tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Oct 26 14:05:38 2009

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Ditransitive reflexives

Tracy Canfield (

Dear distinguished Klingonists:
I'm putting together a machine translation project in Klingon, and have some
grammar questions that TKD doesn't seem to cover.  I'm not trying to
translate any particular phrase - I just want to make sure my grammar has
the fullest possible coverage.

In English, we can combine a ditransitive verb like "give" with either a
direct object or an indirect object anaphor.  It doesn't seem obvious to me
how to do this for certain cases in Klingon.  (I've Googled the archives,
but didn't find anything.)

First, the reflexive indirect object - "They give each other chocolate."

To make a long-form sentence, we need something that can take the dative
ending -vaD.

???-vaD yuch nob

If we just put "chaH" here, we have a legal sentence:

chaHvaD yuch nob

but it's indistinguishable from "They give them chocolate", where "they" and
"them" refer to different people*.  There isn't a stand-alone pronoun that
carries the sense of "themselves" or "each other".  For all I know this is
fine in Klingon, but it does seem odd to me.

Alternatively we could make a short-form sentence, where the verb prefix
indicates the indirect object agreement:

yuch nob

I don't see anything to prevent this, but it's even more ambiguous than the
long form.  Is there a way to make the "each other"/"themselves" meaning

Normally -'egh and -chuq are used to indicate reflexive direct objects.
Since they're the only reflexive markers we have, is there any way to use
them to indicate that indirect objects are reflexives?  Or, for that matter,
is there some other known way to unambiguously indicate reflexive indirect

Given the Type 1 suffixes, reflexive direct objects should be
straightforward - and the long form seems to be.  "They sold themselves to
the Emperor."

ta'vaD ngev'eghpu'

Or, if you would like a miniature O. Henry story implied in your grammar

ta'vaD ngevchuqpu'

The short form is a problem, though.

??? lungev'egh'pu'

The short form requires a prefix agreeing with the direct object - but the
rules for reflexive endings in 4.2.1 of TKD indicate that the type 1 endings
occur with the "no object" prefixes.  Which rule takes precedence?  Does the
4.2.1 rule prevent the formation of a short-form ditransitive with a
reflexive direct object?  Or does the short-form rule override the 4.2.1
rule, allowing verbs with -'egh and -chuq to take other prefixes in this

If anyone has examples of correct usage that I can generalize from, or can
point me to a rule I've overlooked, I would greatly appreciate it.  Thank

* Or "are not co-indexed", if you prefer.

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