tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Fri Apr 19 13:08:25 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 sentence.
> 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.

This is a remarkably biased logic. There is no "natural" reason for any 
particular sequence of words to occur in a language. Many languages use 
Subject - Object - Verb as their common word order. Is that passive or active?

In English, helper words can make the word order incredibly variable.
The word order in English is incredibly variable because of helper words.
It is the helper words that make the word order incredibly variable in English.
The word order is made incredibly variable in English by helper words.

What we call the passive voice is little more than yet another helper-word 
trick to allow us to vary the word order even more than we could without it. 
Additionally, it adds the optional ability to fail to mention the subject, 
which is the function Klingon serves with the verb suffix {-lu'}.

> 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 that 
> 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, because 
> we all know that objects can't come first in a sentence - obvious rubbish), 
> but can anyone - perhaps someone with a knowledge of theoretical linguistics 
> - explain why it is so? Why do we read <<legh>> as "sees" instead of 
> "is-seen-by"?

I see "The child is seen by the officer" as a valid translation of {puq legh 
yaS}. Again, it just depends on your choice of helper words to set the word 
order in English however you like.

puq legh yaS.
The officer sees the child.
The child is seen by the officer.

There is no passive voice in Klingon, so both translations work. Expand it a 
little and you'll see what I mean:

Qe'Daq puq legh yaS.

In the restaurant, the child is seen by the officer.
The officer sees the child in the restaurant.
In the restaurant, the officer sees the child.
The officer sees, in the restaurant, the child.
The child is seen by the officer in the restaurant.
The child is seen in the restaurant by the officer.

Does the word order of the translation really matter so long as the proper 
English grammar is used to express the meaning of the original Klingon?

And in case you are tempted to translate it as "The officer in the restaurant 
sees the child [outside the restaurant]," I've come to believe that {legh} is 
one of those directional verbs that would use {Qe'vo'} to express this 
alternative meaning, since seeing is like targeting a weapon that will travel 
from the officer to the child. {Qe'Daq} can express both location and 
destination, but not origin. Only {Qe'vo'} can be an origin.

> Qapla' 'ej Satlho'
> ro'Han


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