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 [[p.11]] 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.