Klingon Language

The Klingon language (in Klingon: tlhIngan Hol) was invented in 1984 by Dr. Marc Okrand for Paramount Pictures, originally for the third Star Trek movie, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Rather than making just a code for English, Dr. Okrand decided to make a true language with linguistically interesting features.

Roots of the language

The first lines of the opening scenes of Star Trek - The Motion Picture were created by actor James Doohan and associate producer Jon Povill. When Okrand was called to develop the language, it was Mark Lenard who told him who created the first lines.

Creation process

When Okrand had to develop the language, the first material he received were the scripts of all episodes from The Original series of Star Trek. Based on those, he could find out who the Klingons are and find the words he may need later. This quickly explains why we have lots of words for things that were never spoken on screen, such as words for Tribble, Sherman's planet or quadrotriticale (from the Tribbles episode).

In the next step, Okrand got all the Klingon lines from the script for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, but due to strict secrecy reasons, he did not get the entire script. He then translated all those lines spoken by a Klingon, not knowing which of those would be spoken at the end.

During filming, lots of the scenes were spoken in English first, and later redubbed over in Klingon, so Okrand had to redo his Klingon translations, and in some cases needed to find synonyms matching the lips movement of the actors (like the obvious wej for "wait"). This did not only create new words, but also new grammatical rules: Instead of saying that the actor did a mistake, Okrand just adapted his grammar. See MOVED TO... unintentional vocabulary for details.

During later movies - i.e. after the Klingon Dictionary being published - changing the grammar was not possible any more. The only way to adapt mistakes was to add new words or explain any mistakes as being a regional dialect. These were incorporated into the addendum of TKD, others are explained in Klingon for the Galactic Traveler. Such corrections also happened in the 2013 movie Star Trek Into Darkness because the scene had been entirely cut and edited.

Okrand has provided a handful new words for the Klingon dialogues and also the Klingon subtitles in Star Trek: Discovery.

Name of the language

The most commonly accepted name for the language is just "Klingon". However many people still insist on using the term "Klingonese". (Do not confuse with Klingonaase, a Klingon language created by John M. Ford.)

Mentions of "Klingonese"

The use of the term "Klingonese" is based on only two on-screen occurrences:
  1. During the TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" (1), there is a Klingon named Korax who claims that half the quadrant is learning "Klingonese". Some people hear him saying something like Klingonee, i.e. without the s sound: "We like the Enterprise. We, we really do. That sagging old rust bucket is designed like a garbage scow. Half the quadrant knows it. That's why they're learning to speak Klingonese."
  2. During an episode of Deep Space Nine, Quark mentions the language as Klingonese (2): "Having to learn all this Klingonese isn't helping my performance. " Note that Quark is not a Klingon, nor does he know much about them, so it is possible that this was intentional error, since during the same episode, Grilka uses the word "Klingon" (see below).

The script of Star Trek - The Motion Picture uses the terms "Klingon language" and "Klingon dialogue", but when naming the language, says "Klingonese" (3):

    All eyes on the viewer that shows the ships sweeping
    on the Mysterious cloud.
                        KLINGON CAPTAIN
                        (In Klingonese)

    The TECHNICIAN makes the switch.

Mentions of "Klingon"

Throughout all of his books and other works, Okrand names the language as "Klingon". Note his book titles "The Klingon Dictionary" and "Klingon for the Galactic Traveler". A few quotes from the books that reinforce this position: "Learn to Speak Klingon Like a Native" (p. 1) - "Klingon is the official language of the Klingon Empire" (p. 9) - Title of Chapter 1: "The sounds of Klingon" (p. 13).

Within the policy of Memory Alpha, TKD is not considered canon, they only regard contents spoken on screen as canon(4). Nevertheless, besides the above exceptions, every reference to the Klingon language was done using the word "Klingon". Here is a list of on-screen mentions of the word "Klingon" used to describe the language. The list is far from complete.
Star Trek V Caithlin "And I don't speak Klingon."
Star Trek VI Chancellor Gorkon "You have not experienced Shakespeare, until you have read him in the original Klingon,"
TNG, "The Emissary" K'Ehleyr "You speak Klingon."
DSN, "Looking for Par'Mach in all the wrong places" Grilka "Why learn to speak Klingon and observe our customs?"
VOY, "Hope and fear" Captain Janeway "And to think I still struggle with basic Klingon."
VOY, "Hope and fear" B'Elanna Torres "No problem. You speak Klingon?"
ENT, "Broken Bow" Hoshi and Archer "What's that?" - "Klingon."
DSC, "Vaulting Ambition" Dr. Pollard to Saru "Yes, that's Klingon."

The script of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock also uses the word "Klingon", not "Klingonese"(5):
                                        KRUGE (O.S.)
                             Well done, Valkris... Stand by.

                   The PAN CONTINUES UPWARD to reveal BATTLE COMMANDER
                   KRUGE, a Klingon War Lord of handsome but frightening
                   presence, and relative youth. Now, in Klingon:

                            (Disengage cloaking device!)

The script of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country also uses the word "Klingon", not "Klingonese"(6):
             47   INT. GORKON'S STATEROOM, KLINGON FLAGSHIP                   47

                   Gorkon, several advisors and soldiers were seated but
                   the impact has thrown them about. They speak SUBTITLED

              53   A snowy picture on the visual display, then Chang comes     53
            VFXA   on (still in AMBER LIGHT)...                              VFXA

                                     (He's screaming in Klingon,
                                      reverting to his native
                                      language under stress.)

              58   INT. GORKON'S STATEROOM, FLAGSHIP                           58

                   Chang and his ASSISTANTS are trying to sort things out
                   without gravity. Chang shouts efficient orders in
                   Klingon as he finds and tries to help Gorkon...

See also


1 : TOS, Episode 13, 2nd Season, First aired: 29 December 1967

2 : DS9, "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places", Episode 5, 3rd Season, First aired: 14 October 1996

3 : ST1 movie script on dailyscripts.com, see scene 7, 9, 18, 21, 85,

4 : http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Canon Policy of Memory Alpha, retrieved 20 Sep 2016

5 : ST3 movie script on scifiscripts.com, see scene 15, 184, 237, 244

6 : ST6 movie script on st-minutiae.com, see scene 47

Category: General    Latest edit: 16 Feb 2018, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 02 Mar 2014 by LieVen
History: r22 < r21 < r20 < r19 - View wiki text

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