Newsgroup message of Mon, 2 Mar 1998 00:27:06 -0500

Subject: Re: Problem with {-meH} and negative meanings


Morska dialect and the spelling in TKD


Newsgroup: Klingon Usenet Forum
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 1998 00:15:57 -0500


>Guy Vardaman wrote ...
>>Marc, have you determined types of accents for Klingon language (for
>>example, if Worf consistently pronounces his eh' sound differently than
>>you do, is it consistent enough to consider it a dialect from a
>>particular province? or a type of accent?) It would seem that you'd have
>>heard a variety of similar mis-pronouncements from different Humans
>>attempting the "Language of Warriors."
>>Well, I'm going to refrain from saying more before I show my ignorance
>>of the language. One last thing along those lines though, could we talk
>>about the difference between upper and lower case (as used in the Daily
>>Klingon Language lesson)?

Well, SuStel got to this before I did. Not surprisingly (given his expertise in the language), much of what he said is what I would have said anyway.

David Trimboli wrote ... >I'm not Marc, but I do know the answer to this. We now have
>startrek.klingon, which is for the discussion of the Klingon language.
>Several Klingon dialects based on region or planet are described in Marc
>Okrand's latest book, Klingon for the Galactic Traveler. There are also
>generational and societal differences.

[I've taken pieces of the original posting out here, just to make this one shorter.]

>In Star Trek VI, we actually get to hear the Morskan

This is true. The original script for "Star Trek VI" (well, the earliest version that I saw, anyway) had the English translations for the lines spoken by the Klingon at the Morska listening post in a peculiar kind of English to show that it was a different way of speaking. As the filming proceeded, the character changed somewhat so that he became an inattentive Klingon rather than merely a Klingon from some different region, but we kept the nonstandard dialect anyway. (So he became an inattentive Klingon from a part of the Empire we've not heard much about.)

>The letters used to represent Klingon are there to tell you the SOUNDS of
>Klingon. It's a transcription system. Typically, certain letters are
>capitalized to remind you that they are pronounced differently than they
>would be in English. For instance, {H} is not English "h," it's like the
>German "ch" in the name "Bach." {D} is not English "d," it's a retroflex
>{D}. That is, instead of putting your tongue just behind your top teeth,
>you point the tongue straight up and touch the roof of your mouth, then say
>a "d." And so on.
>In one case, the capitization actually represents a different sound. {q}
>and {Q} are different sounds.
>See the first section of The Klingon Dictionary for a complete listing of
>symbols used for writing the sounds of Klingon.

All well said. Let me elaborate just a bit. The system used to transcribe Klingon, making use of letters from the English (well, Roman) alphabet, was devised so that the reader would have some notion of how to pronounce the words. Since the system was originally developed as a guide for English-speaking actors (and then retained for English-speaking readers of the Dictionary), most of the letters represent the same sound that they represent in English. Thus {b} is the same as "b" in "boy," {t} is like "t" in "toy," and so on.

But, as SuStel points out, there are some sounds in Klingon that do not occur in English (or have no standard ways to be represented by English letters), so a way was needed to write each of them. This was handled by various means:

(1) In one case, the letter {q} was used to represent a sound sort of like English "k," but made farther back in the mouth. In English words, "q" is always followed by "u" (and then by another vowel) and the combination of the two, "qu," is pronounced like "kw." (Words taken into English from other languages don't necessarily follow this pattern; e.g., "quiche.") Since "q" without its companion "u" isn't used in English (except in a few words of foreign origin), it was available to represent a non-English sound in Klingon. And since "q" in English represents the "k" part of the "kw" sound, it was a good candidate to represent a "k"-like sound in Klingon. {q} rather than {k} was chosen for this Klingon sound so that the reader would be aware that it's a sound different from "k."

(2) In two cases, a combination of letters which does not occur as such in English was used: {tlh} and {gh}.

(3) In one case, a symbol used in English writing, though, properly speaking, not a letter itself, was used for a sound: {'}, the apostrophe. This is a "glottal stop" -- a quick pause in vocalization which occurs, for example, in between the two syllables in English "uh-uh" (meaning "no").

And finally, since this is what the original question was about:

(4) In all other cases of non-English sounds, capital letters were used. SuStel mentions {D}, {H}, and {Q}; another is {S}.

There is one other capital letter used in Klingon: {I}. This represents the very English sound written with "i" in "sit." In Klingon, {I} was chosen for this sound (rather than {i}) to help ensure that it would not be pronounced like the "i" in "mine" or in "machine."

(The other vowels in Klingon, {a}, {e}, {o}, and {u}, can be read with the values they have in Romance languages like Spanish. But Romance/Spanish "i" is not the same as Klingon {I}, which is why the Klingon vowel gets singled out for capitalization. [Actually, Klingon {e} and Spanish "e" aren't the same either, but they're close enough for this discussion.])

It's important to remember that this system of transcribing Klingon with the weird letter combinations (like {tlh}) and capital letters is just that: a transcription. It's a way to represent in writing the sounds of the spoken language. And it's done so that a reader will have a reasonable shot at getting it right. It's not the official Klingon way of writing! The way Klingons write their own language is with a set of characters (called {pIqaD}) that you've seen on control panels and viewscreens and doorways in various episodes and films. The Roman-letter transcription is a crutch for those of us who can't read {pIqaD}.

I got a little long-winded here. But hope this helps.

- Marc

>See the first section of The Klingon Dictionary for a complete listing of
>symbols used for writing the sounds of Klingon.
>Stardate 98153.8

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