Interview: Okrand on -ghach

HQ: We have many examples of single syllable words which are both
verbs and nouns, and the description of -ghach given in TKD
explidtly states that you use -ghach on a verb that carries a suffix.
Is -ghach only used on verbs that already have suffixes, and can we
otherwise presume that any monosyllabic Klingon verb has the
identical nominal form?

MO: Do all monosyllabic verbs have an identical nominal form? I don't
know. The phrase I used in TKD was "it is not known if all verbs
can be used as nouns." It was true when I wrote the thing and it's
true now. I wouldn't be surprised to find nouns identical to the
verb forms that no one has seen yet, I'm sure there's more. But I'm
not prepared to say that any verb is a noun and any noun is a verb.

The semantic relationship between the two is not straightforward
either, there are some, like bach, which means shoot (v) or a shot (n)
where the noun is the instrument or means of the verb. When you
shoot something what you shoot is the shot,

HQ: And we have the same parallel with nob, give and gift.

MO: Exactly. Then there's another kind like leH when means maintain or
maintenance, which is different because you don't maintain a
maintenance. It's a different type of thing - it's like the noun form
is the activity the verb describes or is the result of doing the verb.

HQ: Almost a gerund form.

MO: Yeah. And another kind; boQ, the verb means assist but the noun
means aide, which is the doer or the agent. It's a wholly different
semantic relationship.

HQ: It there any apparent pattern to this?

MO: Not that I have discovered yet, but I think that would be worth
looking into. I think that would be a good study. That's the way to
pursue it rather than all nouns can be verbs or all verbs can be
nouns, because that is not the case.

When the verb is one of those adjective type of verbs, what we have
been calling stative verbs, it's different again. There's nov which is
be alien and also an alien, the noun is what is described by the verb
- an alien is alien. And there's bel which means be pleased but also
means pleasure which is causation or something, pleasure results
from being pleased. And quv meaning be honored and honor. And
then there are some that are not noun/verb pairs but
verb/something else pairs. There's Do' which means be lucky but it's
also an adverb meaning luckily and batlh meaning honor the noun
and also the adverb with honor, so it's not simply that all verbs can
be nouns, there are more identical forms going on. Exactly
what the patterns are isn't apparent to me yet.

HQ: When you add -ghach onto a word what do you get? One
argument is if you can't add -ghach onto a bare stem, and you are
trying for a gerund form, you should be able to add -taH then
-ghach. Would you care to comment?

MO: That's fine, I think it's a legitimate thing to do assuming the verb
plus -taH is legitimate. It depends on the verb. In the dictionary I
give four examples and that's all there is. There's value, which is
used kind of like *worthness and also worthlessness, and then
discommendation and re-commendation. So what -ghach means on
the basis of these is -ness or -tion. -ness means something like the
state of being X, or the quality of being X. *Bigness means the
quality of being big. -tion involves more activity, so it's an action
involved with something, or a process involving something. So
recommendation is the action or result of recommending, as opposed
to the -ness ones which are more stative in English. The examples
of -ghach there go with both kinds: the stative with -ness and the
activity kind with -tion.

HQ: Just to be clear, you're saying that if it is a stative verb with -ghach
that you are creating a -ness equivalent in English? And if it's a
more active or transitive verb you're creating a -tion type of noun?

MO: Yes. So -ghach means something like condition of being X, if X is
stative. Or action or process involved with, or maybe result of the action,
but the process involved with Y where Y is, for the lack of a
better term, an active verb.

HQ: Can we use the suffix -ghach on a naked stem?

MO: The answer is yes and no - and I'll elaborate so I don't leave it at
that. In general no (this is my understanding from Maltz). As far as
I can tell -ghach is at least at first blush restricted to a position
following a verb suffix of another type which means 1 through 8
because it's a nine.

HQ: Or a rover?

MO: Absolutely. I personally have never heard a Klingon say
tlhutlhghach. On the other hand, throw in the -taH as we were
saying earlier and you have tlhutlhtaHghach, which means ongoing
drinking or the process of continuing to drink, which is just fine but the
English translation overemphasizes the "continuing" part, Because
in English it's a separate word or phrase as opposed to just a little
suffix like it is in Klingon. So as a result of the translation it takes
on a little more oomph than it has.

HQ: And yet, it feels like a very badly repaired word in English.

MO: In English right, but not in Klingon. It's just fine and semantically
even makes sense because if it's going to be one of these - to use
your word - gerund like things - a drinking, that's a continuous
thing. You don't have a drinking at a finite point in time it has to
carry on in time it has to be ongoing.

HQ: So, can we use the suffix -ghach on a naked stem?

MO: The general answer to that is "no." Now having said that, can you
do it? Can you say belghach, or nobghach or anything like that?
Yeah you can, but, it has a feeling in Klingon kind of like the
English word *pleasureness or something like *collapsation - it follows
the rules, it's a -tion, an activity and all, but it doesn't happen to
work, however, if you said it would you be understood? Yes, but
it's weird. Klingon is a little more forgiving than English, people
wouldn't jump up and down and say that's horrible and
ungrammatical, but they would say that's a unique formation.
Perhaps appropriate for the occasion, but not necessarily a word
for all times.

HQ: So, if we use -ghach on a bare stem...

MO: It's a highly marked form. It's a word you are forming for a specific
occasion and a specific effect. If you were a poet or philosopher or
hard scientist and had to describe something very specifically these
kinds of words might be appropriate but it carries the feeling of very
technical arcane vocabulary, not normal everyday stuff. So can you
say it? Yes, but you are saying more, rather than less or neutral.

HQ: And you are drawing a great deal of attention to it in the process.

MO: Right, I suppose over time some of these things could be lexicalized,
but my hunch would be if they are lexicalized they would drop
stuff. And there may even be some kind of morphological change
- what used to be the last consonant of the stem will change to the
ch of -ghach or something like that. There are limited examples of
that type of stuff happening in the dictionary, though not with -ghach.

HQ: Okay, if you can add -ghach to a bare stem, what happens if you
add it to one of those verbs that already has a noun counterpart?
Like nob?

MO: You won't necessarily end up with a noun that means the same thing.
Remember, there is no single semantic or case relationship
between a noun and a verb, there are different ones, probably half a
dozen different relationships going on, and the -ghach one will
only be one of those, and it will be a different kind, not the same
thing at all. So if you add -ghach to nob you end of with *givation.
If what you mean to express is an ongoing giving, nobtaHghach,
stick in the -taH.

HQ: Well, if nobtaHghach means something like ongoing giving, would
nobghach mean a one-time donation?

MO: Yes, but it's a funny word for that. It could also be nobpu'ghach, a
*given. Not a past event necessarily, just finished. Now if you use
-ghach, and Klingons do this, they play with their language like
everyone does, you can get some interesting semantic distinctions
you can't get otherwise. For example, you have two nouns that
mean honor - like you would expect because it's such a big deal.
There's batlh and there's quv and both are nouns meaning honor.
And there's a verb meaning honor, quvmoH, that's a regular
ordinary construction. So you can have quvmoHghach which is a
noun that would mean the process of honoring. quvghach, the
naked stem one, that would mean *honoredness. It has the same odd
feeling to it, but the same understandability, but not quite as bizarre
in Klingon as in English. It's a highlighter.

HQ: One of the things I like about Klingon is that you can put together
combinations that give you semantic qualities that you would never
think of in English. You could take a perfective suffix and add
-ghach; what would that mean?

MO: Say, give - having given - nobta'ghach, it's over already, done already,
a gift giving, but not the general notion of a process of giving.

HQ: So this might be a word to describe the occasion of the last
exchange of gifts at a holiday, that event.

MO: Right, the particular instance of - as opposed to the general notion
of - something that goes on all the time. Now let's put that on a
stative verb like to be pleased. belpu'ghach, having been pleased. It
would be something like a particular instance of pleasure.

HQ: Let's carry this to the next extreme. Can you have prefixes on words
that use -ghach?

MO: My initial reaction is that this needs more study. That is, just as
bare stem + -ghach is okay, but weird, prefix + verb (with or
without a suffix) + -ghach is even weirder. But not unheard of, and
the semantic feel, say with legh, would be something like *I-/you-
seeing, or a sighting of you by me as a single concept. I suppose you
could say that, and people would understand it, but it's weird. An I-
seeing-you happened. I can imagine someone saying that in English,
and you'd look up and say "huh?" but know exactly what was
meant. It's following the rules, but it's following them into a place
they don't normally go.