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The first of our episodes of the holy verbal trinity of TAM.  We initially planned to do Tense and Aspect as one episode, but the more we talked about tense the more complicated it became, so the aspect discussion is pushed to next week.  We also have a wonderful time talking about the insanity that is Klingon.

Opening Phrase: Sandic

Featured Conlang: Klingon (KLI, The Klingon Dictionary)

15 Responses to “Conlangery #16: Tense”

  1. bornforwater

    I’m so late with this, but ahh! My conlang was the opener! 🙂 How awesome. Thank you guys so much.

  2. pá mamūnám ontā́ bán

    I think the main difference between the present tense in American English and the present tense in British English is that in America the aspectual connotations seem to have been lost. For example when an America says “I don’t remember” it sounds strange to someone in Britain because we’d say “I can’t remember” because not using “can’t” makes it sound like you make a habit out of not remembering rather than not being able to remember at that specific point in time. It’s subtle and doesn’t work in every instance.

  3. John Hutchinson

    Apparently it is a thing in Austronesian that the voiced alveolar stop is further back than its voiceless counterpart. This has led to in some Formosan languages that retroflex stops contrasting with alveolars appeared in languages such as Paiwan, Rukai and Puyuma.

  4. KM

    Speaking of Klingon, one of the big issues I have with be entire concept and how Oakrand went about choosing sounds is that the whole basis was to just make it weird to AMERICANS in particular. The whole thing thus ends up fraught with extra racial baggage. I’m glad the fandom seized on it and made it into something better.

    But, I have to agree with Bianca, I’m not fond of Klingon. I find it interesting to read about linguistically to some extent, but I find it downright ugly to look at and the tables make my head hurt. I think the SOUND and FLOW it achieved fits the Klingons and their culture perfectly – in fact I think it sounds really cool! – but reading and looking at it is a whole other issue for me.

    I also don’t like the palindrome thing mentioned at about 58 mins… It’s not so much how unnatural it is – that’s what Oakrand was going for, “alien.” But it just comes off as lazy to me, and that really bugs me.

    Also, now there is a DuoLingo course in the works for Klingon, so fans and conlangers will at some point have easier access to learning some… If it ever gets finished anyway… 😛 and provided the studio doesn’t just put a stop to the whole venture.

    Anyway, great episode guys! I’m learning so much from your discussions on grammatical tactics. This ep gave me a few ideas on how to flesh out my tenses in fact, cause they’re still rather lacking. 🙂 Thanks!

    • admin

      To be clear, while most any individual feature of Klingon doesn’t make a language all that weird, it’s the combination of features that can make it look weird. I see this in the phoneme inventory a lot — There’s maybe one or two rare sounds, but the overall system is what’s weird. Keep in mind that Okrand didn’t come to this as a conlanger. He was hired as a linguist to build something out of pre-existing dialogue, and the construction started out as a sort of as-it’s-needed basis.

      On the whole thing of exoticization, I think that can occur in conlanging. I’ve taken to avoiding referring to features as ‘exotic’, which requires a cultural point of reference, and just talk about whether a feature is ‘rare’ (which, well, English has some rare features). I think that the main thing is that conlangers should be thoughtful of how the system they are building fits together, and what things naturally tend to work together. Making a language ‘alien’ can best be done by trying things that humans just don’t do, like a completely different modality (color-changing skin? sure) or violating one of the few iron-clad universals.

  5. wolf

    Know this is late, but the correct form of na-type adjectives is to only keep the ‘na’ in the ‘non-predicate’ form. So, to say something is ‘yuumei’, we do not say ‘yuumei na desu’, but just ‘yuumei desu (or ‘deshita)’.

    For those who’re interested, iirc ‘na’ is an old ‘attributive’ form of the copula, so we don’t need 2 copulas (‘na’ and ‘desu’). 😉

    • wolf

      Ah, forgot to mention. This is re: the brief side discussion of Japanese noun- and verb-type, tensed adjectives.


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