From: Marc Okrand [email protected]
Newsgroups: startrek.expertforum
Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 00:27:06 -0500
Subject: Re: Problem with -meH and negative meanings

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

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.

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. )

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