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Once more into the ship in which I fled

McArdle (mcardle09@yahoo.com)



I've been giving some thought to the [in]famous "ship in which I fled" problem, and I think there's a possible solution that, so far as I know, hasn't been mentioned before.

The problem, briefly stated, is that TKD provides instructions only for those cases in which the head noun functions as either subject or object of the relative clause.  That is, it tells us how to translate "the officer who hit him" (head noun is subject) and "the officer whom he hit" (head noun is object), but not, for instance, "the officer whose superior he hit".  In this phrase, the head noun is neither the subject nor the object of the verb, but rather stands in a possessive relationship to the object.  The classic "ship in which I fled" example involves a head noun in an adverbial (locative) relationship to the verb.  Linguists sometimes call the subject and direct object of a verb its "core arguments", so I'll use "non-core" to refer to a noun playing any other role in the clause, including the possessive and locative roles in the above examples.  (The indirect object is sometimes also considered a core argument, but I'll ignore that here.  The
 place of the indirect object in Klingon is an interesting topic -- witness the "prefix trick" and the periodic arguments regarding {-vaD} -- but peripheral to my proposal.)

In the most recent discussion of this problem on the tlhIngan-Hol list (Oct. 9-10, 2008), which I read but did not participate in, it seemed to me that there was at least a general agreement that

  (a) TKD's "the restaurant where we ate" example is a relative clause with a non-core head noun,
  (b) which can be read to imply that such clauses can exist in Klingon, but
  (c) TKD neither tells us how to construct them nor explicitly rules them out.

If we assume for the sake of argument that such clauses are possible in Klingon, I think the only way to confront the fact that no one (not even MO) has found a good way to construct one is to assume that there's some feature of Klingon grammar that Maltz hasn't revealed to us, which (I think) frees us up to try to invent one.  Ideally such a feature wouldn't contradict anything we already know about Klingon grammar, but the fact that it doesn't appear in TKD isn't an argument against it, since its very absence is in fact one of our premises.

My suggestion:  resumptive pronouns.

To demonstrate what these are and why they would work, I'm going to appeal to the grammar of an Earthly language I've been looking into lately:  Biblical Hebrew.  Obviously the fact that a grammatical feature appears in any given human language is no argument that it should occur in Klingon, but it is at least a demonstration that the feature works and has met the needs of an actual community of speakers.

BH, like Klingon, uses an invariable relative clause marker ({-bogh} in Klingon, "asher" in BH) and makes relative clauses with core head nouns by simple deletion.  That is, if you assume that the sentence {muqIppu'bogh yaS vIlegh} is derived from two complete and independent sentences, {yaS vIlegh} and {muqIppu' yaS}, then the relative clause is constructed by taking one of these sentences, deleting the coreferential element ({yaS} in this case) and adding the relative clause marker {-bogh} to the verb.  The complete utterance is then constructed by appropriately juxtaposing the relative clause to the head noun in the main clause.  In BH the same basic procedure is followed except that the position of the relative clause is not syntactically conditioned:  it always follows its head noun.  Thus:

 and there he put the man whom he had formed (Gen 2:8, head noun is object):
  1) wayyasem sham et-haadam;     yatzar et-haadam
     and.he-placed there the-man; he-formed the-man
  2) wayyasem sham et-haadam asher yatzar
     and.he-placed there the-man that he-formed

 Where are the men who came (Gen 19:5, head noun is subject):
  1) hayye haanashim;     bau haanashim
     where [are] the-men; they-came the-men
  2) hayye haanashim asher bau
     where [are] the-men that they-came

(BH is VSO in word order, but not strictly so.)

The difference from English syntax is that the BH and Klingon markers "asher" and {-bogh} merely indicate the presence of a relative clause but do not participate in it, whereas in English, the marker is a relative pronoun that actually takes on the syntactic role of the deleted element.  Because of this, it can be used to indicate the subject (e,g., "who"), the direct object ("whom", when this is distinguished from "who"), or a whole range of non-core arguments ("whose", "to whom", "in which", "where", etc.).

Yet BH relative clauses are not limited to core arguments, as we see in examples like Gen 3:11's "the tree of which I commanded you not to eat".  To achieve this, BH deploys a very simple technique.  Instead of deleting the coreferential element, it replaces it with a pronoun.  This "resumptive" pronoun can have any  function in the relative clause, including possessive or locative (or even, at times, a core function, though AFAIK a pronoun in this role is relatively rare and never necessary).  It is understood in BH syntax that a pronoun in a clause following "asher" is corefential with the head noun, so there is almost never any ambiguity.  Incidentally, as in Klingon the BH possessive pronoun is a suffix, and such suffixes are also used resumptively.

To take the "tree of which" example in more detail:
 1) tziwwitika l'vilti achal min-haetz    
    I-ordered.you to-not eat from.the-tree
 2) haetz asher tziwwitika l'vilti achal mimmennu
    the-tree that I-ordered.thee to-not eat from.it

There are a few ambiguous cases, for example 2 Kings 7:17, where multiple interpretations are possible:

 hashshalish asher-nishan al-yado
 the-captain that_leaning on_hand-of.him

In this construction the head noun could be either the subject ("the captain who leaned on his hand"), or the possessor of the hand ("the captain on whose hand he leaned"), if the possessive suffix is resumptive.  Context indicates the latter, and there may be grammatical constraints (resumptive pronoun always wins?).  But I think the very existence of this example indicates that the potential ambiguity wasn't enough to prevent the use of this construction.

I was interested to discover, when researching this question, that there is literally nothing in the TKD discussion of relative clauses that conflicts with the employment of resumptive pronouns, as long as you accept the proposition (which is also a premise of this discussion) that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".  Let's take the relevant parts of 6.2.3 in order:

 1. Examples include a non-core head noun ("the restaurant where we ate").

 2. The Klingon relative clause is defined so as to exclude the head noun.  This is implicit in the statement that the head noun is "modified by" the relative clause, and explicit in the reference to the {qIppu'bogh} component of the phrases {yaS qIppu'bogh} and {qIppu'bogh yaS} as "the relative clause".  (This, by the way, is an argument against Holtej's proposals from last October that included the head noun in the relative clause, such as {DujDaq nov vIleghbogh vItI'} for "I fixed the ship at which I saw the alien".)  Beyond excluding the head noun, there is no explicit statement as to what a relative clause may or may not contain.

 3. "Whether the head noun follows or precedes the relative clause depends on its relationship to that clause."  The subsequent discussion of placement considers the cases of head-as-subject and head-as-object but does not exclude head-as-other, whose placement could still be syntactically conditioned.  Since non-core arguments generally appear toward the beginning of sentences, perhaps non-core head nouns should always precede their relative clauses.  Or perhaps they should precede when the pronoun is independent but follow when it's a possessive suffix.  There are undoubtedly other possibilities; I haven't tried them all out.

 4. The discussion of how the "whole complex" (relative clause + noun) is placed in the surrounding sentence is indifferent to the internal structure of the complex.

Depending on how you feel about it, you could say that resumptive pronouns do conflict with parts of section 5.1.  For example, it's hard to square them with the statement that "Pronouns may be used as nouns, but only for emphasis or clarity.  They are not required."  This is an annoying complication, but perhaps we can just assume that Maltz forgot about relative clauses when discussing pronouns.  After all, we're already assuming he forgot about pronouns when discussing relative clauses.
 
With all this in mind, and arbitrarily choosing to have the relative clause follow the head noun in all cases, let me suggest the following Klingon phrases and sentences:

 the ship in which I fled
 Duj 'oHDaq jIHaw'pu'bogh

 the restaurant where we ate
 Qe' 'oHDaq maSoppu'bogh

 the officer whose superior you hit
 yaS mochDaj DaqIppu'bogh

 John is the man who they gave the prize to.
 loD ghaHvaD tev lunobbogh ghaH {John}'e'

 I fixed the ship at which I saw the alien.
 Duj 'oHDaq nov vIleghbogh vItI'

 He's the officer whose gun I fixed.
 yaS HIchDaj vItI'bogh ghaH

There are certainly ambiguous cases in this scheme, where multiple third-person participants in the relative clause are candidates for coreference with the head noun:

 yaS'e' qIppu'bogh mochDaj
 ? the officer whose superior hit him
 ? the officer whom his superior hit

Disambiguation in these cases could be achieved in a number of ways, perhaps by requiring the use of nouns instead of pronouns in some cases.  Or there might be precedence rules like this pair:
  
 a) a non-core candidate pronoun (including possessives) beats a core component
 b) a pleonastic core pronoun (one that just repeats information already included in the verb prefix) beats a non-core pronoun.

So:

 yaS'e' qIppu'bogh mochDaj
 the officer whose superior hit him (by rule [a])

 yaS'e' ghaH qIppu'bogh mochDaj
 the officer whom his superior hit (by rule [b])

Rule [a] is, in fact, implicit in the whole idea of resumptive pronouns, or {yaS mochDaj DapIqqu'bogh} would just be "The officer whom you hit near his superior" or the like.  It's possible that this rule conflicts with canon; I don't know enough canon to tell.  But if there are already relative clauses that include third-person, potentially coreferent possessives (and can't somehow be swept under the rug), the whole idea of resumptive pronouns may be a non-starter.  Or perhaps these could just be accepted as ambiguous cases whose meaning depends on context, and whose context has caused them to be interpreted as though there were no such thing as resumptive pronouns.

I'd be glad to hear other people's reactions to this.

Qapla'

mI'qey


      






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