Interview: Okrand on -bogh and more

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

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

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

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

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 'this'," 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.