tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Jun 23 13:21:47 2009

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Re: Klingon orthography

David Trimboli ( [KLI Member] [Hol po'wI']

Steven Boozer wrote:
> Michael Everson wrote:
>>>> U? Do you have a page number? I don't recall such a Klingon
>>>> letter
>>> Page 139.
>>> === Younger speakers also have a slight tendency to change the 
>>> pronunciation of the vowel "a" in nonstressed syllables to 
>>> something that sounds a bit like the "u" in Federation Standard 
>>> "but". If this sound is transcribed with the Symbol "U", a word
>>> like "qaleghpu'" ("I have seen you") might sound more like
>>> "qUleghpu'". This particular phonological inclination seems
>>> particularly bothersome to older Klingons and is generally
>>> considered an error worthy of correction. Students who speak this
>>> way are customarily reprimanded, ===
> Michael Roney, Jr.:
>>>>> Huh. Relearn something old every day. I shall update my
>>>>> personal dictionary file accordingly.
> Russ Perry, Jr.:
>> I don't think Okrand was adding "U" to the orthography, but just 
>> using it to illustrate the difference in pronunciation, so take it
>> with a grain of salt.
> Okrand used the same device on KGT p.20:
> [...]
> and on p. 22:
> [...]
> Russ is correct.  U, mb, N, ND, ts and ghl are not new letters for
> standard {ta' Hol}, but are merely ad hoc transcriptions used by
> "Federation linguists" to transcribe sub-standard and regional
> Klingon speech.

In fact, our use of roman characters is simply a transcription of spoken 
Klingon, and we are told in the beginning of THE KLINGON DICTIONARY that 
different Klingons will pronounce some of these sounds in different 
ways. They characters are, in other words, phonemes. The phoneme /b/, 
for instance,  is realized as [b] by most Klingons, as [mb] by some, and 
as [m] by a very few.

Okrand only goes out of his way to use "nonstandard" roman letters when 
he is talking about accents. At time time the letters are more like 
phones. Most of the time we just get the normal phonemes. But he doesn't 
indicate this difference in the system. When he describes {baH} as 
sounding like {maH}, where curly brackets indicate the text as we're 
shown it, what he means is that /baH/ (showing the phonemes) is realized 
as [maH] (showing the phones using the phoneme system). When he gives us 
things like {U} or {s} or {h}, those aren't phonemes, they're phones. 
All of this gets mixed up into what gets published.

If we WERE to alter the way we write Klingon using non-Klingon 
characters, we'd first have to decide at what level we wanted to work. 
Phonemic? Phonetic? Something in between? We'd also have to decide how 
much weight we'd give to Okrand's pronunciations, or some actors' 
pronunciations, compared to what we're TOLD.

Stardate 9478.0

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