[tlhIngan Hol] The conspicuous absence of -ew', -Iw' and -Iy'

Terrence Donnelly terrence.donnelly at sbcglobal.net
Wed Dec 28 07:36:51 PST 2016

As an aside, I've always considered the pattern -rgh to actually represent the application of an "r" coloring to the preceding vowel (technically, rhotacization). That is, although written V-r-gh, with 3 characters, the actual sound is (Vr)-gh, with Vr being r-colored V. It makes no functional difference, but does preserve the usually strict CVC structure of Klingon.

      From: Felix Malmenbeck <felixm at kth.se>
 To: "tlhingan-hol at kli.org" <tlhingan-hol at kli.org> 
 Sent: Wednesday, December 28, 2016 9:01 AM
 Subject: [tlhIngan Hol] The conspicuous absence of -ew', -Iw' and -Iy'
 <!--#yiv1139785635 P{margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;}#yiv1139785635 p {margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;}-->A while back, I made the observation that there are no attested Klingon words with a syllable ending in -ew', -Iw' or -Iy'.
This is rather peculiar, as words/syllables ending in -ew ({ghew}, {qew}, {Supghew}...), -Iw ('Iw, lIw, mIw...) and -Iy (lIy, wIy, nIyma'...) have all been used in canon.

That being said, these examples are quite rare. I did a (rather sloppy) search for words containing syllables ending in -aw, -ew, -Iw, -ay, -ey, -Iy, -oy and -uy in canon, along with those same ones followed by ' and found the following. The results can be found at the end of this e-mail.
The list does show a certain deficit of words with syllables ending in -ew (7) or -Iw (7, 3 of which are compounds involving 'Iw) compared with -aw (18), which may go some way towards explaining the lack of -ew' and -Iw'; perhaps they're not forbidden, but incredibly rare.Interestingly, however, -aw' was more common than -aw, so it's slightly surprising that -ew' and -Iw' are completely absent.
Has there been any discussion of this? Does anybody have any idea what the reason might be? Has anybody perhaps even asked Okrand?

I find it rather curious, because with Klingon's rather rigid syllable structure, I'd kind of expect a very high percentage of the possible syllables to be in use for something, and assuming that useful words are spread out fairly evenly, it's a bit surprising that we haven't seen any.I have noticed that the vowels 'at and 'ot appear to be the most frequently occuring in the language, followed by 'et and 'ut, and then 'It in last place. Could it be that some sort of unwritten rule makes frequently used words more likely to contain these popular vowels, and thus less likely to contain these absent syllable endings? Might there be a wealth of highly esoteric terminology using -ew' and -Iw' and -Iy' out there that only Klingon dweebs use?
It's worth noting that TKD only contained one word ending in -Irgh, namely {chIrgh}, and it wasn't until KGT that we got our second one, {SIrgh}. The third one arrived ... four weeks ago, namely the word {'Irgh}, meaning "bully" (verb): http://www.klingonwiki.net/En/PopCultureHeroCoalitionSo, it does seem quite possible that these words are still out there, and we just haven't seen them yet.

== Counting syllables ==

-aw: 18 words + 1 Terran location name-ew: 7 words + {qewwI'}* + 1 Terran location name
-Iw: 7 words** + 1 Terran location name-ow: 0 (see TKD p.17)
-uw: 0 (see TKD p.17)
-aw': 23 + 1 verb suffix-ew': 0-Iw': 0-ow': 0 (forbidden?)-uw': 0 (forbidden?)
-ay: 22 words*** + qaywI'** + 20 letter names + 1 Terran location name-ey: 17 words + 2 noun suffixes + 4 Klingon names + 1 Terran location name-Iy: 7 words + 1 Klingon location name + 5 Terran location names (including rIymuS)-oy: 7 words + 1 noun suffix -uy: 11 words
-ay':  31 words† + Qay'wI'** + 1 Klingon(?) location name (tay'ghoqor) + 2 Terran location names-ey': 10 words-Iy': 0-oy': 16 words†† + 1 non-Klingon(?) location name (Doy'yuS)-uy': 10 words 

Here I have treated spaceless or irregular compound words (such as {qawHaq} pr {paw'aD}) as their own words, but not words that can be formed regularly using suffixes (such as {qawmoH}).When two words are related homonyms (i.e. the noun {chaw'} and the verb {chaw'}), both are counted.I did not count words such as {DoyIchlan}, which I read as Do-yIch-lan, rather than Doy-Ich-lan, so as not to have any syllables starting with vowels. Words like {quy'Ip}, where the apostrophe is immediately followed a vowel, were counted to the non-apostrophe tally (-uy in this case), for the same reason.Transcriptions of Terran non-location names (such as {jemS tIy qIrq}, {Day joH} and {'entepray'}) have been ignored because I'm lazy.

*I wasn't sure if I should treat {qewwI'}, {qaywI'} and {Qay'wI'} as their own words, as they are regularly derived terms (qew + -wI'), but with fairly specific meanings which are not *quite* obvious from this analysis.
**Of these 7 words, 3 clearly involve the root {'Iw}: {'Iw}, {'Iwghargh} and {ro'qegh'Iwchab}. I felt this was worth noting.
***Of these 21 words, 6 clearly involve the root {tay} ("rite, ceremony, ritual"): {tay}, {chontay}, {Heghtay}, {muvtay}, {nentay}, {ruStay}. If we don't count these or letter names, then -ey is more common than -ay (and, in terms of usage frequency, it almost certainly is anyway, thanks to -mey and to some degree -Hey).
†Of these 31 words, 5 are battle-related and include the syllable {may'}: {may'}, {DIvI'may'Duj}, {may'Duj}, {may'luch} and {may'morgh}††Of these 16 words, 4 are pain-related and include the syllable {'oy'}: {'oy} (noun), {'oy'} (verb) and {'oy'naQ}.

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