tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Thu Nov 05 10:48:05 2009

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RE: Sentences as objects

Steven Boozer (

Tracy Canfield wrote:
>> I am still sorting through these to see what patterns they suggest, but
>> but here's something that jumped out:
>>    yIntaH qIrq 'e' vIneH.
>>    Kirk I want alive.
>>    "I want that Kirk keeps living." (STConst)
>>    'e' neHbe' vavwI'
>>    That wasn't what my father wanted. ST6
>> TKD 6.2.5 says "When the verb of the second sentence is {neH} 'want',
>> neither {'e'} nor {net} is used."  With two occurrences of neH with
>> 'e' in the corpus, can we safely say that 'e' is optional with neH?

>No, we can't. TKD gives us the "best practice rules" of Klingon.
>Anything from Okrand that seems to violate those rules are exceptional,
>unless they appear with extreme regularity, or he explains the new rule.
>We can speculate as to why we see apparent violations, but we can't
>generalize new rules from them.
>I believe (without evidence) that your second example occurs because
>Azetbur, who spoke the line, was using someone else's sentence as the
>object of her sentence. There may be a rule, not given in TKD, that says
>it's all right to use {'e'} with {neH} when you haven't actually
>supplied the previous sentence yourself.

Note that in this case, there is no "second sentence" in Azetbur's utterance.  {'e'} refers to the previous speaker's sentence.  Here's the line in context in the ST6 film (subtitles in parentheses):

AZETBUR:  notlh veS... 'a tugh manotlhchoH je maH.
          (War is obsolete, we are in danger of becoming.)

KERLA:    QamvIS Hegh qaq law' torvIS yIn qaq puS!
          ("Better to die on our feet than live on our knees!")

AZETBUR:  'e' neHbe' vavwI'.
  	     (That wasn't what my father wanted.)

CHANG:    Your father was killed for what he wanted.

>Other explanations are possible. Maybe Azetbur misspoke. Maybe {'e'} is
>allowed for emphasis. We can only speculate; we cannot make new rules.
>TKD gives us only the most basic rules; the more subtle ones and the
>exceptions usually do not appear. The saving grace of this is that we
>are told most Klingons won't even notice that we're using baby talk.

>Alternatively it could possibly just be a typo and should have been
>qIrq'e', especially as the translation below starts with Kirk rather
>than just, "I want Kirk alive".
>  yIntaH qIrq'e' vIneH.
>  Kirk I want alive.
>  "I want that Kirk keeps living." (STConst)

I really like qe'San's simple suggestion.  But if we check the source where I found this example (i.e. "STAR TREK: Constellations", The Annotations for Dave Galanter's story "The Leader" []) we read:

  Page 232 

  yIntaH qIrq 'e' vIneH.  DaSwIj bIngDaq latlhpu' vItap.

  Klingonese translation provided by Marc Okrand from my English: "Kirk 
  I want alive. The rest I will grind beneath my boot." Marc told me that
  literally the line is: "I want that Kirk keeps living.  I will mash the
  others under my boot."

This could well be a typo by whoever keyboarded the web page.  Or it could be an error by Okrand himself (he does make them on occasion).  Without further research, we have no way of knowing.  (Is this the way the line appears in the book?)

If it is Okrand's text, it suggests that some Klingons speak carelessly and/or ungrammatically, just like some English-speakers who use "ain't" [in fact, my e-mail's spell check just now flagged it as an error!], or use double negatives, or omit the possessive /'s/ (e.g. "my baby momma"), or don't use "whom", etc.  This is common occurrence to everyone who has studied a foreign language and then travels abroad:  Not everybody speaks the "proper"/educated style taught in textbooks.  But just because some Klingons may speak poorly doesn't mean that we should, just that we should be able to recognize it.

Canon Master of the Klingons

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