Posted on July 4th, 2009by
In Culture, Invented languages, Technology | 1 Comment »
I’m no sci-fi geek, but I’ll admit I did enjoy the recent Star Trek movie. Off the back of the movie comes something for uber sci-fi geeks and dedicated linguists: the Klingon dictionary for the iPhone.
Originally invented for the Star Trek TV series, the Klingon language is called
tlhIngan Hol, and even has its own language institute. It is one of the more successful invented languages, along with Esperanto and Elvish. It appears to be much more complex than either of those languages, however:
Marc Okrand is a student of various Native American languages, which are notoriously difficult for speakers of Indo-European languages to learn, and in creating Klingon he borrowed rare and unfamiliar grammatical and syntactical rules, along with tongue-twisting sound combinations, from those and other little-known world languages. Klingon verbs have 29 different prefixes to indicate subject and object agreement, Klingon sentences have a highly unorthodox word order (object-verb-subject), and Klingon vocabulary can be almost endlessly agglutinated, meaning that long phrases can be stuck together into single words. (The supposed Klingon proverb “If it is in your way, knock it down,” is expressed in just two words: “Dubotchugh yIpummoH.”) Okrent says her reaction to Klingon, as an accredited linguist, was that “it was completely believable as a language, but somehow very, very odd.”
(*That’s “we are Klingons!” for all you non-speakers.)