tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Dec 10 15:35:35 2007

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Re: Prefix and noun agreement (was: usage of type-7 aspect suffix {-pu})

Alan Anderson ( [KLI Member] [Hol po'wI']

ja'pu' lay'tel SIvten:
> The whole discussion seems to hinge on whether ordinary nouns,
> especially animate nouns, have person as an inherent category.  I
> don't think they do, so using e.g. {tlhIngan} as the subject of a verb
> with a prefix indicating a first or second person subject makes good
> sense to me.  It's also done in Spanish:  Los mejicanos somos... (We
> Mexicans are ...).

ja' SuStel:
> On the other hand, one might conclude that since {no'} "ancestors"
> refers to a plural noun, *{no'wI' chaH no'lI''e'} must be fine; it  
> makes
> perfect sense. However, it's wrong: the correct sentence is {no'wI'  
> ghaH
> no'lI''e'} "your ancestors are my ancestors," however weird that  
> looks.

There's a significant difference between the prefix agreement issue  
and your plurals example.  You say using {chaH} makes sense because  
{no'} is a plural noun, but that's not true.  It's a singular noun.   
It merely has a plural translation in English.

On the other hand, the prefix agreement thing is purely a Klingon  
idea.  It has nothing to do with how the words get translated.  It  
works (and it does work, if only for a few people) because there's an  
explicit indication of the subject's person before the subject itself  
is given.  That phenomenon does not rely on a meaning carried in any  
other language.

> (This came up on the MUSH the other day.) It doesn't make sense, but
> that's the way it is.

I think it only "doesn't make sense" if you try to translate it  
before reading it.  The Klingon sentence seems perfectly normal and  
unremarkable to me.

> I also don't think nouns are in any person other than third, but  
> that's
> exactly why I *don't* agree with using the wrong suffix. Third person
> subjects and objects get third person-related prefixes (unless they're
> conjoined with a first or second person pronoun).

That parenthetical exception is interesting.  I

> Sometimes it's important to follow nonsensical rules instead of
> rationalizing. If we force the language to accommodate our biases, we
> lose all those wonderful elements that make the language really live.

I'm human, and I'm doomed to rationalizing the decisions that my  
brain makes.  I'm no less surprised than anyone else to find that the  
{maleng qorDu'} example changes from words into ideas in my head  
without running into any barriers.  I don't have a clue where I'd  
have gotten that possibility as a "bias" from other languages.  It  
certainly isn't coming from my experience as a native speaker of  
English.  All I can guess is that the prefix-noun agreement rule is  
somehow so deeply ingrained in my mind that the subject noun gets  
tweaked to match the prefix in order to satisfy it.  I don't think it  
happens to object nouns the same way, likely because the prefix  
hasn't been heard yet.

Hey, now I think I get it: the first thing encountered sets the  
expectation.  If the subject fails to match the prefix, the subject  
is interpreted such that it matches anyway.  If the prefix fails to  
match the object, it's the meaning of the *prefix* which gets  
reinterpreted, and we get the "prefix trick".

But it's still an incoming-only process.  I generally don't use the  
prefix trick, and I certainly won't be trying to create any sentences  
using the "subject trick".

-- ghunchu'wI'

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