A couple of weeks ago, I watched the new Star Trek movie, Into the Darkness and one part that captured my attention was the conversation in Klingon. I cannot explain why but I was never interested in this artificial language. The sound is orcish-like, the writing is wEIrd anD oDD and I was never a Star Trek fan to be honest.
Anyway, I recognize the power of this franchise and the respect it deserves as it’s a pretty solid stuff. I have already dedicated some space here for Vulcan (which got an outstanding alphabet) and now the time has come for Klingon!
Tengwar Klingon Mode
What do you need to understand the image above? If you don’t have the right tools, it may end up looking like an esoteric topic. Here’s what you need:
- Understanding of the Klingon sound inventory
- Familiarity with Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings, particularly section II
- Some understanding of phonology
- Return of the King
- HolQeD Vol.1, No.1
I fail when it comes to Klingon knowledge. I was doing some research to understand better the phonetics, and to me it sounds much like Arabic. (This is a rookie view. If you know better, please comment below, I’d be happy to learn more)
As explained in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings, the Tengwar are divided into four series and six grades, with additional letters added. Series I was used for the “dental” series in all modes, and Series II the labial series. The application of Series III and IV varied. Grades 1 and 2 were used for unvoiced and voiced stops, Grades 3 and 4 for unvoiced and voiced “spirants” (fricatives and affricates), and Grades 5 and 6 varied, usually for nasals and weak or semi-vocalic consonants.
Because Klingon has such a varied set of articulation points and manners, I wondered how to assign the series and grades for Klingon. I went back to HolQeD Vol.1, No.1, to Allan C. Wechsler’s excellent, though very technical, article “First Steps Towards a Phonological Theory of Klingon.” Wechsler examines the consonant system of Klingon and determines that it has 7 or 8 distinctive points of articulation, as well as 11 different manners of speaking at these points, but that most of the possible consonants created by this matrix aren’t used in Klingon. He then postulates a consolidated matrix that might apply to Klingons, given “relatively shallow production rules” (e.g., p and b are bilabials and v is a labial-dental, but he’s going to say that they can all be called “labials” and that they are produced in a similar enough fashion as to be classified together).
This idea reduces the table into one with only four articulation points. That’s the number of Tengwar series! We will accept Wechsler’s hypothesis as correct for the purpose of creating this mode.
We still have too many manners, though. There are unvoiced and voiced stops, unvoiced and voiced fricatives, unvoiced and voiced affricates, nasals, glides, a trill, a lateral, and a lateral affricate. We’re going to need those extra Tengwar letters.
As per the matrix, Series I will be the “Apical” series, series II will be the “Labial” series, series III will be the “Dorsal” series, and series IV will be the “Glottal” series. Grade 1 will be the unvoiced stops, and Grade 2 the voiced stops. Grades 3 and 4 are problematical; I’ll return to them in a moment. Grades 5 and 6 will be as the common Elvish modes: 5 is for nasals, 6 is for “weak” consonants.
When Tolkien used the term “spirant”, he meant both fricatives and affricates. But we have, for example, two unvoiced dorsal spirants in Klingon, one a fricative (H) and one an affricate (Q). They can’t both use the same letter! Fairly arbitrarily, I’m going to assign Q to letter No. 29: Quenya used No. 11 for the same sound as Klingon H, so I’ll keep No. 11 as H. No. 33 was an alternate for No. 11 (though I’d hardly call it a “weaker” sound, which is what it was usually used for), so Q will go on No. 33. Likewise, we have a conflict with S and ch (both of which want to go on No.9). Since No. 29 typically represented s, I’ll again arbitrarily put Klingon S there, leaving ch to go on No. 9. That leaves the rest of the “spirants” free and clear. For dealing with vowels (see below), we’ll also want to use No. 30: a variant ofNo. 29 that is more convenient when using tehtar.
This particular choice is desirable for another reason: H has a voiced counterpart (gh), as does ch (j), but Q and S. don’t. Better to put these down below rather than the others.
So, let’s map those sounds!
Curious? MORE? Check the source where this post was based! Here: http://www.trimboli.name/KlingonTengwar.html I cannot help it but to congratulate the one who devised this Mode. Klingon is harsh and I bet it wasn’t that easy to come up with this particular Tengwar Mode!
Listen Klingon and and let’s see if you’ll end up singing like him!