tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Thu Oct 01 11:09:15 2009

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Re: The meaning of -moH

David Trimboli ( [KLI Member] [Hol po'wI']

ghunchu'wI' wrote:
> On Sep 30, 2009, at 8:22 PM, David Trimboli wrote:
>> However, this means we have an odd situation: verbs like {tuH} "be
>> ashamed" should not be able to take objects, yet verbs like {tuHmoH}
>> "shame" certainly are able to do so. Why do verbs of quality seem to
>> change the semantic role of the object while verbs of action do  
>> not? Or
>> do verbs of action change the semantic role of the object *sometimes*?
>> When?
> I propose that they *never* change the semantic role of the object.   
> Under this view, {tuHmoH} doesn't actually have an object.  It's just  
> a version of the "prefix trick" at work, making it *look* like the  
> beneficiary is the grammatical object.

We may have a misunderstanding of terminology here. By "object," I refer 
to a syntactic role, not a semantic role. However, it looks like it is 
the case that the semantic roles do not change either.

Let's look at a simple sentence:

    yaS qIp puq
    the child hit the officer

Syntactically, we have {yaS} as the object (the noun phrase that comes 
before the verb, the "do-ee") and {puq} as the subject (the noun phrase 
that comes after the verb, the doer).

Semantically, we have an agent and a patient:

    Agent: deliberately performs the action (e.g., Bill ate his soup
    Patient: undergoes the action and has its state changed (e.g., The
             falling rocks crushed the car)...


In our simple sentence, the agent is {puq} and the patient is {yaS}.

Now we look at a sentence with -moH.

    yaS tuHmoH puq
    the child shames the officer
    the child causes the officer to be ashamed

Syntactically, the situation is the same as before. A careful look at 
the semantics shows that the semantics haven't changed either. The 
child, {puq}, is still the agent ("deliberately performs the action 
[tuHmoH],") and the officer, {yaS}, is still the patient ("undergoes the 
action [tuHmoH] and has its state changed").

So let's look at more complex examples. The word that sparked my 
interest was {maghoSchoHmoHneS'a'} "may we execute a course?" Let's drop 
the -neS, the "may," and the -'a' for simplicity.

    we execute a course

Syntactically this word has no subject or object or any other noun 
phrase. We could utter a semantically equivalent sentence, 
{maghoSchoHmoH maH}, and say that the subject is {maH}. But in both 
cases there is no object.

Semantically, things get more interesting. "We" are the agent, even if 
{maH} is left unsaid. But there is no real patient here, beyond 
"something vague" or "things in general." The role of patient is 
subsumed into the meaning of the verb {ghoS}.

Then we have our old friend:

    ghaHvaD quHDaj qawmoH
    it reminds him of his heritage

Syntactically, we have a beneficiary (noun phrase marked with -vaD and 
which comes before the OVS structure) and an object (noun phrase that 
comes before the verb). There is an implied subject, {'oH}.

Semantically, we have two new types:

    Experiencer: receives sensory or emotional input (e.g., The smell of
                 lilies filled Jennifer's nostrils).
    Theme: undergoes the action but does not change its state (e.g., I
           like Kim)

{quHDaj} is the theme, because remembering it does not change it. 
{ghaHvaD} is the experiencer, because he remembers something, but 
{ghaHvaD} is also the patient, because he has gone from not remembering 
something to remembering it; his state has been changed. (The unstated 
{'oH} "it" would be the "force," or "(natural) cause," which is the role 
of something that performs the action mindlessly, not deliberately.)

So in this example, at least, the semantic roles are quite different 
than the simple sentence without -moH! The syntactic roles remain 
unremarkable, though they don't help us much to understand how to 
construct these sentences ourselves.

> With my proposal, the correct object is the thing being learned.  If  
> that thing is not mentioned, the student as beneficiary might be able  
> to appear to be the object.

I'm not sure I can agree with this. The way the examples all seem to 
look, the correct way to say "I teach the child" would be
{puqvaD jIghojmoH}. "I do cause-to-learn for the benefit of the child." 
To say "I teach the child science" would be {puqvaD QeD vIghojmoH}. "I 
cause-to-learn science for the benefit of the child." Under this idea, 
{puq vIghojmoH} would be wrong, meaning, at best, "I teach about children."

tlhIngan Hol MUSH

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