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: -*- html -*-
updated: 2012-07-02 19:30:02+02
author: zrajm
year: 1998--2012
lang: en
desc: An attempt at figuring out how punctuation should work in Klingon.
script: sorttable
Punctuating Klingon
This is an attempt at figuring out how punctuation could (should?) work in
Klingon. The article mostly focuses on romanized Klingon (i.e. Klingon written
with the roman alphabet -- as opposed to {pIqaD}), and an attempt is made to
analyze Okrand's usage of punctuation characters.
A little bit of information about {pIqaD} is tossed in at the end however, but
you might want to refer to »[{pIqaD}, and How to Read It](piqad/)« for more
information on the Klingon writing system.
## Table of Contents ##
<ul class=toc>
<li><a href="#okrand">Okrand's Way</a>
<ul style="margin:0">
<li><a href="#sentences">Sentence Punctuation</a>
<li><a href="#subsentence">Sub-Sentence Punctuation</a>
<li><a href="#piqad"><b lang=tlh>pIqaD</b> Punctuation</a>
## [okrand] Okrand's Way ##
### [sentences] Sentence Punctuation ###
When reading *The Klingon Dictionary* I was struck by the fact that Okrand seem
to most carefully avoid using punctuation in Klingon sentences. -- There is
only *one* Klingon sentence *in the entire book* that contains any punctuation
mark, and that occurs in the addendum (written for the second edition, seven
years after the book was originally published). The sentence does not occur as
an example, isolated from the surrounding text (like most other sentences), but
is instead added as a final remark at the end of piece of a text in English.
The sentence? Oh! It is: »{taHjaj boq.}« (<<May the alliance endure.>>)
It looks as if Okrand early on decided to avoid taking a stance on how
punctuation should work in Klingon -- which worked well for any sentence
occurring on its own, or in quotation marks -- but when faced with an off-hand
Klingon remark inside an English text (where missing punctuation marks would
have looked weird) he changed his mind (or forgot).
With only *TKD* as an example, we already have an indication that the
punctuation is mostly there for the benefit of the *Terran* reader, and for the
flow of *the text as a whole.*
Reading *The Klingon Way* and *Klingon for the Galactic Traveler*, this
impression is given further credence -- there does not seem be any connection
between the meaning of a Klingon sentence and its punctuation. Instead the
punctuation used is the same as in the English translation of the sentence.
Some examples of imperative sentences (one would expect all of them to end in
an exclamation point!):
<table class=sortable>
<th>Given Translation
<td sorttable_customkey="bhhqcvfyhwam">{bI'IQchugh yIvang!}
<td><<If you are sad, act!>>
<td sorttable_customkey=1>!
<td sorttable_customkey="b008" class=nobr>TKW p.8
<td sorttable_customkey="thphopveilnkthpho">{tIqIpqu' 'ej nom tIqIp.}
<td><<Hit them hard and hit them fast.>>
<td sorttable_customkey=2>.
<td sorttable_customkey="b008" class=nobr>TKW p.8
<td sorttable_customkey="gncebkeythinl">{Hoch 'ebmey tIjon.}
<td><<Capture all opportunities.>>
<td sorttable_customkey=2>.
<td sorttable_customkey="b051" class=nobr>TKW p.51
<td sorttable_customkey="ohoyvsyhfnr">{pIpyuS yIghor!}
<td><<Break a pipius!>>
<td sorttable_customkey=1>!
<td sorttable_customkey="b185" class=nobr>TKW p.185
<td sorttable_customkey="fexkeythsvpqn">{ghewmey tISuqQo'.}
<td><<Don't catch any bugs.>>
<td sorttable_customkey=2>.
<td sorttable_customkey="b207" class=nobr>TKW p.207
<td sorttable_customkey="iafthghw">{jagh tIHIv!}
<td><<Attack the enemies!>>
<td sorttable_customkey=1>!
<td sorttable_customkey="c140" class=nobr>KGT p.140
And some examples of statements (which one would expect to all end with a
<table class=sortable style="width: 100%">
<th>Given Translation
<td sorttable_customkey="tagiaibnp">{taHjaj boq.}
<td><<May the alliance endure.>>
<td sorttable_customkey=2>.
<td sorttable_customkey="a173" class=nobr>TKDa p.173
<td sorttable_customkey="uhmalkag">{tlhIngan maH!}
<td><<We are Klingons!>>
<td sorttable_customkey=1>!
<td sorttable_customkey="b003" class=nobr>TKW p.3
<td sorttable_customkey="gnwkeydawal">{Hovmey Davan.}
<td><<You salute the stars.>>
<td sorttable_customkey=2>.
<td sorttable_customkey="b083" class=nobr>TKW p.83
<td sorttable_customkey="pafsnobe">{qagh Sopbe'!}
<td><<He doesn't eat gagh!>>
<td sorttable_customkey=1>!
<td sorttable_customkey="b137" class=nobr>TKW p.137
<td sorttable_customkey="dnpbhqthpbhq">{Doq bIQtIq bIQ.}
<td><<The river water is red.>>
<td sorttable_customkey=2>.
<td sorttable_customkey="c123" class=nobr>KGT p.123
<td sorttable_customkey="svysng">{Suy SoH.}
<td><<You are a merchant.>>
<td sorttable_customkey=2>.
<td sorttable_customkey="c196" class=nobr>KGT p.196
Luckily, for the most part, Klingon doesn't need much in way of punctuation
-- questions and commands are always clearly
marked.<sup><a href="#fn1">[1]</a></sup>
### [subsentence] Sub-Sentence Punctuation ###
Punctuation is not only useful at the end of the sentence, but can also be used
to separate clauses, and otherwise help to make a sentence's internal structure
become easier to grasp. In fact -- in Klingon -- this is probably where
punctuation can help the most.
I *think* Okrand is a little more consistent when it comes to sub-sentence
punctuation, <!-- FIXME --> though this will have to become the target for some
future research. Especially in similes he is *very* consistent in his use of
semicolon in the »*&lt;stative verb&gt;{;} &lt;noun&gt; {rur}*« pattern (e.g.
{ram; ghIlab ghew rur} <<It is trivial as a glob fly>>).
<p class=noindent>Here are some cases to think about when I get back to
this the next time:</p>
* **With conjunctions?** -- Both sentence and noun conjunctions.
* **Complex sentences?** [TKD p.61]
* **Subordinate clauses** [TKD p.62] -- I.e. sentences with verb ending in
type 9 suffix (except {-wI'}), the two sentences follow each other in any
order. -- *Does this mean one period; a period and a comma; or two
* **Relative clauses?** [TKD p.63] -- I.e. a sentence whose verb ends in
the type 9 suffix {-bogh} *which*, this sentence goes into subject or
object position in another sentence. -- *Probably just a period after
this one?*
* **Purpose clauses?** [TKD p.64] -- .e. a sentence whose verb ends in
the type 9 suffix {-meH}, this sentence always come first in the
complex sentence. -- *Just a period after this one, or a comma and
* **Sentences as objects?** [TKD p.65] -- I.e. one sentence containing
the one of the pronouns {'e'} or {net}, with a preceding sentence as
object. -- *Just a period after this one, or a comma and period?*
* **{vIneH}** [TKD p.67] -- Same as sentence-as-object, but second
sentence not preceded by {'e'} or {net}. -- *Just a period after this
one, or a comma and period?*
* **Verbs of speaking (*say, tell, ask* etc.)** [TKD p.67] -- Practically
the same thing as sentence-as-object, but the sentences can occur in
any order. -- *Just a period after this one, or a comma and period?*
* **{rIntaH}** [TKD p.67] -- Demonstrating that an action is complete.
Follows a sentence. -- *Just a period after this one, or a comma and
* **"To be" constructions?** [TKD p.67] -- E.g. »{puqpu' chaH qama'pu''e'.}«
-- *Should pronoun be followed by comma?*
* **Comparatives/superlatives?** [TKD p.70] -- I.e. the {law'}/{puS}
construction. -- *Is {law'} followed by a comma?*
* **Direct address?** [TKD p.58] -- I.e. calling someone by name or title.
The direct address follows or precede the sentence. -- *But should a comma
separate sentence and address?*
* **Separating nouns that are not noun-noun constructions?** -- **Commas?**
<th>Canon Examples
<th style="vertical-align: top">
{bogh tlhInganpu', SuvwI'pu' moj, Hegh.} [TKW p.5]
<br>{ta'mey Dun, bommey Dun.} [TKW p.15]
<br>{batlh qelDI' tlhIngan, lumbe'.} [TKW p.67]
<br>{wej Heghchugh vay', SuvtaH SuvwI'.} [TKW p.88]
<br>{qanchoHpa' qoH, Hegh qoH.} [TKW p.117]
<br>{wa' SuvwI' muHlu'DI', tuHchoH Hoch SuvwI'pu'.} [TKW p.136]
<br>{Qu' buSHa'chugh SuvwI', batlhHa' vangchugh, qoj matlhHa'chugh, pagh
ghaH SuvwI''e'.} [TKW p.139]
<br>{nuHlIj DawIvpu', vaj yISov!} [TKW p.151]
<br>{QaghmeylIj tichID, yIyoH.} [TKW p.212]
<th style="vertical-align: top">
{bISuv 'e' yIwIv; bISutlh 'e' yIwIvQo'.} [TKW p.19]
<br>{qanchoHpa' qoH, Hegh qoH.} [TKW p.117]
<br>{vangDI' tlhIngan SuvwI' ngoy' qorDu'Daj; vangDI' qorDu' ngoy'
tlhIngan SuvwI'.} [TKW p.155]
<br>{wa' jaj 'etlh 'uchchoHlaH tlhIngan puqloD; jajvetlh loD nen moj.}
[TKW p.177]
## [piqad] {pIqaD} Punctuation ##
*Special thanks to Nick Nicholas for telling me about {pIqaD} punctuation:*
> {pIqaD} punctuation exists, and is featured on the Klingon trading cards with
> Okrandian canon text: an upturned filled triangle, and its upside down
> counterpart. There is no correlation between {pIqaD} translation and the
> romanized gloss or English gloss punctuation that I could discern; it seems
> reasonable to treat the upturned version as a full stop (period), and the
> downturned version as a semicolon or comma. (cf. Greek punctuation: lower
> stop = full stop; upper stop = semicolon.)
> I mean, the downturned version as comma. Oh, and there's nothing complex
> about Greek punctuation, contra to what you now say on your web page :-) ;
> simple, upper stop in Greek corresponds to the Roman semi-colon. (For that
> matter, middle stop -- used for Ancient but not Modern texts -- corresponds
> to colon; indeed, middle stop and upper stop are usually not distinguished.)
> I just speculated that, if Klingon had two punctuation symbols, one would be
> a full stop, and the other would cover both semicolon and colon.
The Klingon alphabet, {pIqaD}, as we all know it, contains letters suitable for
writing {tlhIngan Hol}, and look like this:
<table class="noborder spacy" style="text-align: center">
<td><img src="piq/bg1/a.gif" width=38 height=39 alt="a"><br>{a}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/b.gif" width=37 height=39 alt="b"><br>{b}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/ch.gif" width=42 height=39 alt="ch"><br>{ch}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/d.gif" width=29 height=39 alt="D"><br>{I}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/e.gif" width=26 height=39 alt="e"><br>{e}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/gh.gif" width=43 height=39 alt="gh"><br>{gh}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/h.gif" width=21 height=39 alt="H"><br>{H}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/i.gif" width=31 height=39 alt="I"><br>{I}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/j.gif" width=36 height=39 alt="j"><br>{j}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/l.gif" width=28 height=39 alt="l"><br>{l}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/m.gif" width=27 height=39 alt="m"><br>{m}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/n.gif" width=33 height=39 alt="n"><br>{n}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/ng.gif" width=41 height=39 alt="ng"><br>{ng}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/o.gif" width=36 height=39 alt="o"><br>{o}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/p.gif" width=26 height=39 alt="p"><br>{p}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/q.gif" width=18 height=39 alt="q"><br>{q}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/qh.gif" width=27 height=39 alt="Q"><br>{Q}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/r.gif" width=33 height=39 alt="r"><br>{r}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/s.gif" width=39 height=39 alt="S"><br>{S}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/t.gif" width=36 height=39 alt="t"><br>{t}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/tlh.gif" width=35 height=39 alt="tlh"><br>{tlh}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/u.gif" width=38 height=39 alt="u"><br>{u}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/v.gif" width=44 height=39 alt="v"><br>{v}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/w.gif" width=34 height=39 alt="w"><br>{w}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/y.gif" width=35 height=39 alt="y"><br>{y}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/z.gif" width=10 height=39 alt="'"><br>{'}
There is also a set of Klingon numbers, which look like this: (Klingons earlier
used a ternary number system [base three] but the Empire adopted a decimal
system some time back.)
<table class="noborder spacy" style="text-align: center">
<td><img src="piq/bg1/0.gif" width=30 height=39 alt=0><br>{pagh} <br>{0}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/1.gif" width=36 height=39 alt=1><br>{wa'} <br>{1}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/2.gif" width=17 height=39 alt=2><br>{cha'} <br>{2}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/3.gif" width=26 height=39 alt=3><br>{wej} <br>{3}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/4.gif" width=34 height=39 alt=4><br>{loS} <br>{4}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/5.gif" width=20 height=39 alt=5><br>{vagh} <br>{5}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/6.gif" width=35 height=39 alt=6><br>{jav} <br>{6}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/7.gif" width=28 height=39 alt=7><br>{Soch} <br>{7}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/8.gif" width=37 height=39 alt=8><br>{chorgh}<br>{8}
<td><img src="piq/bg1/9.gif" width=27 height=39 alt=9><br>{Hut} <br>{9}
<img src="pic/punct.gif" width=720 height=150>
<img src="pic/punct1.gif" width=490 height=210>
<img src="pic/punct2.gif" width=500 height=180>
<li id=fn1>Questions always have either the interrogative suffix {-'a'}
attached to the verb, or one of the question words ({chay'}, {ghorgh},
{nuq}, {nuqDaq}, {qatlh}, {'ar} or {'Iv}) present in the sentence.
-- Commands always have one of the imperative prefixes ({yI-}, {pe-},
{tI-}, {gho-} or {HI-}) attached to the verb.