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"How did the prisoners escape?"

Translation:chay' nargh qama'pu'?

April 28, 2019

6 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TARDISToni

Even though I know that this particular course equates the aspect suffixes strongly with the English perfective, I decided to try chay' narghta' qama'pu'? which was rejected. Based on what David T. and other have said here in the comments, I'm pretty sure this is a perfectly good Klingon equivalent for this sentence, because not only is the escape definitely completed/accomplished, the -ta' suffix is also almost certainly appropriate to show intention on the part of the prisoners, since an unintentional escape from a prison or other type of confinement seems rare ...

So, first, I'm just asking for confirmation that my Klingon translation is acceptable, at least outside of the confines of this course. Second, I wasn't sure whether or not to submit it as a "my translation should have been accepted" entry within the confines of this course. Sometimes, these perfective suffixes -pu', -ta', and -lI' have been showing up in the accepted course translations when the main verb objective has clearly been accomplished, even though the English sentence doesn't necessarily include the appropriate perfective 'has' or 'have' (verbed). But, I'm never sure quite how far to push those boundaries. So, I thought I'd leave that decision up to the mods/contributors. :)

April 28, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdmcowan

So, first, I'm just asking for confirmation that my Klingon translation is acceptable, at least outside of the confines of this course.

That depends completely on the context and your intent with the sentence. But yes, there is large overlap in the situations where you would use the English simple past and the Klingon perfective/accomplished. So in real life situations, it is quite possible (perhaps even likely) that you might use -ta' for this sentence.

If I understand David's thinking on the topic correctly, I think he believes that an unmarked Klingon verb should never be used to translate an English simple past verb. He and I differ there.

Second, I wasn't sure whether or not to submit it as a "my translation should have been accepted" entry within the confines of this course.
...
So, I thought I'd leave that decision up to the mods/contributors. :)

In this course (but not in many others) it's exactly the same people making the same decisions either way. If your goal is simply to say that you think we should accept it, then reporting it with "my translation should have been accepted" is the best way. If you want to give us an argument for why you are right, then doing both might be best. If you are unsure and want to ask if you are correct, then coming here for discussion is best.

April 29, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidTrimb3

If I understand David's thinking on the topic correctly, I think he believes that an unmarked Klingon verb should never be used to translate an English simple past verb

You do not understand my thinking correctly.

English does not have a perfective tense. In English, you can only determine whether a sentence is perfective by looking at the context of the sentence. The prisoners escaped is a perfective sentence; it describes a complete action and describes it as an indivisible whole, without considering how the action unfolds over time. This is what perfective means. The prisoners ate in the courtyard may or may not be a perfective sentence, depending on context. It might mean that, although the prisoners usually eat in the mess hall, there was one day that the roof caved in, so they made the prisoners eat in the courtyard. That makes the sentence perfective: it's a completed action that is described as a completed whole without reference to its unfolding over time. Or it might mean that the courtyard is the usual place that the prisoners eat; this would make the sentence not perfective. Or maybe the prisoners always eat in the courtyard, but I want to describe one particular instance of them eating in the courtyard like they always do. That would be perfective. It all depends on context.

TKD says that "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)." This means that a sentence like chay' nargh qama'pu' cannot be referring to a perfective action like a completed escape. It would be better translated as how do prisoners escape? (e.g., what is the usual method that prisoners use to escape?). Since Klingon has no tense built into its verbs, this might also be translated how did prisoners escape? with the understanding that you're asking for the usual method prisoners used to escape in the past.

So English simple past certainly can be translated with a Klingon verb not marked for aspect. What's important is whether the English verb is being used in a perfective manner. English does not encode perfective morphologically, so it's not a question of whether it's simple past or a perfect tense.

The problem I have with the Duolingo course is not that it might translate chay' nargh qama'pu' into the simple past tense of how did the prisoners escape. That's a valid translation, assuming the speaker is asking for general knowledge, like what the usual method of escape was. My problem is that it doesn't also allow a perfective translation, especially in a case like this where the perfective meaning is the one that springs to mind before all others. One SHOULD be able to translate this as chay' narghpu' qama'pu'. It's the more obvious meaning of *how did the prisoners escape," and it has a distinct meaning from chay' nargh qama'pu'.

April 29, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdmcowan

TKD says that "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)."

And we interpret that sentence differently. I read it as saying that sometimes the absence of a Type 7 suffix is used when the action is completed or continuous and other context can make those implications. I know you interpret it differently. Please don't try to convince me otherwise we've been through that before.

But your statement that I have misunderstood your thinking is well taken. This response has allowed me to understand it a little better. I'm glad to see we agree that the two sentences used in this exercise can, indeed, be equivalent.

April 30, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidTrimb3

No, they are not equivalent. There are two separate possible meanings here: chay' narghpu' qama'pu', a question about a completed action, and chay' nargh qama'pu', a question asking for general information about the topic of escape.

Presenting chay' nargh qama'pu' as equivalent to How did the prisoners escape? is thoroughly misleading. When a native English speaker encounters the sentence How did the prisoners escape? without any other context, that speaker is virtually guaranteed to be thinking of the perfective meaning. One would not think of the non-perfective meaning without being prompted to do so. And to express the meaning of that sentence that everybody is thinking, you need the perfective in Klingon. It's not optional. If you leave off the perfective, you've said something very different.

I appreciate the problem of presenting sentences in Duolingo without context. Other language courses suffer from the same problem, and they haven't found solutions either. But I DON'T think the solution is to require wrong answers or disallow correct answers because they don't fit an artificial one-to-one translation. Better to be overly generous of translations than to restrict them arbitrarily.

As for convincing you: I don't expect to. I am interested in convincing students, though, and that means challenging the guy in charge of the course who gives wrong information. That statement in TKD says "usually," and that "usually" allows for a few exceptions (like when you use rIntaH or when it's the second sentence of a SAO). "Usually" doesn't mean "whenever you feel like it" or "hardly ever, actually." You need a good reason to justify a "usually," not a systemic ignoring of it.

April 30, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidTrimb3

See my response to jdmcowan for my full response. Here I'll just point out that English have done, had done, has done, will have done are not perfective; they are perfect. Have done and has done are present perfect; had done is past perfect, and will have done is future perfect. These are English tenses. They are often used with perfective meaning, but "perfect" is not "perfective." English perfect tenses tell you WHEN something happens; perfective tells you HOW something happens.

But yes, the first thing someone will think when they hear How did the prisoners escape is the perfective meaning, chay' narghpu' qama'pu'? There was a jailbreak, and you're asking how it happened. You might use the non-perfective sentence, chay' narghpu' qama'pu', which has exactly the same English translation, to ask how, over the years, prisoners managed to get out of this prison time and time again. You're not asking about a completed action; you're asking about a method.

April 29, 2019
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