tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 23 13:12:10 2009

Back to archive top level

To this year's listing

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]

Re: The topic marker -'e'

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

ghunchu'wI' 'utlh wrote:
> On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 3:20 PM, David Trimboli <> wrote:
>> 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...
> I don't find this example as compelling as you might expect. {Qoy} is
> explicitly an action which one must perform intentionally, as we know
> from the commentary for TKW page 31: {'IwlIj ghogh yIQoy.}

Thematic relations are not discretely separated the way syntactic roles 
are. Linguists will often disagree on the role of a noun in a sentence, 
or even the names of the various roles.

In this case, {puq} could very well be either the agent or the 
experiencer. But this is semantics; it all depends on context:

    pe'vIl jIbommo', bom Qoy puq
    because I sing out, the child hears the song

Now it's pretty clear that {puq} is not an agent, but an experiencer only.

>> ...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.
> That looks like a distinction without a difference. One could as
> easily interpret the word as "hunger for something", which seems to
> have an active agent as its subject, without changing the meaning.

Nope. "The floogle hungers for the hews." The floogle is *still* an 
experiencer, not an agent. One does not deliberately hunger for 
something. An experiencer is something that "receives sensory or 
emotional input."

The difference between agent and experiencer is not the difference 
between "active" and "passive." They are not opposites, any more than 
apples and oranges are opposites.

> Labels like "agent" and "patient" appear to have as much cultural
> relevance as they do grammatical importance.

Of course! Welcome to the wonderful world of semantics!

 > Is hunger a force to be
> experienced, or an act to be performed?  I don't think it matters in
> the slightest in understanding the grammar.

My dear ghunchu'wI', semantics *is* grammar, just as much as syntax is!

tlhIngan Hol MUSH

Back to archive top level