LINGUIST List 3.286

Mon 23 Mar 1992

Disc: OVS, Klingon

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: 3.262 Text, Idioms, OVS
  2. , linguist in the news

Message 1: Re: 3.262 Text, Idioms, OVS

Date: Wed, 18 Mar 1992 22:12:00Re: 3.262 Text, Idioms, OVS
From: <>
Subject: Re: 3.262 Text, Idioms, OVS

Dear Mr. Cowan
At the risk of appearing frivolous (or worse, a Trekkie) let me join the
Klingon/OVS debate. I have found the little Okrand book extremely
entertaining, from the description itself right down to the little disclaimers,
apologies, and thanks to the informant.

The phrase

puq legh yaS
child see officer
The officer sees the child.

is probably active OVS, rather than passive (The child is seen by the officer)
in the light of other constructions.

legh yaS
see officer
The officer sees (him/her/it/them)

That could also be "(Him/her/it/them) is seen by officer", but the subject also
comes after intransitive verbs.

Qong yaS
sleep officer
The officer is sleeping.

Also a leghwI' (-wI' as the agentive nominalizer -er) is a "see-er", "someone
or something that sees" rather than "something seen".

These may not be definitive examples, but it's pretty clear that Okrand
purposely set out to make an OVS language to make it maximally distinct from
most "Terran" languages. [Of course, from an English point of view, Klingon
seems at least as terran as Finnish and Navajo.]

An interesting non-Terran feature is the phoneme reversal in Klingon

For Nouns		For sentences
je			'ej 		"and"
joq			qoj			"and/or"
ghap			pagh			"either/or"

The glottal stop in 'ej is obviously intended to be epenthetical (Klingon words
never start with a vowel). This process doesn't seem to be productive.

Ken Beesley
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Message 2: linguist in the news

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 92 20:42:06 CSlinguist in the news
From: <DBEDELL3UA1VM.bitnet>
Subject: linguist in the news

Apparently my posting about Marc Okrand was not received in its entirety
by LINGUIST subscribers. I'll try again. --D Bedell, U of Alabama

>Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1992 08:06:00 EST
>Sender: Star Trek Fan Club list <STREK-LPCCVM.BITNET>
>From: David M Stein - Veraldi Center <STEINLTUVAX.BITNET>
>Subject: X-POST::Klingon Language Discussion: Marc Okrand in news
>From: BITNET%"" "Klingon La
nguage List" 2-MAR-1992 23:01:04.64
>To: "Klingon Language List" <>
>Subj: Okrand in the news again.

>From: Mark E. Shoulson <shoulson%ctr.columbia.eduhusc6.BITNET>
>To: "Klingon Language List" <>
>Date: Mon, 2 Mar 92 20:22:22 -0500
>Subject: Okrand in the news again.

In today's (March 2, 1992) edition of _The Star Ledger_, a local New
Jersey newspaper, there appeared on page 3 (front section) an article
about the great pabpo''a', Marc Okrand himself (Hmm, it's listed as AP,
so maybe you've all seen it already). Here, I'll type it up for you:

Down-to-Earth Philologist creates a far-out language for 'Star Trek'
WASHINGTON(AP)--There is only one Klingon master of the universe, and
he's a mere human.

Marc Okrand is author of "The Klingon Dictionary," the only place
where "Star Trek" devotees can learn such utilitarian phrases as: "jol
ylchu'," [sic] ("Activate the transport beam!") and, "qaStaHvls [sic]
wa' ram loS SaD Hugh SljlaH [sic] qetbogh loD," or "Four thousand
throats may be cut in one night by a running man."

In Star Trek's imaginary universe, Klingon is a planet whose denizens
were once at war with the United Federation of Planets but are now
somewhat tenuous allies. Their language, spoken properly, sounds like
German barked by an irate samurai with a clogged throat.

By day, Okrand is a linguist at the National Captioning Institute in
Northern Virginia. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California
at Berkeley in the languages of West Coast Indians.

But he moonlights as Star Trek's Klingon consultant and has worked on
several Star Trek movies and for TV's "Star Trek: The Next

It's a job for which most Trekkies would gladly give their dilithium
crystals. But Okrand just fell into it, like a worm hole in space.

In 1982, he was in Los Angeles and had lunch with a friend who worked
at Paramount Pictures. At the studio comissary, Okrand's friend
introduced him to the secretary to the executive producer of "Star
Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." In the course of conversation, the
secretary mentioned that her boss was looking for a linguist to script
a brief scene in Vulcan, the language of Mr. Spock.

"'When does it have to be done?'" Okrand recalls that he asked. "And
the secretary said: 'It has to be finished by Friday.' So I said, 'I
can do that.'"

Moments later, the executive producer walked by, met Okrand and the
rest is intergalactic history.

In three days, Okrand invented several lines of Vulcan and taught them
to Kirstie Alley, who played Lt. Savik, and Leonard Nimoy, the
inimitable Mr. Spock.

"I taught Vulcan to Mr. Spock," Okrand still marvels.

A couple of years later, Paramount was doing "Star Trek III: The
Search for Spock" and called Okrand again.

"What I decided to do--they never told me to do this--was to make a
real language." Okrand said.

He went back and looked at "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," the first
in the series, which begins with three Klingon warships being zapped.
The dialogue includes a couple of gutteral Klingon commands, such as,

Okrand took those lines and accepted them as Klingon. Then, he began
to build a vocabulary and syntax, emphasizing that the producers
wanted something coarse--a warrior language.

In writing the dictionary, Okrand devised some arbitrary rules just to
keep himself amused. For example, the basic word order is the
opposite of English. So if you want to say, "Man bites dog," in
Klingon, the correct word order would be, "Dog bites man."

Okrand also threw out the "K" sound because, he says, it's a
linguistic cliche to give bad guys names starting with "K" sounds.
(What about Capt. Kirk?) So even though Klingon starts with a "K", as
do almost all Klingonm names in Star Trek, the correct pronunciation
is more like "Tchlingon."

Lately, Okrand's Klingon star has been rising.

His dictionary (Pocket Books, $10) is in its second edition and has
sold more than 60,000 copies, he said. In January, Okrand addressed
an overflow crowd at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, where a
Star Trek exhibit opened last week.

Okrand hopes there will be more Star Trek in his future--perhaps
dictionaries of the other imaginary space languages, Vulcan and

 --David Bedell, U. of Alabama (
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