tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Jan 20 10:46:55 1999

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Re: RE: KLBC: capitals in the writing system

On Wed, 20 Jan 1999 10:11:28 -0800 (PST) "Andeen, Eric" 
<> wrote:

> jatlh Judith:
> > Hello again,
> > remember me?...
> > question: why are some characters in the writing system written 
> > in capitals? Does this have a function and / or a reason or is it 
> > just the way it goes?

pagh offered a good answer, though I feel compelled to comment a 

> To start with, the writing system we use is *not* the "real" Klingon writing
> system. The real system is called <pIqaD>, and we know very little about it.
> Due to some Star Trek / Paramount issues, we probably never will know
> anything substantial about it.

The man, Okuda, who designed the characters in pIqaD refuses to 
allow them to be assigned to any specific letters of any 
alphabet. He uses them on the sets in "greeked" gibberish and 
wants to continue to do so without any responsibility to anyone 
who would like things written in pIqaD to actually say anything.
> The writing system we use was made up by Okrand when he recorded the
> language. It was designed to make it easy for the actors use, and to look a
> little exotic; it was not designed for linguists, who would probably prefer
> IPA. As a result, it's basically arbitrary, but there is a reason for many
> of the choices.

My understanding is that Okrand fudged IPA, mimicking parts of 
it and whole-cloth making up other parts. Okrand rightfully 
recognized that IPA is designed to describe a far wider set of 
sounds than exist in Klingon, so he had no reason to take on the 
awkwardness of going full-bore IPA. He wanted a phonetic 
alphabet which would be available efficiently on a normal 
keyboard (for the sake of the dictionary), and which could be 
quickly learned by English speakers.

While I don't read IPA, I've heard it remarked that the 
uppercase/lowercase of most Klingon characters follows, in part, 
what would be IPA conventions for those sounds, hence the 
mysterious {I} pagh pondered.

Basically, don't worry about why certain characters are 
uppercase and others are lowercase. Just learn them. Except for 
{Q} and {q} (which are two distinct, unrelated characters in 
Klingon) no letters exist in both uppercase and lowercase, 
unless you count what I'd call "ligature" characters like {ch} 
and {tlh}. Those "h" characters don't really count because they 
are part of a single consonant sound in Klingon written with 
multiple characters by Okrand just because it is easier to read 
{tlh} and figure out what sound that is than it would be to read 
a more arbitrary {x} and have to learn that the {tlh} sound is 
spelled {x}.

Okrand's system, while arbitrary, is very effective. Very 
non-technical non-linguists have learned it well to produce the 
impressive population of Klingon speakers in the world today.
> A nice (probably intentional) side effect of the writing system is that it
> is completely unambiguous: there is no group of symbols which, when written
> out, can be confused with another similar group of symbols.

Yes. Even though some fonts don't differentiate between the 
lowercase "L" and uppercase "i", in Klingon, the syllables are 
regular enough that when you see a vertical line, you know by 
its position whether it is "L" or "i". After you get used to it, 
you quickly become irritated by text written with the wrong 
case. "jiyaj" looks as bad to me aS tHis LOokS tO YoU.
> pagh
> Beginners' Grammarian

charghwI' 'utlh

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