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Klingon Grammar Addenda - Commentaries

From the author of this page, Terrence Donnelly:
You might wonder what qualifies me to put this list together. Well, I'll let you decide if I'm qualified; I'll just give you my credentials. I've been studying Klingon since the revised TKD came out in 1992, I've been a member of the KLI and its mailing list since 1993, I'm the author of the Klingon automated vocabulary program KLIFLASH, and I've had 2 articles published in HolQeD and three stories in jatmey (the KLI's literary journal). One of these has been optioned for a screenplay by the Klingon Language Division of Paramount Pictures. (OK, I made that last part up; a guy can dream, can't he?)

3.2.1. Compound nouns

These last two are not so much stated rules as impressions we've gotten from MO over the years. You will sometimes encounter ad-hoc compounds. But beware of the "hind-sight" effect: the compound word that seems so clear to you may make no sense at all to someone else.
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3.2.2 Verb plus -wI'

This suffix is actually defined in TKD, but in a confusing and incomplete way.
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3.3.1 Augmentative/diminutive

These suffixes are defined in TKD, but this point is not clearly made there.
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3.3.2 Number

There is evidently some latitude in the grey areas. MO tells us on the MSN forum that DIr has the plurals DIrDu' and DIrmey depending on whether it is still on the animal, or off of it. (Does this mean that, if I serve my guests Pipius Claw and each one gets several, I would refer to them as pachmey?). However, in KGT, he describes the handles of a type of pot as DeSDu', although they were obviously never alive at all!

My theory is that Klingons are deeply interested in whether a body part is still attached to its body and alive -Du', or detatched and dead -mey. Their interest in the bodies themselves is different, where their only concern is whether it is a person -pu' or a non-person -mey. In the case of inanimate objects, their interest in body parts causes the Klingons to confer "honorary" status as a body part on objects that resemble them; these objects receive the -Du' suffix to make the identification clear.
This could also be the origin of the "scattered around" meaning of -mey. When a body part is separated from its body, its plural changes from -Du' to -mey, and separation could come to imply not merely removal but dispersal; eventually this "dispersal" meaning could be generalized to words whose usual plural is -pu'.
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3.3.5 Syntactic markers

As has been pointed out [HQ v6n2p2], this construction is most likely not an example of the N-N pattern, but a contraction of something involving a -bogh verb: balDaq chenmoHlu'bogh Duj ship (which someone assembled) in a bottle. But, since they functionally act the same way, the point is probably moot.
We usually call this the "Cat-In-The-Hat" problem; ironically, it doesn't really apply to this situation. "In the hat" doesn't mean the Cat is sitting inside a hat, rather, it's an English idiom for "wearing a hat" and would probably be translated mIv tuQtaHbogh vIghro'.
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This is a restricted and special usage, and should not be overused or generalized to other types of verbs or noun phrases. I've been trying to explain the new rules to myself:
X(-Daq) vI-Y
The ground-work for this phrase was actually laid in TKD, where MO says that "There are a few verbs whose meanings include locative notions, such as *ghoS approach, proceed. The locative suffix need not be used on nouns which are the objects of such verbs."* [TKD, p. 28] Maybe this means the rule is now extended to all verbs of motion, that whenever a verb of motion has an object, motion toward that object is assumed. The -Daq, we're told, is optional, and I'm guessing is an ungrammatical usage, like leaving lu- off of plural -lu' objects or using double negatives in English: people are known to do it, but it's also recognized as "wrong". I wouldn't take it to mean that nouns with Type 5 suffixes can be used as direct objects in general.
X-vo' vI-Y
Except for this one, of course. This does fly in the face of everything we thought we knew about direct objects and Type 5noun suffixes. All I can guess is that this is some special usage peculiar to -vo' used with motion verbs. At least, if we want to say X-vo' Y vIjaH "I go from X to Y", we can still use the same verb prefix! But what, if anything does X-vo' jI-Y now mean? "At a distance from X, I am Y-ing"?
X-Daq jI-Y
The grammar of this isn't new, the only innovation is that it is now restricted to mean only some type of movement Y occuring at place X.

So, maybe the new rules in essence are
  1. To indicate motion, use a motion verb with a direct object.
    1. Motion towards is the default and needs no marker.
    2. Motion away from needs the marker -vo'.
  2. To indicate location, use a motion verb (or any verb) with a "no object" verb prefix.
    1. Use -Daq for action occuring at the point of reference.
    2. Use -vo' for action occuring at a remove from the point of reference.

If these are correct, then the new rules have actually given us a pretty neat new set of tools. It doesn't change our understanding of locative phrases, but adds a way to refine the meanings we can express with -Daq and -vo'.
An unanswered question is how to use those words which, MO tells us in TKD, never require -Daq, such as naDev or Dat. They fit fine in the first example: naDev vIghoS "I am coming here", but what about the other uses? We've encountered naDevvo' on the PK tape, and it's probably still OK, but how would you say "I walk in (i.e. while being) here": ?*naDev jIyIt* or ?*naDevDaq jIyIt*?
The observant student will note that some of the examples in TKD and elsewhere don't agree with these new rules. One guiding principle of the KLI is that the newest rule is generally the most correct, so the old examples should be considered superceded.
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3.4 The noun-noun construction

I have long believed that the underlying logic of the N1-N2 construction is that the set of items specified by N2 is restricted to a subset specified by N1. This explains not only the possessive use (yaS taj "the officer's knife" = "of the universal set of knives, the one which is the officer's"), but also the Genitive (peQ chem "magnetic field" = "of the universal set of fields, the one pertaining to magnetism").
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The difference between N-N possession and apposition is that in the former, the more general term comes last, preceded by the more specific, while in the latter, the more general term comes first. Also, in the former, the two nouns combine to form a new concept, while in the latter, the two nouns (or phrases) both refer to different aspects of the same concept (that is, "Duras's sisters" and "Betor and Lursa" both refer to the same persons).
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4.1.1. Basic prefixes

This is similar to English, where "I give you a book" and "I give a book to you" are equivalent. Note that this works only with 1st and 2nd person indirect objects, mainly because there'd be no way to distinguish direct from indirect object if both were 3rd person.
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4.2.4. Cause

The effect of adding -moH to an intransitive verb is easy to understand: the verb becomes transitive and the original subject becomes the object: *poS lojmIt/ lojmIt vIpoSmoH* The door is open(ed)/I open the door". Using -moH with verbs which are already transitive is more controversial. My personal opinion is that adding -moH to any verb opens up a new noun slot for the verb. All verbs have subjects (usually), so adding -moH to an intransitive verb adds an object slot. If a verb is already transitive, it already has potential objects, so adding -moH doesn't change the objects, but adds a new noun slot, marked with -vaD: *matlh Suv torgh/torghvaD matlh vISuvmoH* "Torg fights Maltz/I make Torg fight Maltz".
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4.2.7. Aspect

A common beginner's mistake is to assume, when telling a story, that since the action of the story is over, all the verbs should have -ta' or -pu'. But these are properly used only when describing action completed at the time of the story. You should mentally place yourself at the time the story is happening. For any given verb, ask yourself if the action is completed at that time (a good rule of thumb: if you can use the word "already" to describe the action of the verb, it is probably perfective). If it is completed, that verb takes the perfective suffix. Since most of the verbs in your story are describing events occuring at the time of the story, they do not take the perfective.
One source of the confusion about this is that some of the examples in TKD itself seem to use -pu' as a past-tense marker. In fact, MO has admitted that originally, when he was designing the language, -pu' was indeed intended to be a simple marker of the past tense. But he changed his mind and decided to eliminate tense entirely and change -pu' to an aspect marker. Those examples that seem to indicate simple past slipped past the re-editing process.
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4.2.9. Syntactic markers

For most of us, this means don't use -ghach except for words found in the dictionary, until you have a really good feel for it.
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4.4. Adjectives

The examples given seem clunky to me, and I wonder if they are the only possibilities: *SuDbogh Dargh wov wItlhutlh*(?), *SuDbogh 'ej wovbogh Dargh...*(?), SuDbogh Dargh 'ej wovbogh.... Personally, I prefer the first possibility. There is one canon example *yIntaHbogh tlhIngan Soj tlhol...* [S21], which seems to support this, although yIn isn't a descriptive verb.

(It's also possible that this usage is restricted to color adjectives, but I find this unlikely. Color adjectives are regular verbs in every other sense, so why should they behave differently just because they are used in pairs?)
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When used as verbs (i.e, before the noun), descriptive verbs can take any verb suffix that is appropriate.
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5.2 Numbers

It's also possible that these are not so much numbers as examples of the Genitive use of the N-N construction (or more likely, numbers themselves fall under the Genitive N-N principle).
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It could be that HochHom is like Hoch, and that used before the noun would mean "most of the Xs", but after the noun means "most of the given X".
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5.4 Adverbials

This interpretation is not completely accepted. Note the difference between this and forms with -logh, eg. cha'DIch maghom "We meet for the second time" (a count of events) vs. cha'logh maghom "We meet twice" (a count of frequency). Neither of these forms indicate the succession of events, for which Klingon appears to use no markers: bogh tlhInganpu', SuvwI'pu' moj, Hegh "(First) Klingons are born, (second) become warriors, (and then) die." [TKW, p. 5]
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5.6 Names and Address

The word ponglu' is not actually part of the SkyBox text, but it is widely assumed to be the appropriate verb for this phrase.
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6.2.3. Relative clauses

The rule seems to be that the Head noun of the relative -bogh verb must be the subject or object of the relative verb (MO: "I couldn't make the -bogh thing work for me with anything other than subject or object" [HQ v4n2p5]), but that the Head noun can take any Type 5 noun suffix in relation to the main verb of the sentence. When the Head noun is the subject or object of the main verb, too, or when it is the first element in a N-N construction, it can take -'e'. When it has some other relationship with the main verb, it can take the appropriate Type 5 Noun suffix. (This is still controversial [KLI: W. Martin, 1/27/99, Re: qID; KLI: A. Anderson, 1/29/99, Re: qID]
This doesn't solve the "Ship in which I fled" problem: in a sentence like "They attacked the ship in which I fled", "ship" is the object of the main verb and part of a locative prepositional phrase with the relative verb; the exact opposite of what I described above.
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6.2.4. Purpose clauses

Although first stated in TKD, the full implications of this didn't become clear until later. We especially didn't realize the implications of the fact that nouns could be modified with a -meH verb which itself had subjects or objects (see below).
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Certain types of sentences require a verb phrase to be the subject of another verb. In English, these are usually expressed by sentences of the type "It is X that Y"; for example, "It is good to see you" is equivalent to "It is good that I see you", which is equivalent to "(I see you) is good." This is called a clefted expression; the Sentence-As-Subject, "(I see you)" is moved from subject position (with a change in form) to after the verb "good", and the dummy subject "It" serves as the marker of the clefted expression and points back to the clefted phrase.
Klingon has no exact equivalent of this construction, but we have come to see that a verb phrase with -meH and a noun subject can express the same sort of relationship: QaQ qaleghmeH 'eb. There are several likely candidates for the head noun (i.e., the noun that serves as the actual subject and as the head of the -meH phrase: 'eb, Qu', ghu', etc. Note that this construction carries a sense of purpose that is absent in the English version; in most cases, this doesn't affect the meaning, but it may mean that certain nouns are not appropriate as head nouns.
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The practical applications of my article cited above are that
  1. the -meH verb can take objects when desired;
  2. the -meH verb must take a prefix when the subject of the purpose clause is 1st or 2nd person (or plural 3rd person with singular 3rd person object);
  3. when the subject of the purpose clause is indefinite, you can indicate this with -lu' or by 3rd person zero-suffix and no stated subject noun.

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6.4. Questions

Some possible recastings include Duj luQaw'meH mIw vISov "I know how they destroyed the ship" (literally "I know the in-order-that-they-destroy-the-ship- method"); wa' jaj Duj luQaw' 'ej jajvam vISov "I know when they destroyed the ship" (literally "On one day they destroyed the ship, and I know that day") [TKW, p.177]
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Appendix: A Selected List of Useful Klingon Expressions

Presumably, you can't tell fractions of an hour using the X-logh method, only whole hours. Also, the observant student will note that this somewhat contradicts the time-telling examples on the CK tape. The rules given were given more recently, and they supercede CK where they disagree with it.
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We're not told exactly how Hop works: "The table is far from the officer" yaSDaq Hop raS?, yaSvo' Hop raS. Since -vo' seems to mean exclusively motion away from, the concensus is that the first version, with -Daq, is correct, odd as that seems to an English speaker. It's maybe not so odd if we take it to mean "At the reference point of the officer's location, the table is far away".
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Category: General    Latest edit: 17 Aug 2014, by George    Created: 14 Jun 2014 by KliWiki
History: r4 < r3 < r2 < r1 - View wiki text



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