Language in Star Trek

Place: the final border! These are the trips of the company of the ship of the star. The relative continuous mission: In order to explore the new disowned worlds. A new lifespan and new civilizations to choose.
For greasy hinfahrt, where nobody went beforehand!

For anyone interested in linguistics, it’s great fun wondering about the inadequacies of the miracle that is the Universal Translator in Star Trek. This page has a nice collection of wonky translations done by an automatic translator… I especially love the “typical Janeway greeting”!

After I heard a lecture on Klingon(ese) last year, I really wondered how the UT works. I mean, the syntax would obviously pose the biggest problem: If the Klingons mostly use a OVS word order, how would the UT know who the subject of a sentence is going to be when it translates it simultaneously? Shouldn’t the word order come out all mixed up when it translates it into English, for example? Ah well, I am no expert on either linguistics nor Klingonese (…yet!). I guess it’s like the paradoxes in time travel: better not think about it too much or it may give you a headache.

Another thing that they have figured out by the 23rd century is the voice recognition. Wow, when I call some computer-operated call center, most of the time I have to say what I need five times before it gets it. How does Majel Barrett the computer understand all the different dialects? Or make out an order when they’re all let’s say – suffocating or being attacked? And when does the computer know they stopped talking to it? I can imagine the following scene:

“Computer, Red Alert!”

“Unable to comply. Please restate the question.”

“That wasn’t a question dammit, just–”

“Unable to comply.”


“Captain, shields are down to 26%.”

“Get us out of here, evasive maneuvers!”

“Unable to comply.”



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