tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Jun 23 15:09:02 2009

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Re: Klingon orthography

Michael Everson (

On 23 Jun 2009, at 21:20, David Trimboli wrote:

> 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.

Hm. I would say that Standard Klingon has a phoneme /b/ which is  
realized as [b] or [mb], but that in some dialects the phoneme /b/ has  
fallen together with /m/.

> 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.

No, when he writes the words in KGT he writes them in the same bold  
face that he uses for other orthographic forms. {U} and {s} and {h}  
may be non-standard language, but the orthographic forms are within  
the parameters of the standard system. A revised Latin orthography for  
Klingon should also have the facility to indicate these.

> 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.

These are rather interesting questions. My assumption has been to take  
Standard Klingon as Okrand gives it, with due respect to the fact that  
the pronunciation he gives is the pronunciation that most Klingonists  
strive for. (The actors are as we know often less than successful.)  
The deviations, dialectal or generational, are as Okrand describes them.

Michael Everson *

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