Mindscanner Issue #72
Summer 2007

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The Klingon Language, an Introduction
by joqral (Jonathan Webley) <jonathan.webley@strath.ac.uk>


Marc Okrand wrote The Klingon Dictionary, and it is this language that is considered canonical Klingon. Other varieties of Klingon exists, Klingonaase if you like, such as found in John Ford's "The Final Reflection". Titles such as "epetai" are non-canonical. There is also pIqaD, the Klingon writing system, but it is hard to write with a pen and few people use it.

In canonical Klingon the word for Klingon is tlhIngan and the word for language is Hol, giving us tlhIngan Hol, the Klingon Language. Notice the spelling, tlhIngan starts with a lowercase t and includes an uppercase I. This is because Okrand uses the alphabet phonetically, each letter has a specific sound, and lowercase letters are different from uppercase letters.

This is the alphabet according to Okrand:

Letter  

Pronunciation

a 

as in "father" 

b 

as in "thingumbob" 

ch 

as in "cheese" 

D 

appr. as in "drink" 

e 

as in "bed" 

gh 

none; heard in Spanish "lago" (lake) 

H 

none; heard in Yiddish "chutzpah" (boldness); or Scottish “loch”

I 

as in "pig" 

j 

as in "jump" 

l 

as in "lemon" 

m 

as in "man" 

n 

as in "nose" 

ng 

as in "song" 

o 

as in "home" 

p 

as in "pow!" 

q 

none; essentially a /k/ at the back of the throat 

Q 

none; basically /q/ + /x/; (Federation often renders it "kr") 

r 

none; Scottish rolled "r" 

S 

none; "sh" (/ʃ/) with the tongue curled back 

t 

as in "Take it!" 

tlh 

none; heard in Nahuatl "ātl" (water); (Federation often renders it "kl", hence, "Klingon" for "tlhIngan") 

u 

as in "soon" 

v 

as in "very" 

w 

as in "wide" 

y 

as in "year" 

' 

heard in "uh-oh" and Cockney "bo'le" (bottle) 

So there is a lowercase q and an uppercase Q, and they are different. For example, qoS and QoS are different words with different sounds and different meanings.

The apostrophe, used for the glottal stop, is considered a regular letter.

When writing Klingon, it is best to use a font with serifs, such as Times New Roman, since the serifs help to distinguish between the lowercase l and the uppercase I.

joqral, 2007

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