tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sun Nov 22 13:09:07 2009

Back to archive top level

To this year's listing

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]

Re: The topic marker -'e'

Christopher Doty (

"mapum" might not be ungrammatical, but what is "mapum Sor"??  If we
translate literally into English, we get

"(A/the) tree we fall."

What does that mean?  How can you write a computer program to provide
a translation of something that doesn't really mean anything?

I also disagree with "mapum" being ambiguous.  The verb "fall" is
intransitive, and the verb "accuse" is transitive.  If we see a "ma-"
prefixed to "pum," then that "pum" is the verb "fall" and not the verb
"accuse," which needs an object, and so ought to have different


On Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 12:12, Steven Lytle <> wrote:
> On Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 1:48 PM, Christopher Doty <>wrote:
>> > "mapum" doesn't mean 'fall'. It means "we fall" (or "we accuse"; "pum" is
>> > two different verbs). There is no point in losing information that is
>> given
>> > in the original just because the translation is odd.
>> > In fact, "mapum Sor" could be interpreted as "We trees fall", although
>> this
>> > use of a noun as subject with a non-third-person prefix is controversial
>> at
>> > best.
>> I think this exactly what Tracy meant in saying that, for
>> ungrammatical (or "controversial") sentences, the machine translator
>> isn't going to work very well due to ambiguity.  You posit three
>> possible interpretations of "mapum (Sor)" because of the ambiguity
>> found in an ungrammatical sentence.  There seems little point in
>> having an automatic translator that could posit every single possible
>> esoteric meaning for anything ungrammatical...
>> Chris
> But "mapum" is not ungrammatical. It is ambiguous. It can mean "we fall" or
> "we accuse", and only context can resolve which is meant. The subject "we"
> and the word "Sor" are the only unambiguous parts of the sentence. To omit
> one leaves a poor translation.
> And controversial doesn't mean ungrammatical.
> lay'tel SIvten

Back to archive top level