Having just started the Duolingo Klingon course, I'm wondering if anybody is using the Klingon writing system (pIqaD) at all, or whether the Latin transliteration is always used?

As the characters look pretty hard to learn for someone with a Western background, I tend towards the transliteration only; I guess one issue is a cursive (ie handwriting) script, as the original characters seem hard to write by hand.

  • 3
    In general, the Klingon Language Mailing List (tlhIngan-Hol) sticks to the Latin. There is occasionally some discussion of pIqaD, but little of the extant tlhIngan-Hol corpus actually uses it. – Jeff Zeitlin Mar 19 at 19:33
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    Others have already answered this question, but if you want some examples of pIqaD in use, I can recommend: @ pIqaD on Twitter: twitter.com/pIqaD @ chaDQI's pIqaD calligraphy: instagram.com/explore/tags/klingonshodo – loghaD Mar 24 at 12:49
up vote 12 down vote accepted

The official Klingon orthography according to the Klingon Language Institute is the Latin transcription. It is what Marc Okrand, the language's creator, developed and uses.

The Klingon script used in from Star Trek: the Next Generation on, known as the Okuda script (Michael Okuda was the set designer for Next Generation), is used, but it's worth noting that while the sounds of Klingon have been mapped onto these letters, the movies and shows just put random jumbles of letters on signs and things (this may not be true of Star Trek: Discovery, however -- I've heard they may actually have translated the signage). It's also not the only Klingon script to have been used -- according to an article in HolQeD, the Klingon Language Institute's journal, the 1980 U.S.S. Enterprise Officer's Manual (now out of print) featured a completely different Klingon script, though this one was a mere way of encoding English text rather than being mapped onto Klingon phonemes (Okrand did not publish The Klingon Dictionary until 1985, after all).

Given this sort of background, you can by no means take for granted that the Okuda script is the "real" Klingon pIqaD, even though it will be occasionally used to write Klingon. The Okrand transliteration is the only truly official orthography.

In any case, resources and activities written in Klingon are more often written using the official Okrand transliteration than with the Okuda script -- the Klingon subtitles on Star Trek: Discovery, for one example, are in the transliteration (can't make Unicode add new characters for such things, after all!) In general, you'll be fine with just the transliteration -- in fact, you may have an easier time, as the transliteration is easy to type. That said, no one will judge you if you use the Okuda script because you want the writing to feel less Terran or something.

  • "can't make Unicode add new characters for such things, after all!" FYI Tengwar is in Unicode, so technically you can :) – meskobalazs Mar 20 at 9:44
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    In fact, Klingon was rejected from Unicode. Unicode is a joint standard of the Unicode Consortium and ISO, which means National Standards bodies get veto. The German National Standards Body (I think) objected, and the objection was pretty much around bringing Unicode into disrepute. That was in the happy days before Unicode turned into an emoji dumping ground. – Nick Nicholas Mar 22 at 6:02
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    @NickNicholas: Yes it seems ironic that an actual language was rejected but the "pile of poo" emoji now has pride of place. Another word would be "sad" :( – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 27 at 13:29
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Another would be 😔 – Davislor Apr 26 at 10:46
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    > (this may not be true of Star Trek: Discovery, however -- I've heard they may actually have translated the signage) This is accurate. There is quite a lot of tlhIngan Hol written in pIqaD on Discovery, such as ornaments on the Sarcophagus ship and signs in the Orion district on Qo'noS. We've even been able to deconstruct parts of an Orion alphabet (used with English words) by comparing it to Klingon text on bilingual signs. – loghaD Apr 28 at 21:48

pIqaD shows up here and there, but in my experience (which is 20 years old, but I haven't seen much to contradict it), its use is emblematic. People will put a word up here and there, and it will appear in T-shirts; but people do not read connected texts in it.

As is, pIqaD is indeed unwritable with a pen. I experimented in my time with ways of making it more writeable: see my handiwork at Klingonska Akademien, linked from the discussion of some pictures of pI­qaD.

  • 1
    Thanks for this! It's a shame that it is pretty much unusable as a proper writing system. I find the transliteration rather unsatisfactory. It would be aesthetically much nicer to have a decent font to render texts in. – Oliver Mason Mar 22 at 9:30

Mark Shoulson revived the proposal to encode Klingon in Unicode, in a 2016 document called “pIqaD (Klingon) and its Usage.” In it, he gives several examples, including a comic book, Star Trek: [Manifest Destiny] #1, translated into Klingon and printed almost entirely in pIqaD.

The most recent example I’ve seen of someone using pIqaD in a context that has nothing to do with Star Trek is that some fans of the pro soccer player Meghan Klingenberg, of the Portland Thorns, bring this banner to all her home games in Portland, Oregon (photo by Molly Blue):

tlhIngebrgh

The Klingon Wiki has a list of fonts that support Klingon, including several that encode it in the region of the Private Use Area standardized by the Linux Kernel, and later, the ConScript Unicode Registry and adopted by the Klingon Language Instutute. There are, additionally, several TeX packages not listed there that support Klingon.

The font downloads and some other support files are on this page, although you might not necessarily want to install the registry entries, It’s usable; I got this image in LuaLaTeX with the KAG pIqaD font, complete with kerning:

pIqaD

Here is the same template with the font Klingon pIqaD vaHbo’ by Mike Neft:

Klingon pIqaD vaHbo'

Source code, in case the template is useful:

\documentclass[preview,varwidth]{standalone}

\usepackage{graphicx}
\usepackage{fontspec}

\makeatletter
%% Use the ISO 639 language code tlh as an abbreviation.
\newcommand\@tlhfontname{pIqaD}

%% Because many Klingon fonts do not contain a Latin alphabet, take the ratio
%% of the height of the H in the main text font to either the Latin H of the
%% the pIqaD font if it contains one, or the Klingon H if it does not, and
%% scale the pIqaD by that ratio.  This means pIqaD will match the height of
%% English.
\newlength{\@capheight}
\settoheight{\@capheight}{\normalfont H}

\newlength{\@tlhheight}
\settoheight{\@tlhheight}{{\fontspec{\@tlhfontname}
                           \iffontchar\font`H
                              H
                           \else
                              \symbol{"F8D6}
                           \fi}}

\newcommand{\@capratio}{\strip@pt\dimexpr 1.0pt *
                        \numexpr\@capheight\relax /
                        \numexpr\@tlhheight\relax\relax }

%% For symmetry with Polyglossia's \sanskritfont, \sanskrittext,
%% \devanagarifont, etc.
\newfontfamily{\klingonfont}{\@tlhfontname}[Scale=\@capratio]

\newcommand\klingontext[1]{{\klingonfont #1\relax}}

%% It's more consistent with LaTeX conventions to define strictly text-mode
%% symbols with names like \texttlhA than \klingonA, and this is a Very
%% Serious Project™.
\newcommand\texttlhA{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D0}}}
\newcommand\texttlhB{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D1}}}
\newcommand\texttlhCH{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D2}}}
\newcommand\texttlhD{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D3}}}
\newcommand\texttlhE{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D4}}}
\newcommand\texttlhGH{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D5}}}
\newcommand\texttlhH{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D6}}}
\newcommand\texttlhI{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D7}}}
\newcommand\texttlhJ{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D8}}}
\newcommand\texttlhL{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8D9}}}
\newcommand\texttlhM{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8DA}}}
\newcommand\texttlhN{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8DB}}}
\newcommand\texttlhNG{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8DC}}}
\newcommand\texttlhO{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8DD}}}
\newcommand\texttlhP{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8DE}}}
\newcommand\texttlhQ{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8DF}}}
\newcommand\texttlhQH{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E0}}}
\newcommand\texttlhR{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E1}}}
\newcommand\texttlhS{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E2}}}
\newcommand\texttlhT{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E3}}}
\newcommand\texttlhTLH{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E4}}}
\newcommand\texttlhU{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E5}}}
\newcommand\texttlhV{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E6}}}
\newcommand\texttlhW{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E7}}}
\newcommand\texttlhY{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E8}}}
\newcommand\texttlhGlott{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8E9}}}
\newcommand\texttlhZero{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F0}}}
\newcommand\texttlhOne{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F1}}}
\newcommand\texttlhTwo{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F2}}}
\newcommand\texttlhThree{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F3}}}
\newcommand\texttlhFour{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F4}}}
\newcommand\texttlhFive{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F5}}}
\newcommand\texttlhSix{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F6}}}
\newcommand\texttlhSeven{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F7}}}
\newcommand\texttlhEight{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F8}}}
\newcommand\texttlhNine{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8F9}}}
\newcommand\texttlhComma{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8FD}}}
\newcommand\texttlhStop{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8FE}}}
\newcommand\texttlhMumm{\klingontext{\symbol{"F8FF}}}

\makeatother

\newcommand\tlhIngenbergh{\texttlhTLH\texttlhL\texttlhI\texttlhNG%
\texttlhE\texttlhN\texttlhB\texttlhE\texttlhR\texttlhGH}
% Could also directly insert the Unicode PUA characters.
\newlength{\nameWidth}
\settowidth{\nameWidth}{\tlhIngenbergh}

\begin{document}

\resizebox{\nameWidth}{!}{\texttlhMumm} \\
\tlhIngenbergh

\end{document}

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