May 04, 2016 I Brett Tingley

Trekkies Launch Legal Battle Over Status of Klingon Language

The world of conlangs, or constructed languages, has been receiving some uncharacteristically large headlines this month. The Language Creation Society has filed a lawsuit against the Paramount corporation over a dispute concerning the ownership of the Klingon language. The spar began when a group of diehard Trekkies began work on a fan film called Axanar.

Axanar’s creators wanted to make the film feel as legitimate and authentic as possible, and thus the same Klingon language of the Star Trek series was spoken by the film’s Klingon characters.

Paramount immediately sued the film’s creators, arguing that Klingon is their intellectual property since it was designed for their Star Trek franchise. Many Klingon enthusiasts, however, argue that while Klingon might have begun its life in TV scripts, the language has since become an actual living language.

Klingon is a fully-structured language, designed by linguist Mark Okrand for the Star Trek films and television series. Dozens of Klingon dictionaries and language-learning resources are available for fans or linguists to use while learning the language, and there are even Klingon-only conventions where Klingson speakers can gather to bask in the harsh, guttural cacophony of the language. Some fans even go so far as to have their wedding ceremonies performed entirely in Klingon.

klingon wedding costumes
I now pronounce you loDnal and be'nal

Klingon is one of the world’s most high-profile conlangs due to the popularity of the sci-fi franchise that spawned it. While other conlangs such as the Elvish language from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series or Dothraki from A Game of Thrones might also be fully realized languages, they do not have the support of such a dedicated community of speakers that Klingon does. Speakers of the Star Trek-inspired language are now even translating Shakespeare into Klingon and writing original Klingon operas. Given that modern Hebrew began as a constructed language and is now the official language of Israel, the future of Klingon might someday go beyond weddings and cosplay conventions. So, Klingon speakers, qaStaHvIS yIn 'ej chep!

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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