tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 23 07:23:52 2009

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Re: The topic marker -'e'

ghunchu'wI' 'utlh (

On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 9:37 AM, Tracy Canfield <> wrote:
> 2009/11/23 ghunchu'wI' 'utlh <>
>> Oh, and it might be a good idea to stay away from a debate over
>> subjects vs. agents. There is no obvious distinction between them in
>> Klingon...
> I would say that there's at least one obvious distinction: verbs with
> agents can never be used adjectivally, as part of a noun phrase.

That's a good point, though I'm not completely convinced. It seems to
me more a distinction between the roles of the *verbs* than of their
subjects. Especially considering that Klingon verbs used adjectivally
(or in comparative/superlative constructions) don't have traditional
subjects at all.

>  TKD
> 4.4 says the verbs that can occur there express states and qualities.
> If someone were explaining which verbs can and can't occur there in a
> more formal way, rather than saying "notions expressed as adjectives
> in English" as Okrand does, they'd likely rely on an analysis using
> ideas like "agent".

I get the feeling that this would end up being a circular argument.
You can start with the "subject is/is-not an agent" idea, or you can
start with the "expressing state or quality" idea, and get the same
result. Since TKD uses the latter explanation, and since it seems
significantly simpler in actual application, I'll stick with it as my
preferred way of thinking about it. After all, I'm here to study
Klingon, not linguistic terms as applied to other languages.

> Oh for heaven's ... I am considering it a simple verb, a simple verb
> of state or quality.  "ghung puq" doesn't have an agent either.

So if verbs of "action" have agents, verbs of "quality" have...what?
They're both subjects. That's all I need to care about, so far as I

When I wrote my own primitive Klingon-to-English translation program
back in the '90s, it didn't care about any hypothetical distinction
between types of subjects either. The dictionary did carry information
about whether or not a verb was "stative" (an earlier term I used for
what I call verbs of quality today), which corresponded to TKD's
description of what verbs could be used in an adjectival sense. I can
see wanting to bring in the "agent" idea if you're intending to
translate among multiple languages via an intermediary representation,
but it seems to me that it would be mostly an artifact of the
translation process. I still don't think it applies to the Klingon
grammar itself.

-- ghunchu'wI'

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