tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Dec 14 19:05:11 1999

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Re: Topic or emphasis?

jatlh tlhIngan Hol mu'ghom:
> ***********************************************************
> 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!
> ***********************************************************

jatlh charghwI':
> 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)."

Ooooooh!  Ooooooh oooooh ooooooh!!!!  I LIKE this!  It explains a lot!  (Not
the . . . ahem . . . topic of discussion, but a lot of other things!)

jatlh charghwI':
> 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 have removed your further comments for brevity, but considering them I am
not convinced that {HaqwI''e' chIch muDuQta'} is different in meaning from
{chIch muDuQta' HaqwI''e'}.  It's a very neat theory and I like it, but
obviously one not supported very much by actual evidence.

As an aside, this resembles an idea I had (which was generally rejected by
the list a couple of years ago) in which I described my idea of the "to be"

tera'ngan ghaH yaS'e'.
The officer is a Terran.
As for the officer, he is a Terran.

While TKD clearly calls {yaS} the subject, if we are to believe that usage
is more important than definition (as you suggest), I put it again that this
sentence can be considered to be similar to your {HaqwI''e' chIch muDuQta'}.

The following two sentences would be exactly the same in meaning:

tera'ngan ghaH yaS'e'.
yaS'e' tera'ngan ghaH.

The first follows the rules as they really occur.  The second does precisely
the same thing, putting the noun with the Type 5 suffix at the beginning of
the sentence.  My suggestion is that {X <pronoun> Y'e'} can be considered to
be a sentence and a topic: the sentence is {X <pronoun>} and the topic is
{Y'e'}.  In this case, the sentence is {tera'ngan ghaH}, and the topic is

The reason I had considered this was because there had been much debate over
whether the nouns in a "to be" sentence were subsets of each other, or equal
to each other, etc.  I realized that the {-'e'} topicalizer might still be
acting as a true topicalizer, and not solely performing a grammatical
function without any idea of topic.  This idea was rejected.

jatlh charghwI':
> 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'!

Once more, I'll say that I like this idea: it's clearly laid out and makes
sense.  Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that any evidence really supports
it.  In TKD, Okrand doesn't say that {-'e'} can topicalize or emphasize, he
says that {-'e'} "emphasized that the noun to which it is attached is the
topic of the sentence."  (p.29)  It emphasizes the fact that it is a topic,
it doesn't simply emphasize the noun.  I would say that there are many times
when simply emphasizing the noun DOES make that noun the topic of the
sentence.  I'd also say that Klingon-to-English translations won't always
make the topicalization clear.  As you and TKD have both pointed out,
English doesn't have a grammatical way to indicate topic, thus, the
translations won't necessarily bear that idea clearly.

As I said, I'd like to see some examples in which we can see that the noun
with {-'e'} is clearly not the topic (and not fulfilling a grammatical
function of disambiguation, etc.).

Ooooh!  I'd like to throw in the suggestion that EVERY grammatical function
of {-'e'}, like head-noun identification, etc., indicates topic.  Take an
few examples:

yaS'e' qIpbogh puq vIlegh
I see the officer who hit the child.

As we know from conjunctions, adverbials, and so on, TKD frequently fails to
distinguish between "verbal clause" and "sentence."  (For instance,
"sentence" conjunctions can conjoin phrases with verbs possessing
subordinate clause suffixes.)  Perhaps with {-'e'} disambiguation, one might
consider {yaS} to be the topic of the CLAUSE, not the whole sentence.  "The
officer.  We're talkin' 'bout the officer.  What about the officer?  You
ready to hear about the officer?  Here's what I'm sayin' 'bout the officer:
a child hit him."  It then goes into the main sentence as usual: "I saw the

tera'ngan ghaH yaS'e'
The officer is a Terran.

I've already explained how one might consider the obligitory {-'e'} here to
be a topic.  "The officer.  We're talkin' 'bout the officer.  What about the
officer?  You ready to hear about the officer?  Here's what I'm sayin' 'bout
the officer: he's a Terran."

yaS'e' DaH yISam
Find the OFFICER now!

Even TKD says this one would be indicating topic.  "The officer.  We're
talkin' 'bout the officer.  What about the officer?  You ready to hear about
the officer?  Here's what I'm sayin' 'bout the officer: find him now!"

jatlh charghwI':
> 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.

As Okrand points out in TKD, and as you seem to agree, English does not have
a grammatical way of indicating topic.  Thus, when you see two translations,
"As for the SURGEON, he intentionally stabbed me!" and "The SURGEON
intentionally stabbed me!" how can you say that one indicates a topic and
the other simple emphasis?  I think you cannot base your claims upon the
merits of the chosen translation, as English does not have the proper tools,
as we all agree.

> 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.

I see no conclusive evidence (or even very much evidence at all) that making
a noun the topic makes that its exclusive grammatical function in the
sentence.  As far as I can see, a noun can be both topic and something else,
like subject or object.  I like your original idea above because it DOES
explain {HaqwI''e' DaH yISam}: in this case {HaqwI'} is NOT doing anything
except being a topic.  But that does not mean that {DaH HaqwI''e' yISam}
must mean something else.

Oops!  There's another problem which I just noticed.  Look here:

"The adverbial may actually follow the object noun . . . when the object
noun is topicalized by means of the noun suffix {-'e'}."  This states
explicitly that {HaqwI'} in the example is the object, not some "oblique"
noun.  The object is being topicalized.  You yourself have been saying that
you think {HaqwI''e'} here is being topicalized, and Okrand is saying that
it's the object.

Of course, it's possible that Okrand was trying to avoid talking about
"oblique" nouns, and just kept on calling it the "object."

But hey . . . don't we generally accept that Type 5'd nouns FOLLOW
adverbials?  Or have sentences like {nom HeDaq yIt puq} ("The child walks
down the road quickly") been wrong for all of these years?  If this were
what's going on, wouldn't we STILL expect to see {DaH HaqwI''e' yISam}?

jatlh charghwI':
> 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
> object.

This was a really cool theory, but I don't think it's quite right.  I've
pointed out why above.

> > But none of that is happening here.  When one tries to indicate that
> > the subject is the topic of the sentence, one should add {-'e'} to it.
> > vIlegh jIH'e'} "*I* am the one who saw the boy (not someone else)."

jatlh charghwI':
> 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."

Fine.  I'll translate it differently.  {puq vIlegh jIH'e'}  "I am talking
about me.  I did something.  Want to hear about me?  This is all about me.
Get ready to hear about me.  I'm going to tell you about me.  About me, I
wanted to say: I saw the child."

{puq vIlegh jIH} "I saw the child."

jatlh charghwI':
> 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.


> > 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
> > the sentence.

jatlh charghwI':
> 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.

Well, then, let us view the usage!  To do all of this theorizing, and then
to say what matters most is usage, you need to bring out some examples of
usage!  To theorize in a vacuum is not to analyze usage!

jatlh charghwI':
> 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.

Precisely.  I don't think usage really does deny that {-'e'} indicates

jatlh charghwI':
> 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.

I certainly do like the idea, and it does make sense.  And I am certainly
inclined to accept any sentences I see with {-'e'} nouns hanging out at the
beginning as being topicalized.  But I do NOT see any reason to assume that
a noun with {-'e'} in the subject or object position cannot be the topic.

> >  It would be clear in speech; your voice would indicate the
> > emphasis
> > > > and topic you're looking for.

jatlh charghwI':
> You use the words "emphasis and topic" together, showing what I
> believe is an honest confusion about the difference between
> these concepts.

No, let me rephrase.  "It would be clear in speech: your voice would
indicate the emphasis, and your voice would indicate the topic you're
looking for."

Stardate 99953.2

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