[tlhIngan Hol] the sound of {o} analyzed

Lieven L. Litaer levinius at gmx.de
Sat Jul 4 12:03:12 PDT 2020

Hi folks,

I just had a chance to chat with Marc Okrand, and we briefly spoke about
this o-problem. First, before I said anything, he immediately repeated
that TKD really is just a rough sketch of the language, and that it was
written for the layman and also for English speakers.

What he easily could confirm was the letter {o} is surely not a
diphthong in the middle of the word. (I'll avoid giving English examples
for comparison, because it has become clear that English dialects over
the world are very different.) He also confirmed that is example of "go
and mosaic" was just to make clear that it's not o as in box or cop.

Next, he also has noticed himself that the Klingon letter {o} is
sometimes pronounced as an open [o] (IPA symbol as a reversed c) and
sometimes as a closed [o]. There might be a phonetic reason for that,
but he never thought about this, let stand even write it down. It would
make things too complicated.

(Now, first my apologies if this is phonetically and scientifically not
so correct. I'll try to describe in easy words. I suggest this message
being read aloud and slowly.)

Regarding the ow-problem, he pointed to an interesting thing of
phonetics which I was aware of, but never realized properly. The point
is that when you speak {w} your lips form the shape of a letter o.
That's also the same lips-form for speaking the letter u. But remember:
{w} is NOT a vowel, and it is NOT {u}. {w} does not have its own sound.

So, if you speak {aw}, {ew} or {Iw}, you start with the vowel (a,e,I)
and close your lips to form the w. It's not the final w sound that
creates this diphthong [au], it's the way of moving your lips towards
that final w position.

Let's do the same thing with {ow} (and {uw}): you start with the [o]
sound, but the difference here is that you already have your lips in the
position/the shape of the w, so there is no "transition-sound" from the
vowel to the {w}. THAT is the reason why {Dow} would sound identical to
{Do} - not because {o} is a diphthong [ou], but because {ow} also is NOT
a diphthong [ou], it's more like [o:]. (as a side note: the same happens
with {Iy})

These are not Okrand's words, they are mine. But I think that it now
makes a lot more sense and doesn't contradict anything.

Lieven L. Litaer
aka the "Klingon Teacher from Germany"

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