tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 23 16:09:05 2009

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Re: The topic marker -'e'

Andrà MÃller (

2009/11/23 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
> > 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
> okay.

"Subject" might have been the origin of the abbreviation "S" in the past,
but it's highly missleading and every linguist will tell you not to claim S
stands for "Subject", because this is simply not true. It thus doesn't help
anyone to call it subject, 'cause it isn't. If you teach linguistics, you
should know that.
English and Klingon are languages with accusative alignment, so there it's
valid and usefull to speak of subject indeed â?? but a subject in these kinds
of languages is {S+A}. I'm absolutely fine with using either "subject" and
"(direct) object" or S, A and P in Klingon, but please don't make the
mistake of calling S = subject.

> > 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....

Maybe it's because I'm not a native speaker of English, but I can't imagine
that "robots" in the English sentence "we kill robots" could be the subject.
A better analogy would be "we robots kill", I assume.

> > 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.
Okrand's work doesn't outline ungrammatical possibilities, this means that
we cannot be sure if a sentence is ungrammatical, unless we're told so by
Himself. So we can't be sure if using a noun as a 1st person subject is
valid in Klingon or not... simply because it isn't attested. Any assumption
in both directions (grammatical or ungrammatical) is merely educated

- André

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