TKD
chapter
1.1

Pronunciation of the Klingon sounds

The Klingon pronunciation is not so hard. Most of the letters that are written lowercase (like a, b, l, m, n, u) do resemble sounds that English speakers are used to. Unusual sounds are written in upper case - for instance H, I, S, Q. so it's obvious that these are spoken differently.

Vowels

There are five vowels in Klingon: a - e - I - o - u. (1) Most of them are pronounced just like they are written.

letter IPA description
a [ɑ] as in bar or father
e [ɛ] as in bed
I [ɪ] as in fit or ship, never as ee in see
o [o] as in mosaic or go
u [u] as in gnu

Additional notes

When speaking the letter o, focus on the oh sound and don't rhyme with vow, show or boat. English speakers tend to say "oh" with forming their mouth to a u-sound, so it sounds like the diphthong [ou]. German speakers tend to pronounce the o like an open [ɔ] as in offen, but they must be reminded to say a closed [o] like in Ofen (2). This is hard for German speakers, because nearly all german words ending with an o in the second syllable are pronounced with this open [ɔ].

Marc Okrand sometimes pronounces the letter o like an "open o", as in SoH IPA: [ʂɔx]. He never says it like the o in "shock" or "cop".

Consonants

Most of the consonants in Klingon are pronounced as they are written. Note that there are few sounds that are written using multiple letters, but are considered one single letter in Klingon.

letter IPA description
b [b] as in bar or bed
ch [t​͡ʃ] as in chip
D [ɖ] close to a d, but the tongue is much more in the back of your mouth
gh [ɣ] a gargling G with a humming sound, think of "grr"
H [x]  
j [d​͡​ʒ] as the initial sound of jungle
l [l] as l in lamp or belly
m [m] as m in mother
n [n] as n in north or no
ng [ŋ] as ng in thing, never as in engage
p [pʰ] as p in puppy followed by a puff of air
q [qʰ]  
Q [q͡χ]  
r [r] lightly trilled or rolled
S [ʂ] as sh in shoe or bush
t [tʰ] as t in tea
tlh [t​ɬ]  
v [v] as v in vowel
w [w] as w in water
y [j] as y in yes
' [ʔ]  

Sound of o

TKD describes the letter o as in "go or mosaic". This is confusing, because English speakers would do that with a diphthong, rhyming "go" with "glow" and saying "mosaic" like "mow-saic". This is not what Okrand intended. He just wanted to make clear that it's not o like in "cop" or "pot". The sound still is a clear "o" without a following u sound. The word qepHom should NOT rhyme with "home".

Sound of Q

Q is pronounced [q_X](in X-SAMPA phonetic transcription), or basically like an aspirated q, that is, q followed closely by a raspy puff of air (3)

Sound of r

Explaining the sound r is a very difficult topic because Marc Okrand does not speak it as he described it in The Klingon Dictionary:

This is not like the "r" in American English, but it does resemble the "r" in some dialects of British English, as well as the "r" in many languages of Europe. It is lightly trilled or rolled.

From this, one can surely say that the r is NOT as in "sure" or "rock". It's a lot closer to the trilled R in Spanish, but not even that. Okrand has once said that he cannot trill the R as in the Spanish "perro", which is called an alveolar trill. What he speaks is more like an "alveolar tap", where your tongue is at the spot where you speak an English D - one light touch of the tip of the tongue on the ridge behind the teeth.

During his Klingon 101 at Starbase Indy 2016, Marc Okrand clearly identifies it as a trill, and then when he gives an example of "lightly trilling", he taps it. (4)

One should assume that the description of TKD "lightly trilled" is not to be taken too strictly and just shows the difference to the French (as in rouge) or the English (as in red or bar) way to say "r".

Diphthongs

Diphthongs are sounds that consist of two vowels. Phonetically, Klingon y and w are considered as vowels, so their combination with other real vowels makes them become a diphthong.
#1 #2 diphthong IPA description
a y ay [aɪ̯] as in cry
e y ey [ɛɪ̯] as in pay
I y Iy [iː] as in key
o y oy [oɪ̯] as in toy
u y uy [ʊɪ̯] as in gooey
a w aw [aʊ̯] as in cow
e w ew [ɛʊ̯] as in e + u
I w Iw [ɪʊ̯] as in I + u
o w -- [oo] see note
u w -- [uu] see note

Notes

No Klingon words have ow or uw, because w is identical to u, so there would be no difference heard compared to words ending in a vowel o or u. For instance, Duw would sound like Du.

Doubled letters

Doubled letters are pronounced either as a lengthening of the letter, or with a brief break between the two letters. Some speakers incorrectly pronounce a doubled letter as a single letter; this is especially true for ' ' (two glottal stops). (5)

See also

References

1 : The Klingon Dictionary

2 : Das offizielle Wörterbuch, new edition 2013

3 : KLI mailing list Mark Shoulson, 2/20/98, Re: Introduction

4 : Klingon 101 - The Sounds of Klingon - Marc Okrand, on YouTube, uploaded on November 29, 2016

5 : Klingon for the Galactic Traveler, p. 138

Category: Grammar    Latest edit: 01 May 2019, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 23 Jul 2014 by KlingonTeacher
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