tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Jun 22 22:56:57 2009

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Klingon orthography (was: Okrand at qep'a')

Michael Everson (everson@evertype.com)



On 22 Jun 2009, at 14:27, Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen wrote:

> Marc Okrand has just confirmed that, as he has so many times in the  
> past, he'll be joining us at the qep'a' on Friday (likely some time  
> in the evening), continuing on through Sunday morning.

NuqneH. It's been a long time. Alas I cannot attend the qep'a', but it  
is nice to be back.

Over the years I have thought, and thought, and thought again about  
the Latin orthography for Klingon. One reason I think about it is work  
I did consulting on an orthography for Udi (a language of Azerbaijan)  
and much (far too much) work in the Cornish Orthography Wars.

Can't we do something to improve it? I wonder if this could be raised  
with Marc Okrand. WIth all respect to him, his orthography has several  
rather serious shortcomings.

The first shortcoming is very serious indeed, in terms of data  
integrity. Since "q" and "Q" are used as separate letters of the  
alphabet, words cannot be distinguished in, for example, google  
searches. If a casing operation is accidentally applied to a run of  
Klingon text (say, upper-casing or lowercasing), the original text  
cannot be reconstructed. Okrand had other considerations when he  
designed Klingon orthography all those years ago, but now that we  
manage Klingon as data, a reform should be considered.

The second shortcoming is practical. In many fonts, the letters "I"  
and "l" are nearly identical. This can impede reading.

The third shortcoming is aesthetic. Because it eschews casing in  
general, Klingon text cannot take advantage of ordinary typographic  
conventions, which, in fairness, make any text easier to read.

I'm not the first to consider spelling reform. I don't know if it's  
been discussed on this list, actually. I saw this discussion from 2004 http://sauvagenoble.blogspot.com/2004/06/klingon.html 
  and then (of course?) there was my own musing earlier this year at http://www.evertype.com/blog/2009/01/tlhingan-hol-yighitlh.html 
  .

The Klingon alphabet is:

a b ch D e gh H I j l m n ng o p q Q r S t tlh u v w y â

qaStaHvIS Hoch DIS, loSlogh HolQeD chenmoH tlhIngan Hol yejHaD;  
Deâmaj qengwIâ potlhquâ âoH. ghItlhmey leâ, ghItlhmey motlh  
je ngaS Hoch jabbIâID, âej tlhIngan HolQeD, tlhIngan Hol, tlhIngan  
nugh je qel. qechmeyâeâ ngaSbogh nungbogh jabbIâID nuDmeH âej  
ghoHmeH nargh je laDwIâpuâ jabbIâIDHommey; mavuvchuqmeH âej  
majaâchuqchuâmeH nargh. HolQeD nIv lawâ, QonoS motlh nIv puS:  
HaDchuâmeH QonoS âoH HolQeDâeâ. âoHDaq narghpaâ ghItlh,  
âoH nuDchuâ latlh, âej ghItlh ghItlhwIâ Sovbeâ. HolQeD jIH  
Âyejquv paqghomÂ, âej âoH boS je ÂDaH Hol yejHaDÂ.

===
In IPA this is

[a b tÊ É É É x É dÊ l m n Å o pÊ q qÏ r Ê tÊ tÉ u v w j Ê]

[qaÊtaxvÉÊ xotÊ ÉÉÊ, loÊloÉ xolqÏÉÉ tÊÉnmox tÉÉÅan xol  
jÉjxaÉ; ÉÉÊmaj qÉÅwÉÊ potÉquÊ Êox. ÉÉtÉmÉj lÉÊ,  
ÉÉtÉmÉj motÉ jÉ ÅaÊ xotÊ jabbÉÊÉÉ, ÊÉj tÉÉÅan  
xolqÏÉÉ, tÉÉÅan xol, tÉÉÅan nuÉ jÉ qÉl. qÉtÊmÉjÊÉÊ  
ÅaÊboÉ nuÅboÉ jabbÉÊÉÉ nuÉmÉx ÊÉj ÉoxmÉx narÉ jÉ  
laÉwÉÊpuÊ jabbÉÊÉÉxommÉj; mavuvtÊuqmÉx ÊÉj  
majaÊtÊuqtÊuÊmÉx narÉ. xolqÏÉÉ nÉv lawÊ, qÏonoÊ motÉ nÉv  
puÊ: xaÉtÊuÊmÉx qÏonoÊ Êox xolqÏÉÉÊÉÊ. ÊoxÉaq narÉpaÊ  
ÉÉtÉ, Êox nuÉtÊuÊ latÉ, ÊÉj ÉÉtÉ ÉÉtÉwÉÊ ÊovbÉÊ.  
xolqÏÉÉ jÉx ÂjÉjquv paqÉomÂ, ÊÉj Êox boÊ jÉ ÂÉax xol  
jÉjxaÉÂ.]

A casing orthography would give:

QaÊtaxvÉÊ xotÊ ÉÉÊ, loÊloÉ XolqÏÉÉ tÊÉnmox TÉÉÅan Xol  
JÉjxaÉ; ÉÉÊmaj qÉÅwÉÊ potÉquÊ Êox. ÆÉtÉmÉj lÉÊ,  
ÉÉtÉmÉj motÉ jÉ ÅaÊ xotÊ jabbÉÊÉÉ, ÊÉj TÉÉÅan  
xolqÏÉÉ, TÉÉÅan xol, TÉÉÅan nuÉ jÉ qÉl. QÉtÊmÉjÊÉÊ  
ÅaÊboÉ nuÅboÉ jabbÉÊÉÉ nuÉmÉx ÊÉj ÉoxmÉx narÉ jÉ  
laÉwÉÊpuÊ jabbÉÊÉÉxommÉj; mavuvtÊuqmÉx ÊÉj  
majaÊtÊuqtÊuÊmÉx narÉ. XolqÏÉÉ nÉv lawÊ, qÏonoÊ motÉ nÉv  
puÊ: xaÉtÊuÊmÉx qÏonoÊ Êox xolqÏÉÉÊÉÊ. ÊOxÉaq narÉpaÊ  
ÉÉtÉ, Êox nuÉtÊuÊ latÉ, ÊÉj ÉÉtÉ ÉÉtÉwÉÊ ÊovbÉÊ.  
XolqÏÉÉ jÉx ÂjÉjquv paqÉomÂ, ÊÉj Êox boÊ jÉ ÂÉax xol  
jÉjxaÉÂ.]

===
In Americanist-type transcription one might render these:

a b Ä d e Ç h i j l m n Å o p q x r Å t Å w v w y Ê

QaÅtahviÅ hoÄ diÅ, loÅloÇ Holxed Äenmoh ÅiÅan Hol Yejhad;  
deâmaj qeÅwiâ poÅquâ âoh. ÇiÅmey leâ, ÇiÅmey moÅ je  
ÅaÅ hoÄ jabbiâid, âej ÅiÅan holxed, ÅiÅan hol, ÅiÅan nuÇ  
je qel. QeÄmeyâeâ ÅaÅboÇ nuÅboÇ jabbiâid nudmeh âej  
Çohmeh narÇ je ladwiâpuâ jabbiâidhommey; mavuvÄuqmeh âej  
majaâÄuqÄuâmeh narÇ. Holxed niv lawâ, xonoÅ moÅ niv puÅ:  
hadÄuâmeh xonoÅ âoh Holxedâeâ. âOhdaq narÇpaâ ÇiÅ,  
âoh nudÄuâ laÅ, âej ÇiÅ ÇiÅwiâ Åovbeâ. Holxed jih  
ÂYejquv PaqÇomÂ, âej âoh boÅ je ÂDah Hol YejhadÂ.

or with casing glottals:

QaÅtahviÅ hoÄ diÅ, loÅloÇ Holxed Äenmoh ÅiÅan Hol Yejhad;  
deÉmaj qeÅwiÉ poÅquÉ Éoh. ÇiÅmey leÉ, ÇiÅmey moÅ je ÅaÅ  
hoÄ jabbiÉid, Éej ÅiÅan Holxed, ÅiÅan hol, ÅiÅan nuÇ je qel.  
QeÄmeyÉeÉ ÅaÅboÇ nuÅboÇ jabbiÉid nudmeh Éej Çohmeh narÇ je  
ladwiÉpuÉ jabbiÉidhommey; mavuvÄuqmeh Éej majaÉÄuqÄuÉmeh  
narÇ. Holxed niv lawÉ, xonoÅ moÅ niv puÅ: hadÄuÉmeh xonoÅ Éoh  
holxedÉeÉ. Éohdaq narÇpaÉ ÇiÅ, Éoh nudÄuÉ laÅ, Éej ÇiÅ  
ÇiÅwiÉ ÅovbeÉ. Holxed jih ÂYejquv PaqÇomÂ, Éej Éoh boÅ je  
ÂDah Hol YejhadÂ.

===
I had suggested:

a b c d e g h i j l m n Å o p q ê r s t Å u v w y â

Qastahvis hoc dis, loslog Holêed cenmoh ÅiÅan Hol Yejhad; deâmaj  
qeÅwiâ poÅquâ âoh. GiÅmey leâ, giÅmey moÅ je Åas hoc  
jabbiâid, âej ÅiÅan holêed, ÅiÅan hol, ÅiÅan nug je qel.  
Qecmeyâeâ Åasbog nuÅbog jabbiâid nudmeh âej gohmeh narg je  
ladwiâpuâ jabbiâidhommey; mavuvcuqmeh âej majaâcuqcuâmeh  
narg. Holêed niv lawâ, êonos moÅ niv pus: hadcuâmeh êonos  
âoh Holêedâeâ. âOhdaq nargpaâ giÅ, âoh nudcuâ laÅ,  
âej giÅ giÅwiâ sovbeâ. Holêed jih ÂYejquv PaqgomÂ, âej  
âoh bos je ÂDah Hol YejhadÂ.

===
The noble savage gives a narrow option:

a b c á e Ç h i Ç l m n á o p k Ï r á Î tl u v w y â

KaáÎahviá hoc áiá, loáloÇ HolÏeá cenmoh Tliáan Hol  
YeÇhaá; áeâmaÇ keáwiâ potlkuâ âoh. Çitlmey leâ,  
Çitlmey motl Çe áaá hoc Çabbiâiá, âeÇ Tliáan holÏeá,  
Tliáan hol, Tliáan nuÇ Çe kel. Kecmeyâeâ áaáboÇ  
nuáboÇ Çabbiâiá nuámeh âeÇ Çohmeh narÇ Çe  
laáwiâpuâ Çabbiâiáhommey; mavuvcukmeh âeÇ  
maÇaâcukcuâmeh narÇ. HolÏeá niv lawâ, Ïonoá motl niv  
puá: haácuâmeh Ïonoá âoh HolÏeáâeâ. âOháak  
narÇpaâ Çitl, âoh nuácuâ latl, âeÇ Çitl Çitlwiâ  
áovbeâ. HolÏeá Çih ÂYeÇkuv PakÇomÂ, âeÇ âoh boá Çe  
Âáah Hol YeÇhaáÂ.

and a broad option:

a b c d e g h i j l m n á o p k Ï r s t tl u v w y â

Kastahvis hoc dis, loslog HolÏed cenmoh Tliáan Hol Yejhad; deâmaj  
keáwiâ potlkuâ âoh. Gitlmey leâ, gitlmey motl je áas hoc  
jabbiâid, âej Tliáan holÏed, Tliáan hol, Tliáan nug je kel.  
Kecmeyâeâ áasbog nuábog jabbiâid nudmeh âej gohmeh narg je  
ladwiâpuâ jabbiâidhommey; mavuvcukmeh âej majaâcukcuâmeh  
narg. HolÏed niv lawâ, Ïonos motl niv pus: hadcuâmeh Ïonos âoh  
HolÏedâeâ. âOhdak nargpaâ gitl, âoh nudcuâ latl, âej  
gitl gitlwiâ sovbeâ. HolÏed jih ÂYejkuv PakgomÂ, âej âoh bos  
je ÂDah Hol YejhadÂ.

===
Of course it is easy to see that there is no difficulty with most of  
the letters, which are unchanged (modulo casing, since the idea is to  
free Klingon orthography to be able to use uppercase and lowercase in  
the normal way).

a b e h i j l m n o p r t u v w y '

The questions:

Should ch and gh remain digraphs and tlh a trigraph? Why isn't S a  
digraph, or Q?
Is it a problem for ng to be a digraph? (In principle, yes, depending  
on what is done with gh, because you could have a word-boundary ng-h  
or n-gh. Of course ng [nÉ], Åg [ÅÉ], nÇ [nÉ] and ÅÇ [ÅÉ] may  
all occur.

This attempts to mark the letters which are "different" from English,  
which is what Okrand did with capitalization and diagraphs:

A B Ä Ä E Ç Ä I J L M N Å O P Q QÌ R Å T Å U V W Y â
a b Ä Ä e Ç Ä i j l m n Å o p q qÌ r Å t Å u v w y â

QaÅtahviÅ hoÄ ÄiÅ, loÅloÇ HolqÌeÄ Äenmoh ÅiÅan Hol YejhaÄ;  
Äeâmaj qeÅwiâ poÅquâ âoh. ÇiÅmey leâ, ÇiÅmey moÅ je  
ÅaÅ hoÄ jabbiâiÄ, âej ÅiÅan holqÌeÄ, ÅiÅan hol, ÅiÅan  
nuÇ je qel. QeÄmeyâeâ ÅaÅboÇ nuÅboÇ jabbiâiÄ nuÄmeh  
âej Çohmeh narÇ je laÄwiâpuâ jabbiâiÄhommey; mavuvÄuqmeh  
âej majaâÄuqÄuâmeh narÇ. HolqÌeÄ niv lawâ, qÌonoÅ moÅ  
niv puÅ: haÄÄuâmeh qÌonoÅ âoh HolqÌeÄâeâ. âOhÄaq  
narÇpaâ ÇiÅ, âoh nuÄÄuâ laÅ, âej ÇiÅ ÇiÅwiâ  
Åovbeâ. HolqÌeÄ jih ÂYejquv PaqÇomÂ, âej âoh boÅ je ÂÄah  
Hol YejhaÄÂ.

===
Replacing H q Q with x k q is a handy idea, if diacritics are to be  
shunned, though this will change wordforms quite a lot for anyone used  
to reading Klingon already.

Kastaxvis xoc dis, loslog Xolqed cenmox ÅiÅan Xol Yejxad; deâmaj  
keÅwiâ poÅkuâ âox. GiÅmey leâ, giÅmey moÅ je Åas xoc  
jabbiâid, âej ÅiÅan xolqed, ÅiÅan xol, ÅiÅan nug je kel.  
Kecmeyâeâ Åasbog nuÅbog jabbiâid nudmex âej goxmex narg je  
ladwiâpuâ jabbiâidxommey; mavuvcukmex âej majaâcukcuâmex  
narg. Xolqed niv lawâ, qonos moÅ niv pus: xadcuâmex qonos âox  
Xolqedâeâ. âOxdak nargpaâ giÅ, âox nudcuâ laÅ, âej giÅ  
giÅwiâ sovbeâ. Xolqed jix ÂYejkuv PakgomÂ, âej âox bos je  
ÂDax Xol YejxadÂ.

===
So! Is there scope for a spelling reform in the Latin orthography for  
Klingon?

Qapla'!

Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/







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