tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 23 12:23:20 2009

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Re: The topic marker -'e'

David Trimboli ( [KLI Member] [Hol po'wI']

ghunchu'wI' 'utlh wrote:

>> 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
> know.

Not all verbs of action have agents. For instance:

    bom Qoy puq
    the child hears the song
       puq = experiencer
       bom = theme

To be an agent, the noun must intentionally perform the action. This 
means that mindless forces are not agents (they are "forces").

    qoH pummoH SuS
    the wind knocks over the fool
       SuS = force
       qoH = patient

Verbs of quality will probably have experiencer subjects, though I 
haven't surveyed all of them to find exceptions:

    Quch puq
    the child is happy
       puq = experiencer

Why should you care about semantics and thematic relations? There are a 
number of situations that depend on them. For instance, we didn't 
originally know whether the subject of {ghor} "break" was an agent or a 
patient. When we got TKW, we learned {pIpyuS puS DaghornIS} "you need to 
break a few pippiuses," which meant that {ghor} took an agent subject. 
Some verbs have been shown to have subjects with multiple semantic 
roles: the subject of {mev} "stop" can be an agent (bIjatlh 'e' yImev) 
or a patient (not mev peghmey).

And of course, the use of Type 5 suffixes is not purely syntactic, as we 
can see from examples of {-'e'} and {-Daq} on subjects or objects. The 
syntactic object of {Duj wIghoS} "we approach the ship" has a semantic 
role of "theme," but in {DujDaq wIghoS} "we approach the ship 
(redundant)," it seems to have the role of "goal." And this is yet 
different than {DujDaq maghoS} "we go on/in the ship," in which {DujDaq} 
is the syntactic locative, not an object at all, and is the semantic 

I'll bet there are even more reasons to look at Klingon semantics. It is 
a little-studied area.

In syntax, when one says that the subject is the thing which does the 
action of the verb, we only mean that in a general way. It only applies 
to the words *without regard to their meanings*. You could say, with 
English syntax, "a floogle argarelled the huws"; it's a syntactically 
valid sentence; you know which words are the subject, object, and verb; 
you know it has past tense and that one thing did something to multiple 
things—specifically, you know which thing did what do which other 
things—and yet, despite all this syntactic knowledge, you have 
absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. You might say, "Ah, well, the 
floogle is obviously the agent of the sentence." Really? What if I told 
you that "argarel" means "be hungry for something"? Suddenly the floogle 
is the experiencer, not the agent. Sure, the subject performs the action 
of the verb upon the object, but that doesn't *mean* anything in the 
real world until the semantics are understood.

tlhIngan Hol MUSH

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