Combining -lu' with -wI'

There were some controversial opinions about the grammaticality of combining the type 5 verb suffix -lu' with the nominalizer -wI', and if anything at all, what the meaning would be. Some argued that if qIplu' means "someone is beaten" then qIplu'wI' is "the person being beaten" – which turns out to be wrong.

Working on a project with Kyle Dillion, Jack Bradley brought the question to Okrand in May 2020, asking if this was a grammatically sound construction. This is Okrand's answer. (1)


A noun like [verb]-lu'wI' sounds odd and – if anything at all – would mean something like "indefinite [verb]er" or "unknown [verb]er". It does not refer to the person (or thing) being affected because a noun ending with -wI' is the one doing something, not the one being affected.(2)

Message from Maltz

Regarding -lu'wI'

I checked with Maltz. He said that for poetry (and maybe other literary forms), this sort of thing may occur from time to time, but it's not considered "normal" grammar. This is because the meaning of -lu'wI' (from a Klingon point of view) is odd (but therefore occasionally appropriate for poetry and such).

Leaving -lu' aside for a while...

-wI' is defined in TKD as "one who is, one who does, thing which is, thing which does." (3) In all cases, the subject of the verb (to which -wI' is attached) is the doer or the "be-er," the one who performs the action (if it's that kind of verb [i.e. an action verb]) or carries or exhibits the characteristic (if it's that other kind of verb [i.e. adjective]). The noun formed by adding -wI' is equivalent to the subject of the verb to which -wI' is attached (as far as meaning goes – not getting into fine points of grammatical description).

yItwI' "walker" (the subject of yIt is the yItwI')
qIpwI' "hitter" (the subject of qIp is the qIpwI')
wochwI' "tall one" (the subject of woch is the wochwI')

When -lu' enters the picture, things change. The subject of a verb with -lu' is "unknown, indefinite, and/or general."(4) Thus, qIplu' is "someone/something hits (someone or something)" or, conventionally but not really literally, "(someone/something) is hit."

So qIplu'wI' would mean something like "indefinite hitter" or "unknown hitter" or "essence of hitter" or some such (if it means anything at all). It doesn't refer to the person (or thing) being hit because a -wI' noun is the perpetrator or instigator of an action (or carrier of a trait), not someone (or something) affected by an action.

There may be instances (again, particularly in poetry) where the imagery or notion of an "unknown/indefinite/vague hitter" makes sense, though I can't conjure one up right now (and Maltz doesn't want to try).

As for how to say "the hit one, someone who is hit" or "the one who is loved" —

This reminds me of a (pretty funny) book and movie from years ago called "The Loved One" (about the funeral industry in LA). Here, the phrase "the loved one," of course, is a euphemism used by the funeral director for "the deceased person," but the implication is that "the loved one" was loved by whomever the funeral director is talking to (or negotiating with) about the funeral — the deceased person is "the one you love(d)." Points to -bogh, I guess.

See also


1 : Message of May 24, 2020 sent to the mailing list by Jack bradley

2 : Message from Maltz of May 18, 2020 archived on

3 : The Klingon Dictionary 4.2.9, p. 44

4 : The Klingon Dictionary 4.2.5, p. 38

Category: Grammar    Latest edit: 25 May 2020, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 24 May 2020 by KlingonTeacher
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