tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sun Dec 23 21:48:02 2007
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Re: "to-be" + <<-bogh>>
On Dec 23, 2007 9:34 PM, Doq <email@example.com> wrote:
> Okay, to me, it's like if you said in English, "The message writer who
> is I disagree with you." The head noun is third person, not first. I
> know now that you meant to say "I who am the message writer," but the
> point here is, what is the head noun here? Is it "I"? If it is, then,
> well, why was anybody else supposed to know that?
This is the whole point. It might be worth repeating.
>>but the point here is, what is the head noun here? Is it "I"? If it is,
>> well, why was anybody else supposed to know that?"
This is the whole point. We can resolve this ambiguity for regular verb
sentences, but not so easily for "to-be" sentences. What you have just said
is what I have been saying since the first time that I posted my thoughts in
the other thread.
The <<-bogh>> clause is ambiguous for identifying the head noun in basic
sentences which have a verb, a subject noun, and an object noun. That was
discussed in the past, and an idea was developed for using the topical
marker <<-'e'>> to resolve the ambiguity in those cases where the speaker
wants to be unambiguous about the head noun. It has occurred to me that the
same ambiguity is present in "to-be" sentences, and the <<-'e'>> trick is
awkward. I don't recall that aspect being discussed as part of the
<<-bogh>> ambiguity issue (in an interview between charghwI' and Dr. Okrand
I don't know why this has become so complicated. It is a simple,
It seems utterly harmless to work through possibilities on how it might be
resolved. There are no deep philosophical issues about the whole idea of
communicating using language here. The TKD Klingon grammar had an ambiguity
in <<-bogh>> clauses. An idea was worked out about how to resolve the
ambiguity. It appears that the idea is still lurking, however, in the "to
be" construction. pItlh.
I see this as completely different than "the ship in which I fled" problem.
That problem combines both a relative clause and a preposition. Even
things like "I shot him with the phaser" have difficulty, and are best
re-worked "I shot him. I used a phaser" in Klingon. Those kind of
transformations are characteristic of Klingon.
However, in a case like "I who am the message sender disagree", there is
nothing any different (to me) than one might expect in translating "I
disagree with the idea that you are describing." In the latter, I can
translate immediately into Klingon without expecting any surprises. In the
former, apparently we have to re-work because there isn't any way to mark
the head (pro)noun. If Dr. Okrand had included as part of the Klingon
grammar <<chom jIHbogh>> means "I who am the bartender", and <<jIHbogh
chom>> means "the bartender who I am" then I don't think anyone would bat an
eye over seeing either occupy a subject or object noun slot in the
But, the point isn't the word order of <<jIHtaHbogh naDev vISovbe'>> (unless
it is a hint about one possible avenue for resolving the ambiguity). If the
unexpected word order is removed, <<naDev jIHtaHbogh vISovbe'>> is a
perfectly decent Klingon sentence in principle. To say <<naDev vISovbe'>>
isn't complete enough for "I'm lost"; the speaker could be pointing to a
spot in a reconnaissance photo. <<jIHtaHbogh>> adds the critical
information that the speaker is specifically referring to where he is at.
Whether or not it's understood that this means "I'm lost",or I've just taken
a blow to the head and "I don't know where I am", you *DO* know that the
speaker is at "here". "to be" + <<-bogh>> works. In this case, the verb
prefix makes clear what the head noun is.
It doesn't hit the mark for me to point out that "to be" probably doesn't
work with all the verb prefixes. Of the very small set of verb prefixes
used in "to be" that are attested in canon beyond <<-taH>>, <<-bogh>> is one
of them. It makes perfect semantic sense, it just has the ambiguity
It's hard for me to accept that "he likes the idea that you are describing"
is unremarkable, but "He who is the bartender disagrees" is so weird that it
can only be reserved for obscure prosaic or poetic usage.
I rather expect that occasionally something like this could come up in what
I write. Sometimes it's easy to forget the <<-bogh>> ambiguity when
<<-bogh>> is used. Having these discussions helps sensitize me for things to
watch for. Who knows, someone might even come up with a good idea, or point
out how any previous discussion of the subject matter settled.