tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Thu Nov 14 22:38:30 2013

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

Rohan Fenwick ( [KLI Member]

ghItlhpu' 'eD, jatlh:
> The beginning of this exchange got me thinking again about how many  
> syllables are possible in Klingon phonology: 
> I'd guess Klingon has around 1500 monosyllabic words, so the ratio of  
> sense to nonsense syllables is getting small, less than 1:3.

I put together a syllable distribution database a while ago, built on the presumption that the legal syllable shapes are CV, CVC, CVrgh, CVw' and CVy', with no syllables of the form *Cow(') or *Cuw('). On that presumption, there are 2,541 possible legal Klingon syllables, and if my data are up to date then 1,635 of those possibilities are currently attested (64.3%). Of those, 1,461 (89.3%) are monosyllabic words; an additional 174 syllable shapes are attested only in polysyllabic words. That puts the ratio of sense to nonsense syllables at a little under 3:2.

> 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).

Like most Polynesian languages Hawaiian requires lexical words to be at least bimoraic, so to have either at least one long vowel or at least two short vowels, but Japanese might be an example where intelligible lexical monosyllables might be more numerous than nonsense ones.

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