Klingon Linguist Immortalised On FilmBy Caillan
May 29, 2001 - 2:30 PM
Not many linguists get a chance to have their features used as a basis for a cartoon character, but that's exactly what happened to the creator of the Klingon language, Marc Okrand.
Okrand was called upon by Disney to create an Atlantean language for their upcoming animated feature, 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire.' However, Okrand quickly found out that he had other, more cosmetic, uses, as he became a model for the main character, Milo Thatch.
"When I first met animator John Pomeroy, he said, 'I hope it doesn't bother you, but I'm going to be drawing sketches when I talk to you. You're the only linguist I've ever met, so I don't know what they look like or how they behave,'" Okrand told USA Today (via the SciFi Wire).
The linguist tried to base the Atlantean language on Indo-European, giving it a soft, mellifluous tone. "It's supposed to be like other languages," Okrand said. "A root language, whatever that is. So I found sounds that were common." He also helped prepare the letters of the alphabet with the animators, although Okrand had to write phonetic translations in the script "so I would know what I meant."
A "50s style" training video was also prepared by Okrand to help the actors learn to speak the language. In their report on the 'Atlantis' press conference, MovieHeadlines.net described the video as "absolutely hilarious."
Okrand isn't the only person associated with Star Trek to have worked on 'Atlantis.' Leonard Nimoy (Spock) provided the voice of the King of Atlantis, while Phil Morris (Lt. Kelly in VOY's 'One Small Step') and David Ogden Stiers (Dr. Timicin in TNG's 'Half A Life') also have roles in the film.
Originally, Okrand, who has a doctorate in linguistics from the University of California, was asked to provide Klingon dialogue for the film 'Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.' Since then, he has worked on the both the Klingon and Vulcan languages for the feature films, as well as during the early stages of The Next Generation.
After realising that there was considerable interest in the Klingon language, Okrand started writing books, which included the Klingon dictionary. More recent publications include 'The Klingon Way:A Warrior's Guide' and the audio-cassette 'Coversational Klingon'.
The original article can be found here at the SciFi Wire. More information about the Klingon language can be found at the Klingon Language Institute. The above photo of Okrand is courtesy of the USS Athena, and the cartoon shot, which is copyright of Disney Enterprises Inc., is courtesy of Dark Horizons.