tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Dec 12 05:37:10 2007

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Re: Prefix and noun agreement

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

muja' Doq:

> 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.

I'm not wishing it to be true.  I never explicitly considered it.  It  
already *is* true for me when I encounter it, and I don't have to  
leave "hear" mode and enter "think" mode in order for it to make  
sense.  I wasn't expecting this.  I'm just exploring *why* my mind  
accepts it without complaint.

> ...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.

But I'm not "reinterpreting" it because of the prefix.  I'm  
interpreting it *from the start* as first-person because of the  
prefix.  Note that I'm not thinking "Oh, that's a first-person- 
subject prefix; I must remember to treat a lone noun as first person  
if that's what ends the sentence."  I'm not *thinking* anything in  
particular.  I'm not parsing the sentence.  I am just receiving and  
understanding it, the way I would in any language in which I was fluent.

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

It only matters to me when I'm treating Klingon as a language worth  
studying, rather than as a game with arbitrary and inflexible rules.   
Prescriptive grammar is appropriate for learning and teaching a  
language, but at the moment, and on this one topic, I'm concerned  
with an emergent feature that might be more natural than artificial.

(And I reject as irrelevant the observation that what is natural to  
us says nothing about what is natural for Klingons.  There are no  
Klingons.  To me, that seems less of an argument and more of a  
refusal to consider anything not written as an explicit rule.)

> 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.

Your analogy fails because my car *does* fly.  Or maybe it swims, or  
tunnels.  It somehow gets past what the map tells us is not a  
passable road.  I naturally find that unexpected.  But instead of  
saying "The map is always right, and what I experience is  
impossible," I say "Hmm, that's odd.  I wonder how I got there?"

> 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.

It is this very "can't disagree" feature which I believe compels me  
to interpret a subject noun as first person when the prefix says it  
should be.

> 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.

It is actually not the great contrast with human languages that you  
seem to think it is.  Spanish does it.  So does Italian.  I suspect  
that it works in most languages where the verb conjugation can give  
an explicit "third person plural subject" mark to the sentence.  Are  
there any Latin scholars reading?

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