tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Mar 09 20:52:43 1994

Back to archive top level

To this year's listing

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]


>From: [email protected] (Amy West)
>Date: Wed, 09 Mar 94 16:31:50 PST

>On Tue  8 Mar 94 23:06, Mark E. Shoulson writes:

>>>But families *can* speak!  Though it may be the eldest who does the
>>>speaking as a representative.  A familiy can also die if all
>>>members die at the same time.  Why should there be no respect for the
>>>family just because they are together as a group instead of

>>You're mixing your arguments here.  On the one hand you grant that you
>> understand (I didn't say agree with) my contention that families are
>> collectives and thus not speaking, sentient things.

>Not quite.  I meant that there is usually a representative speaker,
>but families can still speak together.  You say they have no
>voice, I say they have several voices.

What I meant was that you understand my argument (as you restated it just
now), but still insist that I am somehow lacking in "respect" for families.
The fact that we have different views on the sentience of families aside,
you can surely see that *by my own lights*, using "-lIj" is no disrespect
at all, and moreover, the fact that I hold my opinion is not disrespect to
families, even as I recognize that by *your* lights "-lIj" would be
pejorative and "-lI'" would be proper.  That is to say, *once the judgement
of sentient vs. non-sentient is made*, there is room to say what is being
insulted and what isn't based on the possessive, but the *making that
judgement* is not an act of respect or lack of respect.  That's what I
meant by mixing your arguments; you seemed to understand mine and at the
same time presume your own in saying that I was giving "no respect to

>> But in the same
>> breath you ask why there's no respect for them.  My point is there's no
>> lack of respect in this case, any more than there's lack of respect for
>> a book calling it "paqlIj".  The whole situation doesn't apply to
>> families any more than it applies to a book.

>But a book can't be broken down into individual speaking persons.
>It's not the same thing.

See above; you're arguing about my judgement, I was talking about if the
judgement is already made.

>> Now, to the first point...  Yes, a family can speak or hold opinions
>> *through its spokesman/men*, but that's not the same thing.  When we
>> talk about that in English, we're using the family as metonymy for the
>> *members* (or leadership) of the family.  That's really what it is, a
>> very pedestrian metaphor, just like talking about what Washington
>> "says" about this or that crisis.  Cities don't speak either, but
>> someone associated with the city, or the building when it's the White
>> House that's speaking, can indeed cogitate.  The Klingon Defense Force
>> can issue statements, but that doesn't make it one vast sentient
>> creature.  It makes it an organization, composed of people who are.
>> Would you call the UFP "DIvI'lI'"?  I wouldn't.

>I wouldn't either, but those examples are much larger and more
>abstract.  They also contain other, non-speaking elements.  But a
>family is *only* made up of people, which is why I make the

I'm not sure that a DIvI' necessarily contains nonsentient elements any
more than a family.  Families also have associated paraphernalia, coats of
arms, pets, etc.  Is a family's ancestral home less part of it than the
planets of the yuQjIjQa'?  

>> I could also see a duality for collective nouns: treating them as
>> sentient when the sentence does (i.e. when that metonymy is at work).
>> So "my family is large" would be "tIn qorDu'wIj", but "my family
>> believes the Emperor is a fool" might be "qoH ghaH ta''e' 'e' Har
>> ?qorDu'wI'".  Hmmm, an interesting point I just realized on that last
>> sentence.  In American English, we say "My family believes", with the
>> singular form of the verb (and I did the same in the Klingon).  In
>> British English (I'm led to understand), in many such situations they
>> would "unwrap" the metonymy in the grammar, and say "my family
>> believe", using the plural form of the verb (and the Klingon would have
>> had "luHar").  That is, "family" is recognized as an abbreviation for
>> "the members of my family".  There are at least some cases where the

>The fact that you can say "My family believes" at all implies
>to me that -wI' would be the appropriate suffix.  But appart
>from that, in English, you can consider a family to be an "it",
>(implied when you say "My family believes"), or "them", (implied
>when you say "My family believe").  However, we don't know that
>Klingon has this interchangeability.

Well, we also say "The British Crown insists" and "The White House denies",
but that shouldn't imply that crowns and houses are also sentient.  Those
are instances of metonymy: a reference to something by something it is
associated with (maybe synecdoche, a reference to a part by the whole or
vice-versa).  Giving thought and feeling to abstract groups like families
is another instance.  We say the familes holds a certain viewpoint, but
what we really mean is that the leaders or members do, and/or they've
officially promulgated it as the family's opinion.  Moreover, note your own
distinction of "it" vs. "them".  In English, we don't generally assign
sentience to things we call "it".  "It" is reserved for objects.  It would
sounds very strange to us to see some senteint, sexless alien in a
science-fiction story referred to as "it" all the time.  True, in American
English, we retain the grammatical number even when using metonymy, but
consider this interchange: "What does the Krankor familiy say?  They think
we should attack."  We wouldn't say "It thinks we should attack."  We are
very obviously engaging in metonymy here and we know it; we even go back to
the more accurate pronoun, given a chance.  Now I haven't forgotten, this
isn't English, this is Klingon.  That's why I was just speculating above.
Maybe I am projecting too much of other-language bias into my Klingon;
maybe you're projecting too much Klingons-are-obsessed-with-honoring-
everything-under-the-sun into yours.  Maybe a little of both.  Somehow it
just seems the most sensible course to me that families be non-sentient
when the reference is to the (non-sentient) abstract whole, and not as
metonymy to its members.


>[email protected]


Back to archive top level