tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Dec 02 16:05:47 2009

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Re: Numbers with pronouns

Christopher Doty (

On Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 15:35, David Trimboli <> wrote:
> Uh, you guys don't seem to realize that I meant "funny" as in "makes me
> smile in the way it works" rather than "ha ha, you're stupid." It's the
> difference between laughing for delight and laughing for humor.

I certainly didn't understand that this is what you meant.  I thought
that you were being rather derisive, especially given the comparison
with Tarzan.

> I'll try to explain it once more, and if you still don't get it I'm done.
> The Klingon method for these sorts of sentences is to say "This word X"
> equals "That word Y," by sticking X and Y next to each other. X is a
> noun; Y is a pronoun. {tlhIngan} on this hand and {jIH} on that hand. By
> saying one and then the other you're verbally pointing to yourself and
> naming the thing which you are: a Klingon.
> Adding various suffixes into the mix doesn't change this basic statement
> of equivalence. The pronoun is always referring to a THING, never to an
> action or quality—never to a verbal concept. We have it from Okrand
> straight out: there is no "to be" in Klingon. Instead, we have the
> identification of a pronoun with another noun, and the optional use of
> some verbal features to give the identity special characteristics, like
> continuation or negation.
> In {tlhIngan jIH}, I am never saying that I am "be"ing anything; I am
> identifying "me" with "Klingon." This is what pronouns do. The fact that
> you can add some verbal features to it does not make it a verb, and it
> certainly doesn't make it a verb meaning "I am"; the utterance simply
> has some verb-like qualities. You're still dealing with sentences with
> no verbs.

I guess this gets back to reading as a linguist versus not. When I see
that Okrand says that "pronouns can be used as verbs," this means,
from a theoretically functional perspective (which Okrand and I
share), that pronouns are verbs in such cases.

An example might clarify what I mean.  In Nahuatl, the 1st person
singular prefix is ni-.  When this gets put onto a verb, it indicates
that the subject is "I."  When we have copular constructions, however,
these same prefixes get put on nouns: 'tlakatl' is man, 'nitlakatl' is
"I am a man."  It's thus possible, in the later case, to view the
prefix as having a copular reading.  Like Klingon, 'nitlakatl' can
then take other verbal morphology.  This analogy isn't exact, of
course, as we have prefixes instead of separate words. But it is
similar in that, despite 'nitlakatl' having no verb at all, it still
behaves EXACTLY like a verb in every where.  It is, functionally, a

(NERDY LINGUISTIC SIDEBAR: In some exceedingly cool dialects of
Nahuatl, you can even use the noun as a transitive verb.  What would,
in most dialects, be nimotah (ni- for 1st person, mo- for second
possessive, and the unpossessed form of father 'tah') "I am your
father" ends up as "tine:chtah" (ti- 2nd singular subject; ne:ch- 1st
singular object; tah "father"); literally something like "You father
me," except that "tah" is demonstrably NOT a verb, as it lacks all of
the verbal stuff that would make it a verb).

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