1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Klingon
  4. >
  5. "HuchwIj nIH loDvetlh!"

"HuchwIj nIH loDvetlh!"

Translation:That man stole my money!

July 5, 2019



so, I've seen comments all over the Klingon course about perfective tense, and how it's not quite taught properly, but I'm curious about what the implications might be on this sentence, where it isn't used. With my understanding, I would certainly want to use the perfective tense (as the English sentence implies.)

Essentially, it seems to me, as an English speaker, that I should be using -pu' and -ta' a lot more than is represented in the course, as well as KLI chat rooms. Why is this not the case for those who are fluent in Klingon?


Historically, here's what happened. Members of the KLI taught for years and years that Klingon perfective meant "prior to the current time context." So if you were talking about wa'Hu' yesterday and you wanted to describe a robbery that happened yesterday, you'd say wa'Hu' HuchwIj nIH loDvetlh because the robbery happened yesterday, not prior to yesterday.

Except that's not how Klingon perfective is described in the text, that's not how the example perfective sentences work, and that's not what perfective means. Perfective is an aspect, which describes how an action occurs over time; "prior to the current time context" tells you WHEN something happens, and telling you when something happens is a tense, which Klingon explicitly doesn't have. TKD describes Klingon perfective as describing an action as completed, not as occurring prior. It just so happens that completed actions often occur prior to the stated time context, but that's not exclusively true. Okrand once used loSmaH ben jIboghpu' I was born forty years ago, but the birth doesn't take place PRIOR to forty years ago.

I had problems with Klingonists' explanations of perfective for a long time, and finally figured out why it was wrong. I went on a crusade to fix the misinformation. It's been a long battle, with many a vicious fight as people refuse to acknowledge the meaning of perfective or that Okrand's examples show clear perfective. I think much progress has been made, but as this course shows we still have a long way to go.

So regarding this sentence: HuchwIj nIH loDvetlh. This sentence is expressing either the experience of the moment of the theft (That man is stealing my money, it's happening right now, or you're establishing a viewpoint in the past or future when it's happening) or describing a general or habitual tendency or general fact (That's the man who commonly steals my money; that man steals my money, he doesn't do something else with it).

But if you really want to translate Yesterday that man stole my money, you'd say wa'Hu' HuchwIj nIHpu' loDvetlh. You're looking back on an event and describing it as a completed whole. You're not describing being in the moment of the theft.


If HuchwIj nIH loDvetlh can mean the moment of the theft that is happening right now, why do we need -taH? Or at least how would that sentence in the present be different than HuchwIj nIHtaH loDvetlh when describing the present?


Assuming the time context of the sentence is now, then:

HuchwIj nIH loDvetlh
That man steals my money.
Right now, the man is stealing my money. English forces us to use the present progressive for actions that are occurring in the present, which is why I said is stealing, but in Klingon I'm relating an action of the moment only.

HuchwIj nIHtaH loDvetlh
That man is stealing my money.
Right now, the man is stealing my money. He was stealing my money before now, he's still stealing my money, and I expect that he'll be stealing my money after now.

The English translations are only approximations of the Klingon. It would be perfectly fine — even necessary — to translate HuchwIj nIH loDvetlh as That man is stealing my money, but that is because of the peculiarities of English, not because the action is being described as continuous in the sense of -taH. Meanwhile, HuchwIj nIHtaH loDvetlh might sometimes be translated as That man is still stealing my money, depending on the exact circumstances. Translation is rarely a simple one-to-one mapping of grammatical elements.


Thank you david. I wish we could have an entire meeting only about verb aspects.

Related Discussions

Learn Klingon in just 5 minutes a day. For free.