tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Apr 15 08:27:09 2002

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Re: "indefinite subject" and "passive voice"

I'll add one thing for the beginners trying to understand the difference 
between the Klingon verb suffix {-lu'} and the English passive voice. 
ghunchu'wI' described a lot about this difference, but the biggest difference 
is that the English passive voice has a way of indicating what the subject 
really is, while the Klingon {-lu'} does not.

In other words in Klingon, I can say {Qorwagh ghorlu'} and I can translate that 
into the English passive-voiced sentence, "The window is broken," but if I 
start out with the English passive voice sentence, "The window was broken by 
Krankor," there is no way to translate that meaning into a Klingon sentence 
using {-lu'}. I can think of ways that people who "encode" English into Klingon 
might THINK they can translate that sentence using {-lu'}, but they'd be wrong.


> jIja'pu':
> >"passivizer"?
> >
> >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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