tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Thu Oct 01 09:46:46 2009

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RE: Articles

Steven Boozer (

>> English has definite (the) and indefinite (a, an) articles. Many
>> languages don't. Of the polyglots out there that speak other languages
>> that lack articles, is there any common way to differentiate between
>> "I see an enemy," and "I see the enemy" besides the ubiquitous
>> linguistic band-aid of "context"?
>> Anything more brief than {wa' jagh neH wIghaj. vIlegh,} for "I see the
>> enemy."? Or {jaghmey law' wIghaj net Sov. wa' vIlegh.}?

>I might feel like using {jaghvetlh vIlegh} if I were changing the
>subject and {jaghvam vIlegh} if we'd been talking about the enemy all
>along. Other people might have different intuitions; I see physical
>distance as a metaphor for "distance" from the context. "That enemy of
>mine" appeared while we talking about something else; alternatively,
>"this enemy" showed up while we were talking him.
>Or you could also condense the sentences you suggested: {jaghwI'
>vIlegh}, {jaghwI' neH vIlegh}.

A simple way that *sometimes* works is just to tag the noun with {-'e'}.  E.g.:

  jagh'e' vIlegh.
  As for the enemy, I see him.
  I see the enemy (the one we were talking about earlier).
  It is the enemy I see (and not something else).

Note that I am NOT saying this is how to translate definite articles in all contexts, but it is a good, simple way to stress a particular noun or make it the topic (or perhaps re-making it the topic; e.g. going back to a topic mentioned earlier in the conversation after the topic has changed several times) in some sentences, depending on the context and intent of the speaker.  It also feels more a feature of colloquial, informal or emotional speech to me BTW.  

Here are some examples with {-'e'} similar to Doq's sentence.  N.B. Okrand doesn't always use a definite article in the translation:

  De''e' vItlhapnISpu' 
  I needed to get the INFORMATION. 
  It was the information (and not something else) I needed. TKD

[TKD 29:  Without the {-'e'}, these same sentences would have no noun singled out for emphasis [...]: 
{De' vItlhapnISpu'} "I needed to get the information."]

  HaqwI''e' DaH yISam 
  Find the SURGEON now! TKD

  qIbDaq SuvwI''e' SoH Dun law' Hoch Dun puS 
  You would be the greatest warrior in the galaxy. ST5

  HIvchuq'e' vInoH 
  Estimating attack range in 8,000 kellicams. ST5

  cheng'e' DaH yISam 
  Find Chang. ST6

  not qoHpu''e' neH ghIjlu' 
  Only fools have no fear. TKW

  DaHjaj SuvwI''e' jIH 
  Today I am a warrior. TKW

>- ?{wa' jaghpu'wI' vIlegh}: "I see one of my enemies" (but using {wa'}
>with a plural noun feels mighty strange to me. Maybe {jaghpu'wI''e',
>wa' vIlegh}? Or I'm starting to think in Japanese?).

Since you know Japanese, you might find this article (!) of interest:

  "An Analysis of Definite Article Errors among Japanese Students" 

"In linguistic terms the most obvious explanation for the problems with its use in English is the absence of the article in Japanese. There is the additional problem of the concept of countability for Japanese speakers, whose language does not distinguish between singular and plural noun forms except in a few specific cases. As a result of these differences the teacher not only has to introduce learners to:
    (i) a totally new type of word - the article;
   (ii) the concepts of definite/indefinite, count/non-count, specific/generic and,
  (iii) the triple choice made in every usage - definite, indefinite or omission."

Canon Master of the Klingons

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