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pIqaD is the Klingon word for "writing system", and within the fiction of Star Trek is applied to the examples of Klingon writing seen on the program.

There have been two versions of the script shown. The first, known as the Klinzhai or Mandel script, was included in The U.S.S. Enterprise Officer's Manual (1980), "based loosely upon the initial conceptual art of Matt Jeffries", TOS set designer; it has a mapping from various letters and digraphs of English, and does not have a discernable relation with the Klingon Language as invented by Marc Okrand and published in 1985.

The second version is that which has figured in the Star Trek movies, on The Next Generation and subsequent series; it was designed by the Astra Image Corporation for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but is mostly associated by fandom with Michael Okuda, the TNG scenic designer.

Paramount has never promulgated a mapping of pIqaD glyphs to the phonemes of Okrand's tlhIngan Hol, and Okuda has explicitly repudiated any such mapping (Lee 1992):

I do not --- I feel very strongly about this --- I do not create a one-to-one correspondence between English letters and any alien language. The reason being is, if you do that, then eventually it begins to look like English.

Okrand has similarly hinted that the pIqaD is probably not an alphabet but a more complex script.

There is a widely known alphabetic mapping of pIqaD to the phonemes of Klingon. However, it does not enjoy 'Canon' status (i.e. official approval from the custodians of the Trek mythos.) Furthermore, there are glyphs in Astra's repertoire not included in the mapping, and vice versa.

The mapping, reported in Schoen (1992a, 1992b), was given in "an unofficial letter to a Klingon fan group from an unnamed source at Paramount." Whereas the set used in the show seems to involve only 9 glyphs, the Klingonist mapping involves 26 glyphs for the phonemes of Klingon, 10 digits, and the Klingon Mummification Glyph.

The "Klingon Mummification Glyph", which is the well known Klingon trefoil, is a logo presumably copyrighted by Paramount. The Klingon Language Institute formerly used it as a logo and included it in its fonts (whence it made it to the ConScript inventory for Klingon); it is now excluded from both functions, to avoid any conflict by the KLI with Paramount's zealous policing of its intellectual property.

As a web search of XIFAN and Klingon will show, there has been a little use of pIqaD online. (XIFAN is the KLI font ASCII mapping of the pIqaD for tlhIngan, 'Klingon'.) It is true, however, that few Klingonists can actually read pIqaD with any fluency, and the extensive use of Klingon online virtually always involves the canonical Romanisation as defined by Okrand: pIqaD is mostly used ornamentally (T-shirts, web page headings).

pIqaD and Unicode

Klingon had long been proposed for inclusion in Unicode (September 1997), and roadmapped for codepoints U+12100 - U+1212F. This was a favourite point to bring up in lay presentations of Unicode --- computer geeks couldn't make much of Unicode including Ugaritic or Pahawh Hmong, but "so comprehensive it even includes Klingon" was a point easy enough to make, and easy enough for the target audience to understand.

The official reason why the proposal was finally rejected in May 2001 (and left to languish in the meantime) was that there is no substantial information exchange in the script. The other widely known fictional scripts, Tolkien's, do have some use in information exchange, and their proposals remain "Under investigation" (and controversial).

For the unofficial reason, threads on the Klingon mailing list (particularly leading up to the official rejection) should make the sentiment on pIqaD fairly clear:

—including Klingon is frivolous, many feel, and would bring Unicode into disrepute. The frequent added argument that we should not waste resources on Klingon while worthy minority scripts like Tai Le go unencoded is bogus --- as Michael Everson, who has been doing both, has forcefully rebutted; but this is as much about impressions as anything else, particularly outside the US.

Personally, I do not regard pIqaD as more or less frivolous than Tengwar—or for that matter Meroitic: as Carl-Martin Bunz has pointed out, the demand for including many historical scripts comes from just as hobbyist a concern—academics almost always use transliterations instead (see e.g. the German Standardisation Organisation's response on Meroitic itself), and the problems of isolating an emic inventory of codepoints for an imperfectly known and mutable script can be insurmountable. (Egyptian hieroglyphics is a Lydian stone for this issue; while on scripts like cuneiform, Bunz says that "any non-expert application, including fonts, must be designated as funware—except for manuals designed for beginners.")

For all that, the ConScript mapping for Klingon in the Private Use Area (U+F8D0 - U+F8FF) has proven an acceptable compromise: it has surfaced in at least one font (Code2000), and is presumed in online applications (e.g. jbovlaste).

I do not think it an exaggeration to note that it is one of the more widely used subsets of the Private Use Area.

The substitution of pIqaD with Sarati on the Unicode Roadmap was a delightful move of defiance, by the way...


Online resources include:

Lee, J. 1992. An Interview with Michael Okuda. HolQeD 1.1. 11.

Schoen, L.M. 1992a. Some Comments on Orthography. HolQeD 1.1. 18-20.

Schoen, L.M. 1992b. Numerals. HolQeD 1.4. 17.

Nick Nicholas, opoudjis [AT] optusnet . com . au
Created: 2003-06-14; Last revision: 2003-06-15
URL: http://www.opoudjis.net/Klingon/piqad.html