tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Fri Oct 22 05:52:52 1993
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Double Predicate Whatsits
Discussion has been quite interesting lately. I've learned a bit and
rethought many things. One of the most interesting aspects of Klingon is the
way it brings one to rethink English.
The Double Predicate stuff was particularly interesting, but I think
ultimately not very accurate. To say that you cause students to learn biology
is not significantly different from saying that you teach biology TO
STUDENTS. We do not have two objects to two verbs. Just because causation is
a separate verb in the English translation does not mean that it is a
separate verb in Klingon. It is just a suffix changing the meaning of the
What we have are two objects. One is direct. The other is indirect.
Klingon doesn't really care which is which if you have only one. Meanwhile,
when you have both, it disambiguates things nicely to use -vaD after the
indirect object. In this case it clearly belongs to the students because the
causing to learn is clearly intended for their benefit, which is precisely
what -vaD means.
As for the overuse of -ghach, it illuminates how nouncentric English is.
We will take any verb and turn it into a noun or perfer a noun when a verb
will do. Instead of saying, "Tomorrow, my teacher evaluates me," we say, "I
have a test tomorrow." Instead of saying "We are reorganizing," we say, "We
are going through a reorganization." Instead of asking, "What do you
conclude?" we ask, "What is your conclusion?"
-ghach, -ghach, -ghach! The core of a Klingon sentence is the verb!
Nouns are optional. Part of the English fascination with the verb "to be" is
rooted in this determination to nominalize everything. Our second most
important words in English are adjectives. They barely exist in Klingon. Even
then, they exist as verbs. This is a root level shift of linguistic
perspective, and those who fail to make that shift and complain because
pseudonouns and detailed adjectives are difficult to squeeze out of Klingon
are probably missing the point.
This is not just an alien list of replacement words for English
sentences. It is a linguistic map of an alien perspective. You have to begin
to think verb-centricly. The object of the verb gets a slightly heavier
weight than the subject. You might think the word order suggests that the
object is more important than the verb, but verbs have more kinds of suffixes
and an object is optional, while a verb is required for a Klingon sentence.
Lastly, we get the subject. The focus is on what is done, not who does it.
These are passionately action-centered people. If there is no action,
there is no interest. "Great day, isn't it?" is not really a very good
starting point for making up a Klingon sentence. It's certainly no way to
start a conversation. At least, it is not a very SAFE way to start a