tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Apr 15 10:25:39 2002

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What makes a 'real' language?

>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>might THINK they can translate that sentence using {-lu'}, but they'd be 

Right, but you get the same meaning across with {Qorwagh'e' ghor Qanqor}.  
That is, you can put the emphasis specifically on the window.  (or am I 
mistaken?)  (Although, I suppose if this were the conclusion of a mystery 
novel, the emphasis would actually be on the doer: The window was broken 
by...Krankor! / {Qorwagh ghor...Qanqor'e'!})

Even though we sometimes have to circumlocute a lot, we can say anything in 
tlhIngan Hol that we can say in other languages.  This is what makes it an 
actual language, as opposed to Klingonaase or Richard Adams's Lapine.  Some 
languages seem primitive to us because the plural of 'dog' is 'dog dog' 
(some Polynesian languages) or because there number system consists of 'one, 
two, many' (at least one language of the Amazon basin), but all the same 
concepts can be expressed.  (Although I hope I'd never have to specify 
high-order numbers in the example number system, it could be done if it were 
important that more specifity than 'many' be expressed.)  We may be lacking 
a bit of vocabulary, but so were the Pacific islanders when European ships 
first came across them (lacking vocabulary for many of the things Europeans 
used, that is - that had all the vocabulary they needed for their own 

Ignoring the lack of vocabulary, I can express any thought in tlhIngan Hol 
that I can express in English; I can create a grammatical structure that 
expresses the same thought, even if I have to substitute the English word 
for the missing vocab (or simply circumlocute).  (Well, theoretically I can; 
my actual skill at this is not yet at great as I'd like.)  Does it bother me 
that I can't say: 'The better of the two men won the contest', that instead 
I have to say: 'There were two men.  The first man was better than the 
second man.  The first man won the contest.'?  Well, sometimes it offends my 
sense of efficiency, but I can still express that thought.

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