Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Marc Okrand

You have probably never heard of Marc Okrand, but I bet you have heard of what he has done – he created the Klingon language for the Star Trek movies. I’m no trekkie, but this doesn’t prevent me from being impressed nonetheless. This is an amazing feat when you think about it.

Language is a terribly complex tool – the more I learn about linguistics, the more impressed I am that we are able to understand each other at all! (I won’t go into a rant about that at the present moment). Have you ever tried to learn an additional language? In addition to the vocabulary there are all the grammar rules, verb tenses, and then all of the irregular rules that languages have. In English alone there are 12 different verb tenses: simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive, each of these can be put into the past, present and future. Now imagine creating a system like that in another language! Not all languages have the same amount of verb tenses, of course, but that was just to give an example of how complex a language is.

Klingon, as it turns out, is a rather extensive language. It is apparently rather difficult to learn. What is rather interesting, however, is that even Shakespeare has been translated into Klingon. Last fall, the Washington Shakespeare Company performed parts of both “Hamlet” and “Much Ado About Nothing” in Klingon. The lines were even performed in iambic pentameter. How cool is that?

Marc Okrand is an American linguist and although Klingon is his most notable achievement, he has also worked with Disney. Remember the 2001 movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire?” Marc Okrand created the language the Atlantean’s spoke. This language was apparently designed to act as a “mother language,” or a language from which the other world languages could possibly have evolved. This language was made to resemble Indo-European in turns of vocabulary, but had its own grammar system. Who would have thought so much thought would have gone into creating a fictional language for a cartoon? I think it is rather interesting that the creators of this movie tried to paint Atlantis as possibly being the birth of civilization on our world, or at least of the “Western” world.

I stumbled upon this information when writing a paper for a class. I’m glad I get to study things I find endlessly fascinating. :)

“Any man who does not make himself proficient in at least two languages other than his own is a fool.”  ~Martin H. Fischer

1 comment:

  1. Fool, reporting in! Unless math counts... Anyway, that *is* a pretty amazing feat. Marc Okrand = awesome.