tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Fri Mar 11 18:08:06 1994

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Re: Narrative "tense"

ghItlh KevinWilson:
> While translating the book of Genesis, I have encountered a bit of
>a problem.  Having read Mark Shoulson article on "Tense, Aspect, and
>Simultaneity in tlhIngan Hol" in HolQeD 2:4, I am trying to find a way to
>represent narrative in the past without the overuse of -pu'.  I agree
>that often a sentence can take its time from elements other than the verb,
>such as in the sentence:

> wa'Hu' jIghung

>Here the time of the sentence is indicated by wa'Hu'.  To have added the
>-pu' suffix would have changed the meaning from "Yesterday I was hungry"
>to "Yesterday I had been hungry".

When speaking narratively, contextual markers of a past time frame of
reference are unnecessary because the fact that the events described are in
the past is obvious.

~mark wrote his _Jonah_ translation with virtually no contextual markers or
indicators that the events had already occured. But of course, he really
didn't need to.

Just as Klingon has no indirect quotes, it also has no narrative past. It
uses only narrative present and that is enough to make the idea of past tense

Even in English we do this, even tho we do have a sort of narrative past. We
tell our jokes as if their happening 'right now' (and like you pointed out,
so do the Klingons). In many other circumstances, we might hear things like,
"Tonight on the 11o'clock news, a plane slides off an icy runway in Columbus.
No one is injured... (etc., etc.)" With this, we understand perfectly well
that the events are in the past.

Perfective is not quite appropriate, because it says that something has just
occured, in a specified time frame. If you heard, "A plane has slid off a
runway in Columbus. No one has been injured," the idea carried across is that
the event is extremely recent and closely associated with events at the
present time or that direct results of this event are occuring in the present

There is no easy way to explain aspect. Especially in a language that has
aspect but no tense.

Guido#1, Leader of All Guidos

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