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Okrand At StarbaseIndy.jpg
Okrand talking at Starbase Indy 2016

Transcript of Klingon 101

This page displays a transcript of Marc Okrand's Klingon 101 which he gave at Starbase Indy in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA on November 26, 2016.

Note: This transcript is still a work in progress. [...] indicates a missing or misunderstood phrase.

Part 1


[0:00] have to hear individual sounds clearly [...] so I'll use this [microphone]. They're billing this in the program book - it says "Klingon 101". That implies that an hour from now you are going to walk out of here speaking Klingon - you are not! Unless you already do. It's only an hour so there's, you know, there's lots of stuff, so we can't talk about everything. What I thought I would do is focus on a couple of things: What is pronunciation, because that's the most fun part, and also so that if you see a Klingon word written out you have a good chance of saying it correctly, and then a little bit about the grammar. This is sort of some highlights so you can see how the thing all fits together. Tomorrow, for those of you who are here tomorrow, I'll talk more about how this all came to be... [1:00] and how the actors decided Klingon works differently from the way I decided it works... and things like that. But today is more straight language lessons. Also to give a disclaimer at the beginning: Believe it or not, I have never done this before. Okay, I've worked one on one with the actors but never done a group thing, so we'll see how this goes. Except for pronunciation [...]

Sounds: vowels

Klingon - I assume everyone has read some Klingon, right? - as you know, has some sounds in it that are perfectly easy familiar sounds, and some sounds that - the way it's been described to me is a throat disease - and that's all true, but it's really not that tough to [2:00] pronounce Klingon for the most part. [...] The bulk of the sounds in Klingon are pretty easy sounds if you already speak English, which I hope you do otherwise you're not understanding what I'm saying right now. Like any other language there's consonants and there's vowels. The vowels are really easy - there's not very many of them. And one good thing, I think, about Klingon writing - meaning using Roman letters, not the Klingon characters, that's a whole separate thing - is that whatever sound the letter stands for, that's what it stands for all the time. Unlike some other languages, like English. So for the vowels - we'll start with vowels because there's not many and they're easy. And you're going to have to talk back to me [3:00] as we go along. Watch how easy this is. There's:
  • a
  • e
  • Now this one I write with a capital "i" and I'll tell you why in a second: I
  • o
  • u
That's it. The reason I write this with a capital letter is because the letter "i" in English is sometimes pronounced <ih> like in "it", sometimes pronounced <ee> like in "machine" and sometimes pronounced <ai> like "I". And when I was making up this writing system I didn't make it up for linguistics students or language learners or something like that, I made it up for the actors. And all these letters... I figured the actors, who speak English, would get what I was getting at, but I wanted to make sure they knew that when they saw the letter [4:00] I to pronounce it <ih> so I wrote it with a capital letter as kind of a reminder that it's <ih> and not some of these other things. I supposed I could have done that with [...] which is sometimes <a>, blah, blah, blah. But anyway, I did it with that. And the other capital letters you'll see are also as reminders to the actors, so it wasn't to make a complex writing system it was for cues for the actors. And you can combine these five vowels with what linguists call semi-vowels, which is "w" and "y", which I write "w" and "y". So you have:
  • aw
  • ay
  • ew - it's just <eh> plus <oo>
  • ey
  • Iw - Iw and ew is not the same - Iw ew - but it's the vowel plus <oo> - Iw ew [5:00]
  • Iy - that's <ih> <ee> Iy - we'll come back to that
  • oy
  • uy
You see, it's easy. It's easy. Now here, we'll skip those [ow and uw] because this would be <oh>, <oh> and <oh> sounds too much alike, so no point. <oo> and <oo>, too much alike. So, just skip those. Alrgiht? Now - we'll come back to that because we do something else with these guys. I'll show you later. That's it. That's it for the vowels. It's easy - Klingon is easy. [5:45] Lieven Litaer, who's this guy, you may have seen him on the internet or something, he bills himself as the Klingon teacher from Germany, always likes to point out how easy Klingon is. That's the vowels. [6:00]

Sounds: consonants

[6:00] There are in Klingon, 26 sounds. Total coincidence. I did not realize that there was 26 until way after all of this was on their way. So there's 5 vowels and 21 consonants. Some of the consonants - form an English point of view - are easy, and some are not so easy, so because I said Klingon is easy, we'll do the easy ones first. So, there is... I'll write them in no order at all. In alphabetical order, but that doesn't matter because I'm gonna mess it up. So that's b like in boy. Let's say everything with [a] afterward. So this is ba - easy, right? I'll frist write those that I'd transcribe with a single letter right now. It's a j: ja. la. ma. na. pa. ta. va. wa. ya. [7:36]

Now, [10:00] now we'll take a brief [...?anatomy? ... ] We are going to examine our mouths. What I want you to do is take your tongue, take the tip of your tongue and touch the back of your teeth, top teeth or bottom teeth, it doesn't matter. Okay? And slowly slide your tongue back, and the first thing that will happen is that [...] and keep your tongue sliding back, so it's kind of pointing straight up and [...] the part that's bony, keep going and it starts to get some kind of [glooshy] stop now [...] now all those different parts, the teeth and that bridge, and that straight up part, and the [?gooshy] part [...] how you make various sounds. So, to make the t-sound in Klingon, [11:00]

It's H. [13:00] We don't have that in English. It exists in languages like German, like the composer Bach. (I got in trouble saying that once when I was in Germany, but I'm not gonna [??] with that) It's like in Hebrew there is a toast in Hebrew l'chaim, Loch loman, where the Loch Ness Monster is, loch [13:26]

[20:03] The r. The r in Klingon is sort of like the r in Spanish, it's kind of trilled or rolled a little bit. So it's not [ɻ] like we do it in English most of the time, it's more [r], but no that [?] that much, so [ɾa], [ɾa] [note of transcriber: yes, Okrand does not really roll the R, it's more like an alveolar tap]. Ehm... Most speakers of Klingon - that I know, okay - tend to speak Klingon with a little bit of a... English accent [laughs]. So it comes out more [ɻa] than [ɾa], but [unclear] do it really right [?], and I 'll [?] to some guilt in that[?] Okay, it's those guys. [?] We gonna forget them. [?] Oh yeah! [thinks] It's two more. One of them, I write this way: [writes tlh on flipchart] It's three letters: t-l-h. That's one sound, but it writes with three letters. That's [xa]. [21:07]

[26:00] So that's it! Klingon syllable is really easy: a syllable starts with a consonant, always, always-always. Okay? Followed by a vowel, always. That's the end of "always". Normally it's followed by another consonant, so it's consonant- [END OF RECORD] [26:21]

Part 2

Basic sentences

[0:00] [beginning phrase cut off] linguistic terminology for you. This could be hard. Klingon has three parts of speech: One of them is called "nouns", one of them is called "verbs", the other one is called "everything else". Okay? And to make a sentence, a normal sentence consists of three parts: [...] the subject (the doer of the action), the verb, (that is the action itself), and the object, (the recipient of the action). So: "Dogs bite people". Dogs do it, bite is what they do, people is who gets bitten. "Dogs bite people". In every language you have to put those three parts in some order or other, but they are not necessarily the same as the English order. In some languages the order matters, in other languages it does not. But in English, it matters. [1:00]

Noun suffixes

You can add other things, besides plural. You can add suffixes that [10:00] indicate size or importance. So, tlhIngan - spelled correctly - [Okrand did a small typo when he wrote it two minutes before] make that tlhIngan'a'. -'a' means "big", but it doesn't necessarily mean big in size, although it can, it's big in importance or something like that. So: "Big-deal-Klingon" tlhIngan'a', or you know like "the best example of a Klingon", tlhIngan'a'. Okay? And after that, you can add -pu', when there's a bunch of them. If it's a little one, instead of -'a' it's -Hom: tlhInganHom is a little Klingon, okay? Or a less important Klingon or something like that. A lot of them: tlhInganHompu'.

So it's a whole bunch of... not a whole bunch, it's only five different classes of noun suffixes which can add to the thing to create different meanings. Some of them mean things like how sure you are [11:00] that it's really a Klingon. It could be definitely a Klingon, or errably a Klingon, you do that by adding one of these little things.

The suffixes have to go in a particular order. Okay, so you can not say tlhIngan-pu'-Hom. It has to be in that order all the time.

Verb suffixes

Klingon101 Flipchart 1.jpg
Okrand's Flipchart
For verbs it's the same kind of deal, but there's more of them, more suffixes. There can be nine different things following the verb. [?Some of the the straightforsee?] legh again "see", legh'egh means... legh by itself is "he sees" or "she sees". legh'egh "he or she sees him or herself". You can add stuff for [12:00] [...]

Or something like that. You don't need anything else to speak Klingon except [13:00] for what I just told you, right. [? you'll ready walk out the room?] There's a bunch more suffixes, obviously, than those. But that's the basic system. There is all kinds of other things, obviously [?we do not talk about] - but these are the basics, it's the basic way to make a word in Klingon, the basic way to say the sounds. [you can/?even do] all that stuff. Easily enough [?then?] the evidence that you can do it easily enough is there's people around this room right now who could - and I'm not gonna [?ask them to do it?] - could stand here and hold a conversation in Klingon without [?sweating?] for a second, doing just fine. It happens at occasions where there is simultaneous translation going on [?]. Someone is speaking Klingon, someone else is translating into English. You can do it. It works.

Creating Klingon

When I made all this stuff up, I didn't know that was going to happen. [14:00] Because when I made it up originally, the task was to make up Klingon phrases for the actors to say, that mean this, this, this, this. Here's the script, here's the twenty lines or whatever it is. That's it. So when I originally started working on the language, I made this basic framework, but didn't plug in all the different things I [?..] about [14:25] [...]

The story of saying "Hello"

"Say something in Klingon!" [16:00] And I'd say "What do you want me to say?" - "Say 'Hi, how are you?'" And I say "A Klingon would never say that." And they laughed and [..?that type of ?answer...] so I made up a how-are-you kind of thing, which is nuqneH, means "what do you want?"

Writing the Klingon Dictionary

But then I realized after this kept happening a lot – not saying "how are you", but the general discussion of the language – [16:30] is that these guys were very interested in it and then there's these other people that I had heard about but didn't have any direct connection with... yet... called Star Trek fans. So they might be interested in it too. So I proposed the idea of writing a book explaining how the language worked and Paramount and... whoever did it, I don't know if it Viacom or not,... so, anyway; everybody said "okay, write the book", so I wrote this book, called "the Klingon Dictionary" and it came out... not when the movie came out. It was supposed to come out when Star Trek III came out [June 1, 1984], but there was a snafu on the publishing side, so it did come out six months later or something like that... [17:05] which actually was a very good thing, because when I wrote the book, it matched the movie as filmed. [17:12] After I finished the book but before it came out, they did post-production and added lines, took lines out, changed subtitles, all kinds of things, so if the book came out when it was supposed to, it did not match the movie, which means people would look at it and say "this is garbage!", "this has nothing to do with anything!" Because of the delay I was able to revise the book, so it did match the movie, when it came out. [17:30]

[?And when I have when I se will?] a book, I hope it sells. Because when you write a book, you hope that's gonna happen. And it did. It sold okay. But then it was re-issued few years later, after Star Trek VI came out %ndash; not because of Star Trek VI, but just chronologically – and incorporated a little bit of new stuff. And that one took well [?] off, for some reason. A lot of people bought it and that's when... [18:00] The Klingon speaking community started building before that, but that's when it really started building a lot. And I think that the reason for that was not so much... how "nifty" all this stuff was, that I just showed you... but because of two things: The key one being Star Trek, and the second one being the Internet. Because the Internet was getting growing on the same time. So people could find each other in the ways that they couldn't before and then communities developed online and then in person. [18:30]

See also

External links

Part 1 shows some interesting information about pronunciation:

Part 2 includes some grammar and questioning:
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