tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Feb 26 10:57:02 2002

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Re: agentive -wI'

I know these posts are somewhat out of order, but I did it to make my post 
flow better.  Will, if you think that by rearranging, I've made it seem like 
you're saying something you didn't intend, please post a correction.


> > You don't use {-wI'} to build new words for things
> > that are not likely to become common terms.
>Who decides which words fit that description.. I'm probably taking this out
>of context and I appologise if I am but are you saying I can't use [bejwI']
>for watcher (as in the Buffy or Highlander series) and have to use "person
>who watches" instead?

I think Will is wrong here with his 'common terms' argument, so your 
question is really unnecessary.

When Will said the following, it jarred me somewhat:

>You don't custom make nominalized verbs with {-wI'}, unless you are being
>humorous or poetic. For the most part, you use {-wI'} to build that which 
>intended to become a common element of vocabulary, not a custom made 

This seems an awfully authoritative stance, especially as all on the list 
agree that there is only one authoritative source for tlhIngan Hol.  But 
what really bothered me was that natural languages don't work this way, at 
least none that I speak.  The agentive suffix (or prefix, or infix, or 
whatever) tends to be extremely productive; it is, in fact often used to 
create custom made words.  Finnish has two separate suffixes for this 
purposes, one for people and one for things.  Both are extremely productive. 
  I remember when I learned the difference - I used the one for people and 
the person I was talking to corrected me - she didn't correct the concept, 
merely the suffix.  I had created a word that I had never before seen or 
heard, a custom-made word that I did not intend would become part of the 
common vocabulary - and the native speaker had no problem with me doing 
that.  Now, I know that tlhIngan Hol is not Finnish, but the agentive suffix 
is extremely productive in natural languages, and tlhIngan Hol is supposed 
to mimic a natural language.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is:  tlhIngan Hol is supposed to act 
like a natural language.  Without Okrandian canon to the contrary, we should 
assume that it follows the basic pattern of natural languages, which is that 
the agentive suffix (or whatever mechanism) should be quite productive, and 
not just used to create new 'common terms'.  (I welcome examples of natural 
languages in which the agentive mechanism is not, in fact, very productive.)

I thought the next part of his argument had much more merit:

>Nouns named as verbs with {-wI'} are crisp, brief and to the point. You 
>supposed to have to stop and figure them out.

Now, this is how natural languages work.  Unless you're being humorous or 
poetic, words formed with the agentive tend to be relatively simple.  Later 
(in another post), he also said:

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


>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 
>is just supposed to be a simple noun. This is the REASON you can't put 
>on nominalized verbs with {-wI'}. If you want a clause, use {-bogh}. If you
>want a simple noun, use {-wI'}.

This argument I also like.  This seems to me to be the real difference here.

This part bothered me:

>It's not just a matter of rules. It is a matter of purpose. There is a 
>that Relative Clauses exist, and there is a reason that nominalized verbs 
>{-wI'} exist, and those reasons are fundamentally different, and if people
>stopped trying to use one tool for the other purpose, we'd have much better
>formed Klingon text around than we do now.

Speaking so forcefully of purpose knocks me out of the fiction of tlhIngan 
Hol, and forces me to think of it as an artificial language.  Of course, it 
is, but as I said above, it was intended to feel like a natural language, 
and I think it's more fun to treat it as one when discussing it 
linguistically.  Now, in a natural language, rules are formulated from the 
way people use it.  They are not based on whatever the analyst thinks the 
purpose behind the development of that feature was.  Someone on this list 
mentioned that he/she was analysing a fast-disappearing language in China.  
I would assume that you are not trying to guess why, over the course of the 
linguistic evolution of the culture, certian features developed, but are 
instead are concentrating on the way those featuresa are actually used by 
the native speakers.  (I mean, of course, for formulating rules - guessing 
the origin of linguistic features can be fun and instructive for its own 

>I think this whole trend of building new, incidental, unnecessary words to
>replace Relative Clauses is misguided.

This seems to be one of Will's main themes.  He loves {-bogh}.  I like it, 
too, although it's rather limited and requires a lot of circumlocution for 
anything beyond a simple concept.  I'm trying to get used to the idea of 
using three or four sentences to express a single idea (i.e., what would be 
a relatively simple sentence in English) in tlhIngan Hol, but I still don't 
like it very much.  I'd love to have some relative pronouns to use as well.  
Ah, well, can't have everything.  And it's nearly certain that as I become 
used to certain features of tlhIngan Hol, I'll be able to recast better; 
right now, my recasting of English sentences is geared toward Romance 
languages and/or Finnish; with more practice, I'm sure I'll get better at 
directing recasts to tlhIngan Hol.

I should probably mention my own position on the basic issue of this thread: 
I don't like the idea of putting prefixes on a {-wI'} noun, although 
suffixes are okay, although you wouldn't want too many (per Okrand's advice 
about suffixes on verbs in TKD).


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