Info on Klingon Language Institute
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Date: 03-31-93 (18:02) Number: 6436
From: DONALD BURR Refer#: NONE
To: ALL Recvd: NO
Subj: Klingon as a second langu Conf: (21) 805 Net
Thought you folks might find this interesting. I did. Some may find it
somewhat humorous as well. This is out of one of our local-area newspapers,
the Santa Barbara News-Press, Monday, March 29, 1993, page B-4, in case you
KLINGON AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
by Lynn Van Matre, Chicago Tribune
The scene: A convention of one sort or another -- linguists, say, or
science fiction fans -- in the not too distant future. With folks
attending from all over the world, hundreds of tongues are represented, but
there's still a communications problem. There doesn't seem to be one
single language that everybody speaks.
Until, that is, someone shouts -- spitting on himself slightly as he
boldly barks out the words -- "tlhIngan hol Dajatlh'a'" (Do you speak
Heads swivel; ears perk up all over the room, followed by a guttural
cacophony as countless voices chorus, "HISlaH" (Yes).
Communications problem solved. Klingon spoken here.
"It sounds absurd," acknowledges Lawrence M. Schoen, founder of the
Klingon Language Institute and a man who enjoys envisioning the above
scenario when he's not busy teaching psychology at Chestnut Hill College in
Philadelphia. "But it could happen."
Sure, sure, Klingon is a tough-to-learn, totally made-up language spoken
by gruff, traditionally warriorlike extraterrestrials from the fictitious
Klingon Empire in assorted "Star Trek" films and TV's "Star Trek: The Next
Generation." Klingon words are a disconcerting alphabet soup of upper case
and lower case letters and odd accent marks, and Klingon punctuation
doesn't bother with question marks and exclamation points.
But it's also one of the hottest new languages in the universe, with
more Terrans (the Klingon term for us Earthlings) tackling conversational
Klingon every day, mastering useful phrases such as "Where is the
bathroom?", "I have a headache," and "Surrender or die!"
Right now, you're probably asking, "Where can I learn this happening
language?" No problem -- or, as Klingons would say, "qay'be" (pronounced
-- The Klingon Language Institute (KLI), a Philadelphia-based group that
includes a number of linguists as well as teen-age and college-age "Star
Trek" fans, is offering a free, 11-lesson correspondence course in Klingon.
So far, more than 60 Terrans have signed up.
-- "Star Trek: Conversational Klingon" (Simon & Schuster Audioworks,
$11), a new audiocassette featuring Michael Dorn (who plays resident
Klingon Lt. Worf on "The Next Generation") and Klingon language creator
Marc Okrand, is aimed at Terrans planning a visit to the Klingon Empire,
home to many colorful customs. You'll learn to recognize common Klingon
phrases, including "Checkout time is 5 a.m." (frequently heard when
checking into a Klingon hotel) and "Buy or die!" (uttered routinely by
-- Several colleges or college-affiliated organizations offer or have
offered non-credit courses in Klingon.
"Klingons are very popular with 'Star Trek' fans, so I'm not surprised
that people might be interested in their weird language," says Okrand, who
created the harsh-sounding tongue for the 1984 film "Star Trek III: The
Search for Spock" and authored "The Klingon Dictionary" (Pocket Books,
$10), recently published in a revised and expanded version. "What is
surprising to me is that people are actually studying it."
Near-fanatical interest in "Star Trek" and Klingon culture is nothing
new, of course. Devoted fans -- many decked out as Klingons or other "Star
Trek" characters -- have been holding conventions for years. It's only
recently, though, that the concept of actually speaking and writing Klingon
has begun to gather steam and intrigue serious linguists as well as
Schoen, for example, grew up watching the original "Star Trek" shows,
but notes that he was "a fan, not a fanatic. I never owned a pair of
pointy rubber Vulcan ears or went to 'Star Trek' conventions."
Schoen, 33, a former professor at Lake Forest College in suburban Lake
Forest, initially started studying Klingon a year ago to take his mind off
the looming threat of unemployment.
"The college was having budget problems, and my position was being cut,"
says Schoen. "I wanted something to distract me while I was waiting to
hear about another job, and I came across a copy of 'The Klingon
Dictionary.' My academic specialty is psycholinguistics, which deals with
how we think about language, and I wondered if there were people who were
actually studying Klingon the way people study the fictitious languages
spoken by mythical races of elves in J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings.'"
Using computer electronic bulletin boards, Schoen began searching for
people interested in speaking the extraterrestrial tongue and was surprised
at the large response. After hearing from scores of people eager to chat
in Klingon, he founded the Klingon Language Institute and began publishing
a quarterly academic journal called HolQeD (from the Klingon "Hol," which
means language, and "QeD," science).
The journal, a non-profit, all-volunteer operation, generally takes a
scholarly approach, but it also features jokes, puns and even an occasional
Now based in Flourtown, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, KLI -- which
celebrates its first anniversary this month -- boasts more than 200
members, who pay $5 annually ($15 if they wish to also receive HolQeD).
Many KLI members, Schoen notes, also belong to "Star Trek" and/or Klingon
"We're trying to bring in more academics, but we also want to appeal to
a wide audience," he says. "As an educator, I think this is a great avenue
for sneaking in education. People learn best when they learn something
that is of interest to them. We have a number of teen-age members, for
example -- maybe we'll turn some of them into linguists."
A word of warning: Klingon is a tough language to learn (and a somewhat
messy one, given the preponderance of guttural sounds). Schoen doesn't
claim to be fluent.
Even Okrand shies away from describing himself as Klingon-fluent.
"Not many people are," he says.
"I intentionally violated linguistic rules in creating the language,"
adds Okrand, who has a doctorate in linguistics. "The sounds are hard to
make, and the grammatical features are unique. The basic word order in
English is subject, verb, object; in Klingon it is object, verb, subject,
and there is no distinction between adjectives and verbs."
As for the disconcerting way Klingon words mix upper case and lower case
letters and toss around accent marks like confetti, Okrand explains he
"wanted to make the language seem more otherworldly, though the capital
letters are also used to indicate that you don't pronounce the sound the
way you would in English."
Okrand, who works for the National Captioning Institute in Washington,
D.C., wound up putting words in Klingons' mouths thanks to a lucky break.
In 1982, he traveled to Los Angeles to coordinate closed-captioned
programming for the deaf for that year's Academy Awards show. During his
stay, a friend working as a secretary at Paramount Pictures suggested
Okrand join her and a co-worker for lunch at the studio commissary.
"Over lunch, the subject of linguistics somehow came up, and they
mentioned that Paramount needed a linguist to help with some Vulcan dialect
for 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,' which was in post-production at the
time," Okrand explains.
"I said, 'I can do that.' The associate producer of the film happened
to walk by right then, and I ended up doing the dialogue for a short scene
where Spock and a female Vulcan are talking. Then, when they did 'Star
Trek III,' they called me to do the Klingon dialogue.
"The producers wanted it to sound guttural and call to mind Samurai
warriors," he adds, "but it was my idea to make it a 'real' language rather
than just nonsense sounds."
For more information about the Klingon Language Institute, send a
self-addressed, stamped envelope to KLI, P.O. Box 634, Flourtown, Pa.
SIDEBAR: "First Lesson", Chicago Tribune
Ready to speak Klingon, Terran? Here are some handy phrases from "The
Klingon Dictionary" (Pocket Books, $10) to get you started.
What do you want? (standard Klingon greeting) NuqneH (pronounced
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