M.A. Thesis Language and Culture Studies
Specialisation Intercultural Communication, Dutch as a Second Language
Supervisor: S. Kroon
Faculty of Arts
When it was time for me to think of a subject for my final thesis, I could not think of anything interesting. During the last two years we learned a lot about intercultural communication, about the ways languages are learnt and taught, and about languages in general. I had the feeling that if I had chosen a subject that had to do with this, I would be doing something that all my teachers know for years. The time that stands for a thesis, at least in my perspective, is too short to do anything major that is unknown. Maybe I could have come up with something that was new and unknown, but then it would be such a minor thing that I would not have liked it. Probably these ideas are totally wrong, but they were mine and I tried to think of something else. Something that was, at least in my view, new and interesting. Something that I was really interested in.
One night, when I was talking to some friends that are, just like me, interested in Star Trek, we came up with "Klingon" as a topic for my thesis. Would it not be possible to do something that had to do with Klingon? After some thinking and some persuading, the subject of this thesis was a fact. Now I could work on a subject that really interested me.
I agree that this topic, at first sight, is somewhat different from what I have studied the last two years. The chapters to follow, however, will make clear that my interest in Klingon and the research questions concerning the profile of the "average Klingon speaker", are of a sociolinguistic nature mainly. And sociolinguistics, in my perspective, is at the heart of the specialisation Intercultural Communication.
The reason why I wrote my thesis in English is a very obvious one; if I wanted that the people who would help me creating the sociolinguistic profile of the "average Klingon speaker", could read what I had to say, it had to be in English. English is a global language and the language that is usually used on the Internet, through which I collected my data, when there are two or more nationalities that participate.
This thesis would not have been as it is now without the help of many. Without Sjaak Kroon, my supervisor, realising that Klingon was indeed a good subject and helping me writing the thesis, this thesis would not have been written. But without my Star Trek friends, who helped me getting started, this idea would not have come up. Erik, Louis, Odille, Chris, Bazz, Marc and Marleen thanks very much. Also of course many thanks are due to the respondents who filled out the survey and the members of the tlhingan-hol list on the Internet were I received many answers to the questions I asked them. Writing my thesis in English was not very easy because English is not my native language. But I found help with Bill Walter, who is English himself and a saxophonist in our band. Thanks, Bill.
But all of this would not have been possible without
Dion to help me, to calm me down when something went wrong again and to
stimulate me when I would feel like giving up. And not to forget all the
nights he worked at the computer to make the home-page, the survey being
available on the Internet and many more. I love you Dion.
2 Klingon as an artificial language
Who has not ever heard of "Star Trek" and its famous space ship "the Enterprise"? It would be impossible not to known at least that there is a television programme like this, Star Trek being broadcasted in more than 100 countries. It seems that over a 30 million people watch Star Trek programming every week (according to "http://www.startrek.com/trekkies/funfacts.html").
In this programme appear, next to the human people, also many "alien" races like the "Romulans", the "Borg" and the "Klingons". When watching these programmes and films, one notices immediately that these races sometimes speak their own language: a language that does not sound familiar to the human languages. Letting the "aliens" speak their own languages is done so to make them more realistic, to make Star Trek more realistic. It would be a bit odd when aliens, when they are among themselves, would speak (American) English.
"Trekkies" are the fans from Star Trek. Some famous Trekkies are for example Tom Hanks, Martin Luther King or Prince Abdullah (King of Jordan). Some fans are known to do a lot for their own programme, like wearing the same clothes as their heroes do etc.
But there are also people that can speak the most known and famous "alien" language "Klingon". Klingon is an artificial language originally created for the movies and the television programme Star Trek. But nowadays it seems that a lot of people are, or at least claim that they are, able to speak Klingon.
Against this background it would be interesting to find out what the profile of these people looks like. Who are these people that are able to speak Klingon?
To understand this profile, one first needs to look closer to the language itself. It is an artificial language, but why and in what aspects? The answers to these questions and a short description of the grammar of Klingon can be found in chapter 2, "Klingon as an artificial language." Next to the language, one also needs to know to what extent a language in general, and Klingon in particular, can be a way to express your own (group) identity. How this works can be read in chapter 3, "Klingon as a group marker." To create a profile of the Klingon speakers, it was needed to conduct a survey. The survey itself, its methodological aspects and of course its results with the sociolinguistic profile of the average Klingon speaker as an outcome, can be found in chapter 4, "The Klingon survey."
A summary of this thesis and discussion of the outcomes of my investigation are written down in chapter 5.
In this thesis the male forms, like "he", "his" etc.
are used. But one should know that this is done so to make the thesis easier
to read. Everywhere where it says "he" or "his" etc., one can also read
the female forms, like "she" and "her".
Klingon is a language made up for the popular science fiction television series and films Star Trek. This is a programme about the adventures of a space vehicle, the Starship Enterprise, and the characters on this vehicle, like captain Kirk and Spock. Klingon was designed for a particular alien race, called the Klingons.
Klingon is an artificial language, in other words "invented" by someone with a certain reason. But why does someone want to design an artificial language, if everyone has got his or her own language already? When we think of artificial languages, we almost immediately think of Esperanto, the most famous artificial language. If Klingon is an artificial language and Esperanto too, are they both comparable? Are they more alike then for example Klingon and English? To answer that question, it is necessary to know what an artificial language exactly is. And, last but not least, the linguistic features and backgrounds of Klingon itself have to be known. When these questions are answered, more can be said about the language Klingon as an example of an artificial language.
In this chapter I want to explain more about artificial languages and their nature.
In the first section the diversity of languages and the kind of solutions mankind has come up with to overcome the problem of this diversity, will be explored.
One solution is designing an artificial language,
but are there more reasons to construct such a language? What kind of artificial
languages are there? These questions will be answered in section two. The
last section will deal with the special position of Klingon. Klingon is
an artificial language, but not an ordinary one.
2.2 The diversity of languages
Genesis 11, 1-9:
"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." (King James Version)
As we can see from this quotation, language and especially the diversity in languages between people have intrigued mankind. Why are there so many different languages if we are all the same? Why do we have to have problems communicating with each other because we do not understand each other’s languages, if we are all humans and alike? Is it because of the myth of Babel or is there a more scientific reason for the speech confusion? These are the kind of questions mankind has had for centuries.
To know that there is diversity in languages and to try to overcome this problem are two entirely different things. For example the Ancient Greek knew peoples who spoke an entirely different language than their own, but the Greek called these peoples "barbaroi": creatures that do not speak but stammer some utterances. The Ancient Greek saw that there were other languages than their own, but they considered Greek as the only real and best language. As the Greek Empire grew, only scientists learned to speak Greek; "normal" people (the "barbaroi") continued to speak their own language. Speaking to them was a job for the translators. The same goes for the Roman Empire and Latin. Only the very upper class learned the language, other people continued to speak their own language. A civilisation that uses an "international" language does not care for diversity in languages, because everyone, who wants to succeed, will learn the international language (Eco, 1995, p. 25).
Here we have one solution for the problem of the diversity of languages. The Greek considered their own language as the only language and other people had to learn this language. If everyone learns and speaks this language, we are able to communicate with each other. This solution is to use a language for international communication that already exists, like Greek or Latin. But history shows that this solution does not always work. Why should people change their own language that suits their own purposes best into another language? They will only do that if they are forced to. Either by real enforcement, like new laws and punishment if you use your own language, or by soft, almost natural, pressure: if you want to succeed you have to change your own language. People do not like being forced into something; they will try to shake off their conquerors and their language. The soft pressure has a better chance, but the problem here is that ordinary people will continue to use their own language because this suits their purposes best. A farmer has no need to speak another language than the people around him; why should he? Only scientists or the upper class, people who come in contact with people with other languages, will feel the need for a shared language. If the other one is more powerful, you will adapt and learn that other language. But these people are only a minority, so this will not solve the problem of language diversity. Only if all, or a majority of people feel the need to speak another language than their own, they will change. For example the people on Malta; they all have Maltese as their mother tongue, but they also speak English. This because Malta was a part of the British Empire for many years and nowadays a lot of tourists come to Malta. English has also become an international language. But at the time of the Middle Ages for example ordinary people had no need to speak another language than their own.
But there is also another solution and that is to
create your own language. It is thought that a neutral tongue is acceptable
to all (Large, 1985). An artificial language is a language designed by
someone with a certain purpose. This makes it very different from natural
languages, because, as the word already says, artificial languages are
artificial. A natural language is not "invented", it has evolved from its
original state (whatever that was) into the language spoken today. Because
it has evolved, a lot of exceptions and a lot of seemingly strange, "illogical"
rules can be found in most natural languages. It is obvious that in a created
language there is only a minimum of exceptions or no exceptions at all.
2.3 Designing an artificial language
There are many reasons why someone would want to construct an artificial language. As was said earlier, overcoming the problem of the diversity in languages is a reason. But why would someone have a problem with this diversity; are differences not also something attractive? Would life be better if we were all the same and alike? Overcoming the differences in language is the major reason, but the motivation for solving this problem can differ very much. To understand these motivations, we need to know that there are different kinds of artificial languages.
Roughly said there are three groups of artificial languages; artificial languages that have a communicative function, computer languages and fictional languages.
The first group of artificial languages is designed out of a need to construct something that can act as an intermediate between people with different languages.
When people with a different linguistic background meet, they have a problem, because they cannot understand each other. These language contact situations are normal and natural. In these situations a solution will come up naturally. For example in the time of the voyages of discovery, the time of trade and converting in the East, many pidgin languages emerged (Edwards, 1985). A pidgin language is a kind of mixed language that emerged because two or more people with a different linguistic background met and "created" their own mixture. This language is only meant to be used in a specific context and situation. This language is the mother language of no one, because if this happens this language is not a pidgin anymore, but it is called a Creole as for example the Creole language Papiamentu that is spoken on the Dutch Antilles. Another natural situation is the need that scientists feel when they want everyone to know their work. If they would write in their own language, people with a different linguistic background would not understand it. In early times scientific works were written in Greek and Latin, but the knowledge of these languages diminished (Eco, 1995, p. 25). Latin also lost its influence because, from the Middle Ages on, the gentry, artisans and the craftsmen in town, who did not speak Latin, became more and more important. The natural solution in this situation is that scientists use a language that has the highest status. Today most scientists write in the English language; in the eighteenth century French acted as a lingua franca in the West and in the developing French Empire. Before that Italian was also an important lingua franca, especially in the eastern Mediterranean from the sixth century (Edwards, 1985, p. 35).
Next to these natural languages used for communication also artificial languages exist. Ask people what artificial language they know, and most will come up with Esperanto. Maybe some people will also know why this language was invented.
These languages did not "emerge", were not "designed" in a real physical language contact situation, but were designed out of a humane need to unify mankind. Usually these languages emerge as a reaction to religious or political division or even as a reaction to difficult economic relations (Eco, 1995, p. 31). When something like a war has happened, people have a problem understanding how this could have happened and they want to prevent it to happen again. What would be a better way of preventing something like nationalism or wars than using a universal language that shows that all people are equal? Against this background Ludwig Zamenhof designed Esperanto. He was born in Poland and was brought up with the idea that all people were equal. But he found out that this was not the case; everyone looked at each other as members of a certain group (Poles, Jews, Russians etc). He spoke Russian at home, but he studied French, German, Latin, Greek and English. He spoke Hebrew in the synagogue, heard Yiddish in the streets and spoke Polish fluently. No wonder the idea of one universal language attracted him. He tried to learn Volapük, but he found it too difficult. In 1887 he came up with his own language under the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto (meaning "one who hopes"). From his own pseudonym one can see that this is a typical example of a language constructed out of the high idealistic need to unify mankind. At first the language was called "Lingvo Internacia", but soon Esperanto replaced its name. Esperanto became an enormous success; in 1889 an English translation of the grammatical rules was published. In 1891 33 textbooks, propaganda booklets or dictionaries on Esperanto had been published in 12 languages. In 1905 Zamenhof submitted his "Declaration on Esperanto". Its first paragraph, about the neutrality of Esperanto, had been published because of the fear of the French Esperantists. They feared that the Russian Esperantists would become too important. Zamenhof himself didn’t share his own concept of neutrality entirely. His own effort to design a universal language was neither because of intellectual curiosity nor because of the need for an international language. His goal was peace, tolerance and human unity (Large, 1985).
Esperanto closely resembles the languages in the Indo-European linguistic family, both in grammatical structure and in vocabulary.
The alphabet contains 28 letters; 23 consonants and five vowels. The spelling and pronunciation of Esperanto are broadly phonetic as each letter, including the vowels, should have one sound only, which is always rendered by that one and only letter. There are no silent letters, and stress always falls on the penultimate syllable.
Esperanto is very sensible to new words; rule 15 ( Zamenhof in Forster, 1982, p. 378) says that "the so-called "foreign" words (… ) undergo no change in the international language, beyond conforming to its system of orthography". This is the rule for primary words; derivatives will be changed according to the rules of Esperanto. So "theatre" will be "teatr’o", but "theatrical" will be translated into "teatr’a".
Word formation in Esperanto is very regular: all nouns end in the letter "o", all adjectives end in "a" and all adverbs end in "e". Plural forms of nouns and adjectives always end in the letter "j". Every word has its root, and all related words can be made with prefixes and suffixes. They can be used with adjectives, adverbs and verbs as well as nouns. Esperanto has two cases: a nominative and an accusative. The accusative ending is the letter "n", for both singular as plural.
The verb does not change its form for number or person. The person is indicated by personal pronouns. Past tense has the ending "is" instead of "as", the future tense "os", the conditional "us", the infinitive always ends in "i" and the imperative in "u".
"The vocabulary is largely based upon the Romane languages or directly drawn from Latin, with smaller roles for German, Russian, English and Polish" (Large, 1985, p. 113).
Volapük is another artificial language. Many Esperantist spoke this language before turning to Esperanto. Volapük was the creation of Monsignor Johann Martin Schleyer, a German parish priest. He was said to have known in one fashion or another 83 languages. The invention of Volapük, as he says himself, happened while he was suffering from insomnia. But it is more logical that Schleyer was trying to design artificial languages after designing his universal alphabet. In 1880 he presented his new language.
Volapük has an alphabet of eight vowels and
twenty consonants, and was largely based upon English as the most widespread
language language of "civilised people". But unlike English, it has four
cases. Verbs have one regular conjugation, voice and tense being indicated
by prefixes, person and personal pronouns by suffixes. Although the vocabulary
of Volapük was largely based upon English, it also adopted words from
German, French, Spanish and Italian. Schleyer excluded the letter "h" from
his language and almost entirely eliminated "r" in consideration of Chinese,
old people and children. Further all radicals were to begin and end with
a consonant and, as far as possible, use alternating consonant and vowel.
The vocabulary of Volapük also tried to use logical word-building
rules. The suffix "av" indicated a science; thus "lit" was "light", and
"litav" was "optics". Composite words were normally formed from the genitive
singular of the first word; so Volapük itself means "world language"
( "vol" means "world", "pük" means "speak").
The second group of artificial languages is the group of computer languages. These are not designed to the purpose of facilitating human communication, but only act as a medium through which instructions can be passed from a human to a computer.
Computers are nothing more than "machines that perform very simple tasks according to specific instructions" (Savitch, 1989, p. 3). These instructions are a kind of language: a human types certain words on screen and the computer "knows" what to do and can answer in words. One cannot use all words and make sentences like natural languages; a "high level language" is needed to do this. Most of these "high level languages" use English words combined in ways that resemble English sentences, but contains instructions for the computer. This is too complicated for the computer, so this "high level language" is translated into a "low level language", something the computer understands. This "machine language" is written in the form of zeros and ones.
So in short the "communication" goes as follows: first the English words are written and a kind of translator (called a "compiler") translates this for the computer in zeros and ones. The computer does something he is supposed to do and "answers" in his language back to the human. The compiler translates this in words back on screen.
An example of a computer language is "Pascal". It
was developed by Professor Wirth and his colleagues at the "Eidgenossische
Technische Hochschule" in Zurich, Switzerland. It was designed during the
late 1960s and early 1970s. Wirth designed Pascal because he wanted people
to have a good first language for learning to program and because he wanted
to language that was easy to be used (Savitch, 1989, p. 13). Of course
a lot has happened after these years, and some "four generation languages"
have developed, but because there is still some discussion about how to
classify these languages, they are left out in this thesis.
The third and last group is the group of the fictional artificial languages. These languages are designed because of a need for a language to be used in a book or film. Usually only words or short sentences are being used in science fiction books or films, but sometimes a whole language is being constructed, like for example the language "Quenya" in the book "The Lord of the Rings" by Tolkien (1995).
Quenya, originally spelt "Qenya", goes back to at least 1915. It seems that it was the 23-year-old Tolkien, who compiled the "Qenya Lexicon", one of the very
first Elvish word-lists. Countless revisions affecting both grammar and vocabulary separate the earliest "Qenya" from the more-or-less final form that is exemplified in The Lord of the Rings, but the general phonetic style was present from the beginning. Nearly mature, Quenya gradually emerged in the thirties, but minor revisions were being done even while Lord of the Rings was being written, such as changing the genitive ending from -n to –o. There were also a few changes made in the revised second edition of Lord of the Rings.
Throughout his life, Tolkien continued to refine the High-Elves tongue, that according to his son Christopher was a "language as he wanted it, the language of his
heart" (from the TV program J.R.R. Tolkien - A Portrait by Landseer Productions). In one of his letters, Tolkien himself wrote: "The archaic language of lore
is meant to be a kind of 'Elves-latin', and by transcribing it into a spelling closely resembling that of Latin(...) the similarity to Latin has been increased jocularly.
Actually it might be said to be composed on a Latin basis with two other (main) ingredients that happen to give me 'phonaesthetic' pleasure: Finnish and Greek. It is however less consonantal than any of these three. This language is High-elves or in its own terms Quenya (Elvish) (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/quenya.htm).
The grammatical structure of Quenya, involving a large number of cases and other inflections, is clearly inspired by Latin and Finnish.
Quenya has five vowels, a, e, i, o, u, short and long; the long vowels are marked with an accent: á, é, í, ó, ú. The vowel a is extremely frequent. The quality of the vowels resembles the system in Spanish or Italian rather than English. The consonants are for the most part the same as in English, with the sibilants as the main exception: "Ch" as in "church" does not occur, neither does "j" as in "joy", and instead of "sh", "zh" (the latter like "s" in "pleasure"). The Quenya noun is inflected for nine or ten cases; it is not sure if the last case was really meant to be a case. There are also four numbers: singular, plural, partitive plural (it is not sure what was really meant by this number) and dual. There are several classes of verbs in Quenya. One class has stems that are only naked roots with no ending, like quet- "say", mat- "eat", sil- "shine": the pattern is (consonant-)vowel-consonant. This class may be called basic verbal stems. The other kind of verbs, that may then be called the "derived" verbs, have stems with an ending, often -ya or -ta.
Many Quenya adjectives end in the vowel a. There are also a number of adjectives ending in ë, like carnë "red", varnë "swart" or inimeitë "female". Adjectives agree in number with the noun they describe.
The pronouns have always been a problem. There are
many uncertain points, and the subject is further muddied by the fact that
Tolkien seems to have revised the pronominal system repeatedly. One thing,
at least, is perfectly clear: Quenya pronouns usually appear as endings
directly suffixed to a verb or noun, not so often as independent words,
as in English (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/quenya.htm).
Another fictional language is the language "Klingon",
designed for the television series and films "Star Trek". There is no other
reason why these languages were constructed than the reason to make the
fiction more realistic, there is no high moralistic aim (like in the universal
languages) neither a pragmatic aim (like the programming languages), only
fiction and entertainment.
2.4 The language Klingon
2.4.1 Historical background
The television programme "Star Trek" began in 1966 as a science fiction television show created by Gene Roddenberry (Van Hise, 1995). More than thirty years, four television series and eight releases later, Star Trek is as alive and strong as ever. Star Trek is seen in more than 100 countries and more than 63 million Star Trek books are in print and have been translated in more than 15 languages, including Chinese, Norwegian, Hungarian and Hebrew. Star Trek has become a real phenomenon.
In the first series we see the Starship Enterprise go through many adventures. In this first series they encounter the "Klingons". A humanoid warrior race originally from the planet Qo’noS. These Klingons are highly aggressive characters, but with great emphasis on their traditional sense of honour and duty. At first the Klingons are the enemies, but nowadays they are uneasy allies. In all series you can find a Klingon; in "Star Trek, the Next Generation" there is Worf, a Klingon who works for the Federation of Planets (where the Earth belongs to). In "Deep Space Nine" we also have Worf; he has changed his position from the Starship to the spacestation DS-9. In "Voyager" we have the half-blooded B’Elanna Torres (but she does not speak any Klingon).
There were also nine films made: the first one in 1979 ("Star Trek: The Motion Picture"), the last one only last year ("Insurrection", 1998). For the second film ("The Wrath of Khan", 1982) help was needed from someone to create a few lines of Vulcan dialogue (another species in the series; for example Spock was a Vulcan). The linguist Marc Okrand created these few lines of Vulcan. His involvement with Star Trek was sheer luck; he accidentally met someone from Paramount and in the course of conversation he mentioned that he had a doctorate in linguistics from Berkeley. At that time Paramount was looking for someone to do these Vulcan lines, so Okrand was found to create this. A year and a half later Paramount called him and asked him if he could develop a real Klingon language, that was needed for the third movie ("The Search for Spock", 1984). In this movie a crewmember (Spock) gets in trouble and they start a fight with the Klingons (then still the villains). With a trick the crew of the Enterprise escapes with a Klingon vessel. For this movie Paramount needed a real language to make the movie more realistic. Okrand worked on designing this Klingon language and while he was working on it, he decided to go on and that is how he wrote "The Klingon Dictionary". This book became the handbook for Klingon. After creating Klingon, he was asked back almost every time to help with the Klingon language used in all the other movies and spin-offs (Dillard, 1996, p. 126-127).
The language became so popular that a Klingon Language
Institute (KLI) was soon formed, independently from Okrand, to the goal
of "bringing together individuals interested in the study of Klingon linguistics
and culture, and providing a forum for discussion and the exchange of ideas"
(Schoen, www.kli.org). Many people around the world began to study this
language. The students, some of them joined in this Language Institute,
started to translate the Bible, Shakespeare and many other works into Klingon,
they wrote new literature and organised meeting and summer-camps. And all
this in a language that was originally designed for fiction.
2.4.2 Linguistic features
Many people who know something about Klingon often say that it is based on Mutsun, an American Indian language of the Ohlonean family, which belongs to the Penutian stock. Its last speaker died in 1930. The most accessible work on Mutsun is a grammar produced as a PhD thesis by the same Marc Okrand (Okrand, 1985). So the link is easily laid between Klingon and Mutsun. But an investigation by D. Grune showed us that "Klingon is an independently created language, based mainly on components of a general American Indian nature; Mutsun played a very small role, if any, in its creation. The vocabulary may be totally independent (that is, created at random, using a probability distribution for the phonemes.)" (Grune, 1997).
But what is Klingon like? Has is resemblance’s with other artificial languages or not? To find out, we need to look deeper into the Klingon features.
The writing system
A first thing that is special is the Klingon writing
system. As the story goes, there are more writing systems as there are
more Klingon languages, but this is only fictional; at the Klingon home-planet
there are more languages used. In real life usually two kinds of Klingon
writing systems are used: the Klingon Dictionary by Okrand uses the "imperial
Klingon", called "pIqaD". This is also the version the Klingon Language
Institute uses. An example of this writing is:
And in the old television programmes the "fusion Klingon" was used (Patterson, 1998). But usually a writing is used which looks a lot like the English and Dutch writing system. The only differences are that there are some different characters and that some characters are written in capitals. The characters written in lower-case are sounds that sound familiar to English-speaking people, characters written in upper-case are unfamiliar. The Klingon "D" is a retroflex phoneme, for example, where English "d" is more dental. "Q" sounds like the Arabic "qaaf" and the comma sounds like the Arabic "hamza", a glottal stop. The alphabet is: (first the consonants) b, ch, D, gh, H, j, l, m, n, ng, p, q, Q, r, S, t, tlh, v, w, y, ‘ (vowels) a, e, I, o, u, aw, ay, ey, Iy, oy.
About this writing a lot of discussion exist. People argue about which writing system is the "original" or the best. Or they argue about whether the writing that looks familiar to Dutch and English, should be changed into the writing of Dutch and English, also without the difference between lower-case and upper-case. Most people do not want to change this into the English and Dutch writing.
Tense, word order and case
Another thing that is very different from most languages is the absence of tenses. Everything is written in present time; tenses appear by the use of words that indicate a certain movement in time, like "tomorrow", or by context. This is very different from natural languages like English, were there are a lot of tenses, and different from artificial languages like Volapük or Esperanto. In Esperanto for example tenses are shown by certain suffixes, like "is" for past tense or "os" for future tense (Harlow, 1994).
All languages have their own word order, i.e. the order in which the subject, the verb and the object occur. The two most occurring orders are subject, object, verb SOV (45%) and SVO (42%), for example French and English. Klingon has a very rare (approximately 1%) word order, namely OVS. A rare word order does not automatically belong to artificial languages; the language "Hixkaryana" does also have the OVS word order (Comrie, 1996). Esperanto has no rules for word order; all orders are permitted, although most people use the SVO.
Like more, natural or artificial, languages, Klingon has no case. Some languages with case are for example Esperanto (artificial) or Turkish (natural).
In Klingon words do not carry gender, unlike for example the German language.
Klingon also does not have adjectives. These notions are expressed by verbs or suffixes, for example "qu –" which could mean something like "very".
Pronouns can be used as independent words, but only for emphasis or added clarity; they are not required.
Like in most languages there are simple and complex nouns (made up from two or three nouns in a row). To build a sentence, one needs to add suffixes to the nouns. Klingon has many suffixes. These suffixes all have their own specific order in which they occur after or before a noun. There are five types of suffixes.
Suffix type 1; Augmentative / diminutive
The three suffixes are:
Suffix type 3; Qualification
The possessive suffixes are:
Klingon verbs are mostly monosyllabic forms that
may be accompanied by several affixes. There are several prefixes and nine
types of suffixes.
|Subject||He/ she/ it||0||mu-||Du-||0||nu-||lI-||0|
There is something very special about Klingon verbs and that is that they have a prefix that, at the same time, shows subject and object.
"0" means that the particular subject- object combinations are indicated by the absence of a prefix.
"-" means this combination cannot be expressed this
way. You need a suffix and/ or pronouns
For imperatives you need other prefixes:
Suffix type 1; Oneself/ one another
When the suffix is left out, it means that the action is not completed and not continuous.
"mal –" gives the opposite of the word to which it is attached.
The use of suffixes is also common in natural languages. For example in Turkish "in" stands for genitive.
Okrand created the Klingon vocabulary, it does not
resembles any other language, although many people think it to be based
upon Mutsun. But, as was said earlier, Klingon has very little to do with
Mutsun. Or, for that matter, with any other natural languages. This is
very different from other artificial languages; they are usually based
upon some (or more) other language(s). For example the vocabulary of Volapük
was largely based upon English, although it also adopted words from German,
French, Spanish and Italian (Large, 1985). Esperanto based its vocabulary
mainly on the Romane languages or drew it directly from Latin. Smaller
roles were for German, Russian, English and Polish (Large, 1985).
2.4.3 Some sociolinguistic remarks about Klingon
In sociolinguistic literature, the concept "language planning" is often used. There are many definitions about what this exactly is. Language planning has to do with activities carried out by people or governments to improve a language or to make a variety a "real" language. Language planning falls apart in three things: corpus planning, status planning and acquisition planning.
"Corpus planning refers to activities such as coining new terms, reforming spelling and adopting a new script. It refers, in short, to the creation of new forms, the modification of old ones, or the selection from alternative forms in a spoken or written code" (Cooper, 1989, p. 31). How does a language look like? This is the main question that has to do with corpus planning. For Klingon, being an artificial language, this is an interesting question. While creating an artificial language, one has to think about what kind of words this language uses, what the grammar looks like, maybe even a whole new writing system. Okrand designed Klingon and he chose to design a whole new language. Klingon has a writing system that has no resemblance with any other language, artificial or natural, at all. The vocabulary is not based on any other language, what is uncommon for an artificial language. The grammar resembles some other languages, artificial and natural, but one cannot say that the grammar was created after one or more other existing languages. It is more logical to say that it is obvious that Klingon has some existing grammar features, because all human languages (although it was designed for aliens, it was designed and used by humans) have properties that are common (Comrie, 1996, p. 33).
Status planning has to do with the status a language has, compared to the official language or other official languages. What are the functions of a language? Artificial languages have no high status, they are nowhere used as the official language. Artificial languages are used together with one or more other languages. Klingon has no high status, being an artificial language, but there are many people who want to change this. That is why, among other things, a Language Institute for Klingon was founded. This institute offers courses, summer camps and many more. When an artificial language has an authoritative body, it gains status.
Acquisition planning has to do with people learning
a language, and in that way spreading the language, gaining more users.
When a language has more users, it gains more status. It also gains more
speakers, because more people will consider this new language as useful.
Maybe some speakers will become attracted by this language and start to
learn it because the language gives them a personal status. Klingon has
its institute for spreading the language. Newcomers are relegated to the
homepage on the Internet for help, information, language courses and materials
(like books). There is also a discussion group on the Internet where people
can write in Klingon. People correct each other on their grammar, words
etc. There is even a "beginners grammarian", who is an authority on the
list and who has the final say. On this list people can also write in English
but than they have to write about the language (in Klingon they may write
about everything). In short; the people who use Klingon, do a lot to spread
the language among other people.
2.4.4 The special position of Klingon
Klingon is an artificial language, originally created for fiction. This means that is was not designed for real use. The strange thing is that, although it was not constructed for real communication, people began to use it for communication. This makes Klingon a very special artificial language.
Klingon looks a lot like other artificial languages (it was created, uses a lot of suffixes, very few exceptions to rules), but it was not meant to be used. And that is the big difference between Klingon and other languages. Other artificial languages were meant to be used, were created to be used. The creation of these languages had a real aim; communication, world peace, international language and so on (see 1.2).
How could it happen that so many people as a way
of communication picked up a language that was not meant to be used for
At the end of the previous chapter, an important question remained: if Klingon was not originally made for real use, but for fiction, how could it happen that people use it as a means of communication? Why learning and using a language that was only meant to make a movie more real, a language that was not meant to be used? It seems that people, who use Klingon, want to make something clear to other people. But why and what?
To answer these questions, more information is needed
about people and the way they interact with other people and groups. A
help for understanding this is the theory of social identity by Henri Tajfel
(1971), explained in section one. It is not enough to know how people interact
with other people. To understand the fact that there are people who use
Klingon for real communication, more information is needed about how groups
interact with each other and what kind of markers are used. This will be
explained in section two. After explaining these theories, it becomes evident
that, again, the people who speak Klingon, do not entirely fit in. The
special position of Klingon will be explored in section three.
3.2 The theory of social identity
Almost nobody in society wants to be a total outsider; not seeing or talking to someone else. When we are not communicating for a long time, we feel awkward. "People have a strong need to communicate; we want to manifest ourselves, to learn about the world around us, to share experiences, to amuse, play and relax" (Boves & Gerritsen, 1995, p.15, my translation). In short: communicating is essential to social man.
To understand more about groups and their relation to individuals, the Social Identity Theory is often used. "It asks how social groups and categories become psychological entities and influence individual self-conception and behaviour" (Widdicombe and Wooffitt, 1995, p. 37). There are many definitions about what a group is; from a psychology perspective it is "a confined unity from two or more people, that are, in certain ways, dependent from each other, have shared norms and values and influence each other" (Wijsman, 1992, p. 125). From a sociolinguistic perspective it is: "a group of individuals who count themselves to the same category and who are seen by others as members of that category" (Tajfel and Turner cited in Boves & Gerritsen, 1995, p. 19, my translation). These people attach a certain value to the membership of this group and they have about the same ideas about the value and the strength of the group.
Ethnicity, nationality, gender, age and social class define important groups, to which everybody belongs. To some groups you belong automatically, like age or gender, but there are also groups where someone can chose to belong to, like the group of people who have the same profession.
Communication with other people can be seen on a scale of social behaviour; on one end there is "interpersonal behaviour", on the other end "intergroup behaviour". To "interpersonal behaviour" belongs the talking that is done with friends, relatives and other beloved people. Personal features are important, not the membership of a certain group.
To "intergroup behaviour" belongs the communication man engage in where the membership of groups is indeed very important. People are not seen as individuals, but as members of a certain group. Discrimination after colour is a good example where people can treat someone different, just because he belongs to a different colour (group).
These are extremes on a scale; most communication is a hybrid. For example two soldiers in a war: they have to fight each other because they belong to a different country, but maybe they both were, in normal life, friends. If they would, in normal communicating, stress their different nationality, this is called intergroup behaviour, but if they would talk like they used to before war broke out, it is called interpersonal behaviour.
Everyone looks at other people and divides them into groups. That is not stupidity or short-sightedness, but a necessity. If people would not do that, they would have to talk to an individual very long and profoundly, before they would know what group this person considers himself to belong to. People do not go to someone in a mosque and ask him if he considers himself to be a Muslim. That takes to much time and effort, so people classify each other into groups as they are seen. Mistakes can be made; maybe that man in the mosque was a journalist writing an essay on the Islam, but this is the easiest and fastest way to understand the world. This process is called social categorisation.
When a person is grouped, he is considered to be a member of this group and to have all the characteristics of this group. When someone does not have these stereotypes, either another group is chosen or this person is the famous exception to the rule. This process is called "stereotyping". Usually stereotypes are about negative features and this makes the real differences between your own group and other groups bigger than they really are.
Our own image about our own group is more detailed and diverse than the image of other groups. The people from other groups are not as well known as our own people, so that’s why stereotypes are used. Almost everyone has heard of the story from the man, who dislikes all Moroccans (or Spaniards or any other group), except for his own Moroccan neighbour; that is really a nice person. This man thinks he knows how the other group is, but when he meets someone and communicates with him on a more interpersonal level, he feels awkward. He wants to get rid of this feeling, so he has to change either his view about the whole group or make an exception for this one person. Almost every time people make an exception instead of maybe changing the view of the whole group. This process of seeing your own group as individuals and seeing the differences between the members of others groups as little as possible, is called the "emphasizing effect". The same goes for the group of Klingon speakers. Many outsiders see the members of this group as nerds, as geeks, and as long as we do not know the entire group, we will not change this idea.
The image of our own group is not only more detailed and diverse, it is also more positive than the image we have of other groups. This is logical: people want to feel good about themselves. So everyone wants to have a positive view about him or herself. This positive view is divided into two parts: a personal part (for example being proud at yourself because you are good in soccer) and a social part (for example being proud at your group, your nation because they have won a prestigious soccer-price). Upgrading this personal part or this social part, will make your self-image more positive.
This makes that an individual does not want to be a member of a group, which he thinks negative of. He wants to be a member of a, in his view, positive group. Therefore this group has to be different from other groups. Otherwise no one will see the difference. To make the own group differ from the other group, the own positive group-features have to be stressed or maybe have to be made looking more positive than they really are. The negative features of the own group are neglected. Not to neglect these features would be the same as an individual admitting that he or she personally has these negative features, because this individual is a member of this group.
If a member feels bad about his group, maybe because most members act in a way he does not approve of, he does have a problem. It is not easy to break the ties that connect someone to his group. The membership of such a group gives someone benefits but also obligations. Breaking with your group could have serious effects on your chances in society. If someone has a negative social identity, there are three strategies to follow.
The first strategy is called the strategy of "individual mobility". It is called "individual" because a person acts on his own (the group itself does not change). An individual tries to escape from his own group and assimilates into another group. An "exit" is a successful escape; for example when someone from the lower class works himself up to the middle or even higher class. A "pass" is an unsuccessful escape. Escaping is more difficult when the boundaries between the groups are very strict and for all clear to see.
The second strategy is needed when escaping is not possible. The group as a whole tries to change the image of the group. This is called "social creativity". "This is in fact a whole complex of ideas, that share the redefining of certain elements in the social comparison" (Knops, 1987 p. 113, my translation). There are three sub-categories. Using the first sub-category means that the group seeks another group to compare with. That other group is of course negative as compared to the own group, which means that the own group becomes positive. The second sub-category implies a change in the interpretation of the features from the group. So not changing the dimension on which the comparison takes place, but changing the value of this feature. For example the change at the end of the sixties from the meaning of the dimension "black colour" in the "Black is beautiful" movement. The in- and out-group both agree on what dimensions the comparison will take place (in the last example having a black colour), but the outcome may differ. The third sub-category is the making up of new, positive, features. Other groups will accept these new features sooner as these features do not interfere with and change the status quo. With this second strategy it is necessary that the majority and the dominant group approve of the change being made.
As was said earlier, it may be that they do not agree on the outcome, but they agree on the dimension on which the comparison takes place. When the majority does not accept the change, you have the third category: "social competition". The, subjective, status-relations between the in- and out-group are in danger. The new group wants more status and or power. Status and power are scarce. A new conflict is born. Because the dominant group usually has more financial ways and more power, it is very difficult to win and change the status-relation.
Before there will even be a change of image, there has to be a need to change. When the inter-group-relations are stable (this is called the subjective stability) and everyone agrees with it, thinks it is fair (this is called the subjective legitimacy) nothing will happen. This is logical: if a person thinks he cannot get out of his group and does not even think getting out of his group (why should he?), he will not try to change a thing. This was the situation in South Africa for many years; as long as everybody thought it as normal that white people had the power, that other people could not do a thing, it could continue. But as soon as the power of the white people began to decrease, there was room for changes.
When the situation is considered unstable and unfair, the other groups will want a change. This process will take place in two phases: first some people from a lower status group will want to make an exit and they succeed. Soon after that more people want to make this exit. But the dominant group does not allow this. If they would allow this, their dominant group will change into the other group and lose (some of its) status. The members from the lower status group feel that this hierarchy is unfair and they already know that the boundaries between the two groups can be passed, so they go for a better group-image; resulting in conflict.
An important question is under what circumstances people will join a group and give up a piece of their individuality. Like with respect to all other things in life, someone wants something when the benefits are higher than the costs. He will join a group when this group gives him status and does not ask too much of him. A high status makes him feel good about himself and that is what we all want in life. This goes also for the processes inside a group: someone with a high status inside the group has a higher esteem than the persons with lower status in the group. When someone receives a high status, he wants to be a member of this group. There are three factors that have to be taken into consideration answering the question why people will want to join a group.
First of all the ethnolinguistic vitality of a group. The vitality of an ethnolinguistic group is "that which makes a group likely to behave as a distinctive and active collective entity in intergroup situations" (Giles and others, 1977, p. 308). This means that the more vitality a group has, the more chance it has surviving and thriving as a group. So individuals want to belong to such a strong and healthy group. There are three variables that influence this vitality: status, demography and institutional support (see Fig. 3.1). The status variables are "those which pertain to a configuration of prestige variables of the linguistic group in the intergroup context" (Giles and others, 1977, p. 309). So that means that the more status a group has, the more vitality a group has and the more desirable this group will be. There are four status factors, namely the economic status, which refers to the extent in which to a group has control over the material and financial goods in its community. Another status factor is the social status, which refers to the image this group has, both its own view and the view from the other groups. The third status factor is the sociohistorical factor and this refers to the amount of shared cultural history a group has, like for example a battle that was won or a famous person. When a group has many of these events and persons, it binds the group. The last status factor is the status the group’s language has. The history of a language, the prestige value and the degree to which the own language has changed into the language of the dominant group can also be something to be proud or be ashamed of. This language status can be divided into status within the community (so what do the own people think of their language) and status outside the community (so what do other groups think of this language). These are all status factors.
A second variable that influences the vitality has to do with demography. This variable can be divided into two sub-factors: group distribution factors and group number factors. The group distribution factors have to do with the relative numbers of a group, so how much territory does a group have and how the group is concentrated within this territory. Also important are how many members a group has in comparison to the dominant group. The second sub-factor is the group number factor: how many (absolute) members does a group have, how high is the own birth-rate compared to the birth-rate of the dominant group, immigration and emigration patterns. Forced emigration can effect the vitality of a group seriously, like in the case of the Romani or Jews.
The third and last variable that influences the vitality
is the institutional support a group gets. This refers to the amount of
help a group gets from institutions in their nation or region. It also
refers to the extent to which a group organises itself. A group, which
organises itself, has more chance to survive.
Figure 3.1 A taxonomy of the structural variables affecting etholinguistic vitality (Giles and other, 1977, p. 309)
Another factor that causes people to join a group, are the subjective boundaries between the groups. When someone has the feeling that he cannot escape from his own group, he will try to see this membership and this group as positive as possible. It also causes clear rules how to behave in a certain group and how to act in contact with members from other groups.
The last factor concerning reasons why people join
a group has to do with the membership of more than one group at the same
time. Everybody is a member of more groups than one: so everybody is a
member of a class, a family, a nation and so on. Each of these groups has
a certain influence on its members, but this influence decreases when people
have more groups that they belong to. When an individual is a member of
many groups, the boundaries between these groups fade a little bit. The
influence these groups have on this individual is only small. The more
complex the social identity of an individual is, the less interested this
individual is in the membership of yet another group.
3.3 Language as a group marker
The last section ended with the remark that people, generally speaking, belong to more than just one group. Everybody belongs to certain groups in terms of sex, age, and ethnicity and to their own chosen groups, as for example the group of their friends or the group of their profession. This implies that individuals all have different identities through their life. When someone is young he behaves himself different than when he is older. His position in society and the world around him has changed. He acts different because he feels he is different than 30 years ago; his identity has changed. The identity that belongs to gender can also change, even when sex itself has not changed. For example the role that belongs to being a women has changed a lot the last 50 years. The identities in all these groups can also be different. For example the identity from an individual in his professional group is that of the director, so he has to be in charge, give guidance to many people. But in his spare time he is for example a member of a dramatic club and his identity in that group is that of a group member, just like all the others. In the club he has to follow the director instead of directing himself. In different situations and / or groups a person has different, so called multiple identities.
Most groups have their own language variety (next to the dominant language). Many kinds of different groups exist with their own language variety. Roughly said all groups can be divided into two kinds. The difference between these groups is whether or not the group’s language has been acquired during primair socialisation or that the language has been chosen, has been deliberately learned later. When a language is learned during primair socialisation, it is not a group marker yet. It can become a group marker when the language makes contact with the dominant language.
The languages learned deliberately later in life, can be group markers as the acquired language is also used as a marker of a certain group. They mark to which kind of group a person considers himself to belong. Not when pupils in school learn a second language; then this language is not a group’s marker, but a subject in school.
To the first group (language learned as a child) the group of dialect-speakers and the group of immigrants belong. The group of dialect-speakers has its own dialect next to the dominant language. The dialect can be much alike the dominant language, but it also can be very different. Another group that has its own language variety is the group of people who speak a totally different language, like immigrants. In this particular case the language spoken is not really a variety, but another standard language. This group is also a little bit different from the other groups because there are immigrant groups who keep on speaking their own language without acquiring any skills in the dominant language in the new country. Whether or not this is the case, depends on the kind of process these people are in: integration or separation. When they want to integrate or assimilate, they will have to (and want to) learn the new language. When they keep together in their own groups, they feel no need to learn a new language and stick to their own language.
There are many examples of a language (variety) learned by choice, learned when a person has become older. Usually the language variety is not a total different language than the dominant language. A group with its own language variety is for example the group of people who belong together because of their profession. When they are together, they can speak of different things and use different words (jargon). A military uses different words and speaks of different things than a minister. Maybe even their pronunciation differs. When for example this military goes home, he will use the dominant language, because his family does not understand the military jargon. Some other, often investigated, group are youngsters. When they are at a certain age, it could happen that they start to use a different variety. They will not forget their dominant language, but they will cling to their own variety. As they grow older, they will leave the variety because they do not consider themselves as a member of that group anymore.
The group of Klingon speakers is difficult to fit into this subdivision. It is on the one hand a language that is chosen and acts as a group marker. So in this way it is similar to jargon or youth language. Because Klingon has not been learned as a child, all Klingon speakers can speak the dominant language (or a dialect), in contrast to (some) immigrants. But on the other hand Klingon is not a variety, but (it pretends to be) a whole language similar to an immigrant language.
"Besides religion, shared origin and physical features, language is one of the markers people use to define the (social) borders of their group to distinguish themselves from other people" (Shadid, 1998, p. 135, my translation). Language is maybe the best group marker there is. There are more markers, like clothing or the mark of your car or attributes, but language is the best because an individual can influence it himself. Language is flexible; an individual can change his own pronunciation in a way that he can show his degree of solidarity with a certain group. He can also use one or more languages (or varieties) as a marker and still using his mother tongue (or official language and / or dominant language) in other situations. This goes also for the kind of words you use. And, not unimportant, language is the cheapest way to show your connection to a group. "Social identity is in large part established and maintained through language" (Gumperz, 1982, p. 7). Groups have a certain imago and they want to secure this imago through their language.
A minority group, in a sociological sense, (usually but not necessarily the smaller group) will converge its language to the dominant group. Especially when this minority group is a group with a low status or when the group attaches no value to its language. If this group does not yet know the language of the other group, they will learn it rapidly. And if they do know the language, they will try not to show their own specific language markers that indicate they belong to a certain group, like certain words or stress. When the group with the higher status does not approve of this behaviour, they will adjust their standards, just as long as the out-group is trying to learn and speak their language. Eventually the out-group will stop trying and give up. In this way, one can always recognise members of the out-group. The group with the higher status can do this because they have control over the material goods and they have the power. An example was South Africa: "the group in control (the whites) permits all languages to be taught in the schools, which looked very good. But the thought behind it was that there would be no assimilation between black and white people in this way and that the chance that the minority groups would unite would be small" (Trudgill cited in Knops, 1987, my translation).
Minority groups will always try to look at themselves in a positive way, just as they will try to look positive at their language. This goes especially for groups who think their language to be important, use it as a group marker and whose vitality is good. The own linguistic variety will be interpreted positively or new dimensions are given to the language. In a way this probably also goes for Klingon. The group members appear to use it as an important marker and they appear to feel positive about themselves.
The reaction from the outgroup can differ. According to Esman (cited by De Vries 1995) there are four kinds of possible reactions.
The first one is the situation of studied neglect. This means that the problem is not taken seriously. The dominant group ignores the minority group or denies the legitimacy of their claims. The mass media (in control by the dominant group) ignores the minority group with the effect that the population does not know anything about the minority group.
Another reaction would be to ridicule the minority group, so their claims are ridicule too and therefore not to be taken seriously. In the mass media jokes appear and the population does not know the minority group otherwise than as a stupid, backward group.
A third reaction would be repression. Negative sanctions against the use of a language or language variety are taken. This is a real denial of the legitimacy of the language claims a minority group has.
The fourth reaction is accommodation and can take
two forms. The first one is concessional accommodation. This means that
the dominant group gives the minority group some language rights in various
domains, for example only in education. The second form is the structural
accommodation. And this is "changing the structure of society to accommodate
language claims" (De Vries, 1995, p. 141, 142) by for example granting
linguistic autonomy in a certain region (Spain or Italy).
3.4 The special position of Klingon
In the above already some reference was made to Klingon. But how does Klingon really fit in? People who speak Klingon speak it in some situations, for example when being together. But Klingon is not a variety of a language, but a complete other language. This puts it on a par with other situations where people speak two or more languages. In situations of speaking more languages (usually two languages; bilingualism), a distinction has to be made between societal bilingualism and individual bilingualism (Baker, 1997). This is a distinction between group possession and individual possession of these languages. Between an individual having two languages and a situation where either on the national, regional or local level two or more languages exist. The latter does not mean that every person has to speak these two languages. In Switzerland or Belgium for instance the language groups coexist in one country.
Societal bilingualism can be divided into heterogeneous bilingualism and homogeneous bilingualism. Heterogeneous bilingualism is the situation that there are two or more groups in a country who each have there own language and territory, like Canada or Belgium. Homogeneous bilingualism is the situation where there are two or more languages and everyone speaking both languages. Of course there is a status difference between these two languages (or varieties) or else it would not matter when these languages are used. This latter situation is called diglossia.
In the situation where Klingon and a dominant language are used, it is a situation of diglossia. The people speak at least two languages (the dominant one and Klingon) and one has a higher status (probably the dominant one) than the other (probably Klingon.) This gives rise to the question when these people speak Klingon, in what situations. Another question that arises is what their identity is? The literature deals with language as a marker of social identity, but what is the identity of these people? Do they feel like real Klingon?
Another obscurity is why people would want to learn Klingon in the first place. We now know something more about the theory of social identity, so we could say something about the status of the group of Klingon speakers or their vitality. According to the theory, the status and the vitality should be high. But is this true?
Or maybe the reason to learn and speak Klingon is a more personal one; an individual wants to distinguish himself from other people by doing something special.
Fact is that Klingon has a special position and,
even with the theory at hand, we do not know much about the group of Klingon
speakers. To answer all the foregoing questions and to find out more about
the group of Klingon speakers, we need empirical data. When we know the
profile of the Klingon speaker, maybe we know more about language as a
group marker, about the attractiveness of that a language like Klingon
apparently has on certain people.
In the previous chapters it appeared that the artificial
language Klingon is not just an average artificial language. It was designed
for fiction, but nowadays it is, be it in a limited sense, used as a means
of communication. Klingon and its speakers have in many ways a special
position and it is interesting to find out what this group looks like.
This is the main question this chapter tries to answer: what does the average
Klingon speaker look like?
4.2 Research questions
To find out what the profile of the average Klingon speaker looks like, it is needed to know what a profile consists of.
In section 2.1 the "Social Identity Theory" was explained. This theory is about social groups becoming psychological entities. If the group of Klingon speakers is to be defined, more information is needed about the personal profile of the participants. Who are these people in terms of personal and social characteristics exactly?
But this is not enough; more information about their relationship with Klingon is needed to say more about the way they use Klingon as a group marker (section 2.2).
Finally their attitudes towards Klingon have to be investigated. This is necessary because it will explain more about the way Klingon speakers look upon themselves and others, not-Klingon speakers. How do they feel about Klingon?
If these questions are answered, it will be possible
to create a profile of the average Klingon speaker.
4.3 Subjects and procedure
In order to answer the above questions, I designed a survey.
For this survey I have chosen a selective and random sample at the same time.
My theoretical population is the group of people who are interested in Star Trek and in particular the Klingons. My (operational) population is the whole group of people who are, in the broadest sense, able to speak Klingon themselves.
To get to these people, I did send mail to various mailing lists and addresses found at the Internet (see further down). Because of this and because I only made the survey available at the Internet, the sample is a selective one: not everyone has an equal chance to participate. Here my sample starts to become random. I have sent mail to all the eight major places (see further down) and a few smaller ones, where they come together, so most people will have read my request to participate in the survey.
In this survey everybody has (in theory) an equal chance to participate, but not all people did participate. If these people participate or not, depends on their own individual choices. That means that some people will participate and some will not. Because this participation depends on personal characteristics, not all people will have an equal chance. The people who are very eager to fill out surveys or the people who are very interested in Klingon and want it to become more known to the public, have a bigger chance to participate than for example people who want to keep Klingon only to "the happy few".
Because the sample is a selective one, it is not possible to generalise the outcomes to the whole population of Klingon speakers. It will be only possible to say something about the people who responded.
Months before the survey was conducted, I joined the mailing list from the Klingon Language Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org). A mailing list is a way to communicate with many other people via the Internet. This list has a certain address where you can send your mail to and the computer at this address sends your mail to all the members of the list. This means that a person gets all the mail that is sent by other people to this address. It looks a bit like communicating in a group; there are many people present and when someone says something, everyone else can hear this and respond to it. On this list certain rules exist. The most important one is that a person may write about everything but he has to write it in Klingon. If someone wants to write about the language Klingon, he may write in English. This list and its members were a great help describing the grammar of Klingon. It was on this list that I found some additional information about Klingon, because there are many discrepancies in the description Okrand (1985) has given in the "Klingon Dictionary". The members of this list are (among others) the people who have changed Klingon from a language used only for fiction into a language used as means of communication. That is why I sent a request with the address from my survey (www.flashbase.com/forms/KlingonSurvey) to this list. The mailing list from the Klingon language Institute is very big. Many people are a member of this list. It is impossible for me to say how many people are on this list, because many people only read the mails and do not post themselves. So they are invisible to me. The group of people, who do send mail, is a group of about 45 to 50 people. They send about 40 mails a day.
Something else that I did was sending a mail to the newsgroups "news.startrek.com", "alt.startrek.klingon", "de.rec.sf.startrek.kulturen", "de.rec.sf.startrek.fans", "rec.arts.startrek.fandom", "alt.startrek", "de.rec.sf.startrek.misc". A newsgroup is a place at the Internet where a person can send a message. Everyone else can read this message. The difference between a newsgroup and a mailing list is that someone has to have an email address for a mailing list and the mail is sent to this address. A newsgroup is more like a notice board. A person can download (send everything to his own computer) and read all the messages, but he has to pick them up instead of receiving them automatically.
These newsgroups are big ones, but it is, for the same reason as it is impossible to know the exact number of members from mailing lists, impossible to say how many people read all the messages. From certain members I have heard some estimates that differ from 1,000 people to many thousands.
In my mail with the address from my survey, there was a request to send this mail further to other people or mailing lists. The Internet is very opaque and it is very difficult to find more addresses to send my mail to. I have found some other addresses, but these are addresses from people who are in control of certain sites (a page at the Internet where you can read more about a certain subject).
After reading my request some people made a comment
that this survey had already been done a few years ago by Stefan Annernäs
(1996) in Sweden. Where it was possible I also used the outcomes of his
survey to compare it with mine. A summary of his outcomes can be found
on the Internet (http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-12689/survey.htm)
and these are the data which I used.
4.4 The mail questionnaire
The mail questionnaire that I used in the survey was divided into three parts. These three parts (and with that the whole questionnaire) will be explained in this section. (The questionnaire can also be found in the appendixes.)
4.4.1 Personal features
Because nothing is known about the group of Klingon-speakers, it appeared logical to start the survey with some standard personal questions about gender, age and nationality. Some questions are maybe a little bit less standard, but they were put in for a reason. The reason to ask after the marital status is because the image of Star Trek fans ("Trekkies") is an image of young white single boys living in the cities. The same reason applies for the questions that ask after their residence and their ethnicity. Is that image correct or not?
In section 2.3 bilingualism was discussed. To find
out if and how these people are bilingual, questions 10 to 15 were asked.
Question 16 asks after the possibility of the usage of other artificial
languages than Klingon. It could be that a participant likes artificial
languages for one reason and that it is therefore that he or she speaks
4.4.2 The relation with Klingon
To find out for how long the respondents know of Klingon, question 17 was asked. This is a different question than 24 and 25, because 17 asks after the acquaintance with Klingon, 24 after the time that Klingon has been studied and 25 after the time that the participant can use Klingon. Questions 17 and 24 differ because it could be the case that someone is interested in Klingon, so knows of Klingon, but is not interested in learning the language.
To find out what the respondents’ ability in Klingon is, questions 19 to 22 are put in. They ask after the four language proficiencies (speaking, listening, writing and reading). To find out how the respondents met and learned Klingon (these are two different questions), questions 18 and 23 were put in.
It is also necessary to know in what situations and how often Klingon is used. And, a question that was asked many times in the latter chapters, why people speak Klingon was not forgotten (32). It is very difficult to estimate how well a participant is at Klingon, because there is no standard, but to have an idea the participants were asked to, subjectively, rate their own ability at oral and written Klingon (31).
For questions like the ones where the respondent
had to answer how well he is at for example writing Klingon, a five-point
scale was used, ranging from "not good at all" to "very good".
Finally the respondents’ attitudes towards Klingon were asked. This is a very tricky business because it is very difficult to find out the real attitudes. It could happen that a participant answers something because it is more socially desirable. Many scientists have thought this idea over and have come up with their own methods. I tried two of them.
First the respondents’ preference to the usage of Klingon and their own language is asked in a few questions (33 to 37).
Question 38 and 39 are two examples of the "Bogardus Social Distance Scale". Usually this scale "is used to determine attitudes toward various racial or nationality groups" (Oskamp, 1991, p. 51). The participants had to fill in how close they would want a Klingon speaker and a non-Klingon speaker (they do not know these persons) to be; ranging from visiting the country (distant) to marry (very close).
Questions 40 and 41 are two examples of the "Osgood’s Semantic Differential". This is a scale that "can be applied to any concept at all" (Oskamp, 1991, p. 59). Participants have to fill in to what extent they think a person that speaks Klingon and non-Klingon speaking person (they do not know of) have certain qualities. The answers are to be given in a seven-point scale.
Question 43 to 47 are questions about the media; do they mention Klingon in the participants’ country and how do they mention it.
It is interesting to see what the participants think of the future of Klingon. Therefore questions 47 to 51 are asked. There is a difference between 48 and 50, because 48 asks after what will happen to Klingon in the future and 50 asks after what would the participant like to happen to Klingon. These are two different questions.
There are no estimates how many people speak Klingon. It is not known if the group of Klingon speakers is a small group or not. By letting the participants estimate how many people use Klingon in their country and all over the world, we have a, like all estimates, subjective way to find out. Question 54 is about how serious the respondent takes Klingon. It asks whether or not the respondent will speak Klingon in twenty years. If the answer is no, this could mean that the respondents considers Klingon as a kind of caprice.
The last two questions deal with the survey itself;
does the respondent have something to comment on the survey or on the language
4.5 The results of analysis
In total 109 people responded. This does not mean that all these people can use Klingon; it only means that they are probably interested in Klingon and /or Star Trek.
The respondents can be divided into 77.1% male and 22% female (one person did not answer = 0.9%). Most of them are married (43.1%) or single / divorced (41.3%). The respondents come from all over the world, although most of them live in the United States (65.1%). Other countries where a lot of respondents live are Canada (12.8%), Germany (7.3%) and England and the Netherlands (both 2.8%).
Annernäs (1996) in Sweden did a survey like this one in 1996. His survey was less extensive; he did not ask after the attitudes the respondents would have, but the questions after the personal features of the respondents were very much alike. In his survey 604 people responded. A reason that more people responded to his survey could be that people are getting bored up with questions about themselves. For my survey more people and more addresses on the Internet received a mail, but fewer people responded.
In his survey 93.2% was male and 6.8% was female.
A reason for the difference between his and my data could be that more
and more women started to watch and became interested in Star Trek over
the years. It seemed that in the early days of Star Trek only man would
watch it. A majority came out of the United States (84.7%), all other countries,
including Canada, had very few respondents. Maybe that is because Star
Trek has become more popular outside the United States and because more
people would have access to the Internet. Annernäs did not make a
difference between people that could communicate in Klingon or not. Maybe
he did not feel it was needed because a majority (95%) could speak Klingon.
Of course one cannot check if this is true, because he did not have any
other information than what the respondents answered to the question if
they could or could not speak Klingon.
Figure 4.1 Differences in personal features
of all respondents between a survey done in 1996 and
this survey (n= 604 resp. 109)
In my survey a difference was made between the people who could speak Klingon and the people who could not and between the people who could understand Klingon when it was spoken to them and the people who could not. This was done because we are looking for the profile from the users of Klingon, not the profile of people who are interested in Klingon. Although this means that the data the survey in 1996 yielded strictly spoken, cannot be compared to the selected data, it is done sometimes when some major differences are found that could not be attributed to the fact that Annernäs (1996) did not make any selections.
In total 79 respondents that claim to be speakers of Klingon, were selected.
With the answers of the other respondents, I will do the same as with the data from Annernäs. I will only comment on and use these data when this is necessary.
Most of the analysis are frequencies or cross tabulations. When the respondents’ relations with Klingon and their attitudes will be analysed, these latter dependent data will be compared to the independent data of the personal features. When a significant difference occurs, it will be mentioned.
The average age of the respondents is 31.5 years, but the range of ages is very wide, as can be seen in the next figure.
The distribution of gender did not differ much from the distribution that was found earlier: 79.7% is male and 20.3% is female.
The marital status of the respondents differs; 39.2% is single or divorced, but also another 44.3% is married or living together. "Involved with someone but living apart" is something that goes for 11.4%. This means that one can say that this variable is not useful to describe the marital status of the "average Klingon speaker".
Most of the respondents (64.6%) live in a city (i.e. a place with more than 100.000 inhabitants).
The United States and Canada provide the most respondents;
respectively 69.6% and 11.4%. In Australia and New Zealand 5.1% of the
respondents live. In Europe all the other respondents live; in Germany
7.6% and in some other countries each time 1.3%. This means that there
were no respondents from Africa, South America or Asia (see Figure 4.3).
The nationality of the respondents did not differ much from the country they live in. There is one person who is a Belgian, but lives in Germany and there is a Chilean who lives in the United States. There are also 3 people who consider themselves to be a Klingon.
The answer possibilities to the question that asked
after the ethnic group that the respondent considered himself to belong
to, were, on purpose, left open to avoid any people feeling insulted. But
it also meant that a lot of different answers were given. Many people answered
"Caucasian", but if the answer was "white" I also considered this to be
Caucasian. This means that 70.8% is Caucasian. For the other ethnic groups
the names the respondents themselves gave, will be used. There was 2.5%
that responded that they are Celtic, 1.3% Black, 2.5% Latin, 1.3% Jewish,
1.3% Apache. 13.9% did not fill anything out, 5% said they were human and
1.3% said they were Klingon.
The question that asked after the respondents’ professions
was also left open, but it appeared that the professions could easily be
divided into a few groups. The first, and biggest group (32.9%), was that
of the people working in the IT-sector, also working with computers. The
second group was one of students (21.5%). Some of the students were also
studying something that had to doe with computers, but most students did
not say what they were studying, so that is why the group of students is
not divided into more sub-groups. These two groups were the biggest groups.
The other group is the group of people with a technical job, other than
working with computers (10.1%). All the other answers (24%) were taken
together, because they had nothing in common (for example a civil servant,
a teacher, an actor etc.). The last group is a big group, but that does
not matter here in this context because I only wanted to show how big the
groups of IT workers and the group of students are. A reason for these
two groups to be this big could be that they have easily access to a computer
and to Internet.
The average level of education is higher education (70.9%). There were 25.3% who had only had a secondary education and 2.5% who had only had primary education.
Almost all respondents are capable to speak (93.7%)
and to write (92.4%) English. German is a language that 20.3% can speak
and 17.7% write. French can be spoken by 10.1% and written by 11.4% of
the respondents. The last language that some people had in common is Spanish;
8.9% can speak Spanish and 7.6% can write Spanish. There were some other
languages that people could speak, like Russian for example, but that is
only a minor minority.
The survey also asked after the first learned language
of the respondents. Most respondents (78.5%) had English as their first
language. This means that not all people who live in Canada (11.4%) and
the United States (69.6%) have English as their mother language. Some respondents
have German as their mother language (6.3%) and some French (2.5%). Other
(12.7%) respondents had a first language that only appeared once. The dominant
role that English has grows even more when asking after what language is
used at home and at work; respectively 81.0% and 86.1%. German stays equal
and French is less used at work than at home; respectively 1.3% and 2.5%.
It appeared that 19% even speaks, next to Klingon, another artificial language. There are 15 people who speak another artificial language, five of those people speak at least one other science fiction language (like Romulan or Fremen), 4 of them speak a language like Volapük, Lojban or Esperanto. Two people speak a language that is unknown. And two other people have created their own artificial language.
One could think that this high rate (19%) of respondents
speaking another artificial language, means that these people are interested
in (artificial) languages and that is how they came about to speaking Klingon.
But it appeared that people who speak another artificial language do not
chose to speak Klingon because they like to learn an artificial language
more than other respondents do.
4.5.2 The relation with Klingon
The first question in this part is a question that asks after the respondents’ first acquaintance with Klingon (the language). My opinion is that some people have understood this question the wrong way. They have interpreted the question as when their first acquaintance with the race Klingons in television programmes was meant. One can see this because some of them have answered that they had their first acquaintance in 1966, the year the television program Star Trek had it’s premiere, but the language was only created in 1985.
That this programme was, of course, very important
to the spread of Klingon, can be seen when one looks at the answers given
to the question how the respondents did come in contact with Klingon. As
much as 63.3% says it had happened via Star Trek. Some (12.7%) have heard
of Klingon from friends. And a few (6.4%) have discovered Klingon via the
Klingon Language Institute on the Internet.
Half of the respondents (53.2%) learn Klingon via the books Okrand (1985) has written and via the tapes he has made (2.5%). Via the Klingon Language Institute 20.2% learns Klingon, via the books and the Klingon Language Institute 7.6%. Via friends 13.9% of the respondents has learned how to speak Klingon.
There is a small, but significant, difference between
the way women and men learn Klingon. Women learn mainly via books (43.4%),
the Klingon Language Institute (31.3%) or both (12.5%) or via friends (12.5%),
but men trust more on the books (56.5%) than on the Klingon Language Institute
(17.7%), or both (4.8%). The way that they learn Klingon from friends (11.3%)
is just the same as women learn it from their friends.
Most people (29.1%) have studied Klingon for about
1 to 2 years, some of them (22.8%) study 3 to 4 years, others (respectively
16.5% and 20.3%) have studied Klingon for 5 to 6 years or longer than 6
These data do not match the data from 1996 entirely: in 1996 11.8% spoke Klingon less than a year, three years later the survey found that 22.8% people speak Klingon for three to four years. Maybe that is because some people (11%) started learning Klingon three years ago, but after the first survey was done. Another possibility is that the data are not very reliable. Comparing the data from the two different years, we can see that a lot of people quit speaking Klingon (from 62.9% in 1996 to 20.9%), but that there is a kind of hard-core; in 1996 20.9% speaks Klingon and three years later 20.3% speaks Klingon for more than six years.
In the survey from 1996 something else could be found that was not found in the survey from 1999. In 1996 people who spoke Klingon for more than five years were also the people that spoke more languages than other respondents did.
There are relatively more women that speak Klingon
for more than six years as men, but there are more men that speak Klingon
for one to two years. An explanation for this difference could be that
a lot of men start to speak Klingon, but that they give up a lot sooner
for one reason or another than women do. There may be more men interested
in Klingon than there are women that are interested, but women seem to
be more tenacious.
All this studying results in a large group (94.9%) that is able to speak Klingon and still a large group (84.8%) that can understand Klingon when it is spoken to them. Less people (73.4), but still a large amount, can write Klingon themselves. More people (81%) can read Klingon.
Most people (respectively 46.8% and 43%) use oral and written Klingon less than once a month. Another group of respondents uses oral and written Klingon relatively often; the group that uses Klingon more than once a week, but not every day is respectively 22.8% (oral) and 15.2% (written). The group that uses Klingon every day is 13.9% (oral) and 17.7% (written). The group in between (once every two weeks or once a week) is much smaller. This means that one uses Klingon either very often or occasionally.
It seems logical that the respondents who use Klingon very often are also the respondents that rate themselves very high on a scale of proficiency and vice versa, but that is not always true. The frequency of using oral Klingon does not relate to how well respondent’s rate themselves on a scale of oral proficiency.
It does matter on the other hand how often a respondent uses Klingon to write and how well he rates himself on a scale of writing proficiency; the more one practises and uses Klingon to write, the better a respondent thinks he becomes in writing Klingon.
A reason for this could be that respondents rate
their own speaking capability much too high, maybe because it is more difficult
to correct oral communication than written communication. It could be that
respondents are more often corrected on their written communication and
that is why they have a more accurate view on their own capabilities than
they have on their oral communication, that is less often corrected.
When people are capable of writing Klingon, they use it mostly to write messages (57%) and to practise grammar (48.1%). When they are capable of reading Klingon, they read mostly other people’s messages (54.4%).
Although as much as 94.9% can speak Klingon, only
69.6% use Klingon for talking. The same goes for understanding Klingon;
84.8% can understand Klingon when it is spoken to them, but only 62% use
Klingon for listening. Maybe this is because some people for one reason
or another do not have the facilities to speak Klingon to other people.
Respondents, who use Klingon to write and read messages, do this via the Internet. Respondents, who use Klingon to talk and to listen to, do the talk at meetings. Where they listen to Klingon is unknown, because there is no significant correlation between listening to Klingon and use Klingon at meetings. Maybe they had listening to the Klingon tapes (originally meant for practise and getting used to the Klingon pronunciation) in mind when they filled this answer category out.
Another question was where Klingon was used. Most people answered they use it on the Internet (78.5%), with friends (74.7%) and at meetings (44.3%). If you compare this to where people live, only the place of residence influences the usage of Klingon at meetings; people who live in a city, use Klingon more at meetings than people who live on the country-side.
With this question the answer categories were not well chosen; if people choose to fill out "I use Klingon with friends" it does not exclude the answer "at meetings" or "on the Net", because the respondent could use Klingon at meetings with friends. Because multiple answers were possible, this means that there is only a problem with the validity of the answer category "with friends". The other categories are still useful and valid.
There is also a large group (10.1%) that speaks Klingon
to themselves. It seems that many teachers of Klingon (this can be teachers
at the Klingon Language Institute or at a university, because some respondents
say that at some universities Klingon is taught as a subject) have filled
out this survey, because 11.4% answered that they use Klingon for teaching
When the respondents were asked how they themselves
would rate their own capabilities in (oral) Klingon, most of them (41.8%)
answered that they were average. When the same question was asked for written
Klingon, people would rate their ability much higher: only 24.1% said that
they were average, 19% said they were pretty good and 13.9% answered they
were very good. The same question was asked in 1996, but there were some
other standard answers used. In that survey one could fill out: "Beginner",
"post-beginner", "intermediate", "upper-intermediate" and "advanced". Because
this is also a five-point scale ranging from the lowest level to the highest
level, it was possible, to a certain extent, to compare these data.
There were some (not significant, but interesting) differences between men and women in the survey from 1999: women rarely (at written Klingon only 12.5%) filled out that they were "bad", but they used "average" much more (respectively 68.8%, 37.5%). Man did use all kind of answers; they filled out "bad" respectively 28.6% and 25.4%. "Average" they did use respectively 34.9% and 20.6%.
One of the most important questions of this thesis
is why people would want to learn Klingon. The respondents could give more
reasons for using Klingon. The most chosen reason (96.2%) was that it was
fun to be able to speak Klingon. A considerable group (65.8%) learned Klingon
because the people belonging to this group are a Star Trek fan. Half of
the people (53.2%) study Klingon because they like to be able to use an
artificial language. Minor reasons were to know more about the process
of learning languages (44.3%) and to be special, to be unique (43%). Some
other reasons that the respondents came up with themselves had to do with
the (supposed) unique character of Klingon, with liking to speak a language
that most people do not understand and had to do with the Klingon race
and their culture that some people appealed to.
Most people answer that they think it is fun to speak
Klingon, that they speak Klingon because they are a big fan of Star Trek.
This, together with the knowledge that most people know Klingon via Star
Trek, arises the presumption that maybe most respondents are Trekkies.
First of all it should be said that this is a part that was not asked in the survey from 1996, so there can be no more comparisons made between 1996 and 1999.
To find out how the respondents think about their
own language and Klingon, their preference was asked. As could be expected,
most people think their own language is the easiest one to use, is the
one they dream in and the one that is considered to have the best means
of communication. What is maybe somewhat unexpected, is the fact that most
people (63.3%) want their children to learn both languages. About a third
(32.9%) think Klingon is the most beautiful language and a bit more than
a third (36.7%) think both languages are equally beautiful. The exact answers
can be seen in the next figure.
The following two questions were created after the "Bogardus Social Distance Scale". Bogardus’ theory says that there is a difference to how close respondents want to have "other" people. The closest relationship one can have, is when someone marries someone else, the most distant relation is when people visit your country. Theory also says that when people want someone to be very close, say marry someone, they also want this person to be your close friend, your neighbour, etc. This means that if one would see a figure of given answers, it would show a, more or less, straight line, starting very low (one does not want to marry with most people) going higher (you want more people to visit your country than be your colleague and your close friend.
This did not work out that way for the answers the respondents gave. They wanted a person nearby (say marry), but then they did not say they wanted this person also to be less nearby (say to be a close friend). What the respondents did answer can be seen in the next figure.
The exact number of respondents can not be given,
because some people answered only once (one category) and other answered
more than one time. All respondents (79) answered, but the way they answered
it was different.
An explanation for this discrepancy could be the fact that this theory only works for reactions to distinct groups. People who obviously belong to one another and that have a certain imago. Maybe the group of Klingon speakers is not a real group or is not considered, even by its own "members" to be a real group at all and that could be the reason that the respondents do not show a clear picture about this group. The respondents do not have a firm attitude about this group the way most people do have an attitude about for example Moroccans or Hispanics (who are real ethnolinguistic groups).
Another attitude question was to what degree the respondents agreed or not with some supposed qualities of persons. This kind of asking is based on the "Osgood’s Semantic Differential". One can see that most respondents had less trouble filling out the questions concerning other people who speak Klingon than the questions concerning all other people. They had diverse answers to the qualities of persons that speak Klingon, but the option "neutral" was very often chosen with the people who do not speak Klingon. Maybe this is because the group of non-speakers of Klingon is much more diverse and bigger than the people who do use Klingon. The qualities of persons, who speak Klingon, were mostly indicated from "neutral" to "agree".
Interesting are the questions that ask after qualities that are considered to belong to the Klingon race, like "honourable" or "aggressive". The respondents reactions to the statement that someone who speaks Klingon is an honourable person are 29.1% "neutral", 16.5% "somewhat agree", 24.1% "agree" and 26.6% "strongly agree". The reactions of the respondents that someone who speaks Klingon is not a very peaceful person are 8.9% "strongly disagrees" with this preposition, 3.8% "disagrees", 17.7% "somewhat disagrees" and 55.7% is neutral about this preposition.
The respondents, who cannot speak or understand Klingon, (n = 30) have a very "neutral" opinion about themselves. They have a more diverse opinion about the people, who speak Klingon. But their opinion about some qualities of persons does not differ much from the opinion the selected respondents had about themselves. The people, who do not understand Klingon, think that people, who do understand Klingon, are very bright and clever persons with a broad interest. People, who are able to speak Klingon, are expected to be friendly and honourable.
The number of people that answers these questions
differs sometimes. That is why it is not possible to say what "n" is. The
answers differ from 79 to 30 respondents
There are three qualities that jut out: the qualities "bright", "clever" and "honourable". The first two qualities are obvious: the people who are able to speak Klingon have learnt something that is difficult to do. So to do so, means that someone like that has to be bright and clever.
"Honourable" is a quality that belongs to the alien race Klingon. It could be that most respondents identify themselves a little bit with Klingons, because they think they are honourable too. The other respondents (who are themselves not able to speak Klingon) think the people, who are able to speak Klingon, are honourable too. Maybe this is because most of these respondents are familiar with Klingon (I only have send the address of this survey to Klingon / Star Trek related addresses on the Internet) and therefore know that Klingons are honourable and its speakers maybe a little bit too. These respondents do not agree with this quality as much as the speakers themselves do, but that is maybe because they do not feel the same connection with Klingons as the speakers do.
Some other typical qualities of Klingons are not being polite and peaceful. The respondents did not disagree with the supposition that Klingon speakers are polite and peaceful. Maybe this is because a respondent would not say anything that would be negative about his (group) image (see section 3.2).
Klingon is a very interesting subject for the media, and that is why the survey asked after the occurrence of Klingon in newspapers, radio stations and television programmes (of course other than Star Trek itself). Because this is a question that also people can answer that do not speak Klingon, the answers of all respondents were included.
Half the newspapers (54.1%) all over the world (that is in the countries the respondents live) ever mention Klingon. They write rarely about Klingon in a very positive way (0.9%), in a positive way about 20.2%, and negative in 10.1% of the times. There is no real difference in the newspapers in different countries.
About a third (32.1%) of the radio stations ever mention Klingon. While listening to the radio, one can hear very positive things about Klingon in 3.7% of all the times Klingon is mentioned, 15.6% positive, 5.5% negative and 1.8% very negative things. A little more than half (57.8%) of the television programmes ever mention Klingon. Most of the times (22.9%) Klingon is mentioned in a positive way. Sometimes (12.8%) it is negative and rarely Klingon is mentioned very positive (9%).
Klingon has grown a lot the last years, so that raises the question if this will continue or not. What will happen in the future? Because no one can look into the future, the survey asks after what respondents will think that will happen and what they would like to happen in the future.
About a third (37.6%) thinks that Klingon will flourish and even many more (57.8%) hope this will happen. Klingon will gain more speakers think about half of the respondents (53.3%), more people (68.8%) hope this will be the case.
That most respondents are realistic about the chances
of Klingon, can be viewed in the answers to the question if Klingon will
become a global language or not. Little (3.7%) people think this will happen,
but more (28.4%) hope to be able to speak Klingon and to be understood
all over the world. Most people (66.1%) think it will stay a hobby for
few people, although this is not what they want for Klingon; they hope
to gain more people and they hope that Klingon will become very popular.
Only 30.3% hopes Klingon will stay a hobby.
Because most people think that Klingon will stay a hobby for few and that it will not become very popular, one could conclude that Klingon is and will stay a hobby, a hype maybe (because half the people think that Klingon will gain more speakers in the future).
Asking after the reasons why people think what they think, many of them answer that the success has to do with the success of Star Trek. Some say Klingon will not have good chances in the future, because it is too difficult and hard to learn. Others on the other hand say Klingon has good chances because "It is the best developed artificial language ever with a sci-fi fan base to feed in new learners." When the respondents are asked after their reasons for hoping their hopes for Klingon in the future (especially more speakers), many of them answered that they would like more people that they can communicate with. Someone answered: "Star Trek is VERY popular. Klingon is a way of becoming a super trekkie!" Or "it is the ultimate way of life!"
Other persons do not seem to like the comments from some people who say that Klingon is not a real language: "It would prove once and for all that Klingon is a real language" or "It is a growing, living language." But there are also critics among the respondents: "It is a hobby of a very few, nothing more" or "It was meant to be fun, not taken seriously."
Asking after what they will do in 20 years, most of them (86.1%) think they will still use Klingon.
Some people answered that Klingon is a "hobby for
the few". This gives rise to the question how many people use Klingon all
over the world. It seems that nobody knows, because the answers ranged
from 50 people all over the world to 3,000,000,000 people! The average
450,397 people, but nobody knows.
4.6 The profile of the "average Klingon user"
There were only few responses to my survey and the design was in a way that the outcomes to this survey cannot be generalised to the whole group of Klingon speakers. There were even some conflicting outcomes, but, with all this in mind, I have tried to create the sociolinguistic profile of the average Klingon speaker.
The average Klingon user in my survey is a Caucasian male, about 31.5 years old, living in a city somewhere in the United States. He could be single or married. He speaks English as his first language and has a high education, what has resulted in a job as an IT-worker or he is still a student.
He has discovered Klingon via Star Trek, which he likes very much. Via books written by Marc Okrand he has started to learn the language. He has studied Klingon for 1 to 4 years now and he uses it less than once a month. When he uses it, he uses it to practise his Klingon grammar and to read and write messages from / to other persons. He also talks with other Klingon speakers, usually at meetings. At these meetings he usually meets other people that live in a city, although there are people that are able to communicate in Klingon, but live somewhere on the countryside. He is an average to pretty good Klingon student. He likes using Klingon because he thinks it is fun to do, and because he likes Star Trek very much. He likes being able to speak an artificial language.
Both his native language and Klingon are considered to be beautiful, but his native language is the easiest one to learn and has the best means of communication. If he has children, he would teach those children both languages (his native language and Klingon).
He thinks he and his group of member Klingon users are bright en clever people with a broad interest. They think that, like the "real" Klingons, they are honourable and, very unlike "real" Klingons, peaceful.
He hopes and thinks that Klingon will flourish and
gain more speakers in the future, but he is not sure, because it could
also stay a hobby for the few. Much will depend on the success that Star
Trek will have in the future. He would like more people to be able to use
Klingon, because this would mean that there would be more people to communicate
The most intriguing part of the phenomenon of people speaking Klingon is the fact that it is a language originally created for fiction, a language not meant for real communication.
Languages and the diversity of languages have intrigued
mankind ever since. People have come up with various solutions for the
problem of not being able to communicate with each other because of the
fact that two people do not speak the same language. For example making
one existing language a global language. All people should be able to speak
Another solution is to create a language. An artificial language has a lot of advantages: it is thought to be acceptable to all people, no matter what their original language is, and everyone should make efforts to learn. There are no people or countries that have their own mother tongues as the new, global language. All people are equal. Another big advantage is that an artificial language can be constructed via logical, universal rules, with less to no exceptions.
There are three kinds of artificial languages; artificial languages that have a communicative function, computer languages and fictional languages. Klingon is an artificial language of the third kind. It is constructed to act as the language of fictional aliens. There are no other reasons why this language was constructed than the reason to make some fiction more realistic. There is neither idealistic aim (like in the case of universal languages, like Esperanto) nor a pragmatic aim (like in the case of the programming languages, like Pascal).
Marc Okrand created Klingon in the year 1985 because the producers of Star Trek wanted to make the alien race "Klingons" more realistic. Okrand likes the work and the language he created a lot, and therefore he continued to enlarge Klingon. This language, although not meant for real communication, became very popular with people all over the world that used Klingon to communicate with other Klingon users.
Klingon is an artificial language based mainly on
some elements of an American Indian nature. It has no tenses and the word
order is different from most languages, namely first the subject, than
the object and in the end the verb. Klingon uses a lot of affixes, each
affix has its own meaning and can be "glued" to a verb or noun. The strange
thing with the verb prefixes is that they, at the same time, show the subject
and the object. The vocabulary is not based on any other language, what
is very uncommon for an artificial language (usually they are based on
a few natural languages).
Klingon is a real artificial language (being created with very few exceptions to the rules etc.), but the main difference between Klingon and for example Esperanto or Pascal, is that Klingon was never meant to be used. Nowadays, however, there are people who claim that they can speak Klingon.
One way to try to explain this paradox is to have
a closer look at the way people look at themselves and the way they interact
with each other. Therefore the theory of social identity of Tajfel (1971)
Everyone wants to feel good about themselves. This means that all people want to have a positive view about themselves and the groups they belong to. All people belong to certain groups. To some groups you belong automatically, like gender or age, but some groups are chosen, like friends. A person does not want to be a member of a group, which he thinks negative of.
Other groups are often thought to have negative characteristics, but that is done so to make the own groups look more positive. The image of other groups is also usually less detailed and diverse than the one a person has about his own group. This is logical: if a person should ask and find out each time he meets someone what that other person is like, the first person would have not enough time. All people divide other people into groups. When a person is divided, he is considered to have all the characteristics of his group. It costs a lot of time and efforts to really get to know people, and that is why it is easier to divide them into groups.
A person joins a group when he thinks the benefits are higher than the costs. This may sound very calculating, but the benefits can also be something like pleasure or status. It does not have to be something material. If a person will or will not join a group, depends on three factors. First the ethnolinguistic vitality. This means if a group of people does really behave like a distinct group, now and in the future. It also depends on the subjective boundaries between groups; if it is easy to become a member, more people will join this group. The last factor that influences the decision to join a group is the membership of more than one group at the same time. If someone is a member of more than one group, the influence a single group has on this person is not very high.
There are many groups that someone can choose to
become a member of, but once he is a member, he likes it when his group
is distinct. It has no meaning to be a member of a group when other people
do not recognise it as a group. There are many markers that a group can
choose to use to show the difference between the members of this group
and other people, like clothing or religion, but language is the cheapest
and the most flexible there is. Someone can alter his pronunciation when
he feels this is necessary (show more or less connections with the group)
and someone can have more than one language (variety).
These groups with an own language can be divided into two groups: the groups where the language is learned during primair socialisation (as a child) and the groups where the language (variety) was a choice, like a military using his own way of speaking and words.
The group of Klingon speakers is difficult to divide into this subdivision: on the one hand Klingon is a language and not a variety of some other language, but on the other hand is it a language that is chosen and where the speakers have another native language. Klingon seems to be a marker of the sociolinguistic group of people who use Klingon.
Klingon and especially its group of speakers rise a lot of questions; how does an average Klingon speaker look like? Why does he use Klingon? How does he see Klingon? To get an answer to these questions, I designed and conducted a survey. This survey was spread among people who are likely to speak Klingon and among other Star Trek fans.
Most people who have responded are working in the IT-sector or student. These groups have, more than other groups access to the Internet. In my view this is the reason why these two groups are over represented in the group of people who use Klingon. Internet is very important in this group. One can see this because Klingon is used on the Internet more than other ways to use Klingon. To use Klingon for writing and reading messages is very important, and when this is being done, it is done via Internet. This is all proof that the Internet is crucial for the existence of Klingon.
Another thing that is even more crucial for Klingon is Star Trek. Most people did come in contact with Klingon over Star Trek; the reason why they use Klingon is because they think it is fun and because they are such a big fan of Star Trek. Most respondents wrote that the success of Klingon was depended of the success and the appearance of Klingon in Star Trek. Some of the respondents even wrote, "speaking Klingon is a way of becoming a Supertrekkie". Maybe even the appearance of this group in the media can be contributed to the fact that Star Trek is very famous and some of its fans extreme.
Part of my thesis dealt with language as a sociological group marker, because I thought that the group of Klingon speakers was a sociolinguistic group. On the base of my survey data I must conclude that I was most probably wrong to think that; Klingon speakers are no sociolinguistic group at all. The people who speak Klingon are more like a kind of sub group of Trekkies. The reason why I did come to this conclusion is diverse. First of all no significant differences between the group of respondents that was able to speak Klingon and the group of respondents that was not, was found. All respondents had to do something with Klingon and or Star Trek, because I only have sent the address of my survey to Klingon / Star Trek related addresses on the Internet. This means that all respondents were fans of Star Trek. It does not matter if that fan is a Trekkie (someone who is a very extreme fan) or a Trekker (someone that is just a fan, he does not go to extreme lengths). I did send it to Star Trek related sites, because if someone is not a fan, he would not be a member of those newsgroups and or mailing lists. All of this means that I have made a profile of the respondents who are Star Trek fans, and maybe also speak Klingon for that matter.
Another reason to assume that the sociolinguistic group of Klingon speakers does not exist, is because the respondents do not have a clear image of the group and a distinct attitude that goes with a real sociolinguistic group. When the "Bogardus’ social distance scale" was used, respondents turned out not to be able to fill it out in a consistent way.
The last reason why I think there is no such sociolinguistic group as "the Klingon speakers" is because Star Trek is so important. Without Star Trek Klingon would die out. Maybe some speakers who are really interested in the language itself because of the language (of course these speakers exist too, but they are a minority) would go on, but I do not think the language is capable of existing anymore. The language itself is not ready yet (if ever) to live without Star Trek. There are still many discrepancies or black holes in its linguistic structure. The fans are working on this, trying to come up with solutions (thereby helped by Okrand, who is still engaged in Klingon), but sometimes they come up with solutions that alter the specific character of Klingon. In June 1999 there was a person on the tlhingan-hol mailing list that suggested to change the writing system with its upper-case and lower-case into the writing system the Dutch and English language have (without the upper-case and the lower-case), because "that was easier and more logical." Other members on the list were very agitated about this suggestion, because they felt that their writing system was the one and only. The fact that these discussions still exist shows that the Klingon language is not an established language. If, in the future, Star Trek will end, I think that also most people, and their efforts and solutions, will stop using Klingon.
Because Star Trek is so important to most of the speakers, it is also important to show the connection with Star Trek. One way is to speak Klingon (next to for example wearing Star Trek clothes, or collecting Star Trek things). And, I think, someone gains status in this group of Trekkies if they say that they are able to speak Klingon, because such a person then has shown to be ready to make a lot of efforts. In my survey people were asked if they were able to speak Klingon, but what does "speaking" mean? I did try to make a difference in the level of "speaking" by asking how they would rate their own capability, but this is a very subjective way (unfortunately it is the only possible way). If someone says he speaks Klingon, and therefore gaining status, what does he mean by that? Is he able to utter some sentences or can he speak it like most people can speak a foreign language that was taught in school or maybe even better than that? In my opinion most people who claim they can speak Klingon, can say short little sentences about subjects that are important in Star Trek and or Klingon (for example travelling on a space-ship, fighting a fight etc.), but they would fall silent if they were to talk about other things. I have seen this on the mailing list I have attended (the one from the KLI). It is very common to write something in Klingon and then send it to the list. Other people comment on your Klingon (not on your subject). When some people try to translate for example a poem or a song, this leads to great discussions because the language is not fit for doing this. There was a long and lively discussion about the translation of "love" in Klingon. In my opinion love is important to humans and I would like to be able to translate that in another language, but to translate it in Klingon led to great difficulties. I think that the group, who can speak Klingon well, is very small. The people who can do this, are usually the people who like learning a language, are really interested in the language itself because of the language and not because it is something from Star Trek.
Speaking Klingon does not make someone a member of
a certain sociolinguistic group, but it could give someone maybe more status
in the group of Star Trek fans. To go to such lengths to show your connection
to a television programme is a sociological phenomenon and therefore very
interesting, but speaking Klingon is nothing more than this.
Annernäs, S. (1996), Klingon Questionnaire, http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-12689/survey.htm
Baker, C. (1997), Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism, Clevedon; Multilingual Matters Ltd
Boves, T. & Gerritsen, M. (1995), Inleiding in de sociolinguistiek, Utrecht; Het Spectrum BV
Chambers, J. K. (1995), Sociolinguistic theory: linguistic variation and its social significance. Cambridge; Blackwell Publishers
Comrie, B. (1996), Language universals and linguistic typology. Oxford; Blackwell Publishers Ltd
Cooper, R. L. (1996). Language planning and social change. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press
De Vries, J. (1995), "Language policy and regional characteristics of minority language communities". in: W. Fase, K. Jaspaert & S. Kroon (eds), The state of Minority Languages, Lisse; Swets & Zeitlinger
Dillard, J. M., (1996) Star Trek, where no one has gone before. A history in pictures. New York; Pocket Books
Eco, U. (1995), Europa en de volmaakte taal. Amsterdam; Agon
Edwards, J. (1985) Language, society and identity. Oxford; Basil Blackwell in association with Andre Deutsch
Forster, P. G. (1982), The Esperanto movement. The Hague; Mouton
Giles, H., Bourhis R. & Taylor D. (1977), "Towards a Theory of Language in Ethnic Group relations" in Giles, H. (ed.) Language, ethnicity and intergroup relations London; Academic Press, p. 307-348
Grune, D. (1997), ftp://ftp.cs.vu.nl/pub/dick/publications/MutsunKlingonComparison.txt
Gumperz, J. J. (1982), Language and social identity Cambridge; Cambridge University Press
Harlow, D. J. (1994), http://www.webcom.com/~donh/esperanto.html
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Okrand, M. (1996), The Klingon Way, a Warrior’s Guide. New York; Pocket Books
Okrand, M. (1985), The Klingon Dictionary. New York; Pocket Books.
Okrand, M. (1985), Mutsun Grammar. P. h. D Thesis; Berkely
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Shadid, W. A. (1998), Grondslagen van interculturele communicatie Houten; Bohn Stafleu Van Loghum
Tolkien, J. R. R. ( 1995), The Lords of the Rings London; HarperCollins Publishers
Van Hise, J. (1995), the unauthorized History of Trek. New
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Widdicombe, S. & Wooffitt, R. (1995), The language of youth subcultures". Hertfordshire; Simon & Schuster International Group
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Literature found on the Internet:
http://www.kli.org/ Official site of the Klingon Language Institute
A language site with a description of Quenya
A. Some interesting sites on the Internet
http://www.startrek.com/trekkies/trekkies.html All about the one and only Star Trek fans
http://www.bham.net/users/jbishop/st10lsts.html Star Trek parodies (for example: "when do you know Star Trek has taken over your life? When you understand Klingon").
http://www.simonsays.com/titles/0671528734/link.htmlThe homepage from the publisher of the Star Trek books
Here you can buy your own Star Trek things
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8853/index.html "The Internet edition of the journal of the Interstellar Language School (ILS), a less serious alternative to KLI. Glen F. Proechel (leader of the ILS) and his work. The ILS has often been criticised by the KLI. But his productivity has yet to be beaten, he has translated the New Testament, Hamlet, and produced many other things."
http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~VZ4S-KUBC/tlhindex.html#divihol (Japanese site, created by Shin'ichirou Koubuchi. Check out the Original Trading Cards Gallery, Kafka in the original Klingon, a guide to pronouncing Klingon words in Japanese, and a non-geocentric portrait of the bard SeQpIr.)
http://www.klingon.org/ "The Klingon Imperial Diplomatic Corps, an international non-profit organization dedicated to the fostering and promotion of Klingon culture and society here on Earth. On this award-winning KIDC Domain, you will find over 225 pages of Klingon data; info on the KIDC, Klingon rituals and ceremonies, intergalactic cuisine, fashion, weaponry, ships and more..."
http://www.geocities.com/Area51/1908/ Site with many (the most) Klingon links
http://members.xoom.com/KTesh/index.htm Some of the most authentic Klingon food recipes
http://www.hotink.com/warriors/A site where one can see how Klingons really look like. It is even possible to get yourself changed into a Klingon.
It should be known that this survey had a different shape on the Internet than it has now, but the from that was used on the Internet had more graphic capabilities.
The questions are of course the same.
|Not good at all||Bad||Average||Pretty good||Very good|
|Klingon||Both||Your own language|
|Klingon||Both||Your own language|
|Klingon||Both||Your own language|
|Klingon||Both||Your own language|
|Klingon||Both||Your own language|
|Marry me||Be my close friend||Be my neighbour||Be my colleague||Live in my country||Visit my country|
|Marry me||Be my close friend||Be my neighbour||Be my colleague||Live in my country||Visit my country|
|I agree very much||I agree||No opinion||I disagree||I disagree very much|
|Broad interest||Small interest|
|I agree very much||I agree||No opinion||I disagree||I disagree very much|
|Broad interest||Small interest|
|Very positive||positive||No opinion||Negative||Very negative|
|Very positive||positive||No opinion||Negative||Very negative|
|Very positive||positive||No opinion||Negative||Very negative|
Figure 3.1 A taxonomy of the structural variables affecting etholinguistic vitality (Giles and other, 1977, p. 309)
Figure 4.1 Differences in personal features of all respondents between a survey done in 1996 and this survey (n= 604 resp. 109)
Figure 4.2 Age distribution (n= 79)
Figure 4.3 Country of residence (n= 79)
Figure 4.4 Ethnic background (n= 68)
Figure 4.5 Occupations (n= 79)
Figure 4.6 Known languages , multiple answers were possible (n= 79)
Figure 4.7 Used languages, multiple answers were possible (n=79)
Figure 4.8 Ways of getting into contact with Klingon (n= 79)
Figure 4.9 Ways of learning Klingon (n=78)
Figure 4.10 Years of study (n= 78)
Figure 4.11 Years of speaking Klingon (n= 77)
Figure 4.12 Frequency of use ( n (oral) = 78, n (written) = 74)
Figure 4.13 Klingon use (what for), multiple answers were possible (n= 79)
Figure 4.14 Klingon use (where) multiple answers were possible (n=79)
Figure 4.15 Rated ability in oral and written Klingon (1996 n= 574, 1999 n= 79)
Figure 4.16 Why use any Klingon, multiple answers were possible (n= 79)
Figure 4.17 language preferences (n=77)
Figure 4.18 Bogardus Social Distance Scale, multiple answers were possible
Figure 4.19 Attitudes about people who speak Klingon, multiple answers were possible
Figure 4.20 Expectations about the future (n=109)