tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Feb 25 14:29:09 2002

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Re: agentive -wI'

Lawrence writes:

> In response to my remark that the -wI' suffix should be treated like the
> other Type-9 suffix, pagh correctly points out:
> >But two of its fellow Type-9 suffixes *do* operate differently. I believe
> >I am remembering correctly that Okrand has said that verbs with <-ghach>
> >can never take a prefix. The suffix <-meH> is also a bit weird.
> In response I can only suggest out that Okrand has gone out of his way to
> point out these exceptions to us among the Type-9 suffixes, which to my
> mind makes the lack of such commentary on -wI' an indication that it's not
> at all marked or exceptional.

He didn't go out of his way to point out either of these cases until someone 
else made a big deal out of it. There is nothing in TKD marking either {-ghach} 
or {-meH} as different in terms of whether or not you can use prefixes.

We know that {-meH} sometimes DOES use prefixes, though Okrand has not made it 
really clear when it does and when it doesn't. Some argue that verbs with {-
meH} always have a prefix, and I simply disagree. My own generalization about 
this is that {-meH} seems to be able to either be used as part of a whole 
clause which modifies the meaning of the main verb of the sentence, or it can 
be used as a more granular element of vocabulary to modify nouns.

While this seems like an arbitrary split, the simple evidence is that {-meH} is 
usually used to modify verbs in canon, and then there are these special 
vocabulary explanations of things like {ghojmeH taj}.

It is hard to argue that {ghojmeH taj} has a null prefix. Like {-wI'}, this 
seems to be a tool for building common vocabulary, and as such, the verb seems 
to be treated like an infinitive, with no subject or object. The reference is 
merely to the action itself, with no specific entity doing it. This is 
a "learning knife"; a "in-order-to-learn knife". 

All translations of these "verb + meH modifying a noun" examples translate 
poorly into English. Still, the sense is that when a verb with {-meH} modifies 
a noun, for the most part the verb seems to lack any prefix because the usage 
doesn't involve any subjects or objects (similar to nominalized verbs with {-
wI'}), while the use of verbs with {-meH} to modify main clauses seems to be 
the more customized clauses used situationally to describe the action of the 
main verb.

Uses of {-meH} in vocabulary:

ghojmeH taj
pe'meH taj
qa'meH vItlhegh
vutmeH 'un

It would be a bit of a stretch to try to say that any of these have null 
prefixes. I'm sure voragh can pull up examples of canon use of {-meH] to modify 

All I'm really saying here is that there is a difference between the verb 
suffixes that build noun-based vocabulary, and those which apply to the grammar 
at large. One adds meaning to a sentence, while the other adds meaning to a 
noun. When it adds meaning to a noun, it generally doesn't have a prefix. When 
it applies to a verb -- the core of any Klingon sentence -- it generally does 
take a prefix.

Remember that there are three kinds of words in Klingon: Nouns, Verbs and 
chuvmey. There are fundamental differences between nouns and verbs, and this 
seems to be one of them. Use a Type 9 verb suffix to create or modify a noun 
and you don't use a prefix on the verb. Use a Type 9 verb suffix to modify a 
main clause, and you do use a prefix.

The suffixes {-ghach} and {-wI'} never modify main clauses. They are used only 
to create new nouns. The suffix {-meH} is unique in that it is the only verb 
suffix that, when added to a verb, is used to modify either a main clause or a 
noun. When it modifies the noun, it gets no prefix. When it modifies the main 
clause, it does.

This isn't written anywhere. It's not an official rule. It's just the way 
things are. If you look at canon and think about it, you'll recognize that this 
just is the way it is. You can argue about it if you like, but it won't change 
the simple fact that it is this way.

> That is an interpretation, certainly. I'm not insisting that it be
> considered as anything more.

I think it is wrong. I think I'd do you a disservice to say less.

> --
> Will then wades in with:
> >A {baHwI'} is a gunner; a "shooter". He is not a "he, who shootser".
> >
> >Is anybody REALLY making the ludicrous suggestion that you have to change the
> >form of {baHwI'} depending on who you are talking about? Look at the silly
> >result you get:
> >
> >jIbaHwI' jIH.
> >bIbaHwI' SoH.
> I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not making this ludicrous
> suggestion. But then, I think you've missed my point.
> A {baHwI'} is not a "he, who shootser", on this we agree. But I think we
> agree for the wrong reason. I'd reject that translation because it's
> repetative. I think we'd all agree that {baHwI'} could be understood to
> mean "shooter" or "one who shoots" or "he/she who shoots." But it's not
> unreasonable at all (I would contend) to translate the familiar
> baHwI' jIH
> as "I am he who shoots."

I think that would be a really bad translation. {baHwI'} is not a shortened 
relative clause. It is a noun. It is a common element of vocabulary. If at all 
possible, it should be translated as a noun. If there is no noun equivalent in 
English, you can fall back to building a descriptive relative clause, but when 
you do that, you should realize that you recasting in order to give a clearer 
meaning in English. You only have to do this if the English word is missing, so 
you are essentially filling in a gap in vocabulary with a custom-made phrase.

You could tell a long joke or story and say "gunner" throughout, but you'd get 
really tired of saying "he, who shoots" over and over again. {baHwI'} belongs 
in the class of words treated like "gunner" and not among phrases like "he who 

> Does this sound like dialog from a bad cowboy movie? Not surprising. You
> get that sort of thing quite often when moving from a language that uses
> verbs to a language that wants everything to be nouns.

The difference is that {-wI'} is used to build words, not clauses.

> --
> Later, Will adds:
> >You choose a verb plus a limited range of verb suffixes that clearly
> >describe a
> >simple action or state and add {-wI'} to that verb to indicate the thing or
> >person which or who habitually does the action or sustains the state in a way
> >that defines that person or thing well enough that when one person says
> >it, the
> >other person knows what or whom you are talking about.
> I think I'm in agreement here, but with the following additions.
> First, the limitation is presumably merely cultural and reflects the
> Klingon preference for brevity. Just as we know that we *can* in theory
> pile on the suffixes and still be grammatical, we also know that it doesn't
> happen in common usage. That's fine.
> Second, I'd simply slip in the use of prefixes to Will's first line above. ;)

And you'd still be wrong, and I'd still serve you poorly to avoid telling you 

> --
> Still later, Will adds:
> >A verb plus {-wI'} is not a clause. It is a nominalized verb. It is the name
> >for the agent of the action of the verb, or for the entity described by the
> >adjective implied in a stative verb.
> And I'd agree. A verb plus {-wI'} operates in Klingon like a noun. net Sov.
> The confusion of thinking of it as a clause only enters in when we try to
> translate the thing *out* of Klingon. That's a completely different beast.

This is not true. When you try to put a prefix on a verb with {-wI'} you are 
trying to pack a whole clause with a subject and an object into something that 
is just supposed to be a simple noun. This is the REASON you can't put prefixes 
on nominalized verbs with {-wI'}. If you want a clause, use {-bogh}. If you 
want a simple noun, use {-wI'}.

> --
> A bit later Will adds:
> >Would you follow a lemming off a cliff?
> Tsk tsk. Minus two points for unconstructive implications. However, for the
> record I will state that I am not now, nor have I ever been a lemming. Nor
> have I ever walked, jumped, sailed, tripped, or otherwise knowingly
> launched myself off a cliff.

> I suspect that had charghwI' been proofing Will's post, this bit of
> snarkery would have been excised, and I'd have received a replacement
> proverb by private email. I'll assume such a thing is now en route and not
> spend further time on it.

This is why charghwI' and I are barely on speaking terms these days. It just 
hasn't been the same since that mental probe incident. We used to be friends...
> --
> Most amusingly (and presumably not intended to make my point), charghwI'
> responds to my example of a prefix+verb+wI' with the following:
> >nuqjatlh? qayajwI' jIHbe'.
> I hope this doesn't turn out like the word for "armpit" and provide
> circular reference which will later embarass charghwI' (or even, possibly
> his good friend Will). But here we an example of a Grammarian and fluent
> Klingon speaker using this unlikely construction.
> Mwahahahaha

Don't haunt my dreams. charghwI' will find you and get you for this...
> --
> In another post, Will writes:
> >Can we PLEASE get back to the language?
> We never left it. We've been engaged in some discussion of the language.
> Your opinion as to whether or not it's been healthy discussion is another
> matter, but it's been fairly free of rancor or abuse thus far.
> And, you know me, Will. You know that in ten years of such discussions I
> have invariably taken the conservative view. I have always tended to steer
> clear of that "slipperly slope." And yet, here I am, taking what you
> presumably view as an extreme perspective.

Extremely extreme. Zero canon justification. 85 examples to the contrary in the 
vocabulary. Refuse to hear reason to the point that I lose it trying to 
explain. Extreme.

> Rather than simply condemn my position, consider my history on such things
> as well and ask yourself what it is about this issue which puts me where I
> am.

Okay. I'm thoroughly puzzled.
> --
> The whole discussion started (as I remember it) last Saturday night at the
> qepHom. My position then and now was based on the flexibility of concepts
> that Klingon readily allows which don't translate easily into English.
> That's one of the things that I especially like about Klingon, and I've
> commented on it before with respect to the incredible things which can be
> expressed with the -Ha' suffix.

No problem with that.
> It should be noted though that I haven't gone overboard in my use of the
> -Ha' suffix, and I see no reason to do so with regard to using prefixs on
> verbs that have -wI'. But I can imagine situations where that option would
> come in very handy, however infrequent they might be. And as charghwI'
> himself has demonstrated, the meaning would be understood.
charghwI' was taking your spin on grammar and showing just how ugly it can look.
> Lawrence

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