tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Nov 25 10:39:15 2009

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Re: The topic marker -'e'

Christopher Doty (

Ya, we're into the realm of syntax/semantics again...  It is certainly
semantically an antipassive (just as is English "I eat"), but I
certainly understand not wanting to call it an antipassive without an
antipassive morpheme.

For all sorts of theoretical reasons (well, mostly because it's just
not something that most languages do), I don't really like the idea of
ambivalence... But that's neither here nor there for this

On Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 04:42, André Müller <> wrote:
> Hi, me again...
> I wouldn't analyze it as an antipassive construction, although I was
> thinking of that as well. A maybe more suitable assumption would be that
> some verbs in Klingon are ambivalent or ambitransitive, meaning that they
> can be used transitively or intransitively.
> I'm not sure if it's alright to speak of an antipassive if it's not
> explicitely marked on the verb.
> Greetings,
> - André
> 2009/11/25 Christopher Doty <>
>> > Yes, there's a problem there, because "intransitive" verbs in Klingon
>> > may indicate general objects instead of no object. I don't really
>> > understand the S and A and O stuff though...
>> Well, interestingly (and perhaps getting myself into trouble again
>> with some folks), this is related to the discussion of passives.  This
>> construction here, with "intransitives" is, in linguistics, called an
>> anti-passive, because instead of demoting a subject, it demotes an
>> object, getting rid of it entirely.  And I think, in Klingon, this is
>> what's happening with transitive verbs when they take an intransitive
>> prefix: the verb becomes an intransitive, because the object is
>> unimportant and goes away.  Although one could translate a sort of
>> "general" object in some cases ("They eat something") a more correct
>> translation is likely simply "They eat."  There isn't any object at
>> all (Okrand says specifically that if anything is actually mentioned,
>> you can't use this construction).  In English translations, we
>> sometimes HAVE to use a "someX" because English doesn't have an
>> intransitive equivalent (e.g., with "accuse"), but it's still the same
>> thing: there isn't actually an object present.
>> So, there you go! Passives and anti-passives in Klingon.
>> BTW, ghunchu'wI', this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking
>> about when I said that, even when Okrand doesn't use a specific term,
>> it is usually very clear what he is doing.  This second of the grammar
>> is clearly, 100% describing an anti-passive, even though he doesn't
>> call it that.

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