, and travel the lands. PB

nIteb chegh molor ngIq ghoqwI'
One by one Molor's scouts return PB

jachDI' qa'rol yIwuq | nIteb bIwuqnIS | ngeD Qu'vam
Decide when the {qa'rol} cries, The choice is yours, And it is obvious. PB

nIteb 'atlantIq bIQ'a' chIqbogh 'orwI' wa'DIch mojta'
he became the first pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo (NASM, Spirit of St. Louis)


From: tlhIngan-Hol On Behalf Of De'vID
Sent: Monday, July 4, 2022 4:41 PM

On Mon., Jul. 4, 2022, 14:48 D qunen'oS, <mihkoun at gmail.com<mailto:mihkoun at gmail.com>> wrote:
puq neH ghaH
he is only a child

I think your English translation is misleading.

{neH} after a verb trivialises it. In your sentence, the pronoun is acting as a verb. "He is only a child", in the sense of "He is merely a child", would be {puq ghaH neH}.

{neH} after a noun has a restrictive sense. Consider that {yaS neH} means "only the officer", "the officer alone". {puq neH ghaH} means "He is only a child" in the sense of "He is a child alone", "He is a child (and nothing else)".

Which meaning do you intend by "he is only a child"?

But why can't it mean too "he is the only child", as in "the only child of two parents"?

Because, following a noun, {neH} means "only" in the sense of "only X (and nothing else)", and not "the only X (and there are no other Xs)".

For example, {yaS neH yIHoH} means "kill only the officer" (i.e., there are multiple people, and the order is to kill the one who is an officer, but not the others). It does not mean "kill the only officer". (Of course, if there's a group of people only one of which is an officer, the effect is the same.)

You *can* express the concept of "the only child of two parents" using {neH}: {wa' puq neH lughaj chaH} "they have only the one child", "they have one child alone", "they have one child (and nothing else)".

Similarly, we have the {jonta' neH} for "only the engine". But why can't it mean too "the only engine"?

Because of the meaning of {neH}.

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