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  5. "maqet 'ej maSup."

"maqet 'ej maSup."

Translation:We run and we jump.

March 24, 2018


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Does klingon not have tenses? I notice a lot of these words can translate into past, present and future forms.


Correct, Klingon does not have tenses.

Instead, it has aspect -- you can distinguish something on-going from something that has an end, for example, but "on-going" might be any of "we were reading, we are reading, we will be reading" and "has an end" might be any of "we had read, we have read, we will have read".

(Not Klingon aspects aren't exactly the same as English but they're treated the same on this course. Once you have completed the course and move on to more Klingon, you can explore the nuances.)


Klingon perfective, the suffixes -pu' and -ta', do not mean the verbs they are attached to "have an end." They mean that the action of the verb is completed during the action being described. When you do something, and in doing it complete it, that's perfective.

The Klingon Dictionary says that Klingon perfective is often translated with English perfect tenses ("had done," "have done," "will have done"), but this is not to say that Klingon perfective equals English perfect tenses. It does not. There are times when you cannot use English perfect tenses to translate Klingon perfective. For instance, loSmaH vagh ben jIboghpu' is the correct way to say I was born forty-five years ago, but you cannot colloquially translate this as I have been born forty-five years ago or I had been born forty-five years ago.

In its narrowest sense, tenses tell you when something happens. Aspects tell you how something happened. English mixes tense and aspect into something we call "tense," but which is a combination of both the "when" and the "how." Klingon separates these two concepts. The "when" is always indicated by separate words or phrases, while the "how" is indicated with suffixes. If you don't use those extra words or phrases, the sentence has no specific time at which it happened; there is no "when."

maSop We eat; we ate; we will eat. There is no specific time this is said to happen, and there are no perfective or continuous suffixes on it, so it's not completed or continuous.

DaH maSop This can only mean We eat now, since the word DaH now tells us the "when" of the sentence. It's still not completed and not continuous. It just tells us the time of our eating.

maSoptaH We are eating; we were eating; we will be eating. We don't know when this happens because there is no word or phrase telling us when it happens, but we do know how it happens: it is ongoing.

wa'Hu' maSoptaH Yesterday we were eating. We know when this happened: wa'Hu' yesterday. We know how this happened: -taH continuous.

wa'Hu' maSop Yesterday we ate. We know when this happened: yesterday. We know it was not completed and not continuous. Not completed does not mean we never finished; it only means the action we describe is not completed in our telling of it. Not continuous doesn't mean it was instantaneous; it only means we are not referring to a specific time when eating was ongoing. We are simply relating the fact that our eating happened yesterday.

wa'Hu' maSoppu' Yesterday we ate. Notice this has the same English translation as the previous. We know when this happened: yesterday. We know how it happened: we are describing an action which comes to an end in our description of it. Yesterday we took the action of eating and finished it.

This distinction between tense and aspect is very hard for native English speakers to understand, as we cannot speak English without saying both when and how something happens all in one verbal phrase.


You can get a little clue about it from reading a sentence like.

I always put the book on the table after I read it.

Is it past like or present? It might not matter. You might be able to figure it out from context. You might add a clue so the reader knows:

Yesterday I put the book on the table after I read it.

English has a few verbs like let, put, set, and bet that can give you this ambiguity. In Klingon all verbs are like that, and the ambiguity extends into the future.


I always put the book on the table after I read it.

Is it past like or present? It might not matter.


reH raSDaq paq vIlan vIlaDpu'DI'

In Klingon, the putting of the book on the table isn't past, present, OR future. It's just relating a general truth.

Yesterday I put the book on the table after I read it.

wa'Hu' raSDaq paq vIlanpu' vIlaDpu'DI'

By putting this action in a specific moment in time, by making it an actual even that occurred rather than a general truth, you're saying you put the book on the table, done, finished, wipe my hands clean. It's a perfective idea.

The English word read can obscure what's happening, because read (pronounced reed) and read (pronounced red) are in different tenses. I always put the book on the table after I REED it, but Yesterday I put the book on the table after I RED it. The RED is a perfective idea, but the REED is not.

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