What is T’Kuvma saying in the trailer?

By: | Post date: 2017-09-28 | Comments: 5 Comments
Posted in categories: Artificial Languages

Klingon is back. Not that it ever really went away. And this time, Paramount is no longer massacring the language, like it did on the TV series. No more wij jup shit.

Wij jup? That’s the notorious TNG Klingonese rendering of “my friend”. Literally, as “my” + “friend”.

Where wIj in Klingon is a possessive suffix.

No, this time the purveyors of Trek are doing it right. Thanks in no small part, I suspect, to the meteoric rise of Dothraki and its ilk. They are doing huge chunks of the series in subtitled Klingon, and they have hired an actual Klingonist, Robyn “Qov” Stewart, to get the dialogue right. (And another Klingonist, Lieven Litaer, to subtitle the whole damn show into Klingon.)

I’ve met Robyn; 17 years ago. I’ve spoken Klingon with Robyn. tlhIngan Hol quv is in safe hands with her.

Safer, always, than it can be in the mouths of actors with mouths full of prosthetic teeth; but so long as there’s no more wij jup shit, it would be churlish to complain about the pronunciation of the Klingon on the show.

I never said, of course, that I was not a churl.

I’m unlikely to watch the series, but I have watched the trailer. Like many a Klingonist, I have rejoiced to recognise some of what is spoken. Like many a Klingonist, I have been dejected not to recognise all of what is spoken.

I’ve attempted to transcribe the Klingon and work out what is said; Lieven’s subtitles are likely already available and out there. But I’m noticing on the Klingon Facebook group (which I’ve just discovered; I’ve been out of touch for a while) that he’s being careful not to release stuff that is up to Robyn, or for that matter the production company, to ’otHa’.1 Peterson observed the same kinds of embargo with releasing the Dothraki and Valyrian he had written for Games of Thrones.

It was not easy. It was not easy at all. Not least because the English subtitles are slightly out of sync with the Klingon—no real surprise there. I’ve been edified by the margent of someone transcribing T’Kuvma’s subtitles from the episode over in Reddit (spoiler alert), and this is what I’ve come up with:

Donatu vaghDaq DIvI’ wIlulpu’, ’a qaSpa’ (?) veS poHvetlh …
We have become complacent in the time since we last battled the Federeation at Donatu V.
Lit: We battled the Federation at Donatu V, but before the time of that war…
[So I don’t know how they rendered “complacent” into Klingon yet]

mapIm neH (?) maH ’e’ luQaw’meH ghoS chaH
They come to destroy our individuality.
Lit: They come to destroy the fact that we, we are just (?) different.

DevwI’’a’pu’ Hov tIbejchoH
Great leaders, look to the stars.

pawpu’ Sanmaj
Our destiny has arrived.


may’ luqolthbogh wInobmeH, matay’taHvIS maQamrup’’a’?
Shall we rise up together, and give them the fight they deserve?
Lit: In order to give the fight they deserve, are we prepared to stand while being together?
It’s something of a nightmare, now that we are finally in the post-wij jup shit era of Klingon, that we are still relying on actors with prosthetic teeth; it’s like the very real nightmare faced by linguists when they record the last speaker of an unrecorded language, and they turn out not to have any teeth.
But the actor has made it harder than it needed to be, and I’m glad to see it wasn’t just me that thought so. From aforementioned Reddit margent:

Ferenginar: I liked the way he spoke. It reminded me of Native Americans when the speak their native languages.

Heh_period: IRC the actor said he was trying more for an Africanized dialect

Well, yes, though Africans still don’t Emphasise! Every! Single! Syllable! When! Speaking! In! Their! Languages!

BenjiTheWalrus: People complained about how he spoke but I loved every second. He. Was. Emph. A. Si. Zing.

… Ah. Now I get it.

T’Kuvma is the Klingon Shatner.


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  • June 2024
    M T W T F S S
    1. ’otHa’. New Klingon word for “to disclose”; antonym of ’ot “to withhold”. We’re going to get oodles of new vocabulary out of this show.

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