A History of Klingon Language
Most languages created for fictional worlds involve simple vocabulary substitutions, such as moodge for man in A Clockwork Orange, or meaningless streams of noise, like the high-pitched jabbering of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Klingon is something altogether different. There is a logic behind it; a linguist doing field research among Klingon speakers would be able to work out the system and describe it as he would an exotic indigenous tongue. This is not surprising, considering that Klingon was created by Marc Okrand, a linguist whose dissertation was a grammar of a now-extinct Native American language.
Knowing that fans would be watching closely, Okrand worked out a full grammar. He cribbed from natural languages, borrowing sounds and sentence-building rules, switching sources whenever Klingon started operating too much like any one language in particular. He ended up with something that sounds like an ungodly combination of Hindi, Arabic, Tlingit, and Yiddish and works like a mix of Japanese, Turkish, and Mohawk. The linguistic features of Klingon are not especially unusual (at least to a linguist) when considered independently, but put together, they make for one hell of an alien language.
Klingon sentence structure is about as complex as it gets. Most people are familiar with the idea that verb endings can indicate person and number. But Klingon uses prefixes rather than suffixes, and instead of having six or seven of them, like most romance languages, it has 29. There are so many because they indicate not only the person and number of the subject (who is doing) but also of the object (whom it is being done to).
To the layman, the time commitment involved in studying this invented language may seem ridiculous—why not take up a language with practical value, one that might earn you a little respect, or at least not encourage jeers? But Klingon isn’t about practicality, or status, or even about love for the original Star Trek series. It’s about language for language’s sake, and the joy of doing something that’s not easy, without regard for worldly recognition.
Read the entire article here.
Image Source: TCM Hitchhiker