tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Dec 02 13:49:32 2009

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Re: Numbers with pronouns

Mark J. Reed ( [KLI Member]

On Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 4:00 PM, David Trimboli <> wrote:
> The effect is a Klingon pounding his chest and saying "Me,"
> or pointing at a ship and saying "Me there!"
 Klingon handles "to be" the way
> Tarzan does, and that's funny.

Funny, maybe, but not accurate.  Many human langauges share this lack
of a copula in some subset of sentences that would use one in English;
the Russian present tense is a well-known example:  "Ya russkij" = "I
(am a) Russian."  I don't think it would be a good idea to tell the
Russians that they're all talking like Tarzan. :)

When putting the same sentence in the past, the Russian verb appears:
"Ya byl Russkij" = "I was (a) Russian". Since there's something you
can point to and say "that's missing in the present tense", IMO,  the
Russian example is closer to Tarzan-speak than the Klingon.

The fact that to put the sentence into the perfective aspect in
Klingon you say {tlhIngan jIHpu'} implies to me that there's nothing
missing, no element that you could say was being left out as Tarzan
leaves out his "to be"s.  That sentence a verb:  {jIH}.

The word {jIH} may not be categorized as a verb in Klingon
dictionaries, but parts of speech are largely artificial anyway; Latin
grammarians considered nouns and adjectives to be the same category.
What's important is that it's functioning as a verb syntactically.

Still, we don't know exactly when it is acceptable to use pronouns as
verbs and how far their verbness extends.  We know can't use prefixes
on them (for obvious reasons), and we have two explicit categories of
predicates that can be used with them; anything beyond that is

Mark J. Reed <>

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