tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Sep 30 17:24:57 2009

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The meaning of -moH

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

In the past we've debated the workings of -moH. I was looking over some 
example sentences in TKD today, and I came to the realization that our 
usual way of explaining -moH is, well, wrong.

We usually say -moH means that the subject causes the object to do 
something. In fact, the introduction to -moH (TKD p. 38) says nothing 
about the object:

    Adding this suffix to a verb indicates that the subject is
    causing a change of condition or causing a new condition to
    come into existence.

Now, most sentences can be interpreted as "<subject> causes <object> to 
<verb>," but not every example sentence we have conforms to this. Take, 
for instance, this sentence on TKD p. 45:

    may we execute a course (to some place)?

By the usual interpretation, this would mean "may we cause (something 
unspecified, or things in general) to start to go?" You could twist that 
into "May we execute a course?" but you don't really have to. The 
subject causes a new condition (that of "going") to come into existence.

I've brought up an interpretation of -moH before that was only 
speculation, but now it seems to me more likely. Consider the very first 
sentence with -moH (TKD p. 38):

    tIjwI'ghom vIchenmoH
    I form a boarding party
    I cause a boarding party to be formed

A clumsy, but illustrative, way of translating this would be "I 
cause-to-form the boarding party." The previous sentence we looked at 
could be translated "May we cause-to-start-going?"

And that controversial sentence from SkyBox card S20:

    qorDu'Daj tuq 'oS Haquje'e' tuQbogh wo'rIv
    tuQtaHvIS Hem. ghaHvaD quHDaj qawmoH.

    The sash that Worf wears is a symbol of his family's house.
    He wears it proudly as a reminder of his heritage.

The sentence {ghaHvaD quHDaj qawmoH} makes perfect sense this way. "It 
[the sash]" causes a change of condition, "remember his heritage," "for 
him." The sash "causes-to-remember his heritage."

    wo'rIvvaD quHDaj qawmoH Ha'qujDaj
    Worf's sash reminds him of his heritage.

This also explains {tuQ} "wear (clothes)" and {tuQmoH} "put on clothes." 
When you put on clothes, you are causing a change of state. The object 
of {tuQ} would still be the clothes, not the person wearing them.

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? (For instance, under this hypothesis, what is the correct object 
of {ghojmoH}?)

David Trimboli

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