tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Dec 07 17:14:26 1999

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Re: Translating the word "Klingon" into other languages?

>From: "William H. Martin" <>
>Date: Tue, 7 Dec 1999 12:15:53 -0500 (Eastern Standard Time)
>On Mon, 6 Dec 1999 21:40:15 EST wrote:
>> jatlh mark:
>> >Hee... we're doing syllable-structure in my Phonology class these
>> >days... Isn't it notable that "kl", "pl", "gl", "bl", "fl" are all allowed
>> >as syllable-initials, but "tl", "dl", "thl" aren't?  There's a good
>> >reason... related to the reason why "tw", "dw", "kw", "gw" are okay but
>> >"pw" and "bw" aren't.  Think about it.
>> jIQub...'ach jIyajbe'. jIHvaD yIQIj.
>> - DujHoD
>My guess about these things is that these are okay because the 
>consonants in the cluster are based in different parts of the 
>mouth, so the sound moves from one to the other, making it easy 
>to distinguish the cluster from any normal consonant. Laymen's 

We have a winnah!

It's more complicated in some cases, of course, and there are exceptions
(mainly involving the "s" sound, which apparently breaks so many
syllabification rules in *many* languages that linguists basically wind up
saying that it syllabifies differently from everyone else.  "sh" also does
this, though not in English except in borrowing (shmear, etc); Klingon S
would fall in the same category... IF there were any reason to suspect
Klingon syllabification is complex enough to need it, which there is NOT).

>"pw" just lips (unless you are Elmer Fudd saying "Practice, 
>practice, practice," proving that we can obviously say this 
>sound combination easily, but convention doesn't allow it.

Of course, as with the other "forbidden" examples (a) other languages
permit it, and (b) even English does, between syllables (lapwing, bottle,
etc).  But yes, it's the fact that English doesn't like syllable-initial
consonant clusters coming from the same part of the mouth (aside from ones
with s, of course: stick, slap, etc).

The more fun question is why is "fl" okay (in fly, flood), but not "vr"? :)

Maybe I'll write an article on Klingon syllabification for HolQeD someday,
now that I've studied it formally.  Maybe I'll even come up with a
reasonable answer regarding the "long-diphthongized-vowel vs. vowel+glide"
chestnut (though I *think* phonological theory has a preference to that
even regardless of the language).  Maybe rules as to WHY the syllables look
as they do.  And maybe I'll find another buried Okrand joke, breaking


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