Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals and smaller lowercase in the written representation. (1) To represent the Klingon language using romanized transcription (instead of Klingon letters), case is very important to distinguish letters and sounds.


When Marc Okrand wrote his first Klingon lines for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in 1984, even before the publication of The Klingon Dictionary, he had no other means than a typewriter to represent the language, i.e. no way to mark words on bold face, or to use special symbols. To mark those letters which have a special or unusual sound, he decided to write them in upper case as to mark them visually.


Upper case letters

The following letters are always written in upper case.
  • D H I Q S

Lower case letters

The following letters are always written in lower case.
  • a b ch e gh j l m n ng o p q r t tlh u v w y '

Do's and dont's

  • The easy part of Klingon writing is that case never changes. All letters are the way they are, no matter if at the beginning of the sentence, or if they are a name or whatever.
  • It should be noted that gh counts as one sound, or one letter. So while H is said to be always capitalized, that only counts for it standing alone. In combination with gh, it's always lower case.
  • It is definitely not recommended to write in all upper case (TLHINGAN HOL DAJATLH'A') because reading is unusual, and the q/Q problem appears.
  • Also, writing in small caps makes reading Klingon very difficult, because it just looks very unusual: DaHjaj tlhIngan Hol vIghoj vIneHbej


Comparison serif-font with sans-serif font
Using upper case letters this way sometimes causes problems to the users:

I vs. l

In a sans serif font, it is almost impossible to see the difference between lower case l ("ell") and upper case I ("eye"). For advanced speakers, this is no problem, but beginners might have trouble to parse words like vIlInHoD.

In addition, when Klingon phrases are transferred visually, a copier could unintentionally mistake the I as l and spread an incorrect spelling which becomes visible when converted to a different font type or pIqaD. This has happened with Sheldon's Revenge T-Shirt which resulted starting with bortaS bIr as BORTAS BLR.

In the first print of the Klingon Way, the word vanglu'taHvIS on page 55 had an upper case I ("eye") were it should should have been lower case l ("ell"). This was fixed in the second print.

Q vs. q

On software systems, it can cause trouble in sorting devices if there is a lower case q and an upper case Q, if they are treated equally. Also, if a filename is required to always start with an upper case, the user has no choice and also no option to distinguish between qIl and QIl. This is also the case in this wiki, where the word section replaces q by k: keylIS This also happens on Windows computers, which will not let you save two separate files named QoQ.txt and qoq.txt.


Another problem of this system is the appearance of written word and the resulting perception of outsiders. It is a frequent reaction of people to say that Klingon looks like someone fell asleep on their keyboard, or that it looks like random letters. This has made it really hard to make the Klingon language accepted as a real language, even though it being accepted as a ficive language. For instance, the common Na'vi greeting Oel ngati kameie. and the Sindarin greeting Suilad! Ci mael? both look quite natural, while the Klingon nuqneH seems very unusual, just because of the upper case H.


Typing Klingon on a computer is sometimes a bit cumbersome, and it will definitely wear off your shift key. Writing Klingon by hand is even more complicated, because one is not only not used to write capitalized letters in the middle of the word, it also usually breaks the writing flow if you want to write without lifting your pen. – But any system you sue, you will get used to it very quickly. It just needs a bit practice. (And after a while, you might even struggle to type the word "triatlhon" correctly.)

Klingon vocabulary

For the interface of the boQwI' app, Okrand provided some explanation on how talk about case:

As you say, "case," "lower case," and "upper case" are not Klingon things, so there's no traditional Klingon jargon for this. Maltz said to just use "big" and "small": ngutlh tIn, ngutlh mach. For "ignore case," perhaps ngutlh Sar buSHa' "ignore written-character variety" or potlhbe' ngutlh Sar "written-character variety isn't important." (2)

See also


1 : Letter case on Wikipedia, retrieved April 28, 2021

2 : announcement in the mailing list by David Yonge-Mallo, of February 25, 2018

Category: Grammar    Latest edit: 29 Apr 2021, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 28 Apr 2021 by KlingonTeacher
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