tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Fri Dec 21 06:30:03 2007

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Apology and continued search

Doq (

I learned Klingon a LONG time ago, and thought I was really good at it  
(particularly, since I had no one to talk to). I stopped using it for  
a long time and got rusty. When I found out about the KLI, I went  
through the archives of the mailing list. The familiarity came back to  
me and I joined, figuring that I, too, could be a Klingon language  

Well, compared to most of the population of Earth, I am, but I have  
experienced a humbling moment. I went back to TKD to read about  
relative clauses instead of relying on what I thought was rock solid  
understanding. What I found in TKD was really disappointing.

Basically, ghunchu'wI' is right that he does speak of the relative  
pronoun "where" in reference to the Klingon relative clause and not as  
part of an explanation of the relative pronouns of English, which  
include "where". He even gives us the specific example "the restaurant  
where we ate". Meanwhile, he gives us no clue as to how to use a  
relative clause that represents the English relative pronoun "where"  
and he gives us no way to translate his example "the restaurant where  
we ate".

Looking at the archives, I see that sometimes people ask Okrand for  
new words. I think that the next opportunity someone comes up with to  
do that, they should instead ask for a grammatical explanation of how  
to say, "The captain bought the restaurant where we ate." I doubt that  
the solution is anywhere near as simple as ghunchu'wI''s suggestion,  
simply because the grammatical link between "the restaurant" and any  
kind of relative clause we could build lacks any grammatical  
explanation we've been given yet.

It's actually messier than I initially thought.

Consider the problem in English and then see how this goes back into  
Klingon. If I say, "I know who hit the captain," I have used a  
relative pronoun "who" that has no equivalent expression in Klingon. I  
have to come up with a noun or pronoun to replace it. Something like:

HoD qIppu'bogh nuv'e' vISov.
HoD qIppu'bogh ghaH'e' vISov.

In English, the relative pronoun has a grammatical place in the main  
clause. In Klingon, this role is played by the relative clause's head  
noun. If you leave out that head noun, then it would be natural to  
take the other noun in the relative clause and interpret THAT to be  
the head noun, and so you'd think I was saying that I know the captain  
who was hit, but that's not what I was saying. You need a head noun.  
The head noun needs a grammatical role in the relative clause, and in  
the main clause.

If you said to me {HoD qIppu'bogh ghaH'e' vISov.} and I didn't know  
who that was, I might naturally ask {HoD qIppu' 'Iv?}. Similarly, your  
statement might have been given in response to the question {HoD  
qIppu' 'Iv?}. In English, the relative pronoun and the question word  
sound exactly alike and the meaning is closely tied, though there are  
no words with this relationship in Klingon, since Klingon has no  
relative pronouns. Still, seeing how these are related to each other  
in English gives us a tool for trying to figure out how the relative  
clause can work.

If there actually is a head noun, you can't express the related  
question as a question. For example, if I don't know which child you  
are talking about when you say, "I know the child who hit the  
captain," I might naturally ask, "Which child hit the captain?"

That relative clause in Klingon is simpler, but the question is  
messier. {HoD qIppu'bogh puq'e' vISov.} A Klingon relative clause is  
basically an English relative clause with some noun acting in  
apposition with a relative pronoun. The "headless" relative clause in  
Klingon would be an English relative clause without this appositional  

I'm not sure how important that is yet. Hmm.

Anyway, we can see that the question version of the headless relative  
clause can use {'Iv}, while the version with a head noun has to use  
the command version of the question: {HoD qIppu'bogh puq'e' yIngu'.}  
This, by necessity, abandons any relationship between the English  
relative pronoun and its question word, since the question word has to  
stand in for the noun and not act in apposition to it. This question  
also requires the relative clause in it, so if you didn't know how to  
form the relative clause, you wouldn't know how to form the question.

So, lets go for a simplified version of "the restaurant where we ate".  
We might be able to figure out the related question word that could  
replace the head noun if we make this headless, as in "where we ate".  
The question then becomes {nuqDaq maSop?}

{nuQDaq} is a noun, though so far as we can tell, it only works as a  
locative. That makes it different from the other question words with  
equivalent English relative pronouns. In order to answer {nuqDaq  
maSoppu'?} we'd say {Qe'Daq maSoppu'.}

So, in order to link the restaurant to the relative clause, we'd have  
to say {Qe'Daq maSoppu'bogh} in order to say "At the restaurant where  
we ate". The problem then becomes, how to we peel {-Daq} off of the  
{Qe'} for it to function as a subject or object in the main clause, as  
we can with any other relative clause's head noun?

If we only used it as a locative in both the relative clause and main  
clause, it might work, like "Meet me at the restaurant where we ate."

Qe'Daq maSoppu'bogh HIghom.

The problem comes when we want to say something like, "The restaurant  
where we ate is all gone." We might say:

loj Qe'Daq maSoppu'bogh.

It's weird, and not exactly something we've been told is legal, but  
since {Qe'Daq} is the only noun in the relative clause, we might  
interpret it to convey this meaning. Of course, since some of us have  
insisted on the validity of headless relative clauses, it could just  
as well mean, "We, who ate at the restaurant, are all gone." It gets  
worse if there are explicit nouns as subject and object of the  
relative clause.

"The restaurant where Krankor met SuStel is all gone."

I'm not even going there. Yes, I could stuff words into a translation  
into Klingon, but nobody would be able to extract the intended meaning  
from it. You can mark a subject or object as the head noun with {-'e'}  
to make a relative clause less ambiguous, but you can't do that to a  
noun that already has a Type 5 suffix on it, like {Qe'Daq}. It's ugly.

I do continue to object to the idea that a head noun is somehow  
functionally independent of its relative clause. Everything Okrand  
describes has the head noun functioning as subject or object of the  
relative clause. When he speaks of the relative clause and its head  
noun, it is like speaking of a noun phrase and its noun. The main  
sentence has a grammatical function for the noun, and the phrase or  
clause accompanies that noun to identify or describe it. Meanwhile,  
neither the clause nor the phrase has meaning without the noun, and  
speaking of a head noun for a relative clause that has no grammatical  
link to the clause is not justified by anything in TKD, and canon  
shown thus far fails to make clear some undescribed grammatical  
pattern that is sufficiently recognizable to be meaningfully  
reproduced so that someone would understand what you were saying.

I don't think we can solve this one without Okrand's direct  
intervention. jo'vo' Qun wIpoQ.


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