tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sat Sep 26 09:26:51 2009

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Re: Articles

Brent Kesler ( [KLI Member]

On Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 9:03 PM, Doq <> wrote:
> 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"?

The World Atlas of Language Structures Online has a good article at
<>. It seems like the use of
articles is all about context.

--- quote ---
There are, broadly speaking, two functions associated with definite
articles. One of these is an anaphoric function, to refer back to
something mentioned in the preceding discourse. The other is a
nonanaphoric function, to refer to something not mentioned in the
preceding discourse but whose existence is something that the speaker
assumes is known to the hearer. This assumed knowledge may be based on
general knowledge (as in the sun) or it may be based on inferences
that the hearer can make in context (for example, inferring from
mention of a house that the house has a door, thus making it possible
to use a definite article in referring to the door of the house). In
some languages, the morphemes treated here as definite articles appear
to be restricted to anaphoric usage in that descriptions assign them
translations like ‘previously mentioned’.
--- end quote ---

According to WALS, the other major strategy languages use to mark
definiteness is the use of demonstratives:

--- quote ---
The second type shown on the map involves languages in which one of
the demonstrative words is frequently used as a marker of
definiteness. In many languages, it is possible to use demonstrative
words anaphorically to refer back to something mentioned in the
preceding discourse. However, languages differ considerably in the
frequency with which demonstratives are used in this way. In some
languages, such usage is relatively unusual, in that anaphoric noun
phrases other than pronouns usually do not occur with a demonstrative.
In other languages, such usage is very common: in some languages, the
majority of anaphoric noun phrases occur with a demonstrative.
--- end quote ---

> 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}.

--- sidenote ---
I was about to suggest {wa' jaghwI' vIlegh}, but I didn't know whether
this means "I see my one enemy", "I see one of my enemies", or both.
English can use both numbers and possessive pronouns as determiners,
but numbers also can be just numbers (ie, they don't have to function
as determiners): you can say "I see my two enemies" (number as 'mere'
number), "I see two enemies" (number as determiner), "I see two of my
enemies" (number as determiner(ish?)) but not "*I see two my enemies"
(two determiners in a row). That's also why I had to say "That enemy
of mine" and not "*that my enemy" or "*my that enemy".

But in Klingon, numbers are words, while possessives and
demonstratives are suffixes. Syntax doesn't stop us from using them
together, but maybe semantics does.

- {wa' jaghwI' vIlegh}: "I see my one enemy" or "I see one of my
enemies" (since {jaghwI' neH vIlegh} kinda means "I see my one enemy")
- ?{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?).
- {cha' jaghpu'wI' vIlegh}: "I see my two enemies" or "I see two of my enemies".
- etc.

In these examples, the difference in my translations seem to be
definite ("my one enemy") and indefinite ("one of my enemies"). So
maybe we're back to context.

BTW: what do people think of {jaghma' wa'} for "Public Enemy #1"?
--- end sidenote ---

> I was walking by a theatre and could only see the marquee listing
> three of what I knew were six movies. I said to myself, {nuq 'oH
> latlhmey'e'?} Then I wondered if I should have just said {latlhmey
> nuq?}

According to TKD, {nuq} and {'Iv} are pronounes, so it would be
{latlhmey nuq}. But it seems to be common to use the first form as
well. I remember people saying {nuq 'oH ponglIj'e'?} at qep'a'
vaghDIch, and of course there's the classic {'Iv ghaH baHwI''e'?}
(based on "Who's on first?" by Abbot and Costello).

> Then I wondered how I could have made it clear that I was asking
> "What are the others?" and not just "What are others?"
> wej lut pong vIleghlaH. jav tu'lu' 'e' vISov. nuq 'oH latlh'e'?

Somehow, {nuq 'oH latlh'e'} sounds more definite to me than {latlhmey
nuq} -- maybe because of the -'e'. Other than that, though, I'm just
going to have to say context [shrugs].

> <<yoS Hut>> vIbej. lutvam Huj, 'ach vItIv.

jIH je! 'ach {Huj lutvam} Daja' DaneH 'e' vIQub.

On Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 10:16 PM,  <> wrote:
> An interesting exercise would be to invent a logical language without
> articles. Or has that been done?  ceqli comes to mind.

Lojban has articles, but they seem to work entirely differently from
the kind of articles I'm used to. But I'm not a lojbanist, so I don't
know if that counts. Seqram?


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