Interview: Okrand on -bogh and more

HolQeD article of vol. 4 issue 2, June 1995, page 5-6

Written by Marc Okrand; Originally published in HolQeD, the quarterly journal of the Klingon Language Institute, Flourtown, PA, ISSN 1061-2327.

Summary

Talking about focus and topic markers, and a solution to use the word "with".

Notes

Quote

LS:
We know that the head-noun of a relative clause can be the subject or the object; the question is, can it be any other case? Nick Nicholas has pointed out that Terrestrial languages follow an accessibility hierarchy for the heads of relative clauses, first subjects, then direct objects, followed in by order indirect objects, possessors, and comparatives. Now, no one said that Klingon has to follow the Terran hierarchy

MO:
In fact it shouldn't! I don't think Klingon fits into this hierarchy. Well, it does, if you want to look at it that way. I couldn't make the -bogh thing work for me with anything other than subject or object.

LS:
It fits in the hierarchy way at the bottom.

MO:
Yeah, it's klutzy.

LS:
So only the subject or object of a verb can be the head-noun of a relative clause. It doesn't allow possessing nouns either?

MO:
Right.

LS:
Then how can we say "The ship on which the captain kills the prisoners is very large?"

MO:
I would do it with two sentences.

LS:
Just say "The ship's big," and "the captain kills prisoners on it."

MO:
Yeah. You can probably do all kinds of topicalizing things about the ship, if you're talking about the ship and want to make a big deal about the fact that it's big.

LS:
tInqu' Duj'e'

MO:
Yeah... "As far as the ship is concerned, it's big, and the captain kills a prisoner on it too."

LS:
That's another thing people have been hassling about, because you called 'e' the topic marker, and all the time you use it as a focus marker.

MO:
And they're making the distinction... You're using topic like topic/comment.

LS:
You've been saying things like "As for the ship, it's big, which is focus."

MO:
I stand corrected.

LS:
So it really is a focus marker, then?

MO:
Yeah.

LS:
If you have a noun in one case in the relative clause and use it in another in the main clause... I guess you'd have to use the two-sentence trick.

MO:
Yes. What I find myself doing a lot, especially with these SkyBox things... The English is these long, long complicated sentences, and I said, "no way," I'd take this long sentence and split it up into two or three. So they went and counted the periods, and said "wait a minute, we gave you two sentences, you're giving us back six, what's going on here?"

LS:
Back to relative clauses...

MO:
One of the things you talk about was ambiguity. "DujDaq puq DaqIppu'bogh vIlegh," I see the child who you hit on the ship, or on the ship I see the child... and that's ambiguous. I thought about it and I said "That's fine." And it's ambiguous in exactly the same way that English is. You want ambiguity in language, I would think. It's not math.

I was reading this bit about "I see the child you hit on the ship," and for whatever reason what popped into my head was Groucho Marx, that old Groucho Marx joke, you know, "I just shot an elephant in my pajamas... and how he got in my pajamas I'll never know." You can say that in Klingon, no problem; they'll get the joke. There's not many jokes you can get to translate into Klingon, but that one would work.

LS:
Somebody was asking about if you have two nouns that both have -'e' on them, and they're conjoined with je, do you put the -'e' on the je or on the nouns?

MO:
Right. Can you topicalize a conjunction? I don't know... nah... Though actually for me, one of the things that pleases me about all this stuff is not so much when people talk about the details of the language, although that's fine, is when they talk about language at all. So this guy came up with this idea of putting -'e' at the end, that's a very clever idea, right or wrong.

LS:
People are constantly saying "how would I say 'I killed the Ferengi with the phaser,' there's no word for 'with'," there's no instrumental, So people have been doing things like "In order to kill the Ferengi, I used the phaser."

MO:
Good. Good for them. That's exactly right. [See ➞ "with"]

See also

External links

 
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