Klingon and literature

Mark E. Shoulson mark at kli.org
Thu Sep 23 08:56:25 CDT 2021

On 9/20/21 4:45 PM, William_J_G Overington via Unicode wrote:
> I have noted it claimed that Klingon is now a language and has its own 
> original literature and is worth encoding in Unicode.
> I have found Klingon poetry on the web.
> Would it help the case to be made if there were presented examples, 
> with translations to English, of Klingon poetry?

I don't see what case would be made.  Klingon's language-ness wasn't at 
issue; it was the usage of pIqaD to transmit it that was claimed to be 

> I know that poetry does not need to rhyme, but much poetry does rhyme.
> So does Klingon poetry have rhymes?

There was a big debate about that loooong ago among Klingonists. And of 
course the answer is that some people think rhymes are important in 
Klingon and some people don't.  I don't think «paq'batlh» rhymes, but I 
could be misremembering.  The translation of Ben Jonson's poem at the 
front of the First Folio (found at the front of the Klingon Hamlet) does 
rhyme and scan (I know because I wrote it.)  There is rhyme in the 
Klingon translation of Hamlet (Nick Nicholas was of the opinion that 
rhyming did exist in Klingon poetry.)

Look, poets do what they like, ok?

> What words rhyme in Klingon that give an insight in a poem that is not 
> apparent in translations of the poem to other languages?
Words that rhyme giving insight that isn't in other languages...? Not 
sure I follow you.  If it is news to you that poems which rhyme in one 
language don't necessarily rhyme when translated into another (depending 
on the fidelity of the translation) then you know less about languages 
than I thought.  (Now, I have a fascination with the style of 
translation that seemed to be fashionable in the 1950s or so, where they 
worked hard to preserve the rhyme and scansion and somehow managed to be 
surprisingly faithful to the original also, and I've been experimenting 
with it myself, but that's a completely different conversation.)
> So can any such effect be shown in Klingon poetry with words that 
> rhyme in Klingon yet do not rhyme in English?
I'm not sure what kind of reasoning is going on with this question. Are 
there poems in Klingon (or that could be written in Klingon) which rhyme 
words whose translations don't rhyme?  That this is true seems so 
trivial that I wonder why the question is even being asked.  
Contrariwise, it's harder to do the other way, to make translations that 
rhyme in both.  (There was a project once to translate "Leaves of three 
/ let them be" (a rhyme of warning to avoid the triple-leafletted poison 
ivy plant) into various languages.  I managed Esperanto, Klingon, 
Lojban, and Volapük translations that rhymed, but that doesn't mean 
those languages are in any way codes of one another.  Different words 
rhymed in each version, the translations weren't word-for-word... I mean 
come on, translations are translations!)
> If I were on the Unicode Technical Committee that would impress me - 
> but I am not going to be on that committee - yet maybe it would help 
> the case for encoding Klingon anyway.
That a language isn't a mechanical encoding of another language is 
certainly important, but it's also a very very low bar.  That's why Pig 
Latin isn't generally recognized as a separate language. Besides, this 
isn't about encoding Klingon as a language: the language is in use and 
exists and that was obvious back in 1997 as well.  The (ostensible) 
dispute was about the writing system used for the language: was the 
Latin transcription the only way it was written, or did pIqaD have usage 
as well?  This is not a question which is subject to answering by 
reading poetry, but by looking at how it was written down.


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