[tlhIngan Hol] {je} "too" with doubly {-bogh}'ed nouns

Will Martin lojmitti7wi7nuv at gmail.com
Thu Jun 2 13:51:51 PDT 2022

On one hand, you are clearly right. On the other hand, the definition of “a complete thought” is exactly as vague as an elementary school kid’s idea of a sentence. It’s like defining an apple as a red thing you can eat. Yes, this is true, but there are red things you can eat that are not apples, and there are apples that are not red, and apples that are not edible. Johnny Appleseed made his living from apples that were inedible. He’s known for apples, but he was actually more of a frontier real estate agent selling otherwise undeveloped land with apple trees on them; less of a folk hero than an entrepreneur during his life. He got folkified later.

The first most universal complete sentence that most English speaking humans understand and eventually utter is, “No.”

It’s not a noun. It’s not a verb. Most sentences need at least a noun or a verb, though there are plenty of exceptions.

One ought to be able to define the minimum skeleton of a sentence and give some rules about how to expand and extend it, but even that task is really challenging, since there are exceptions to most rules you could come up with.

I’d start with suggesting that there are different kinds of sentences with different rules for each. There are statements, questions, and answers. There are also commands, but the boundary between commands and questions gets squishy, since a command is a lot like asking if you will do something, and a question is a lot like a command for an answer. Neither is much of a statement.

There are also utterances primarily intended to get someone’s attention, sometimes a specific someone, or sometimes the general “anybody who can hear this”. Dogs are pretty much limited to this one kind of sentence, though parents do it a lot, as do kids. Dogs understand, “No,” but as close as they come to uttering it is to growl. Then again, whining is somewhere between getting attention and asking a question or requesting something.

For that matter, commands are often whined.

In Klingon, the most common type of sentence is based on a verb, which can be expanded to become a clause by adding nouns or noun phrases, or dependent clauses, or conjoined clauses. Relative clauses are special, since they involve a noun that already has a subject or object role in the main clause. Blah, blah, blah. It gets complicated.

Kids learn languages more often than adults, and they do so without analyzing the grammar to death. They learn by trying to say something and either enjoying communication or adapting to corrections. I wish more adults learned Klingon this way.


charghwI’ ‘utlh
(ghaH, ghaH, -Daj)

> On Jun 2, 2022, at 10:58 AM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
> On 6/2/2022 10:16 AM, Will Martin wrote:
>> In elementary school, I was taught that “A sentence is a group of words representing a complete thought.”
>> Note: That was complete bullshit. The boundaries of a sentence are arbitrary, and depending on the thought, an entire multi-volume book might be required to represent it, or one sentence might convey a bunch of complete thoughts. I mean, what is a complete thought, anyway?
> Here we go again with the effing arbitrary thing again. The boundaries of a sentence are not arbitrary; writers and linguists have been perfecting the ideas and techniques of writing for millennia. I mentioned your ideas about what the word arbitrary means to a bunch of English lit types, and they thought you were nuts.
> "A sentence is a group of words representing a complete thought" is not the full picture, but it isn't complete bullshit, either. It is a good starting point for writing. A complex sentence may represent a complex thought, full of subtlety and conditions, but it's all still tied together as a unit. A "single thought" may contain multiple distinct concepts.
> You wanna see a complex sentence that is, in fact, a single thought? Here's the first line to The War of the Worlds:
> No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.
> What's the complete thought? It is it is unbelievable that our world could be watched by an intelligence more advanced than ours. It describes the detachment with which we were being watched, when we were being watched, sets up mankind as someone who also watches lesser beings. All of the details are in support of the thought. That's why it's "complete."
> Can writers do a poor job of this? Sure. What you learned in school was not just linguistics; it was a simplified guide to writing good English.
> In Klingon, the situation is rather different. We can't pile on so many clauses and still claim to be writing good Klingon. But if we're translating The War of the Worlds or other texts contemporary with it, when it was popular to build very long sentences in English, we must not only translate ideas, but we must also change the complete thoughts of the English into smaller thoughts in Klingon. And if we wish to preserve the point of the text, we must fine a way to tie those smaller Klingon thoughts together in ways that go beyond simple translation. I've had a go at translating this line into Klingon, and while I can translate individual concepts into Klingon sentences, making sure they all tie together to mean the same thing as the original is quite a different undertaking.
> Good Klingon is structured very differently than good English. That doesn't make structure arbitrary; it makes it language-specific.
> -- 
> SuStel
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