Generally spoken, the word canon refers to the main rules of something. In regard to the Klingon language, it refers to official original sources and also pronouncements by Marc Okrand. The Klingon community has agreed to only accept new words and rules from him. Canon sources are often referred to by abbreviations.

Webster's dictionary provides this definition of the word canon(1):
1. can.on \ˈka-nən\ noun [ME, fr. OE, fr. LL, fr. L, ruler, rule, model, standard, fr. Gk kano-n [ME, prob. fr. OF, fr. LL, fr. L, model] [ME, fr. LL, fr. L, standard] [LGk kano-n, fr. Gk, model]X; akin to Gk kanna reed - more at CANE 1a: a regulation or dogma decreed by a church council 1b: a provision of canon law 2: the most solemn and unvarying part of the Mass including the act of consecration 3a: an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture 3b: the authentic works of a writer 4a: an accepted principle or rule 4b: a criterion or standard of judgment 4c: a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms 5: a contrapuntal musical composition in two or more voice parts in which the melody is imitated exactly and completely by the successive voices

Sorts of canon

There are two different perspectives on what is "canon" Klingon.

Star Trek canon

On the one hand, anything produced by Paramount is official Star Trek, and thus "canon," no matter how badly it mangles the language. Memory Alpha follows this policy and even rejects anything from Okrand, because it has not been seen on screen. For them, only phrases from the script count, even if they contradict the spelling used in The Klingon Dictionary.

Okrandian tlhIngan Hol

With respect to Klingon - that means also in this wiki - "canon" refers only to Okrand's Klingon.

Most Klingonists, on the mailing list anyway, interpret canon in a very restricted way, to those works and utterances which are verifiably from Marc Okrand. Any time you see a reference to canon in the context of Klingon, it's safe to assume the more restrictive interpretation.

It is important to make a distinction here: "Canonical" does not mean "right" or "legal." It only means that it came from Okrand, but it can still be incorrect. There are several known errors in canon sources, which are nevertheless not correct. Some of the existing mistakes have been explained as are idiomatic or dialectical.

Okrand's opinion

reported by David Yonge-Mallo (2)
Furthermore: Okrand is much less concerned about the purity of canon, and being in charge of creating it, than the rest of us.

Someone wrote an essay on Klingon musical theory extending what Okrand wrote, and Okrand was happy to endorse it as how Klingons do things. I believe it's the same one that's now in the introduction to the paq'batlh.

I've discussed the "higher mathematics" hinted at in TKD (using 3-adic system) with him, and he's suggested I write it up. He's not a mathematician, but as a linguist he knows the sort of numbering system which is possible outside of base-10. It's both outside of his field of expertise and probably not a good use of his time to describe music theory or mathematics beyond the basics, but he's heavily hinted at the systems he thinks Klingon has and is happy for other people to fill out the details.

A suggestion he's made for boQwI' is to add more entries for "derived" verbs. TKD has a bunch of these like an entry QeymoH tighten which is derived from Qey be tight. He added common ones for convenience, but he didn't add all possible -moH derivatives of "be" verbs because it would've added a lot of redundant entries and increased the length of the book. But for an app, that's less of an issue, and he likes the feature that (as an example) if he searched for "enlarge" and forgot that there's a word tIn be big, he would still get the correct result. In other words, he doesn't mind people putting words into their Klingon word lists which are derived rather than exactly as they appear in canon. This was how jotlhHa' became "canon", because he was going through someone's word list and that person had derived jotlhHa' from jotlh. He's perfectly fine if people add -moH and -Ha' verbs to their word lists, if their derivation from the root makes sense.

In fact, because he himself isn't obsessed with collecting every Klingon word or sentence he's ever written (exactly as he wrote it, no more, no less), or is made up for a show or book by someone else, he sometimes forgets when he's used a word a particular way or has told someone (e.g. Keith R.A. DeCandido, or a random fan he meets at an event) that a word can be used in a particular way. He actually enjoys finding out about how fans have expressed things which extend the given vocabulary, and he doesn't want to contradict other people whenever possible. In other words, he's perfectly fine with other people extending Klingon "canon", if their extension basically respects the rules he's set up.

So I wouldn't worry too much about the "purity" of canon. I mean, it's important to keep track of whether Okrand wrote something or not, for record-keeping and historical purposes, but please don't worship pairs of Klingon-English sentences like they're holy.

At qep'a' 2021 Okrand talked about canon and how himself being the sole source of canon has to change(3):

I'm not aware of anyone making up a whole word that people then accept as part of the deal. You might make up a new word on the fly and for purposes of the current discussion this make sense, but it doesn't become part of the language. Clearly, and in light of the thing this morning too [referring to an LGBT vocabulary panel], there's a lot of words that need to be created, that ought to be thought about, by the people using the language, not just me, for two reasons. One is because the people using the language are the ones using the language. The second one is that one of these days you're on your own, no matter what, because the world works like that. So the whole connection to the sole source of canon has got to change, and is changing. I think it's in really good hands right now, meaning the people who are doing the serious talking about it really are taking it seriously.

Klingon word

There is a slang usage of the word tutlh. The literal meaning of it is "be tattooed"; The slang meaning means "be official". Maltz was asked if this can be used to refer to canon, but didn't give an answer. (qep'a' 2018)

See also


1 : Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary

2 : reported by David Yonge-Mallo in the Email Discussion Forum on April 2nd, 2019

3 : qep'a' cha'maH chorghDIch - Dr. Marc Okrand Q&A

The first version of this page
originated in the old KLI wiki. ➞ see list
Category: Canon    Latest edit: 02 Sep 2021, by FergusQ    Created: 02 Mar 2014 by LieVen
History: r22 < r21 < r20 < r19 - View wiki text
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