In this morning’s headlines comes news that Bing Translate will now include Klingon, the fictional language of the Star Trek franchise, among its more than 40 language pairs. How do you say “how cool is that!” in Klingon? Oh, Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam! (It is a good day to die!)
This is a pretty big deal for a language that consists of little more than 2,000 total words. Where did the Klingon language start? And where does it all end?
The Klingon Language Timeline
1967 – The first reference to Klingon, originally called Klingonese, occurs in The Trouble With Tribbles, one of the most beloved episodes of Star Trek (The Original Series, TOS, 2×13)
1979 – Actor James Doohan (“Scotty”) creates the first 12 words of Klingon for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, spoken by actor Mark Lenard, who was playing the commander of a Klingon ship at the time rather than his later role as Spock’s father
1984 – Linguist Marc Okrand expands on Doohan’s work for the script of Star Trek III, creating the guttaral language’s words, sounds, grammar. (See Okrand’s 20 minute lecture on its development. Fascinating.)
1985 – Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books publishes The Klingon Dictionary, which goes on to sell more than half a million copies worldwide and is now also offered in Klingon <> German and Italian versions
1992 – Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen founds the nonprofit Klingon Language Institute (KLI) in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, USA, Earth, to bring together Trekkies interested in the study of Klingon linguistics and culture
1996 – Voice recognition company Dragon Systems (Dragon NaturallySpeaking) collaborates with Simon & Schuster on an interactive movie/computer game Star Trek: Klingon for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 that requires players at the disc 3 stage to learn and use the language
2000 – Backed by Pocket Books, Nick Nicholas and Andrew Strader of the Klingon Shakespeare Restoration Project of KLI publish the paperback version of The Klingon Hamlet, originally published as a limited-edition hardback by KLI in 1996
2008 – In “The Panty Piñata Polarization,” a season-two episode of the hit American sitcom The Big Bang Theory, our favorite nerds — Howard, Leonard, Raj, and Sheldon — are found playing a Klingon version of Boggle, a popular word game. (No word on an official release of the game though, sorry.)
2009 – KLI, Simon & Schuster, and Ultralingua collaborate to publish three apps as the Klingon Language Suite — Klingon-English dictionary, phrasebook, and audio lessons — for Apple’s iPhone iOs
2010 – The Klingon opera ‘u’, on the epic legend of “Kahless the Unforgettable,” a messianic figure in the fictional Klingon history, enjoys a sold-out debut in The Hague and bills itself as the first authentic Klingon opera on Earth
2013 – Microsoft’s Bing adds Klingon to its online machine translation engine
Did we miss some critical stage in our timeline, fellow Trekkies? Leave it in the comments!