tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 30 12:02:38 2009

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Re: Double negatives

Christopher Doty (

On Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 11:45, ghunchu'wI' 'utlh <> wrote:
> From the observation that every time we might expect to see such a
> thing, we don't. A number of relevant examples have been posted here,
> including the simple {not toj tlhInganpu'}.

Fair enough, we can say that "negative concord" isn't required in
Klingon.  This isn't the same, though, as saying that such a thing is
ungrammatical in Klingon as in English.  One might still be able to
get two negatives, even if it isn't required.

> Did I err in using the name "Standard English" to refer to the strict
> grammatical rules taught in school?  Or did my English teachers err in
> telling me that double negatives essentially cancel?  For example, "I
> never want no pie" means pretty much the same thing as "I always want
> pie" (with a subtle difference in contextual implication).  This is
> exactly how Klingon works:  {not chab vIneHbe'} and {reH chab vIneH}
> carry the same basic meaning.

See previous email.  In no dialect of English does "I never want no
pie" mean "I always want pie."  "I never want no pie" = "I never want
any pie" in Standard English.  Two negatives simply don't make an
affirmative (except as in Mark's previous example, which is a rather
special and marginal case).

>> in English, "not" negates an entire clause; in
>> Klingon, <-be'> negates only what immediately precedes it.
> That turns out to be too narrow a view, as a phrase from Power Klingon
> demonstrates nicely:
> {Hoch DaSopbe'chugh batlh bIHeghbe'}
> "Eat everything or you will die without honor."

I'm confused by this.  The translation contains no negatives, but in
the Klingon, both clauses have a <-be'>...?  "If you don't eat
everything, you will not die honorably?"  I get the translation of the
second one, but not the first...

> You might be able to argue that the first half is talking about "not
> eating" everything, but the second half makes no sense if you restrict
> the scope of {-be'} to less than the entire clause.
> There's also {yIH vIHIjbe'} "I'm not transporting tribbles." It
> doesn't mean you are doing something to tribbles called "not
> transporting". It means you're not "transporting tribbles".

Then Okrand is wrong when he says that <-be'> negates what immediately
precedes it?

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