tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Jan 20 11:38:33 1999

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RE: KLBC: capitals in the writing system

At 10:10 AM 1/20/99 -0800, pagh wrote:
>jatlh Judith:

>> The last days I was studying the dictionary and now I have a 
>> 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?
>The single letter lower case symbols like <b> and <t> are generally the same
>as their English counterparts. 

As I understand it, Okrand's general plan was to leave lower-case all those
sounds he thought would be correctly pronounced (i.e., as he intended) by
English speakers (even in the case of sounds not actually in English,
such as <gh>).  Letters in capitals are supposed to be pronounced
in a way other than the usual expected English pronounciation.

>The single letter upper case symbols like <H>
>and <D> are generally similar to their English counterparts, but somehow

The difference depends on the letter. <H> is heavily-aspirated (like
'Bach'), and not the plain English 'h'.  IIRC, <D> is a retroflex 'd',
and <S> is sort of a cross between English 's' and 'sh'.

>The combinations like <ch> and <tlh> are either the same as the
>corresponding English combination (<ch> and <ng>), or not like anything at
>all in English (<gh> and <tlh>). The symbol <'> is its own special case. 

Although, I am familiar with several natural languages that use <'> to
mark the glottal stop.

>system is not perfectly consistent. 

Actually, it looks pretty consistent to me.  An apparent anomaly is
<tlh>, and I think Okrand was basically forced to write it this way:
the digraph "tl" is a common way of writing this sound in natural
languages like Nahuatl, but it could be mistaken for the combination
"t"+"l".  As the most unusual (yet characteristic) sound in <tlhIngan
Hol>, it needed to be clearly marked.  I think he added the "h" to
do this, because the only use of the lower-case "h" in Klingon is
to mark digraphs (or in this case, a trigraph).

<ng> is not inconsistent, either: English speakers might be expected
to recognize it because of words like "singer", and it can't be
mistaken for "n"+"g" because lower-case "g" doesn't occur in Klingon.

>Neither <q> nor <Q> fits the pattern,

Well, the <q> is found in the transcription of natural languages like
Arabic, and the <Q> could be considered an "unexpected" version of <q>.

>and I can't figure out why, of all the vowels, only the <I> is upper case.

All the other vowels have the "European" pronounciation that I believe
is most familiar to English-speakers (tell an English speaker that these
vowels are "foreign", and most would pronounce them as in "father", "met",
"machine", "go" and "tune").  Of these vowels, only the <I> sound is
not the "expected" long i-sound (that is as in "machine") but a short
"i" (as in "in").

-- ter'eS

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