tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sun Apr 14 17:07:05 2002

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"indefinite subject" and "passive voice"

>There's no such concept in Klingon grammar.  The verb suffix {-lu'} means
>"indefinite subject" and does NOT indicate "passive voice".  Klingon does
>not have active and passive voices.

ja' "Sean M. Burke" <>:
>So what do you make of TKD p39: "Thus, {vI-}, which normally means "I do
>something to him/her", when in a verb with {lu'}, means "someone/something
>does something to me."

The "backwards" use of pronominal prefixes with {-lu'} doesn't change the
role of object and subject in a sentence.  It's just a feature of how
{-lu'} works, modifying the meaning of the prefix to account for the fact
that none of the prefixes would otherwise be able to deal with a sentence
having no subject.  With {-lu'} on the verb, {vI-} and {Da-} and {wI-} and
{bo-} and {lu-} stop indicating third-person object and start indicating
"zero-person" subject.

The object is still the object.  It does not get promoted to subject of a
"passive voice" sentence.  It can certainly be *translated* that way into
English, but that's not how it's defined in Klingon grammar.

>If it were /simply/ "indefinite subject", {vIlegh} would mean "I, whoever
>the hell I am, see [something]".  But it instead means "I get seen."

Assuming you just left off the {-lu'}, your hypothetical interpretation of
{vIleghlu'} is what would happen if it meant "indefinite object" instead of
"indefinite subject".  We *do* have a tool for that in Klingon, with the
"no object" prefixes:  {jIlegh} "I see [something]".

What {vIleghlu'} *means* is "someone/something sees me".  That idea is
carried well by "I am seen" in English, but it's not a formulaic
transformation from indefinite subject to passive voice.  Passive voice
requires an explicit object, but {-lu'} can work when there is no object
given, or even when there is no object possible:  {quSDaq ba'lu''a'} "Is
this seat taken?"

>What do mean by "[language] has [or doesn't have] active and passive
>voices"?  Maybe we don't mean different things.

English has "active" forms where the subject acts, and "passive" forms
where the subject receives an action.  "Someone hit the table" vs "The
table was hit by someone."  Klingon has no such distinction in voice; both
come out with the table receiving the action as the object of the sentence.

-- ghunchu'wI'

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