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TitleVulcan Intro
Tags Verb Word Grammatical Tense Vulcan (Star Trek)
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Page 1

An Introduction to Vulcan Linguistics
and the Vulcan Languages
Traditional & Modern Golic

Ragtaya na'Gen-Lis-Tal Vuhlkansu
eh Gen-Lislar Vuhlkansu Ba- eh Iyi-Golik

[All original work on these pages Copyright ©1980-2005 by Mark R. Gardner et al operating as the Vulcan

Language Institute®. Star Trek and its related characters are copyrighted by Paramount Pictures, A

Viacom Company. Edits as noted by [square brackets] are by Doug Bigham, 2005, for LIN 312]

One of the most talked about subjects in Star Trek fandom is alien languages,

especially those of the Klingons and Vulcans. Over the past 40 years, fans of the series

have written about a Vulcan language of one kind or another, but most left their work

incomplete. Others made things so overly complicated, that few could hope to learn it

except insiders. While the first is understandable for amateur fan linguists, the second is

arrogant and not in the spirit of what Gene Roddenberry intended Star Trek to mean.

We strongly feel that the effort has to be honest as well as thorough. Our work since

1980 shows that one does not have to sweat blood (red or green) to learn a Vulcan


One major problem is that most writers on Vulcan linguistics approached Vulcan from

an Earth of the 20th Century point-of-view. Also, they neglected to consider that there

must be more than one major language in use on the planet Vulcan. These people

acted as if their language was the only "real" version and refused to accept anyone

else's work. We have had people react to us this way. Considering the hundreds of

languages on Earth, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that many languages did and still

do exist on Vulcan. We all have to remember that the Vulcan languages are alien

languages. They are not related to any of the languages of Earth! Trying to fit them into

a human mold is most illogical. Our research has been conducted as a professional,

scholarly project.

Many years ago, in the early days of fandom, the only examples of any Vulcan

language were a handful of words from the series and a couple novels. Many fans set

out to create a Vulcan language dictionary and grammar. They "filled in the gaps" by

creating words consisting mostly of the letters "S", "T", "P" and "K". Although some of

these vocabularies were quite creative, most of them were thinly disguised English or

other language words. Much of these early works have disappeared over the years as

the authors aged, passed away or official literature made their works "obsolete". Many

long-time fans have probably heard of the Vulcan Language Guide, a pamphlet

published by April Publications in 1977. They were sold via mail and at many

conventions over the years. The Vulcan language in that guide is suspiciously similar to

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Japanese! Several years ago, an acquaintance of ours from Japan, Akira Kawamura,

suggested this anonymous work may have been written by a Japanese-American fan!

After the release of Star Trek:The Motion Picture and its spoken Vulcan, further work on

their material apparently ended. Despite this, it opened up the eyes of many early fans,

including that of our founder and several early members.

The first person outside of our group (that we know of by name) who made an effort

with the Vulcan language was Katherine D. Wolterink, a frequent contributor to the old

Trek magazine and the Best of Trek series of books in the 1980s. In The Best of Trek

#10 she presented a Vulcan lexicon. Unfortunately, she insisted on giving it all the

articles, pronouns, prepositions, etc., of an Earth language. She twisted the speech

from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to fit. Vulcan languages developed independently

from Earth, so cannot follow the same pattern and structure we have here. Also, she

thought that Saavik and Spock spoke Romulan together in The Wrath of Khan (The

Best of Trek #7). First of all, it would be a major offense for Starfleet officers to speak an

enemy language on board a Federation starship, unless training for an undercover

mission in Romulan space. Also, the structure of the transcribed speech was not

dissimilar from previous examples of spoken Vulcan. Later, in a chat session, Marc

Okrand, famous for his Klingon work, stated that it was Vulcan and not Romulan, since

he was the one who came up with the spoken dialogue for that movie! Again, Vulcan is

an alien language and not an Earth language. Mark R. Gardner, the founder of the

Vulcan Language Institute, submitted several articles to Trek back then but none were

published before the publication disappeared. One of those articles was expanded into

this introduction.

The real break in the study of Vulcan languages came with the release of Star Trek: The

Motion Picture. In a most wonderful scene, Spock has completed years of the Kolinahr

training and is waiting to receive a symbol of total logic for his efforts. We finally are

treated to hearing Vulcan spoken in more than single words. Music to the ears for fans

of Vulcans! In the next two movies, we are pleased to have additional Vulcan to enjoy.

Later television series episodes and the successful line of novels also added words. We

almost decided to ignore the novels, since Paramount Pictures has advised that they do

not take anything in the early Bantam or current Pocket books as canon in Star Trek

chronology or history. Basically, the official line is that all of the novels, unless an

"official" novelization of a movie or TV episode, are apocryphal or non-canon. We

eventually decided to include some novel words because we felt it was of value in

linguistic study. The words are "real" even if the events are considered "fiction" within

the Star Trek universe!

Why an interest in Vulcan languages? First of all, our founder has been a fan of the

show since it first was on. "Amok Time" was a fascinating episode and started him

wondering about other facets of Vulcan life, including their language. To Mark,

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The alphabetic system used in Traditional Golic Vulcan (and Lowlands Golic Vulcan) is

made up of 30 symbols in all. The Traditional Golic Vulcan order of their letters is:

S T P K R L A D O E V U H G Ch I N Z M Y F W B Sh Th Kh Zh Ts Dzh Ks

The alphabetic system used in Modern Golic Vulcan is made up of 27 symbols in all.

The Modern Golic Vulcan order of their letters is:

S T P K R L A Sh O U D V Kh E H G Ch I N Zh M Y F Z Th W B

Since this instruction is for speakers of Federation Standard English (FSE), we will not

be using Vulcan symbols in our lessons.

In the early days of Earth-Vulcan contact, before the United Federation of Planets was

formed and FSE was formalized, an inaccurate transliteration alphabet was devised for

FSE speakers and many errors have continued to the present. You often see "y" written

instead of the more accurate "ai", for example. This is because the "y" in English is a

consonant or a vowel, whereas in Vulcan it is only a consonant. You can still see

"feyhan" and "kreyla" instead of "feihan" and "kreila". Also, the TGV letter "dzh" is often

incorrectly spelled "j" and "ks" as "x", although those characters do exist in other Golic

and non-Golic languages. The Vulcan Language Transliteration Conference of Stardate

6550.0 updated and corrected mistakes of the past. All our works use those official

Federation transliteration/spelling rules.


See Language Lesson 1 for information on pronunciation of TGV and MGV.


[In the Romanized spelling, vowels are pronounced as in IPA standard, with V+h being

the lax counterpart of a tense vowel (i.e. "e" = [e], "eh" = [E]), except "o" which, when

followed by "h", is front round /O/ (or glided /o«/) word initially or medially, and /o// finally;

doubly written vowels are long (i.e. "ii" = [i:]); all word-final lax vowels have a glottal-stop

offglide thing (i.e. "ih" = [I/]). Single-letter consonants are pronounced as in IPA

standard, except "y" = [j]; double letter consonants have the following values: "ch", "tch"

= [tS], "dzh" = [dZ], "kh" = [x], "th" = [T], "zh" = [Z], "ll" = [;], "mm" = [me], "nn" = [n«], "rr"

= [{], "ss" = [s:]. Double letters are not common in Golic Vulcan.]


Numbers or numerals come in five forms in TGV, MGV and LGV: Cardinal, Ordinal,

Enumerating, Combining and Adjectival. See the two lessons on numbers in our

language lessons for more information.

[edit: numbers:]

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There is no definite article in GV. For example, the word "ek'zer" can mean "jewel" or

"the jewel". Although this is confusing to many non-Vulcans, the Vulcans have no

trouble because context dictates the intent. The use of indefinite articles (a, an) is rare

in Modern Golic (and Lowlands Golic) usage and normally used only for emphasis. In

Traditional Golic, they are nearly always used unless understood or deemed



Plurals are often understood through context or by the use of pluralizing words, such as

a number. In those cases, the word does not change its form. A pluralizing direct suffix

(-lar) exists in TGV and MGV, similar to the "-s" of FSE.

When a construction like "a flock of birds" or "a pod of whales" is used in FSE, the type

of animal is pluralized. In GV, equivalent constructions are not pluralized, since the

collective word automatically indicates there is more than one animal. For example,

"treit t'kushel" (literally, "flock of bird") or "kuht t'sehlat" (literally, "herd of sehlat").


There are no regular cases in TGV or MGV. Reforms around the time of Surak dropped

many irregularities that appeared in some Vulcan languages and simplified the speech.

Surak's death lead to a stagnation in language reforms, so all irregularities were not

eliminated. Certain words, mostly pronouns, may have alternate forms for use in special

situations. These pronouns seem to have dative or reflexive forms. For example, du / tu

means "you" while vu means something like "you-yourself". Most of these alternative

forms are based on handed-down tradition.


Although many Federation languages have interrogative symbols, Golic Vulcan does

not -- there is no question mark. "Yes or No" questions are formed by using the word ha

at the very end of the sentence. Other questions are formed by using a questioning

word like wilat (where) at the end of the sentence. To aid offworlders with the language,

though, a question mark is often used in transliterated Vulcan (but never with true

written Vulcan).


Invectives, which are basically a way to "vulgarize" words, are extremely rare in

contemporary usage because of the distaste Vulcans feel in its use and even existence.

They encompass the grammatical formation in FSE of "darn", "damn", and worse words

in an adjectival way. Use of them in speech now does not fit with the logical lifestyle and

control of emotions that Vulcans embrace. In the pre-Surak world, their usage was

common, but today they are only used by those who do not follow Surak's teachings,

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6.4 Action/State words do have a category which can roughly be designated as

aspectral [sic; aspectual] or "Aktionsart".

1. Timeless action/state (still being in the state of preliminary discussions).

Probably an action/state which has neither beginning nor end, and still is.

e.g. th'kroy - I stop

2. Continuous present; Action/state which exists at the present time without

determination of its beginning or end. Morpheme - infix MU. e.g. tixoy

(live); in Cont. Pres. tiMUxoy, e.g. s'tiMUxoy - 'you are living'

3. Action/State to be continued; e.g. 'I am eating ( and have not finished eating

but once shall finish eating).' Morpheme - infix CU [tsu] e.g. spara (eat);

th'spaCUra - 'I am eating'

4. Action/State to be terminated; e.g. ' I (finish) eating fast'. Morpheme -infix

KSE, e.g. th'spaKSEra - 'I (finish) eating', brax th'spaKSEra - 'I'll be

finished eating fast/soon'

5. Action in past still going on; e.g. ' I stopped to talk to my friend', i.e. 'I stopped

{and am still standing and talking}' Morpheme -infix ZO:, e.g. Kroy (stop);

kroyZO: - 'to have stopped (and still not moving)" cf. th'at t'hylaha

prala'at'ha th'kroyZO: - literally 'my friend [dative] speaking [dative] I


* Dative of verb-noun = "in order to" i.e. I stopped in order to talk to my


6. Action in past finished (terminated); Morpheme -infix PE, e.g. th'spaPEra - 'I

have eaten'

7. Intentional Future; Morpheme -infix DZHA, e.g. th'kroyDZHA - 'I will stop'

8. Non-intentional Future; Morphene -infix DZHU, e.g. th'ranDZHU - 'I might kill'

(I may have to kill in the future).

9. Negative verb, Morpheme -infix I, e.g. th'rIan - 'I don't kill', rIankah - 'Do not


6.5 Action/State words have the following basic forms.

1. STEM; e.g. Kroy (stop) Ran (kill), Kapra (calculate)

2. IMPERARIVE; .e.g. rankah (ran-kah) 'Kill!'

[x]. PROHIBITIVE e.g. rIankah (see above)

3. PERMISIVE; e.g. Kroma (Kroy-ma) 'may stop'

4. VERB-NOUN; e.g. ranat (Ran-at) 'killing'

7.0 Odds and ends (at the moment)

hr'NOUN'te relates to a group of people (Vulcans ot others) e.g.

mnah (proposal) = hr'Mnah'te (proposal group) or kash (expunge) =

hr'Kash'te (expunging group).

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EXAMPLES of utterances:

[Word-for-word gloss are by DSB]


Kirkhi rankah


"Kill Kirk!"

(Not to be confused with: Kirka: rankah - 'Kirk, Kill!')


Spockhi smoniyatha th'kroyDZHA

Spock-OBJ wait[verb-noun dative] I stop[intentional future]

"I will stop in order to wait for Spock"


Spock kreylaong plomikon[g] spaCUra

Spock biscuitsCONJ plomikCONJ eat[continuous]

"Spock eats [sic; is eating] Vulcan biscuits and Plomik-soup."

To conclude this section consisting of 6 Chapters our Vulcan advisor (name and

address has to be withheld for privacy reasons) has given us a Vulcan poem that MAY

have been composed by Surak. Loosely translated it goes thus: (It has to do with Life

and Death). Observe the initial "rhyme" of the syllables -io- which carry the main stress,

as well as the sequence -io- in the 3rd verse.

"Suddenly light

Suddenly dark -

I am a shooting star too."

"Kh'liorah brax (light fast/suddenly)

Niorah brax - (dark fast/suddenly)

kahs'khiori th'thya." (shooting star self)

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