tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sat Jun 27 17:22:10 2009

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Re: Klingon translation

Doq (

The problem I have with this is that the "indirect question" looks  
pretty much indistinguishable from an attempt to use the question word  
as a relative pronoun. It's a grammatical logical construction based  
on bad premises. More below.
On Jun 27, 2009, at 6:42 PM, ghunchu'wI' wrote:

> On Jun 27, 2009, at 5:50 PM, Doq wrote:
>> So far as I can remember, the only reason anyone has even tried to  
>> use
>> a {'e'} to represent a question has been attempts to use question
>> words as relative pronouns.
> There's another reason.  I think the technical term is "indirect
> question".
>> If it were possible to use {'e'} to refer
>> to a question, it would have to be some kind of construction not  
>> aimed
>> at using the question word as a relative pronoun.
> Here is such a construction:  "I know who stole the money."

"Who stole the money" isn't really a question here. This is  
semantically identical to "I know the person who stole the money". The  
thing you know is not the question "who stole the money?" The thing  
you know is the identity of the thief. That's why {'e'} doesn't work  
here to represent the thing you know.

> Another: "I wonder when the rock will fall."

At first blush, this is more interesting, since I don't think of  
"when" as a typical relative pronoun, but again, the thing you wonder  
about is not the question "When will the rock fall?" This is all the  
more obvious by the subtle change in the wording. "... when the rock  
will fall" is a time stamp. The thing you wonder about isn't really  
the falling of the rock. It's just the time that it happens.

Again, {'e'} replaces the whole sentence, not some chosen non-verb  
seed in the middle of the larger fruit that is the sentence. The  
direct object of the second verb is, in essence, a noun version of the  
entire first sentence. Put {-ghach} on the first verb and stick that  
where the {'e'} goes, and you should pretty much convey the meaning of  
two sentences conjoined by {'e'}.

Let's experiment with this.

nuHvetlh chonob 'e' vImaS.

*nuHvetlh chonobghach vImaS.*

This clearly stretches the grammar where it probably shouldn't go,  
since we have no examples of verbs with {ghach} having any subjects,  
objects or chuvmey connected to them, but if those restrictions were  
lifted, the meaning of that second sentence would, in essence, be the  
meaning of the first sentence. "I prefer the you-giving-me-that- 
weapon." Very similar to "I prefer that you give me that weapon," eh?  
The pronoun {'e'} is the device that spares us from the ugliness of {- 
ghach}, but it has that function.

This doesn't work on any of the "indirect questions" because the focus  
of those questions is not the verb of the first sentence. In Klingon,  
the verb is the sentence. All those other words are just to add more  
specificity to the meaning that the verb has in this instance. So, if  
you replace a sentence with {'e'}, what you are really doing is  
replacing the verb (with all of its little helpers) with {'e'}, and  
since {'e'} functions grammatically as a noun, the verb in the first  
sentence is being converted into a noun so that it can act as the  
direct object of the second verb.

That's what all of these question-as-object attempts fail to do. They  
drop the main verb in the first sentence and focus on the question  
word, which is a noun, or a time stamp, or possibly an adverbial. The  
main verb isn't really important, and in Klingon, the main verb is  
paramount to the sentence. If {'e'} represents a sentence, it  
represents the VERB, even though it is a pronoun and functions  
grammatically as a noun (direct object). I honestly think that's what  
confuses people.

I see the roots of this temptation. It is easier to see {'e'}  
replacing a noun than a verb, since {'e'} is a pronoun and is  
grammatically more similar to a noun or a time stamp than it is to a  
verb. Meanwhile, the verb is the sentence (with other words tagged on  
for embellishment). Let's face it. In Klingon, a noun is the highest  
form of chuvmey. It is not a peer with verbs.

Let's grab an example that requires less bending. What if you asked me  
whether I preferred that the officer discommend the accused prisoner?

qama' naDHa' laD 'e' vImaS.

A shorter expression of this would be:

naDHa' 'e' vImaS.

This really means the same as:

naDHa'ghach vImaS.

You take the first sentence, and convert the entire sentence into a  
noun, and then make it the direct object of the second verb. Questions  
don't make good nouns. There are nouns packed inside of questions that  
make good nouns, but the questions themselves don't.

Notice that we don't have any question words that replace verbs. We  
have question words that replace nouns and adverbials, but no verbs.

The pronoun {'e'} can't represent the question word. It has to  
represent the verb.

When you try to point {'e'} at the question word instead of at the  
verb of the first sentence, you are just trying to be sly about using  
the question word as a head noun of a relative clause. You may not  
even be aware of it. You may be deceiving yourself into thinking that  
you are not using the question word as a head noun, but look harder.  
You are.

> For expressing these in Klingon, I can see a teeny bit of merit in
> trying to use a question and {'e'}.  It's something that the known
> and uncontroversial Klingon grammar just doesn't handle.  I'm not
> finding any justification for doing it in anything Okrand has
> written, but I don't think it would contradict anything either.  In
> English, the "who stole the money" and "when the rock will fall"
> aren't asking a question.
> (Note that these really are the English interrogatives and not the
> often-identical-looking relative pronouns.  For a clear example of
> the difference:  "I don't remember what he is wearing."  The word
> used here is "what", not "that".)

This is not a better example. The thing you remember is not the  
wearing. It's the item being worn. "I don't remember the item which he  
is wearing." This is quite different from "I don't remember him  
wearing the item." This second example is a good candidate for  
translation using {'e'} because we just turned the verb "wear" into a  
noun and made it the direct object of "remember", and the rest of the  
words in "he wore the item" get dragged along with it.

You can try to pack a logical curve into this and say that "what he is  
wearing" is somehow a question in an indirect form, but by that same  
twisted logic, a relative clause is an indirect question because it  
identifies the head noun just like a question would. The head noun  
behaves exactly like the question word you are saying isn't really a  
head noun because we have an indirect question here... that the head  
noun just happens to answer.

Funny, that.

There is a reason we don't have any "indirect questions" in canon.  
They all get expressed as relative clauses, since that's what they  
really are.

> -- ghunchu'wI'


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