[tlhIngan Hol] hard truths about the future

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Tue Dec 21 08:02:24 PST 2021

I respectfully disagree with both of you.

I think that Tolkien and Okrand are simply two different geniuses who deserve respect with none of us really having the authority to disrespect one while deferring to the other. Neither Okrand nor Tolkien would have had anyone interested in their languages if not for the fictional worlds in which those languages were spoken. Tolkien certainly went broader in terms of developing multiple languages for multiple cultures in the same fictional universe, basing them on his personal research into earlier languages in the British Isles, and in creating that universe, but none of those languages have the useful vocabulary of Klingon because Tolkien never dove that deeply into any of the languages he created. He was too busy creating novels to create robust, extensive dictionaries.

I dealt with one Tolkien language fan who boasted of how superior Elvin was to Klingon by translating a sentence he gave me into Klingon and then asking him to translate something into Elvin for me. His face froze, and he backpedaled to say that he didn’t PERSONALLY know the language well enough, but OTHERS certainly could… and so forth.

As I said, both language creators had genius and deserve our respect.

As to who should lead the language, the simple truth is that as the creator, Okrand has authority. Nobody else does. I could make up vocabulary and extend and refine the grammar, as could any of several experienced Klingon speakers on this list, but why would the rest of us accept that as part of the language WE will use to communicate? We have a reason to accept Okrandian canon. We don’t have a reason to follow anybody else.

I’m sure that we could splinter off into subgroups who make up their own vocabulary and interpret or extend the language as they like. This has been true for decades, though I don’t know how anyone has faced the challenge of finding followers.

If Okrand states that Maltz is now communicating with someone other than Okrand and we should all follow that other person, maybe we’ll do that, or maybe we’ll disintegrate as a movement as we find the language less interesting with some other person at the helm. With no new Star Trek TV series and the uncertainty of the arrival of new movies, this might even happen while Okrand is in charge.

Or maybe there will be enough nerdy zealots to keep the language going with no new vocabulary or clarified grammar. Or maybe we’ll form a committee of grammarians who will head-butt our way through communal development of the language. Or maybe Paramount will anoint a new authority for the language (that we subsequently accept or ignore).

Whatever the case, it will either progress through some new authority, or devolve through decreasing capacity to adapt or decreasing interest.

The truth is that for both Klingon and the Tolkien languages, there are a LOT more instances of people arguing with each other over the languages and how they should properly be used than there are people actually using the languages in conversation or writing. Read any interesting Elvin books lately? Yes, we have some Klingon literature, both original and translated, which is one of the coolest things about the language, but production is remarkably slow, and works are collected by more people than they are read by. 

It is good that those who make the effort to produce Klingon works get the support from the group that arises. That’s one of the strongest indicators that the language is likely to survive. So long as, after we pass, bookshelves exist with Klingon works, some future nerd can begin the amateur anthropological project of learning the language and enjoying the thrill of having developed the capacity to read what nobody they grew up with could read, there is hope, because it’s not just Okrand who will pass. We all will pass.

We can set that secret trap for the future, for a revival, even if we don’t fully survive without Okrand or maybe even Paramount’s attention to Klingon characters.

This is why we should be writing more stuff in Klingon. That’s what might make the language last longer than we will, for those of us who care about that.

> On Dec 21, 2021, at 4:32 AM, De'vID <de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, 20 Dec 2021 at 15:28, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name <mailto:sustel at trimboli.name>> wrote:
> The ability of Klingon to survive a transition to a new keeper for 
> people like us will not depend on someone being able to replicate the 
> work of a genius. It will depend, rather, on how believably the 
> fictional reality of Klingon can be maintained in its new context. If 
> Okrand just says, "Maltz has decided to move to Joe's basement, so Joe 
> gets to report new Klingon words now" or some such statement, I would 
> find that ham-handed at best. If authority is granted to a committee to 
> invent new Klingon words, that would be even worse, since I can imagine 
> no good way in which a committee of human beings could be connected with 
> reporting actual Klingon from the fictional universe. I would actually 
> find it more satisfying to learn that our window into the secondary 
> world has closed, leaving our canon of Klingon frozen at the current 
> state, because that would be most believable. But it would be disappointing.
> I think the likeliest scenario is that Paramount/CBS (or whoever the rights owner is at the time) will hire someone to continue to supply Klingon for the movies and shows. (Indeed, people other than Okrand are already doing this, though they are not producing anything "beyond canon" at the moment.) If they hire the same person over and over (which is not a given), and that person were to be interested in expanding Klingon (which is also not a given), then that person will effectively become the new authority on Klingon. After all, the reason that we treat Okrand's work as being authoritative is partly because it's "official", and not just because he invented it. (If he had invented the Klingon language on his own as a hobby with no connection to Star Trek, I doubt any of us would be speaking it. He'd also worked on other languages like Atlantean, which have basically no community around them. The reason Klingon is popular is because of its connection to Star Trek.)
> It may be that some of the "old guard" who have been around since forever won't accept another authority, but if Paramount/CBS continues to produce Klingon-language media (not a given), and some new person was working on it, then anyone who is new to Klingon (and thus don't especially have an attachment to Okrand's work) would just accept that person's work as "canon".
> While Maltz-is-living-in-Okrand's-basement is a cute joke, we don't really *need* the fiction of Maltz. If a new Star Trek movie or show came out with new Klingon words, and the person who worked on it told us what they meant, what does it matter whether or not they said that the information came through Maltz? Okrand himself hasn't consistently used the Maltz backstory when revealing new information.
> -- 
> De'vID
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