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"I trusted you!"


December 12, 2018



This is kind of a sticky one, but wouldn't qavoqpu' express the meaning here better?

I'll expound: qavoq can mean 'I trust you', 'I trusted you' and 'I will trust you'. However, the given English example sentence, at least to my eyes, has the meaning of "I trusted you (and now I find that you've betrayed me)." Thus, we need an aspect marker to show that the speaker is saying "I trusted you (but I now trust you no longer)," and I think that's best expressed by qavoqpu'. That makes it clear that trust in the 2nd person singular individual is in the past, but very likely does not currently exist (and may not exist again in the future) - a situation which would also render the translation qavoq inappropriate for the present and future tenses. In short, a perfect translation.

Of course, as David has been saying, as Aspect has been treated in the context of this course, we'd expect the -pu' suffix to cause this sentence to be expressed in English as "I have trusted you" - and in a Klingon-to-English translation format, that could be an alternate translation. But, unless you're choosing to completely ignore the subtext of the original sentence here - i.e. implying a loss of the past trust - then I think it's worth it to ignore the course's apparent requirement for the English perfective here.

I'd love to hear the experts' opinions on this. Of course, it's possible it's all a bit too subtle a matter to try to be teaching these kinds of nuances to all students early in the course, and I couldn't argue with that. But, I'd still be interested to hear whether, in a conversation among native (or fluent) speakers of Klingon, whether this subtext of betrayal exists (I would think it does), and whether they would normally express it as I have proposed, with the -pu' suffix.

Thank you for reading today's installment of Linguistic Ramblings with Toni. :-)


Actually, in this case I disagree. This is not talking about a single complete case of trusting (which is what the perfective is for), but rather a habitual trusting in the past.

One could also use that English sentence for something like, "When you said that the Earth goes around the sun, I trusted you." Now we are looking at a perfective.

Since Duolingo does not give us a way to build extensive context it is difficult for us to teach those kinds of subtleties, but I'm hoping we can find a way to address it in future Duolingo trees.


Toni is correct. The context here is a single, complete case of trusting — the entirety of the trust.

When a verb is in the perfective, it doesn't have to be instantaneous. The time period it covers can be anything. It could be a moment; it could be a year; it could be all of time up to this point. The only important thing is that the action be viewed as an undivided whole that is being looked back on from the viewpoint of the sentence.

You could say, for instance, jIQuptaHvIS qun vIHaDpu' When I was young, I studied history. You didn't study history all in one day, or all in one continuous block. You're simply looking back on the period of study as an undivided whole that is now completed. That's the essence of perfective. You can see no internal structure in the verb: you don't see starts or stops within the studying; you don't see indications of habit or incompleteness; all you see is that studying happened and then was finished.

So Toni's translation is correct: qavoqpu' is the correct way to say I trusted you when that phrase has a subtext of and now I don't.

However, it's also possible to say I trusted you without implying an end to that trust. I trusted you then, and I trust you now. In Klingon, that would be ngugh qavoq 'ej DaH qavoq. The trust never ended, so no perfective would be used.

So both translations into Klingon are acceptable because the English grammar does not make clear in isolation whether the trust is ended or not. English does not explicitly indicate perfective grammatically; it requires context to determine that.

It occurs to me that these lack-of-context issues could largely have been avoided in the Duolingo course if most of the preferred English translations of non-perfective Klingon had been given in the present tense rather than the past.


I did not intend to say it had to be instantaneous, just, as you have said, that it be viewed as a whole. So you could also use -pu' for something like "When I was 5 years old, I trusted you."

But what I really like about the absence of -pu' here is that the English and the Klingon both have the same ambiguity of whether the trust might still be going on.


The absence of -pu' does not leave any room for ambiguity.

"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)." (TKD)

Leaving off the -pu' explicitly means the trust is not complete. It must still be going on. It is not ambiguous.

And you can't point at that usually in the quotation as license to ignore the rule. The usually is there to cover exceptions to the general rule, like when you're not allowed to put a type 7 suffix on the second sentence of a sentence-as-object construction, even if the construction should contextually use that suffix. It's not there so you can ignore the rule whenever you like.

wa'Hu' qavoq can only mean I trusted you yesterday (and that trust didn't end yesterday). wa'Hu' qavoqpu' can only mean I trusted you yesterday (and that trust ended yesterday). There is no ambiguity.


I think you have taken that sentence from TKD way too literally. Dr. Okrand says over and over in the book that it is just an outline and "never" and "always" do not really mean "never" and "always". And I very specifically think that he says "usually" there because he is making a generalization about interpretation and there are other ways to interpret it also. From discussions with Dr. Okrand, I am confident that the absence of a type 7 means that the speaker is being non-specific about the continuing or ending of the action and not that it is neither continuing nor ended.


I can see how that might have looked like name dropping, but my point was not that I must be right because I have had conversations with Dr. Okrand. I was trying to say that my discussions with him have expanded my understanding beyond the casual words in TKD and have convinced me that I should interpret it differently than you are saying. I am not claiming that I understand perfectly or necessarily even better than you, but I certainly claim that myself and other Klingonists disagree with your interpretation, so this is not a settled issue. You, on the other hand, seem to claim that you are the only one who understands how Klingon really works.

Since you claim to have carefully studied the canon, can you point to any instances where the completedness or continuousness is not important, but Dr. Okrand still used a type 7 suffix?


I suppose it was a pointless request since all I have to say is that at that moment it seemed important to him to be exact in that. I'm not saying it shouldn't be used there, I'm saying it doesn't need to be used there. In the end, I'm asking you to prove a negative, so it's a pointless request. But I'm not trying to convince you of anything and I'm satisfied if our students have gotten the idea that there are conflicting understandings.


I'm not taking the sentence too literally; I'm taking it at face value. It says the absence of a type 7 suffix means the action is not completed and not continuous. It doesn't mean that the speaker isn't mentioning whether the action is completed or continuous.

If you take that usually as an excuse to ignore the rule, then the sentence has exactly zero point in the book.

Any time an element can be dropped because the speaker doesn't want to mention it, the book tells us this. It says the exact opposite in this sentence.

And finally, if you study the canon carefully, you'll see that Okrand himself follows this rule. He doesn't casually drop type 7 suffixes when the completedness or continuousness isn't important.


Oh, and I've talked to Marc too, and specifically about the topic of perfective, so I can match you in the name-dropping.


Tons. Take, for instance, loSmaH ben jIboghpu' I was born forty years ago. (http://klingonska.org/canon/1996-12-12a-news.txt) By the interpretation you favor, you'd be perfectly happy to say loSmaH ben jIbogh. The completedness of this statement is patently obvious, but has no particular weight to the purpose of the sentence, which is to state the time of birth, not the fact that the birth was completed. But the birth was completed, so a perfective suffix is needed. Okrand did not say loSmaH ben jIbogh.

This is, by the way, one of those sentences that is translated into the simple past tense in English, but uses perfective in Klingon.


It's not a question of whether it was important to Okrand in that moment; it's a question of whether it expresses what the sentence needs to express. The whole point of that post is how to express years ago and similar time-related expressions. Whether an action was completed or not was not under consideration at all. Okrand says nothing in that entire post about the completedness of being born, except to translate -pu' as perfective.


But how do we know it wasn't a single, complete case of trusting? ;-)

I didn't really look at it in terms of being a continous, habitual trust, although I suppose one could. The situation could be "I've always trusted you about everything!" or it could be "I trusted you when you said the starship would be waiting for me there!" In the first case, none of the aspect markers we've learned thus far would really adequately fit the context. Is there one we haven't learned yet that does?

In either case, I guess we are getting into subtleties that are too much to address in this course. I just thought the subtext (of a loss of trust) was too strong to ignore.


Being stuck with the sentences that are there, the best solution would probably be to allow both perfective and non-perfective translations wherever context would allow such interpretations — which is probably most of the time.


That was the crux of my question: whether both translations, both with and without -qu', should be equally allowed, given that the context of the original English question could be considered ambiguous. After all, the loss of previous trust, while it may seem clear, is still an inferred subtext - it's not actually inherent in the literal meaning/translation.

That's for this particular sentence, though, due to the subtext. It had occurred to me that the -qu' suffix could apply to many of the past tense sentences in this course. However, adding it to all of them as a possible alternate translation just isn't feasible, due to the pure volume of sample sentences and the already-existing variations in translation.

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