tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 23 07:31:28 2009

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Re: The topic marker -'e'

Tracy Canfield (

These are Christopher's points - just to be clear - but I agree with
his position.

All human languages show a certain amount of variation.  There's
typically one variety that's more prestigious than the others, and
that's the one that will end up being taught in schools as correct.

If we take an English example - and not because this is a specifically
English phenomenon - we might see something like

- I don't have any apples.
- I don't have no apples.

An English teacher might say the first one is grammatical, and the
second one is ungrammatical because it breaks the rules.  A linguist
would say that they're both grammatical, because they're following
different rules - the standard variety uses "any" with a negative
verb, and the non-standard variety uses "none".

Now look at a sentence like

No apples have no me.

The speaker's meaning is clear enough, but here the linguist would be
saying this is ungrammatical because it doesn't follow the rules of
any variety of English (at least none that I've ever heard of; it
would even be weird for an English-learning child who hasn't acquired
the full syntax of English yet, because those aren't typical child
errors.)  A native English speaker might say "I don't have any apples"
or "I don't have no apples" - in fact, the same speaker might say one
in a more formal setting and the other in a less formal setting.  But
a native speaker wouldn't say 'No apples have no me" - and we can say
that without hearing every possible sentence because we know English
has rules that block it in a way they don't block "I don't have any."

When I look at Okrand's description of Clipped Klingon in TKD, it
looks just like what you'd see in a description of any language that
has "proper" and "day-to-day" variants - in some cases, the two have
different rules.  A schoolteacher might say that Clipped Klingon is
breaking the rules and is ungrammatical.  A linguist would say it has
different rules and is grammatical.

2009/11/23 ghunchu'wI' 'utlh <>:
> On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 12:14 AM, Christopher Doty <> wrote:
>> Non-grammatical, by its very definition, means not valid.
> No, it just means it doesn't follow the rules. Breaking rules is
> explicitly permitted by "meta-rules" that are, by definition, outside
> the grammar. Do you have a copy of _Klingon for the Galactic
> Traveler_? You'll want to read it fully before making further
> pronouncements on the validity of Klingon grammar.
>> If there is
>> something "non-grammatical" that is "valid," then it isn't actually
>> ungrammatical, it's dialect or clipped speech or something else.  Most
>> English speakers would say that "ain't" isn't grammatical, even those
>> who use it.  It is, from a linguistic perspective, perfectly
>> grammatical, if not prescriptively "proper."
>> Ain't no such thing as a valid ungrammatical sentence.
> Perhaps this is another mismatch in linguistic definitions. I think
> "ungrammatical" means "does not follow the rules of grammar". Many
> sentences have a single obvious intended meaning even while breaking
> the rules, and some of them even make perfect sense while doing so.
> (There is another term I use for sentences which are unintelligible
> due to not following the rules: gibberish.)
> -- ghunchu'wI'

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