tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Dec 14 10:55:42 1999

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Re: Topic or emphasis?

This topic is a bit confusing and it has been argued before. I 
hope we can at best achieve some new clarity, greater than was 
achieved before, or have this discussion kept brief. What I 
don't want is to have yet another extended argument full of 
passion and disrespect, accomplishing nothing.

On Mon, 13 Dec 1999 14:55:37 -0500 David Trimboli 
<> wrote:

> jIjatlh:
> > > Adding {-'e'} does more than just add emphasis.  It indicates that the
> noun
> > > is the topic of the sentence.  I agree that {-'e'} doesn't belong on the
> > > {jIH} here, but not for reasons of overkill.

I went back to look in TKD about {-'e'} and see that, in my 
opinion, it has among the worst descriptions or examples in the 
entire book:

This suffix emphasizes that the noun to which it is attached is 
the topic of the sentence. In English, this is frequently 
accomplished by stressing the noun (saying it emphatically) or 
by special syntactic constructions.

lujpu' jIH'e' - I, and only I, have failed. It is I who has 

De''e' vItlhapnISpu' -- I neeeded to get the INFORMATION. It was 
the information (and not something else) that I  needed.

Without the {-'e'} these same sentences would have no noun 
singled out for empahsis:

lujpu' jIH -- I have failed.
De' vItlhapnISpu' -- I needed to get the information.

For further use of {-'e'} see section 6.3.

There is evidence that this was written very early in the 
development of the language. The example {lujpu' jIH} doesn't 
really fit anything described elsewhere in the grammar. He 
speaks of how in English, we show this through speaking 
emphatically in speech. Well, when we do that, we are generally 
indicating emphasis and not topic. That's why we call it 
"emphatic" speech and not "topical" speech. Okrand is very vague 
about the difference between topic and emphasis here and 
evidence is that at different times, {-'e'} is used to do one or 
the other. I distinctly remember Okrand verbally confirming this 
at one of the qep'a'mey, but my memories are not clear enough 
for me to claim authority here. I wish I could better site the 
event and the details.

The reference to 6.3 has to do with the verb "to be".

Another brief reference is given in the Addendum in 6.7:

The adverbial may actually follow the object noun (but still 
precede the verb) when the object noun is topicalized by means 
of the noun suffix {-'e'} (see Section 3.3.5.).

HaqwI''e' DaH yISam -- Find the SURGEON now!

My memory is far from perfect, but I believe that years ago, 
Nick and Holtej wrote extensively about the difference between 
emphasis and topic. English doesn't really have a topic 
indicator and the idea of it is far from normal for us, but this 
last example would probably be better translated:

As for the surgeon, find him now!

Evidence is that what is really going on here is one of the 
extremely few instances that Okrand gives us to fit his 
otherwise cryptic 6.1 reference:

"Any noun in the sentence indicating something other than 
subject or object comes first, before the object noun. Sch nouns 
usually end in a Type 5 noun suffix (section 3.3.5)."

I'd argue that in this case, {Haq'e'} is a noun appearing not as 
the direct object, but instead as the topic of the sentence. 
Since it is obviously third person and the prefix indicates a 
third person direct object, we assume that {Haq'e'} is the 
direct object, but I'd argue that I could just as easily say:

Haq'e' chIch muDuQta'!

I'd argue that this is even MORE correct, if what I'm indicating 
is that the surgeon is the TOPIC of the sentence. If I merely 
wanted to emphasize the surgeon and not make him topic of the 
sentence, I'd say:

chIch muDuQta' Haq'e'!

This is the difference between saying, "As for the SURGEON, he 
intentionally stabbed me!" and saying, "The SURGEON 
intentionally stabbed me! The difference in meaning is subtle in 
English because we don't really have any clear topicalizing 
grammatical construction. Since the whole topic of 
topicalization is somewhat alien to us, we vaguely mash it over 
into the same category as simple emphasis, but in other 
languages, the two concepts are more distinct. Okrand apparently 
has allowed the two topics to mash together in Klingon with 
{-'e'}. Others have argued this in the past and I believed them. 
I still do.

See my point here? If a word really is the topic of the 
sentence, that function is its grammatical function. Being the 
topic alone gives it a grammatical place in the sentence 
structure. It has a Type 5 noun suffix, and like a locative, it 
goes at the beginning of the sentence. Meanwhile, if you merely 
want to emphasize a noun that has some other grammatical 
function in the sentence, placing {-'e'} on it will do that for 
you, but this is not the same thing as declaring that the topic 
of the sentence.

This is the difference between the following two examples:

Haq'e' DaH yISam!

DaH Haq'e' yISam!

I honestly believe that in the first example, it is not that the 
adverb (DaH) was moved for some mysterious reason to position 
following the direct object. I think that {DaH} is in its normal 
position. The direct object is merely implied in the verb prefix 
and is not explicitly stated. Given Klingon's lack of revulsion 
to repeated nouns, I think it would be as valid to say:

Haq'e' DaH Haq yISam!

In fact, to go to an extreme, it would be okay to say:

Haq'e' DaH Haq'e' yISam!

The first {Haq'e'} is functioning as the topic of the sentence. 
The second {Haq'e'} is functioning as an emphasized direct 

> jatlh charghwI':
> > This has been a controversial point, and in conversations with
> > Okrand he has admitted that he has used {-'e'} as an emphatic as
> > much as a true "topicalizer".  In fact, he has done so more
> > often than he has used it as a real topicalizer.
> >
> > He describes, for example, the use of {-'e'} on a direct object
> > causing it to preceed the adverbial, with the justification
> > being that it is the topic of the sentence. Meanwhile, that's
> > not how it appears quite often. Certainly, that is not how it is
> > used to mark the head noun of a relative clause and it is not
> > how it is used to mark the subject of the verb "to be". It is
> > also not how it has tended to be used in canon.
> I do not think that {-'e'} being used to fulfill a special grammatical
> function interferes with its role when not being used in one of those
> functions.  I certainly agree that when {-'e'} is being used as a "head noun
> marker" or a "to be marker" it does not necessarily indicate topic.

In fact, it is not even emphasized in any emotional sense. It is 
an indicator of grammatical focus in the Krankor rule to point 
out head noun in a relative clause. It is simply an arbitrary 
marker in the "to be" construction with nothing relating to 
either emphasis, focus or topic.
> But none of that is happening here.  When one tries to indicate that {jIH}
> the subject is the topic of the sentence, one should add {-'e'} to it.  {puq
> vIlegh jIH'e'} "*I* am the one who saw the boy (not someone else)." 

I'd argue that what you are talking about is emphasis or focus 
and not topic. There is a meaningful difference between saying, 
"*I* (and not someone else) saw the child," and saying, "As for 
me, I saw the child." In the latter case, I am the topic of the 
sentence. And what does the topic do? The topic saw the child 
(as opposed to doing something else). The topic is so core to 
the meaning of the sentence that you being with the topic and 
then consider what else is going on in the sentence.

I turn to my Oxford Concise Dictionary. "topic": "Theme for 
discussion, subject of conversation or discourse." Compare that 
to "emphasis": "Stress laid on word(s) to indicate special 
meaning or importance; vigour or intensity of expression, 
feeling, action, etc.; importance assigned to fact, idea, 

As others have argued, for the most part, Okrand uses {-'e'} for 
focus or emphasis with a few examples of it as topic. He does 
not, in his explanations, recognize any difference between these 

> When
> one tries to emphasize the same pronoun in the same sentence, but is NOT
> making the point that that pronoun is the topic, then {-'e'} should not be
> used.  {yaS'e' vIlegh jIH} "[Oh yeah?  Well,] *I* saw the OFFICER."
> If you want to use {-'e'} simply as an emphatic as Okrand does, knock
> yourself out.  But be aware that you are marking the noun as the topic of
> the sentence.

Meanwhile, near the end of the interview I had with Okrand, he 
said that usage is more important than description or 
definition. I believe that it is better to view the usage and 
use that to polish the understanding of the description than to 
cling too fixedly to the description, especially when the 
description is this vague and flawed.
> Can we perhaps see some examples of {-'e'} which are NOT assisting special
> contructions, but which also clearly do not indicate topic?  I'd be more
> inclined to believe that such a sentence has a non-topicalized emphasis if I
> could see some examples.
I hope the examples I suggested above would actually be more 
useful, but I'm sure voragh can come up with something in canon 
that shows emphasis and not topic. I haven't really seen Okrand 
use {-'e'} all that much, except for "to be" constructions and a 
small minority of relative clauses.
> jIjatlh:
> > > This is what I believe is meant to be conveyed, in English:
> > >
> > > General 1: I have armies on two planets.
> > > General 2: *I* have armies on *THREE* planets!
> jatlh charghwI':
> > Simply having the {jIH} explicit takes care of the emphasis on
> > *I*.
> Yes, it does.  No argument there.  As I indicated elsewhere in my previous
> post, I agree that the {-'e'} was inappropriate, but not for reasons of
> overkill.  My objection is that "I" is not the topic of the sentence.
And my arguement is that if {jIH} really was the topic of the 
sentence, it should appear where all other Type 5 marked nouns 
appear, at the very beginning of the sentence. It would not 
matter if it were the subject of the sentence. It would still 
appear in apposition at the beginning of the sentence. I'll 
argue that ALL instances of {-'e'} added to nouns which are not 
at the beginning of the sentence, or in "to be" sentences or 
marking head nouns in relative clauses are indicating emphasis 
and not topic.

If you've never considered this before, consider it now before 
steaming ahead based upon previous beliefs. It really does make 
sense. Why else would {-'e'} be Type 5? And like a locative or 
purpose-marked noun or indirect object, there can be only one 
topic. Established as topic, it doesn't need another grammatical 
function in the sentence, so it doesn't have to go after the 
verb if it is an appositive for the subject. It can stand on its 
own at the beginning of the sentence.

> jIjatlh:
> > > Both "I" and "three" are emphasized, and rightly so.  But the TOPIC of
> the
> > > sentence is the fact that I have three planets, instead of just two.

"The fact that I have three planets, instead of just two" is not 
a topic. It is an emphasis. If THREE were topic, then the rest 
of the sentence would exist to tell you something about the 
topic. So, what about that three? What is happening with that 
three? I have soldiers on them. You don't begin with the idea of 
having soldiers somewhere and THREE is the number of planets the 
soldiers are on. That's not topic. That's emphasis.

> > > However, Klingon has no grammatical tool to topicalize the number in
> this
> > > case.  (Neither does English, as far as I can think of off the top of my
> > > head!)  It would be clear in speech; your voice would indicate the
> emphasis
> > > and topic you're looking for.

You use the words "emphasis and topic" together, showing what I 
believe is an honest confusion about the difference between 
these concepts.
> jatlh charghwI':
> > The difference between topic and emphasis is vague enough that
> > it has caused more than one heated argument here.
> Perhaps so, but surely you can see the difference between mere emphasis and
> topic in these examples!
I could if they actually referred to topic. I don't think you 
actually use the concept of topic in any of your examples.
> jIjatlh:
> > > And *I'd* prefer to say:
> > >
> > > Sa' wa': cha' yuQDaq mangghommey vIghaj.
> > > Sa' cha': *wej* yuQDaq mangghommey vIghaj jIH.
> jatlh charghwI':
> > Are you are indicating verbal emphasis here? If so, that works
> > for me.
> Exactly.
Well, it works for me indicating emphasis, not topic.
> SuStel
> Stardate 99950.3


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