Tuesday, April 27, 2010



D: article by author I mentioned last blog.

The very first lines of the first Star Trek movie in 1979 were in Klingon: wIy cha'! HaSta! cha yIghuS! And those few words—which were subtitled as "Tactical … Visual … Tactical, stand by on torpedoes!"

Klingon is something altogether different. There is a logic behind it; a linguist doing field research among Klingon speakers would be able to work out the system and describe it as he would an exotic indigenous tongue. This is not surprising, considering that Klingon was created by Marc Okrand, a linguist whose dissertation was a grammar of a now-extinct Native American language.

Okrand filled the language with back-of-the-throat sounds and made up a rich war vocabulary but left out social pleasantries like "Hello." (The closest translation for hello in Klingon is nuqneH —"What do you want?").
Knowing that fans would be watching closely, Okrand worked out a full grammar. He cribbed from natural languages, borrowing sounds and sentence-building rules, switching sources whenever Klingon started operating too much like any one language in particular. He ended up with something that sounds like an ungodly combination of Hindi, Arabic, Tlingit, and Yiddish and works like a mix of Japanese, Turkish, and Mohawk. The linguistic features of Klingon are not especially unusual (at least to a linguist) when considered independently, but put together, they make for one hell of an alien language.

D: 250,000 dictionaries sold, while only about 25 speakes are fluent.
I think those might be the same ratios we encountered with Esperanto 'native speakers', roughly.
I wonder if it holds up across the board.
See my earlier blog on that subject, coupla months ago now.

Next entry: how modern pop song lyrics compare to old sonnet forms.

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