[tlhIngan Hol] A quick thought on time

Steven Boozer sboozer at uchicago.edu
Fri Nov 4 09:35:15 PDT 2016

Here's Okrand's original post from February 1999. AFAIK there is no further information on using the {Qoylu'pu} formula.  Notice that the numbers used with {-logh} are relatively small - e.g. twice, six times, eight times - as if counting the hourly chimes of a clock or the half-hourly "bells" on a ship.


From: Marc Okrand <...>
Newsgroups: startrek.klingon
Date: Wed, 3 Feb 1999 
Subject: Re: wanI' to replace time related relative pronoun

Will Martin wrote:
>Meanwhile, wouldn't it be really cool if Marc Okrand just told us how to
>deal with time issues like this? I mean, "What time is it?" seems like a
>basic enough question. The only answer he has given us so far is the
>possible idiom {tlhaqwIj chu'Ha'lu'pu'}. I would think a Klingon would
>have a more straight-forward way of asking what time it is. Or maybe a
>Klingon simply would not ask what time it is unless his tlhaq was broken
>or missing?

Actually, there are several ways to ask "What time is it?" in Klingon. 
Here are a couple. 

In dealing with time in interplanetary communication, Klingons have come
to use the 24-hour system favored by the Federation.  There are 24 hours
in a day (meaning 24 Earth hours in an Earth day), numbered one through
24.  For example: 

    tera' rep wa'
    "Earth hour one" or "one o'clock"

    tera' rep cha'maH
    "Earth hour 20" or "20 o'clock" or "eight o'clock p.m."

    tera' rep loS wejmaH
    "Earth hour 4:30"

If the context is clear, the word tera' "Earth" may be left out: 

    rep cha'maH  "20 o'clock, eight o'clock p.m."

When working within this system, one doesn't inquire as to the time; one
demands that the number of the current hour be specified.  Thus, the
equivalent expression to "What time is it?" is a command: 

    rep yIper!  "Ascertain the hour! Specify the hour!"

This is literally "Label the hour!".  Though the verb per "label" is usually used in the sense of "attach or assign a name to,"  it can also be used for such notions as "ascertain, specify, pin down."  This is not considered slang or idiomatic. 

When giving the time using this system, hours are numbered, not counted. 
That is, one says rep cha' "hour two, hour number two, two o'clock," not
cha' rep or cha' repmey "two hours" (a plural suffix, here -mey, is not needed when a number modifies a noun, but it is sometimes used anyway).  Accordingly, it is not customary to ask for the time by saying rep tItogh or repmey tItogh "Count the hours!". 

In nonmilitary contexts (as rare as these may be) and in situations where
interplanetary communication is not a concern, the most common way of
asking "What time is it?" in Klingon is quite different.  It is based on
the way the question was asked long ago, in a time before Klingons
traveled around the galaxy and before there was any significant amount of
interaction between Klingons and residents of other planets: 

    'arlogh Qoylu'pu'? 

This is literally "How many times has (someone) heard (it)?" or "How many
times has it been heard?"  ('arlogh "how many times?" a word that
functions adverbially, made up of the question word 'ar "how much? how
many?" and the special number suffix -logh "times" [as in "six times"]; 
Qoylu'pu' "someone has heard (it)," made up of Qoy "hear," -lu'
"indefinite subject," -pu' "perfective,"  that is, the action has been

What is not clear from this locution is what it is that has supposedly
been heard.  In modern Klingon, the "what" in this phrase is never

It appears as though, long ago, at least some Klingons were notified of
the time by some audible signal (though what means were used to calculate
the time in the first place remain to be discovered).  Perhaps this signal
was a specific sound (a person shouting? a beat on a drum? a gong? the
growl of an animal?) and that word was originally part of the expression,
for example, 'arlogh bey Qoylu'pu'? "How many times has someone heard
the howl? How many times has the howl been heard?"  Or maybe the expression contained a more general word such as ghum "alarm" or wab "sound, noise": 'arlogh wab Qoylu'pu'? "How many times has someone heard the sound?  How many times has the sound been heard?" 

It has also been speculated that there was once a bit more to this
expression, namely an element stating the time period the questioner was
concerned about.  For example, maybe people said: 

    DaHjaj 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'? 

That is, "Today, how many times has someone heard it?", suggesting that the questioner is concerned about how much time has gone by "today" (as opposed to, say, "this week"). 

Or maybe the fuller expression was a little less specific: 

    qen 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'? 

"Recently, how many times has someone heard it?" (qen "recently, a short
time ago"). 

Regardless of its original full form, the expression comes down to us now
as simply 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'?.  The phrase is considered an idiom because
what it means ("What time is it?") cannot be understood on the basis of
the meanings of its components ("How many times has someone heard it?"). 

The answer to the question 'arlogh "How many times?" is, as might be
expected, X-logh, where X is some number.  For example: 

    cha'logh Qoylu'pu'. 

This is literally "Someone has heard it twice" or "It has been heard
twice" (cha'logh "twice," from cha' "two"  plus -logh "times"). 
This is the Klingon equivalent to "It's two o'clock."  Originally, this
was a statement of time in the traditional Klingon system, but it is now
also used for the 24-hour system. 

The idiomatic 'arlogh Qoylu'pu' also shows up in such questions as "What
time do we leave?": 

    mamejDI' 'arlogh Qoylu'pu'? 

This is literally "When we leave, how many times will someone have heard
(it)?" or "When we leave, how many times will it have been heard?". 

An answer might be "We (will) leave at eight o'clock: 

    mamejDI' chorghlogh Qoylu'pu'

Literally, "When we leave, someone will have heard (it) eight times". 

Since subordinate clauses such as mamejDI' "when we leave" can come
before or after the main clause, it's also possible to say: 

    'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?
    chorghlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'.

Literally, "How many times will someone have heard (it)  when we leave? 
Someone will have heard (it) eight times when we leave." 

In actual conversation, of course, it's usually not so repetitive.  You'd
probably hear: 

    'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?
    chorghlogh Qoylu'pu'.

"How many times will someone have heard (it) when we leave?  Someone will
have heard (it) eight times." 

Or even:

    'arlogh Qoylu'pu' mamejDI'?

"How many times will someone have heard (it) when we leave?  Eight times." 


> mayqel qunenoS <mihkoun at gmail.com> wrote:
> > De'vID:
> >> wa'maHvatlh cha'maH rep
> >> wa'maH wa'vatlh loSmaH rep
> >
> > If I want to express these with the {Qoy'lu'pu'}, then how do I do it
> > ? {wa'maHvatlh cha'maHlogh Qoy'lu'pu'} and {wa'maH wa'vatlh loSmaHlogh
> > Qoy'lu'pu'} ?
> qaja'pu' jay'!
> {cha'maH tup ret wa'maHlogh Qoy'lu'pu', cha'maH tup pIq wa'maH cha'logh
> Qoy'lu'pu'.}
> --
> De'vID
> _______________________________________________ 

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