tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 23 10:26:07 2009

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Re: The topic marker -'e'

Christopher Doty (

*head explodes*

On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 02:05, André Müller <> wrote:
> 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)!

Dude, the S in S, A, and O comes from Subject.  You can make up a folk
etymology that makes more sense, but it comes from subject.  As I said
in my previous email, because terms like "subject" can be
controversial, often just "S" is used.  Of course subject wouldn't be
a valid term if we were talking about an ergative language, but
neither Klingon nor English have ergative alignment, so I think we're

> I'm indeed getting paid to teach linguistics... albeit not here.

Me too, buddy.

> 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".

Why can't it?  Maybe it's just very rare....

> 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.

This is kind of a silly argument, though, because Okrand's work
doesn't outline ungrammatical possibilities, it outlines grammatical
possibilities.  As sentient beings, we ought to be able to work from
what is grammatical and figure out what is not.

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