tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Dec 11 17:42:29 2007

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

Doq (

Response inline below:

On Dec 10, 2007, at 2:31 PM, Alan Anderson wrote:

> ja' Doq:
>> This idea of somehow indicating that a group can be identified as
>> including a first or second person by using an explicit group noun
>> (third person, since explicit nouns tend to be third person, unless
>> they are proper nouns naming someone who happens to be first or
>> second person) and then using a verb prefix that disagrees with that
>> third person... That's not merely an unusual idea. It's just, well,
>> wrong.
> It's completely wrong if you do consider such nouns to be third
> person. You seem to agree, if only parenthetically, that the "person"
> of a noun can be somewhat dependent on context.  My observation is
> that a verb prefix indicating a first-person subject often seems
> sufficient to get me to accept a regular noun as a first-person
> reference without having to think about it.

I do consider such nouns to be third person. I don't think that's  
limited to my opinion. I think it is simply true. I think the truth  
of it extends beyond opinion, and I have a history of admitting what  
is merely my opinion.

In {maleng QorDu'}, the family is not speaking, so it is not first  
person. The family is not being addressed, so it is not second  
person. That leaves third person.

You wish that using {ma-} implies that whatever is in the subject  
position must be the one speaking, but wishing it to be true doesn't  
make it true. Unless you add {jIH je} to {QorDu'}, there is nothing  
there telling you that a member of the family is talking on behalf of  
the family. If Okrand wanted the {ma-} to be enough, he would have  
had the perfect opportunity to bring that up when he discussed the  
famous prefix trick. He didn't. In fact, he got sufficiently explicit  
about exactly what the prefix trick could do that he rather  
explicitly defined what prefix disagreement CAN'T do, and what you  
are trying to do with it is definitely outside the bounds of what you  
can do with it by everything we've been told about Klingon grammar.

The prefix trick only works on the direct object, not the subject. It  
only works when an explicit 3rd person noun is given as the direct  
object, and a first or second person pronoun is implied by the verb  
prefix, in which case that first or second person is the indirect  
object of the verb.

That's the beginning and the end of all exceptions to the general  
rule of Klingon grammar that the prefix has to agree with the person  
and number of the subject and object. Reinterpreting a noun to be  
first or second person because of the prefix has no justification in  
anything Okrand has told us in any publication or conversation. It  
might be an interesting idea, but it is not Klingon grammar as it has  
been revealed to us. The absolute most positive spin you could put on  
this is, "Gee, wouldn't it be cool if you could do that?" Because you  

>> There's nothing in TKD that says you can do it. There's nothing in
>> canon that says you can do it. So far as I know, Okrand has never
>> suggested that you could do it. Maltz never said you could do it. It
>> just looks like someone grabbed a thread from the fabric of the
>> prefix trick and took off running with it, unravelling the sweater,
>> so to speak.
> You're apparently looking less closely at the original observation
> that it "works" for me, and more at the theoretical discussion of
> exactly why it doesn't get rejected out of hand

Why does it matter if it works for you, if it doesn't work for Okrand?

>> That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. There's no wiggle room
>> here. It crosses the line where wrong is just wrong... unless, of
>> course, Okrand says otherwise, revealing some previously unknown
>> truth.
> My son is taking a philosophy class in college this year, and came up
> with a definition of truth which that makes him very happy: truth is
> that which is not contradicted by reality.
> Okrand's published description of the Klingon language is consistent
> with all nouns being third person, but it doesn't quite address the
> issue raised here.  My internalized grammar rules apparently don't
> *need* typical nouns to be third person, as my mind doesn't seem to
> automatically reject an incoming sentence using one with a first
> person subject prefix.  As I pointed out earlier, though, it fails in
> the other direction.  My mind does balk at such a usage when I'm the
> one about to use it.  It only seems to be a potential tool when I'm
> actively analyzing grammar.  I'm sure it wouldn't even occur to me to
> try it when I'm in full-immersion conversational mode

So why bother defending it? It would be really cool if my car could  
fly. Realizing that it would be cool is not enough to make me tell  
people that my car can fly. "Just because I have not seen it actually  
fly yet does not necessarily imply that it cannot fly."

My car can't fly, and {maleng QorDu'} is not a grammatically correct  
Klingon sentence.

> The "rule of {rom}" governs verb prefix agreement.  We have a
> "natural" interpretation for when they disagree about the object.
> But when they disagree about the subject, there's no guidance outside
> our own individual experience.  Which is stronger, the verb prefix,
> or the explicit subject?  My experience is that the prefix can
> influence how the noun is received and thus satisfy the agreement.
> If others view the subject noun as incontrovertably third person, the
> mismatch makes the sentence nongrammatical to them.  I now think this
> concept is not amenable to debate, and really needs to be tested as a
> matter of primary language acquisition.  Anyone have a preverbal
> Klingon child handy for us to watch over the next few years? :-/

The explanation of that "natural" interpretation of when the person  
of the verb prefix disagrees with the expicit direct object  
explicitly excluded having the prefix disagree with the subject. We  
were not left with no guidelines there. We were told that you can't  
do it.

As for interpreting nouns as potentially first or second person, that  
is the kind of rare feature that, if Klingon had it, Okrand would  
showcase because it contrasts with most human language. That he has  
not mentioned it at all suggests heavily that Klingon grammar doesn't  
go there.

> -- ghunchu'wI'


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