[tlhIngan Hol] Explaining aspect

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Wed Aug 24 13:42:47 PDT 2016

Look, the discussion about what needs aspect and what doesn't has 
splintered and gotten very confusing. Let me try to start over.

Aspect is that part of a verb that tells you how an action proceeds over 
time. It does not tell you /when/ the action took place. In English, it 
is impossible to use a verb without combining aspect and the 
time-telling information—these are English tenses, and Klingon does not 
have them.

The *-taH*/continuous/ and *-lI'*/progressive/ aspects tell us that an 
action is ongoing over time. Imagine a point on a timeline. That point 
is the time we're talking about in the sentence, like *DaH*/now/ or 
*jajlo'*/[at] dawn./ The continuous and progressive aspects tell us that 
the action of the sentence was happening before that point on the 
timeline and will be happening after that point on the timeline.

    *DaH jIqettaH
    */I am running now/

                    >···-----------···>         <-Running
                             •                  <-Now
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

    *jajlo' HoDvaD jIjatlhlI'
    */when I boarded the ship I was talking to the captain/

                    >···-----------···>         <-Talking
                             •                  <-Dawn
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

If I leave off the continuous or progressive suffix, I'm describing that 
explicitly does /not/ progress over time. Does it happen over and over? 
Does it happen sporadically? Does it happen throughout the timeline or 
just over a piece of it? We don't know without further context, though 
we do know that it's /not/ continuous or progressive over the point on 
the timeline.

    *DaH jIqet
    */I run now/

                             •                  <-Now
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

    *jajlo' HoDvaD jIjatlh
    */when I board the ship I speak to the captain/

                             •                  <-Dawn
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

The *-pu'* /perfective/ and *-ta'*/accomplished/ aspects tell us that 
the action of the sentence is completed in the performance of that 
action. If you again imagine the timeline with its dot as the 
time-context, the perfective and accomplished aspects tell us that the 
action /stops/ at the dot. We do /not/ know without further context 
whether the action was occurring before the dot, or if the action is 
itself merely a dot.

    *wa'maH cha' vatlh rep jISoppu'
    */I ate at noon (specifies an end to the eating)/

                             •                  <-Eating
                             •                  <-Noon
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

    Yes, eating a meal takes more than an instant, but a dot on the
    timeline doesn't necessarily represent an instant, just a "unit" of
    contextual time. Even in English, "I ate lunch" could mean I started
    putting food in my face, or it could mean I fed myself and moved on.
    In Klingon, it can only mean the latter.

    *tlhom vaS'a'Daq vIjaHta'
    */I went to the Great Hall at dusk

                             •                  <-Going
                             •                  <-Dusk
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

In Klingon, it's also possible to complete an action that is not 
necessarily a dot, typically by referring to a lengthy or repetitive or 
habitual or general action that stops being true:

    *qaSpa' DaHjaj yIHmey vIHoHpu'
    */I have killed tribbles before today/

          • • • • • • • • • •|                  <-Killing
                             •                  <-Today
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

Once again, removing the aspect from these sentences makes them mean 
something very different:

    *wa'maH cha' vatlh rep jISop
    */I eat at noon/ (probably your regular habit of eating at noon)

                             •                  <-Noon
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

    *tlhom vaS'a'Daq vIjaH
    */I go to the Great Hall at dusk /(perhaps said by a guard on patrol)

                             •                  <-Dusk
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

In all this, you must remember, it doesn't matter whether an action was 
actually instantaneous or not. This is language, and a sentence reflects 
the speaker's perspective in every utterance, not an objective reality. 
When I say *DungluQ megh vISoppu'*/I ate lunch at noon,/ I don't mean 
that lunch was an instantaneous event the moment the sun was directly 
overhead. I'm treating the event grammatically as an atomic whole, an 
event seen as indivisible in the telling. I'm not thinking of lunch as 
an event with various parts, just as "an event," a single thing, a blip 
in the timeline.

But the lunch obviously /did/ take time to occur, so if I become 
interested in the breakdown of that lunch /*in another sentence,*/ I can 
change my perspective. *megh vISoptaHvIS maja'chuq jIH DeghwI' je*/while 
I ate lunch, the helmsman and I had a conversation./ Now lunch is 
expanded to a continuous event in which I can place another event, the 

                   >···?????????????···>        <-Conversation
                   >···-------------···>        <-Lunch
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

Notice that I didn't add any kind of aspect to *maja'chuq;* I simply 
said that conversation happened sometime during lunch. Maybe it happened 
a lot, maybe it happened continuously, maybe we spoke one sentence each. 
I don't know, because I'm only asserting the fact that conversation took 
place, not the shape in which it happened over time. But if I wanted to 
talk about the shape of the conversation, I could add aspect to that as 

    *megh vISoptaHvIS maja'chuqtaH jIH DeghwI' je
    */while I ate lunch, the helmsman and I were having a conversation/

                  >···---------------···>       <-Conversation
                   >···-------------···>        <-Lunch
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

    or possibly

                     >···---------···>          <-Conversation
                   >···-------------···>        <-Lunch
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

    *megh vISoptaHvIS maja'chuqta' jIH DeghwI' je
    */while I ate lunch, the helmsman and I had a conversation (probably

                            •                   <-Conversation
                   >···-------------···>        <-Lunch
    Past >-------------------------------------> Future

Do you see how aspect is affecting the meanings of these sentences? The 
aspect suffixes are not optional—you must use them or not use them as 
required by your meaning. But you can mean to say different things about 
a single event. You can treat an action as an atomic whole, temporally 
indivisible, not talking about its parts. You can talk about the same 
action as a continuous stream, not starting or ending in the context of 
your sentence, and these non-endpoints are relevant. Or you can leave 
off aspect and talk about an action that is simply a truth, or a habit, 
or a regular occurrence but neither completed nor continuous, or 
hypothetical, or a bunch of other things.

    *tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh'a'?
    */Do you speak Klingon?/*

    *HIja', tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh.
    */Yes, I speak Klingon./
    (It is a general truth that I speak Klingon. I am not talking about
    completing an act of speaking Klingon, I am not talking about an act
    of continuously speaking Klingon.)

    *qaStaHvIS qep'a' tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh.
    */During the conference, I spoke Klingon.
    /(I'm not saying whether I spoke Klingon all the time during the
    conference, or only once, or occasionally.)

    *qaSchugh qep'a' tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh.
    */If the conference occurs, I will speak Klingon.
    /(I am describing my hypothetical speaking of Klingon, not an actual
    event. Klingon has no subjunctive mood; this is as close as you get
    to it.)

    *qaStaHvIS qep'a' tlhIngan Hol vIjatlhtaH.
    */During the conference, I was speaking Klingon.
    /(This might be used as a setup for something that happened /while/
    I was speaking Klingon.)

    *qaStaHvIS qep'a' tlhIngan Hol vIjatlhpu'.
    */During the conference, I spoke Klingon.
    /(This says that there was a particular incident in which I spoke
    Klingon, and then the speaking in Klingon was over.)

    *qep'a'Daq tlhIngan Hol vIjatlhpu'.
    */At the conference, I spoke Klingon.
    I have spoken Klingon at a conference.
    /(How this is interpreted depends on whether your listener thinks
    you're talking about a specific conference or a set of conferences.
    In the former case it means you engaged in a completed episode of
    speaking Klingon at a conference. The latter means that at past
    conferences, you have spoken Klingon, though you're not talking
    about a specific instance of Klingon speech.

Lots of time spent here! Does this help any?


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