tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Jun 24 09:10:30 2002

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Re: yajmeH

>>The only reason the sentences the message Alan wrote earlier contained were
>>wrong is that native English speakers linguists language competency issues
>>interest interview decide intuitively that they're wrong.

qon ghunchu'wI':
>Was that contrived to demonstrate the "wrongness" of a grammatically
>correct but complicated sentence?

Yes. I could be mistaken, but I didn't believe that nested relative clauses 
could ever exceed one level of nesting in English. I have never encountered 
an utterance with a doubly nested relative clause, either in written or 
spoken English. It is my understanding that such things occur freely in other 
languages, like German and French, but in my experience English speakers just 
never use this kind of construction. Some things are "wrong" simply because 
no one ever does them. Compare, "I have had been sick lately," or "You will 
want to be being good." What's wrong with those sentences? Constructions like 
these frequently occur to non-native English speakers who are still learning, 
but it's just not how natives talk. There's a simple native speaker 
convention that you don't compound auxiliary verbs in certain ways, altho we 
could in principle.

>Similar situations occur in Klingon, though the "limit of complexity" is
>probably a lot more subjective.  When I was starting out, even a single
>relative clause would stump me until I worked it out with paper and pencil.
>I would expect the eventual limit to be somewhere around the same 2-3
>nested phrases for a human brain.

The issue I see is that there is a difference between the abilities of 
someone who is in the process of learning Klingon as a second language and 
someone who has already acquired it as a first language. How are you, or I, 
or anyone from our group, to decide when something is too complex? Like you 
said, if I use any relative clause at all, it may impose severe 
comprehension difficulties on many people who read this list. Does that mean 
I shouldn't use them? No, we would prefer that those people study until they 
can deal with them. There are people here who are very skilled indeed, so I 
know that certain arbitrarily complex constructions will not inherently 
impede understanding. It can be rather a matter of how far one's interlocutor 
has progressed in their study of the language. True, one often needs to 
adjust to the environment, as I have had to do recently. But how can you 
(generic you) decide that your current level of comprehension of tlhIngan Hol 
is the same as that of native speakers and therefore sufficient? It's a 
little presumptuous.

>The limit for a hypothetical Klingon
>brain is a completely separate issue, but based on the relative simplicity
>of Klingon grammar and a clear pattern of examples from Okrand, I'd suggest
>that it might be smaller.

What elements of Klingon grammar suggest to you that it is simpler than 
English grammar? Some of my recent analyses have lead me to believe that it 
is actually more complex than English.

Ok, suppose Klingons really were linguistically inferior. Keep in mind that 
if that were the case, their English sentences would reflect these mental 
limitations. What I find hilarious is the number of times Okrand, when given 
the task of translating some English into Klingon, has decided to split one 
English sentence into two Klingon sentences, even in those cases when the 
Klingon was supposed to have come first. We would have to believe that the 
(fictional) Klingon-to-English interpreter rendered two sentences as one, and 
that's even poorer practice than translating one into two.

In general, when you're thinking really hard for some reason, it's natural to 
split things up. "There's a guy who's a friend of mine. He has a sister. She 
was borrowing a car and it broke down. I helped her fix it. That's why I'm 
late." Or if you're so inclined, and you're interlocutor's willing and able 
to listen to it, you may say, "I'm late because I helped my friend's sister 
fix the car she was borrowing." If you were new to English, you'd more 
readily understand the former. But I would hope you could move past that 
limitation at some point.

Andrew Strader

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