TKD
chapter
4.2.7

What is aspect?

Aspect tells the completeness of an action within the time-frame that the action takes place, i.e. the action is complete, the action is ongoing, etc. It should not be confused with tense, which tells when an action takes place, i.e. the past, the present, the future, etc.

Aspect suffixes

To indicate aspect, a Type 7 verb suffix is added to the verb. There are 4 suffixes as shown.

-pu' = action is complete
-ta' = action is complete with intent
-taH = continuous action
-lI' = continuous action toward an expected completion

-taH can be considered the ongoing version of -pu'
-lI' can be considered the ongoing version of -ta'

Explanation

Klingonist David Trimboli (known as SuStel) provided a beautiful visual explanation on the KLI's mailing list: (1)

Aspect is that part of a verb that tells you how an action proceeds over time. It does not tell you when the action took place. In English, it is impossible to use a verb without combining aspect and the time-telling information—these are English tenses, and Klingon does not have them.

The -taH continuous and -lI' progressive aspects tell us that an action is ongoing over time. Imagine a point on a timeline. That point is the time we're talking about in the sentence, like DaH now or jajlo' [at] dawn. The continuous and progressive aspects tell us that the action of the sentence was happening before that point on the timeline and will be happening after that point on the timeline.

DaH jIqettaH.
I am running now.

running:
>- - - ----------- - - ->
 
now:
•
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

jajlo' HoDvaD jIjatlhlI'.
At dawn I was talking to the captain.

talking:
>- - - ----------- - - ->
 
dawn:
•
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

If I leave off the continuous or progressive suffix, I'm describing that explicitly does not progress over time. Does it happen over and over? Does it happen sporadically? Does it happen throughout the timeline or just over a piece of it? We don't know without further context, though we do know that it's not continuous or progressive over the point on the timeline.

DaH jIqet.
I run now.

running:
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
 
now:
•
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

jajlo' HoDvaD jIjatlh.
At dawn I speak to the captain.

talking:
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
 
dawn:
•
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

The -pu' perfective and -ta' accomplished aspects tell us that the action of the sentence is completed in the performance of that action. If you again imagine the timeline with its dot as the time-context, the perfective and accomplished aspects tell us that the action stops at the dot. We do not know without further context whether the action was occurring before the dot, or if the action is itself merely a dot.

wa'maH cha' vatlh rep jISoppu'.
I ate at noon. MOVED TO... specifies an end to the eating.

eating:
•
 
noon:
•
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

Yes, eating a meal takes more than an instant, but a dot on the timeline doesn't necessarily represent an instant, just a "unit" of contextual time. Even in English, "I ate lunch" could mean I started putting food in my face, or it could mean I fed myself and moved on. In Klingon, it can only mean the latter.

tlhom vaS'a'Daq vIjaHta'.
I went to the Great Hall at dusk.

going:
•
 
dusk:
•
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

In Klingon, it's also possible to complete an action that is not necessarily a dot, typically by referring to a lengthy or repetitive or habitual or general action that stops being true:

qaSpa' DaHjaj yIHmey vIHoHpu'.
I have killed tribbles before today.

killing: • • • • • • • • • • x    
today:  
•
   
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
  MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

Once again, removing the aspect from these sentences makes them mean something very different:

wa'maH cha' vatlh rep jISop.
I eat at noon. MOVED TO... probably your regular habit of eating at noon.

eating:
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
 
noon:
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

tlhom vaS'a'Daq vIjaH.
I go to the Great Hall at dusk. MOVED TO... perhaps said by a guard on patrol.

going:
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
 
dusk:
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

In all this, you must remember, it doesn't matter whether an action was actually instantaneous or not. This is language, and a sentence reflects the speaker's perspective in every utterance, not an objective reality. When I say DungluQ megh vISoppu' I ate lunch at noon, I doesn't mean that lunch was an instantaneous event the moment the sun was directly overhead. I'm treating the event grammatically as an atomic whole, an event seen as indivisible in the telling. I'm not thinking of lunch as an event with various parts, just as "an event," a single thing, a blip in the timeline.

But the lunch obviously did take time to occur, so if I become interested in the breakdown of that lunch in another sentence, I can change my perspective. megh vISoptaHvIS maja'chuq jIH DeghwI' je While I ate lunch, the helmsman and I had a conversation. Now "lunch" is expanded to a continuous event in which I can place another event, the conversation.

conversation:
>- - - ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? - - ->
 
lunch:
>- - - --------------- - - ->
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

Notice that I didn't add any kind of aspect to maja'chuq; I simply said that conversation happened sometime during lunch. Maybe it happened a lot, maybe it happened continuously, maybe we spoke one sentence each. I don't know, because I'm only asserting the fact that conversation took place, not the shape in which it happened over time. But if I wanted to talk about the shape of the conversation, I could add aspect to that as well:

megh vISoptaHvIS maja'chuqtaH jIH DeghwI' je.
While I ate lunch, the helmsman and I were having a conversation.

conversation:
>- - - --------------- - - ->
 
lunch:
>- - - ----------- - - ->
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

or possibly:

conversation:
>- - - ----------- - - ->
 
lunch:
>- - - --------------- - - ->
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

megh vISoptaHvIS maja'chuqta' jIH DeghwI' je.
While I ate lunch, the helmsman and I had a conversation. (probably planned)

conversation:
•
 
lunch:
>- - - --------------- - - ->
 
past
MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...     MOVED TO...
future

Do you see how aspect is affecting the meanings of these sentences? The aspect suffixes are not optional — you must use them or not use them as required by your meaning. But you can mean to say different things about a single event. You can treat an action as an atomic whole, temporally indivisible, not talking about its parts. You can talk about the same action as a continuous stream, not starting or ending in the context of your sentence, and these non-endpoints are relevant. Or you can leave off aspect and talk about an action that is simply a truth, or a habit, or a regular occurrence but neither completed nor continuous, or hypothetical, or a bunch of other things.

tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh'a'?
Do you speak Klingon?

HIja', tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh.
Yes, I speak Klingon.
MOVED TO... It is a general truth that I speak Klingon. I am not talking about completing an act of speaking Klingon, I am not talking about an act of continuously speaking Klingon.

qaStaHvIS qep'a' tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh.
During the conference, I spoke Klingon.
MOVED TO... I'm not saying whether I spoke Klingon all the time during the conference, or only once, or occasionally.

qaSchugh qep'a' tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh.
If the conference occurs, I will speak Klingon.
MOVED TO... I am describing my hypothetical speaking of Klingon, not an actual event. Klingon has no subjunctive mood; this is as close as you get to it.

qaStaHvIS qep'a' tlhIngan Hol vIjatlhtaH.
During the conference, I was speaking Klingon.
MOVED TO... This might be used as a setup for something that happened while I was speaking Klingon.

qaStaHvIS qep'a' tlhIngan Hol vIjatlhpu'.
During the conference, I spoke Klingon.
MOVED TO... This says that there was a particular incident in which I spoke Klingon, and then the speaking in Klingon was over.

qep'a'Daq tlhIngan Hol vIjatlhpu'.
At the conference, I spoke Klingon.
I have spoken Klingon at a conference.
MOVED TO... How this is interpreted depends on whether your listener thinks you're talking about a specific conference or a set of conferences. In the former case it means you engaged in a completed episode of speaking Klingon at a conference. The latter means that at past conferences, you have spoken Klingon, though you're not talking about a specific instance of Klingon speech.

See also

References

1 : Message to the list of 24 August 2016

Category: Grammar    Latest edit: 12 Apr 2017, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 29 Aug 2015 by BradWilson
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