[tlhIngan Hol] vaj and meqvammo' difference

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Tue Oct 6 08:20:54 PDT 2020

Okay, I put a lot of work into this, so please do read it carefully.

On 10/6/2020 10:07 AM, Will Martin wrote:
> One would think that by now, I’d have the perfective down.
> I’m not trying to argue here. I trust your understanding of the 
> perfective and want your advice to steer me away from my thinking. I 
> was starting with “Because I had been hungry, I ordered pizza.” The 
> ordering was simple past, so not perfective. The hunger, within the 
> time setting of ordering the pizza, was a level farther into the past.
> To some extent, both the ordering of the pizza and my hunger are now 
> complete, since I ordered and ate the pizza.
> Please clarify. I tend to renew my understanding of the perfective 
> after your explanations and I thank you in advance.

You do not understand that perfective is not the same as perfect.

English has a lot of tenses. Here are a few relevant ones.

/I order pizza./ Simple present tense.
/I have ordered pizza./ Present perfect tense.
/I ordered pizza./ Simple past tense.
/I had ordered pizza./ Past perfect tense, also called pluperfect./
I will order pizza./ Simple future tense.
/I will have ordered pizza./ Future perfect tense.

The simple tenses tell you which direction in time from the moment of 
speaking the action takes place./

/I order pizza./ Simple present tense. The ordering happens as I say 
this sentence.
/I ordered pizza./ Simple past tense. The ordering happened before I 
said this sentence.
/I will order pizza./ Simple future tense. The order will happen after I 
say this sentence.

The perfect tenses tell you which direction in time relative to a 
reference event the action takes place.

/By 3:00, I had ordered pizza./ Pluperfect. The order happened before 
3:00, which was before now.
/By 3:00, I will have ordered pizza./ Future perfect. The order will 
happen before 3:00, which has not happened yet.

Sometimes the moment of speaking and the reference event are the same 

/Now I have ordered pizza./ Present perfect. The reference event /now/ 
is the same as the moment of speaking, and the order happened before now.

What's true for all of these is that the tense tells you in which 
direction of time the event occurs relative to some other event. This is 
the function of tense.

Aspect, on the other hand, doesn't tell you in which direction of time 
an event occurs. Aspect tells you the shape of an event. It tells you 
how the event occurred and how you're looking at it. Aspect tells you 
things like whether an action is unchanging or continuous or 
instantaneous or having an abrupt start or having an abrupt ending or 
being repetitive or being habitual or being timeless. It doesn't tell 
you WHEN the action happened, just HOW it happened and how YOU are 
viewing it.

It is VERY IMPORTANT at this point to keep firmly in your mind that 
aspect does note tell you ANYTHING about which direction in time an 
event is relative to now or a reference point.

Klingon has four aspect suffixes. One of these is *-pu'.//*It means 
/perfective./ It means the action has a specific shape: it is a 
completed action, and you are viewing it from a point after it is 
completed. It is an action described as having an end point, and it is 
being viewed from after that endpoint has been reached. (Notice that 
your VIEWPOINT is not the same as NOW or even a reference event. It is 
simply imagining yourself at a point on the timeline after the event 
such that you can look back at it and see that it is completed.)

*pItSa' chab vIvunpu'.*//An order of pizza takes place. I am placing the 
listener at a viewpoint just after the order, where we can see that the 
order was completed. This sentence doesn't say ANYTHING WHATSOEVER about 
when the order takes place or whether it happens before or after now. 
There is no reference event. It is completely impossible to place this 
isolated sentence on a timeline.

*jIghungpu'.* This describes my state of hunger. I am placing the 
listener at a viewpoint after my hunger is over, to look back in time to 
see my hunger come to an end. This sentence also says absolutely nothing 
about whether this hunger occurs before, simultaneously with, or after 
now, and there is no reference event. It is completely impossible to 
place this isolated sentence on a timeline.

Now remember that old chestnut of TKD: "The absence of a Type 7 suffix 
usually means that the action is not completed and is not continuous 
(that is, it is not one of the things indicated by the Type 7 
suffixes)." "Usually" in this context does not mean "you can ignore this 
rule whenever you want." It means there are times when your desire to 
use a type 7 suffix is blocked by some other rule, like how you can't 
use a type 7 suffix on the second verb of a sentence-as-object 
construction. Apply the rule to these sentences:

*pItSa' chab vIvun.* An order of pizza takes place. The action described 
cannot be considered to be viewed from after its completion, and it 
cannot be considered to be viewed from deep inside without seeing the 
endpoints (the meaning of continuous, which I won't get into here). What 
kinds of actions might such a sentence describe? Well, the action could 
be happening simultaneously with the viewpoint. It hasn't finished yet. 
Or our viewpoint might be situated before the action even starts, 
placing the action in the future of the viewpoint. Or the action might 
be timeless, not occurring at any given time, but just being generally 
true. Or the action might be something I do over and over again, making 
it impossible to place a given viewpoint anywhere that would identify 
the action as completed. All of these are valid uses of this sentence, 
and given the right context, you should be able to figure out which one 
I mean.

Now go back to English. How would you describe ordering a pizza earlier 
in the day, at 3:00?

/At 3:00 this afternoon, I ordered pizza./

Here, we use the simple past tense to describe the action as BEFORE NOW. 
The reference time pegs when that was, but the tense just tells us it's 
before now. Now here's the good bit. THIS ACTION IS PERFECTIVE. English 
doesn't mark verbs for perfective and doesn't have a tense corresponding 
to it. But you can work out the details. This is a single instance of 
ordering a pizza, so it's not something habitual or repetitive or 
general. It happens exactly once: at 3:00 this afternoon. It's not 
happening simultaneously with or after the viewpoint of the listener — 
remember, the viewpoint is not the same as the reference event — because 
it's impossible to follow that sentence with anything except what 
happened AFTER the order (or to suddenly jump the viewpoint back in 
time). This is a perfective sentence, even though English does not mark 
its sentences for perfective.

For us English speakers, it takes a lot of work to recognize perfective. 
It's not natural for us. Our tenses are complex and subtle and difficult 
for non-natives to learn, but they don't match the way Klingon works. 
Klingon tense is purely contextual. Klingon aspect doesn't line up with 
any English grammar. TKD claims it will TRANSLATE Klingon perfective 
with English present perfect tense, but it only does so about half the 
time. The other half it's simple past tense. But even future perfect 
tense is a possible translation for perfective: *DaHjaj ram pItSa' chab 
vIvunpu'*/Tonight I will have ordered pizza./ Viewpoint is looking back 
on the completed order; both the viewpoint and the order take place at 
the reference time, tonight. Now is before tonight.

And I think you'll find that understanding perfective this way will 
match up perfectly with canon.

So, any questions? Do you see that Klingon perfective does not mean 
"prior to the time context"? It is not equal to English perfect tenses?


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