tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Nov 25 08:40:15 2009

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Re: The topic marker -'e'

Andrà MÃller (

2009/11/25 ghunchu'wI' 'utlh <>
> On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 9:40 PM, Christopher Doty <>
> wrote:
> > Technically, this is an inverse voice construction (syntactically) but
> > semantically, it is functioning as a passive.
> I thought we already agreed that it is not the same as passive voice.
> In many cases, {-lu'} serves the same purpose as does passive voice in
> other languages. In some, it does not.
> Try this exercise: take a simple sentence in English and translate it
> into Klingon. Apply passive voice to the English and try to translate
> it into Klingon using {-lu'}. Most of the time you will fail.
> "The feather tickles my ear." {qoghwIj qotlh bo.}
> "My ear is tickled by the feather." {qoghwIj qotlhlu'...?}
> Okay, you can add {bomo'} to the front of the Klingon and come very
> close to the same meaning, but I think it loses the essence of the
> idea. The feather is performing an action in the English; it is merely
> a reason for the action in {bomo' qoghwIj qotlhlu'}.
Cross-linguistically, passive construction don't need to allow the agent to
be expressed. There are some languages (I think Limbu was among them, but
I'm not sure), which do have a passive construction but there's no way to
express the agent in the way English does by saying "by the feather".
I still wonder, if one has the right to call the {-lu'} a passivizing
suffix. I doubt so, as the P is not promoted to an S. Maybe I'll ask a
colleague tomorrow.

Hmm... there are S (single argument of an intransitive sentence), A
(agent-like argument of a transitive sentence) and P (patient-like argument
of a transitive sentence). If a P turns into S and the A vanishes, it's
called "passive" (cf. English). If an A turns into an S and the P vanishes,
it's called "antipassive" (cf. Basque, Greenlandic, Caucasian lgs.).
In Klingon, the A vanishes but the P doesn't turn into an S. It stays a P.

Sorry for arguing about terminology again... I know that for Klingon itself
it doesn't really matter too much.

Now take any verb of quality in Klingon and put {-lu'} on it. Try to
> translate it into English using passive voice. Most of the time you
> will fail.
> {bIr} "he is cold"
> {bIrlu'} "...?"
> >> I suspect that your
> >> understanding of the situation is being misinformed by your trying to
> >> apply terms from your linguistic training.
> >
> > Dude, stop saying this.  Just because you don't understand something
> > doesn't mean that anyone else who says anything about it is
> > automatically wrong.  I am not misinformed, and I am not misapplying
> > terms.
> It is clear that you have read the relevant section of The Klingon
> Dictionary. It seems evident that you have read it carefully. However,
> you obviously have not gotten from it a proper understanding of what
> it says; otherwise you would not have said that {-lu'} turns the
> sentence's object into its subject. The easiest way for me to explain
> this error is for me to note that the object *does* become the subject
> in passive voice constructions, and that someone who knows all about
> passive voice might be led astray by its superficial similarity to
> what {-lu'} does.

I agree with you here. The {-lu'} can hardly be called a passive.

- André

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