tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Thu Apr 18 19:46:56 2002

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Re: "indefinite subject" and "passive voice"

>jatlh ghunchu'wI':
>>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 
>I heard someone say that if the object of a sentence habitually comes first
>in a language, then all the verbs must be passive, because logically, the
>subject should come first. The example which was cited was the sentence
>puq legh yaS
>which was translated as "The child is-seen-by the soldier". Now, I know 
>this is wrong and it smacks of circular reasoning (viz. objects can't come
>first in a sentence, but if one does, then the verb must be passive, 
>we all know that objects can't come first in a sentence - obvious rubbish),
>but can anyone - perhaps someone with a knowledge of theoretical 
>- explain why it is so? Why do we read <<legh>> as "sees" instead of

Well, the first thing that popped into my mind was the existence of 
intransitive verbs: {Hem tlhInganpu'} would have to be translated as "is 
been proud by the Klingons", which makes no sense at all.  Or how about 
{Qong torgh} == "Is slept by Torg".  For me, the fact that when there is no 
object, the doer of the action still comes after the verb indicates that the 
verb is not passive.  I suppose you could make the claim that 
jI-/bI-/ma-/Su-/yI-/pe- (the objectless prefixes) are all actually active 
voice prefixes, while the others are passive voice prefixes, but that seems 
like stretching to me.  And you still have to account for the fact that in 
your active voice when there is an explicit subject, it follows the verb.

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