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Time Travelling Grammar

So that you know how to address yourself, when you have come back from the future to say hi.
(+6, -6)
  [vote for,

Sooner or later, time travel is going to be invented, and we will need new grammar to cope. The simple three tenses is not enough. So I propose a simple change. Instead of assuming that the 'personal time' of both parties is the same, we make a chart with three tenses along for the speaker, and three tenses down for the listener. I can't draw this here, so I'll summarize it (assume that I'm talking and you're listening).

When they are the same, it's simple:

Both Past: I have kicked the ball.

Both Present: I am kicking the ball.

Both Future: I will kick the ball.

It gets more complicated:

My past, your present: I kicked the ball am.

My past, your future: I kicked the ball will.

My present, your past: I kick the ball have.

My present, your future: I kick the ball will.

My future, your past: I will kick the ball have.

My future, your present: I will kick the ball am.

So you can see that the sentence is said normally for the speaker's time, with the auxilliary verb inserted for the time of the listener at the end of the clause.

This is not complete, it cannot cope with the differences between continuous and complete ('I was kicking the ball' vs 'I kicked the ball'), nor can it cope with extra verbs, infinitives, more auxilliaries, etc. Doubtless it will end up like German, with about three verbs at the end of each sentence, in various forms, but heck, if the Germans can do it, so can we.

P.S. I am aware of Douglas Adams' ideas, which went something like 'I will wiollen the ball kikken', but my idea is to make something usable.

dbmag9, Dec 22 2005


       "Listen to me! This portal will only last a few seconds! I make the right choice will! I won't get a divorce will! If I do, I ruin the future will! Robot apocalypse!"   

       "My name's not Will."   

       "Noooooo... [portal closes]."
notmarkflynn, Dec 22 2005

       Don't you mean 'You won't get a divorce will! If you do, you ruin the future!'? Or have I misinterpreted it?   

       I can't think of a better way to do this without inventing new replacements for 'will', 'to be' and 'have' (or at least new forms of them). That would be much harder to learn, methinks. Simply sticking another auxilliary on the end is pretty simple, and could be taught to pretty much everyone (exept world leaders, who would be kept from time travel in a vast global conspiracy, run by the 'bakers. Bush wouldn't be able to learn this anyhow - heck, he struggles with English as it is).
dbmag9, Dec 22 2005

       I don't know what tense that's supposed to be. I'm still confused by it. I think making up new words is a better idea.   

       Plus you have to go back in time and make sure it get's taught in school first.
notmarkflynn, Dec 22 2005

       glad you thought of this before I didn't... too much tense for me, but giving you a + in appreciation of machiavalian syntax
xenzag, Dec 22 2005

       Thanks, [xenzag]!   

       My inner pedant wants [notmarkflynn] to remove the apostrophe from 'get's', and [xenzag] to spell 'machiavellian' correctly.   

       To guide [notmarkflynn], the new tenses work thus: the main part is whatever tense the speaker is talking in - i.e. dependant on whether something happened before, during or after his percieved present. The last word is the auxilliary verb that would be put in, were he (or she) speaking in the tense of the listener - i.e. whether the event happened before, during or after when the listener is listening.   

       e.g. I have kicked the ball will.   

       'I have kicked the ball' is correct for the speaker, for he has already kicked the ball in his personal time. The 'will' would make 'I will kick the ball' were it relocated, and it shows that the listener has not yet gone through the time in which the speaker kicks the ball.   

       Strictly speaking, the normal tenses should be altered too:   

       Both Past: I have kicked the ball have.   

       Both Present: I am kicking the ball am.   

       Both Future: I will kick the ball will.   

       Hope this clears things up.   

       By the way, nice apology, [notmarkflynne].
dbmag9, Dec 22 2005

       also thanks (bdmag9) - I always spell Machiavellian incorrectly - and I really like the idea of having an inner pedant for apostrophes, and the now apparently unfashionable comma.
xenzag, Dec 23 2005

       //Sooner or later, time travel is going to be invented// - There's no proof of that. Surely, if it were true we'd know about it by now.
Dub, Dec 23 2005

       No, because they'd know that we haven't seen someone from the future, so they wouldn't show themselves to us for fear of changing time. Or they might not be able to come back to before the machine is created.   

       You're welcome, [exnzag]. Who says the comma is unfashionable? I'll chuck a (comma-shaped) brick through their window!
dbmag9, Dec 23 2005

       My point was that if time travel does/did/will ever exist, the military would 'own' it. If they owned it, they'd (ab)use it. If they use it, they'd mess it up. Almost everything any military has got involved with has ended up as a mess, at some point... Or are you suggesting the mess we're in now IS proof?
Dub, Dec 23 2005

       dbmag9 - I know you meant "you're" when you said "your welcome". Put into a coma by a comma shaped brick. I like that - there must be some mileage in that one, like punctuation shaped missiles - "He was struck repeatedly about the head with a blunt semi-colon....." punctuation marks (sorry)
xenzag, Dec 23 2005

       weaponry for pedants - I wish I'd thought of that.
po, Dec 23 2005

       Yoda-speak for the temporally displaced!
gnomethang, Dec 23 2005

       What if the time traveller doesn't know what time he's in?   

       Further, with time being a function of distance and the speed of light, were he to appear in some far flung galaxy tomorrow (assuming he leaves today), in which tense should he talk to the (surprisingly English speaking) aliens he finds over there?
zen_tom, Dec 24 2005

       You aren't the first to think of this one, but good thinking nonetheless. In Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's books, there is some implementation, although largely for comic value, of a new grammar invented for time travel.
Or was it another book? Anyone? Adams fans? Correct me on this one?
roleohibachi, Dec 25 2005

       OK, double-checked that one - From the second book (The Restaurant at the Ed of the Universe); at least 1001 new tenses were required with the invention of time travel.
roleohibachi, Dec 25 2005

       [po] As long as you mention me when you write it, you have full permission to write up 'Weaponry for Pedants'. While you're at it, remake 'Guerilla Pedants' too!   

       Extract from the Time Traveller's Handbook: "If you find yourself stranded in time and don't know which tense to speak in, just ask. You'll be surprised at how accomodating the locals will be! If there are no locals about, try reading the date on a newspaper (don't pick one that looks too old). Alternatively, buy our patented 'Chronotassator Watch' (tm) and never go without the time (both personal and external) again!"   

       Merry Politically-Correct Wintertime Festival, and a Happy New Gregorian Calendrical Year!
dbmag9, Dec 25 2005

       I remember someone's thoughts in Popsci who felt that Time travel to times prior to the implementation of time travel would be impossible.   

       I don't fully understand, but it seems acceptable on the level that you can't call someone who doesn't have a phone.
Zimmy, Dec 26 2005

       ...in which case there would be a general agreement that no one with a time-travelling device should visit any time without a time-travelling device, lest it distort the fabric of our transportation networking reality.   

       I have this image of a scientist putting the last bolt into the time machine he has just created, and slowly increasing the power, only to have sixty-three people suddenly materialise within it, from various places in the future.
dbmag9, Dec 26 2005


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