tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Nov 13 20:09:05 2013

Back to archive top level

To this year's listing

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]

Re: [Tlhingan-hol] the birth of a new word: qorgh

Bellerophon, modeler (

<div dir="ltr">The beginning of this exchange got me thinking again about how many syllables are possible in Klingon phonology:<div><br><div class="gmail_extra"><div class="gmail_quote">On Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 3:41 PM, Lieven <span dir="ltr">&lt;<a href=""; target="_blank"></a>&gt;</span> wrote:<br>
<blockquote class="gmail_quote" style="margin:0px 0px 0px 0.8ex;border-left-width:1px;border-left-color:rgb(204,204,204);border-left-style:solid;padding-left:1ex"><br>
During an interview with Marc Okrand, I overwhelmed him and said: &quot;Okay, let&#39;s create a new word just now and here, so that people may see how that works. You&#39;ve got thirty seconds.&quot;<br>
He immediately started laughing and shook is head, but he was willing to play along.<br>
MO: Oh boy! What do we need a word for? Or maybe a verb? ... Verbs are generally easier.... If I only have such a short time, I would probably just make up a single syllable that hasn&#39;t been used yet.<span class=""><font color="#888888"><br>

</font></span></blockquote></div><div class="gmail_extra"><br></div>Linguists, please excuse me if I inadvertently bend the definition of phoneme in the process of tallying up the number of possible syllables.</div><div class="gmail_extra">
<div class="gmail_extra"><br></div><div class="gmail_extra">Klingon syllables are formed of four phonemes, in order of position:</div><div class="gmail_extra"><br></div><div class="gmail_extra">   I: b,ch,D,gh,H,j,l,m,n,ng,p,q,Q,r,S,t,tlh,v,w,y,&#39; (21 possibilities)</div>
<div class="gmail_extra">  II: a,e,I,o,u (5 possibilities)<br></div><div class="gmail_extra"> III: r,w,y,&lt;null&gt; (4 possibilities)</div><div class="gmail_extra">IV: b,ch,D,gh,H,j,l,m,n,ng,p,q,Q,S,t,tlh,v,&#39;,&lt;null&gt; (19 possibilities)</div>
<div class="gmail_extra"><br></div><div class="gmail_extra">Note that /r/, /w/, and /y/ are not included in IV. Terminal /r/, /w/, and /y/ are already accounted for in III if IV is &lt;null&gt;, and no Klingon syllable ends with -wr or -yr. {meyrI&#39;} and {ghawran} are not exceptions to this rule; they would be syllabified mey-rI&#39; and ghaw-ran.</div>
<div class="gmail_extra"><br></div><div class="gmail_extra">There would be 21*5*4*19 possibilities, or 7980, except that position IV is limited if /r/ is in position III. In practice, syllables with /r/ in position III only have /gh/, /q/, or &lt;null&gt; in position IV (to cite the latest example, {qorgh}). Also, /ow/ and /uw/ never occur. The bottleneck is in III: if III is /y/ or &lt;null&gt;, there are 21*5*2*19=3990 possibilities. If III is /w/, there are 21*3*1*19=1197 possibilities. If III is /r/, there are 21*5*1*3=315 possibilities. This makes a total of 5502 possible syllables.</div>
<div class="gmail_extra"><br></div><div class="gmail_extra">(New vocabulary could increase the number of possible syllables; a glance at the above list suggests that &quot;barb&quot; could be a Klingon syllable, and certainly /rQ/ seems possible if /rq/ already occurs. If any phoneme in IV except /&#39;/ is allowed after /r/ in position III, the total number of syllables would increase to 7077.)</div>
<div class="gmail_extra"><br></div><div class="gmail_extra">I&#39;d guess Klingon has around 1500 monosyllabic words, so the ratio of sense to nonsense syllables is getting small, less than 1:3. But one error-checking mechanism of a language is that nonsense monosyllables outnumber their intelligible counterparts (though this is probably not the case for Hawaiian). I&#39;ve run across estimates that English has about 9000 monosyllabic words out of over 100000 possible monosyllables. If I say &quot;cork&quot; at a noisy dinner party, you might hear it as &quot;fork&quot; or &quot;pork,&quot; but you would not expect I said &quot;gork.&quot; (Actually, it turns out &quot;gork&quot; is medical slang for a brain-dead patient.)</div>
<div class="gmail_extra"><br></div><div class="gmail_extra">So how does this Klingon vocabulary land rush play out?</div><div class="gmail_extra"><br></div><div class="gmail_extra">~&#39;eD</div>-- <br>My modeling blog:          <a href=""; target="_blank"></a><br>
My other modeling blog:  <a href=""; target="_blank"></a><br>
Tlhingan-hol mailing list

Back to archive top level