tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Jul 01 11:38:04 2002

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Re: Headers. Yet again.

>> > Again, he's not saying it can't, just that it hasn't.

>>I really think he's saying it can't BECAUSE it hasn't.

It's always great to have someone put words in my mouth. Tasty.

>>I'm saying maybe it can, but it doesn't.  And that the only way we'll
>>find out about those that do is if Okrand tells us.

All this ignores my repeated observation that grammatical rules are 
descriptive, not prescriptive. If tomorrow, people (in this case, Okrand, 
since he's the only person who creates canon) start talking in ways that 
violate today's grammatical rules, then the rules have to change. The canon 
doesn't have to change to step back within the boundaries of the rules.

The rules do not exist in order to command you what you can or cannot say 
or how you need to say it. The rules exist in order to describe to you as 
best as is possible how someone who speaks the language would construct the 
casting you are attempting when you try to speak Klingon.

The rules are guidelines and the farther you stray from them, the more 
marked your speech becomes and the less it can be said that you are 
speaking Klingon at all. The rules are not like standards for encoding and 
decoding a message using a standardized code.

The point here is that a code may begin and end with the same message, but 
while the message is encoded, it has no meaning. It needs to be decoded 
before it can have meaning. Meanwhile, a code's rules are prescriptive. The 
standardization of the encoding and decoding process is what gives a code 
it's functionality.

Also, if the code changes over time, first the rules have to be changed and 
then all "canon" (encoded messages) from that point forward will change to 
follow the new rules. The rules create the canon and not the other way 

A language is not a code. Translate something into Klingon, and to a 
Klingon speaker, that message has meaning in Klingon. You don't have to 
translate it back into English before it gets meaning.

Also, it is not the case that the rules change and then subsequent canon 
changes to follow the new rules. Instead, the canon changes (like the 
examples with {-Daq} on the head noun of a relative clause, or the odd word 
order with verbs with {-jaj}, or the use of {-moH} on verbs that already 
had direct objects) and then we have to figure out what kind of rule can 
describe this newly discovered grammatical pattern in the language.

This new rule becomes part of the "canon" of grammatical rules and will 
help us write and speak better Klingon until new patterns in canon prompt 
us to review the rules once again.

Is this really all that difficult to grasp? Do people really consider this 
model of the relationship between canon and the rules of grammar to be 
> From charghwI's posts, it sounds like he's a strict descriptivist.  For
> a  strict decriptivist, there's no difference between 'doesn't appear'
> and  'isn't allowed'. 

Yes, there is. "Isn't allowed" is something you say when describing a code, 
not a language. Rather than "is not allowed" I'd much favor, "Is probably 
strange and possibly would not be understood by a Klingon speaker". At 
best, intentionally pushing a grammatical pattern unattested in canon seems 
adolescent, especially if there is no real reason for it.

If you really have something you wish to express (like {'arlogh} before 
that became a word) and there is no way to express it within the patterns 
we've seen in canon, then I see just cause in using strange grammar, so 
long as you admit that it is strange and confess that you simply don't have 
a more conventional way of saying this. Meanwhile, to find a chink in the 
armor of the grammatical rules we've been given and defend it to the death, 
even while there is nothing you wish to actually express in Klingon that 
would require such an odd grammar seems like a very strange way to spend 
your time and political energy.

But we all have the right to make choices and this particular choice is not 
something I care to fight about any more.

> Any deviation from what normally appears is
> considered  highly marked.  If a native speaker used it, other native
> speakers would  understand, but they would also know it broke the
> rules.

Well, they would just know that it sounded weird. There are a lot of 
English speakers who would know that "I is speaking English" sounds wrong, 
even if they are not specifically aware of the "rule" that makes it wrong. 
It is not wrong because it breaks the rules. It is wrong because it sounds 
weird. There is a rule that it breaks, but that rule only exists to help 
beginners and outsiders figure out what is normal. Those who speak the 
language well don't need the rules at all.

It's not that they've internalized the rules. It is that they have learned 
the language that the rules imperfectly attempt to describe. The language 
comes before the rules. Canon is more important than rules because it shows 
us the language instead of just describing it.

Meanwhile, if a new rule can accurately describe what patterns exist in 
canon, that rule is useful to us because we don't speak the language all 
that well yet. We can use all the guidelines we can get, so long as they 
are accurate in describing patterns we see in canon.


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