tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 23 02:07:54 2009

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Re: The topic marker -'e'

Andrà MÃller (

Sorry to interrupt, Christopher, but the S in this case (S, A, P) does NOT
stand for Subject, but for "Single Argument" (of an intransitive clause).
Subject is usually what "S" and "A" are called in accusative constructions
like this one. If Klingon were a language with ergative alignment in its
agreement system, you couldn't speak of "Subject", because then it wouldn't
make any sense (ergative languages have no subject, you'd have to speak of
preferred argument alignment or pivot there). Please NEVER EVER use
"subject" in the sense of S(ingle argument)!
I'm indeed getting paid to teach linguistics... albeit not here.

I dislike the comparison to "we kill robots", because in English we have all
the evidence leading to assume that "robots" can only be interpreted as the
direct object (the P, for what it's worth). There's no way it could be the S
of the sentence, together with "we".
In Klingon, it's different: We have no evidence that a noun phrase (which in
this language is 3rd person by definition) could be used with a non-3rd
person agreement prefix (no matter if it indicates S, A or P). This doesn't
mean it's ungrammatical, but just that there is no evidence that this might
be the case.
Unless Marc Okrand doesn't state explicitely that sentences like "mapum Sor"
are ungrammatical, we cannot be sure if it is, because negative evidence
doesn't imply ungrammaticality. If we, however, find one canon example in
the texts, then we might deduce that this is possible.

So there's no sense in calling something that we just might have not come
across "ungrammatical". Maybe its use is just very infrequent.

- André

2009/11/23 Christopher Doty <>

> > Subjects aren't distinct from agents. Both intransitive and transitive
> verbs
> > have subjects. Both transitive ('kill') and intransitive verbs ('run')
> can
> > have agents as subjects.
> Dude. I am not getting paid to teach you linguistics.
> Subjects and agents are distinct.  In English (and Klingon, and a
> butt-load of other languages), subjects and agents get treated the
> same (he runs, he kills him).  However, there is a second butt-load of
> languages where subjects and OBJECTS are treated the same, and AGENTS
> are treated differently (e.g., if forced to use English, him runs, he
> kills him).  Thus, the 'S' that I was using to gloss that morpheme
> means that it is a prefix which does not indicate an object.  Because
> terms like subject and agent can be surprising loaded, these are often
> simply shorted in linguistics to S, A, and O.
> > You equated the subject of a verb with the object, for which there is no
> > justification. I equated two subjects.
> Because you decided that Sor was a subject (and a 1pl subject at that)
> a priori.  What I was pointing out is that, if we decide a priori what
> is what, then there is no reason for the "robots" in "We kill robots"
> to be considered an object; it is actually a subject, because I
> decided it is a subject (even though there is no justification for
> this).  So no, I did exactly the same thing.
> Chris

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