tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Fri Jun 25 19:59:16 1993

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Klingon "with", cases, etc.

Randall Holmes:
>For "I'll go with you", how about
>soHDaq jIjaHchoHtaH
>literally, "I am beginning to be continuously where you are"?

While Randall's suggestion above, and similar ones, are clever, it is far more
likely that Klingon has a Comitative suffix that we simply don't know about
yet.  To quote Okrand himself (TKD pp. 26-27),

"These [Type 5] suffixes indicate something about the function of the noun in
the sentence.  As in English, subjects and objects are normally indicated by
the position of the noun or nouns in the sentence. . . .Subjects and objects in
Klingon are  . . . indicated by word order. ... In other instances, English
indicates the function of nouns in a sentence by adding words, particularly
prepositions.  . . . Similarly, in Klingon, nouns which indicate something
other than subject or object usually must have some special indication of what
their function is.  Unlike English, this is accomplished by using suffixes."

Klingon has several case-like noun suffixes that mark, at least roughly, the
role of nouns in sentences.  Thus we have a Dative-Locative -Daq ("to" or
"at"), an Ablative -vo' ("from") and a Benefactive -vaD ("for").  The -mo'
suffix ("due to" or "because of") should probably be treated as a case marker
as well within the system.  In the human languages that most resemble Klingon,
there is often a parallel Comitative suffix that translates roughly as "with"
in the sense of accompaniment or "having."   E.g. Mongolian bayar+tai
(joy+with).  Maybe even an Abessive ("without", as in bayar+gu"i = joy+without,
where u" is the u -dieresis).  Usually an instrumental suffix as well
(translated as "using," or "by means of" or "with", as in "with an ax" =
Mongolian su"x+eer).  Many other such suffixes are possible in Klingon-like
agglutinating languages (like Mongolian, Turkish, Finnish, etc.).

I'm no master of Trek lore, but I have heard that the Star Trek Encyclopedia
overtly draws comparisons between Klingon culture and the Terran Mongolian
culture.  Can anyone confirm this?  If so, it would not be surprising to find
that Okrand modeled the outline of the Klingon language on Mongolian and
similar languages.  The superficial cultural and linguistic resemblances are
striking.  I note also that the Mongolian word for "language" is not Hol but
(using the Klingon orthography) Hel.

I have suggested that we ask Okrand questions like the following:

1.  How do you say "with John" or "with the man," where the meaning involves
accompaniment?  If there is a Comitative suffix, this should flush it out.  If
not, at least we'll find out how to say it.

2.  How do you say "with a sword" or "using a sword"  where the noun is a tool
or means to accomplish something?  This may flush out an Instrumental suffix.
(Of course, in a sentence like "The Klingons opened the door WITH JOHN, using
him as a battering ram." then we might expect an instrumental rather than a
comitative suffix on the word John.)

3.  How do you say "without a ship"?

4.  Okrand informs us (p. 25, 31) that the syntactic Noun Noun construction is
to be read as "possessor-possessed", as in jagh nuH ("enemy's weapon" or "the
weapon of the enemy").  Where the first noun refers to something animate, like
"enemy," the naive concept of possessor and possession makes good sense.  But
another example he gives is nuH pegh ("weapon's secret" or "secret of the
weapon"), where we have more of a "pertaining to" reading.  This kind of thing
is usually done with an overt Genitive ("of" or "pertaining to") suffix in
Klingon-like languages; and in fact the English  's  is a relic of the Germanic
genitive case ending.   The Genitive is often used to indicate possession.
Although Okrand indicates (p. 25) that "To indicate that one noun is the
possessor of another noun (e.g. enemy's weapon), no suffix is used," I suspect
that Klingon might allow an overt Genitive case ending parallel to -Daq, -vo'
and -vaD.  I suggest that we ask.  It might be somewhat archaic or formal.

5.  The Klingon subject and object are usually marked only by their position in
the canonical OVS word order.   In Mongolian, the usual order is SOV, and here
as well no case suffixes are required.  However, there is a case ending,
usually called Accusative, that optionally marks the direct object, e.g.  S
O+acc  V.  In such cases, the presence of the accusative suffix connotes
specificity, and the object in such cases is usually translated with the
English definite article "the".  (Mongolian, like Klingon, has no definite
article as such.)  Another use of the accusative case ending is to mark the
object overtly when the sentence deviates from the normal SOV word order, as in
O+acc   S    V.  In other words, when you deviate from the canonical word order
you need to mark the noun roles more overtly to avoid misunderstandings.  This
may be the case in Klingon as well.  We should ask if there is an optional
accusative case suffix.  (Note that in English, where the canonical word order
is SVO, playing with the word order is easier when one of the nouns is a
case-marked pronoun, as in "John I like."  I.e.  the pronoun "I" is inherently
nominative, so it is interpreted as the subject, and the other noun, here John,
must be interpreted as an object.)

Ken Beesley

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