[tlhIngan Hol] Present tense and context

janSIy . kenjutsuka at live.com
Wed Jun 23 05:05:39 PDT 2021

jatlh luis.chaparro
><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). Verbs with no Type 7 suffix are translated by the English simple present
> tense. (...) When the context is appropriate, verbs without a Type 7 suffix may be
> translated by the English future tense (will), but the real feeling of the Klingon is
> closer to English sentences such as *We fly tomorrow at dawn*, where the
> present-tense verb refers to an event in the future.>
> I guess Okrand forgot the (imperfective) past tense, so it should actually say: *may be translated by the English future tense (will) or simple past*.

I don't think so.  While it is generally true that it could also be interpreted as past, he is giving a specific future tense example and so did not mention the possibility of past tense here.

> My question is: If you don't have any specific context or any words indicating
> past or future, should you interpret a verb with no Type 7 suffix as present (as
> suggested by this quotation of TKD)? Of course, there is (almost) always a
> context, but sometimes it takes a little bit till context is clear. If a Klingon read at
> the beginning of a text: *tera'Daq Dab muchwI' noy*, will she or he interpret it
> as present, because if you want it to mean past or future you MUST use a time
> expression or a clear context, or will she or he simply not interpret it as
> present / past / future till context or a time expression clarify it (which could be
> pretty confusing)?

I think it is more likely that Klingons are able to think outside of the grand scheme of tense.  They don't assume it is present.  The details that they are hearing exist in their own time frame until something comes along to put them into the listener's time frame somewhere.  I guess in a way it's like thinking in present tense, but not in one's own timeline, just in the timeline of the events being discussed.  The famous musician lives on earth in his or her own timeline.  Later you may find that it is happening right now during your present time line or that it was in the past or the future, but I don't think Klingons automatically make any assumptions about where to put it on their own timeline and so do not assume it is in their own current present tense.  If the topic turns out to be particularly relevant to their own timeline, I wouldn't be surprised to hear them asking for a more specific time context so they can place it properly.  However, some stories are fine left out of our own timeline and existing just as stories in their own time.

> Let me put it other way: MUST I always use a clear context or a time expression
> to get the meaning of present (i.e. be very careful to be sure present is the only
> possible interpretation in a text), or can I assume that, if no other word or
> context indicate past or future, the listener / the reader will understand a verb
> with no Type 7 suffix as present?

If the placement of your statements with regard to the current actual time line is important to you or to your listeners, then giving them some time context is very important.  If you want to be clear and specific that it is happening right now, then you must use language that is clear and specific that it is happening right now.  The context of things happening right now often make it clear that you are talking about the present.  And other forms of time context exist besides time expressions.  But if other context does not make it clear and you want it to be clear, then say so.  If it is not important that your listeners be able to place the events relative to themselves or to you in time, then such time context is not important and may be left off completely.  The use or absence of Type 7 suffixes is irrelevant to where it happens with regard to your own timeline.  They just tell you whether that particular action has already been completed, is still ongoing, or is not being thought of as one of those things within the timeline of your telling.

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