Romulan Institute Computer Interface





This section was taken from Mrs. Duane's old website and speaks about why she created the language and other information. Ref.
            It should probably be said right at the start that I am not
            really to be considered any kind of expert on Romulan matters.
            The final word in such cases always lies with the people who are
            writing Trek for TV and movies: Trek novels are considered
            "noncanonical", not really part of the Trek canon. The real
            experts on Romulan life remain Gene Roddenberry (God rest him)
            and D.C. Fontana, who did the initial work on the race in the
            original Trek series, and the present writers of Deep Space Nine
            and the movies.
            Now, as to how the novel got started, by way of background:
            Originally -- this was a little while after the first edition of
            the Klingon Dictionary had come out -- I asked my editor at
            Pocket (Dave Stern, it was then) whether I might do a Romulan
            dictionary. Dave told me, somewhat to my disappointment, that
            the dictionaries weren't selling very well at that point (this
            was before the present resurgence of interest in the Klingon
            language, which [hilariously] is now spoken by more people on
            Earth than Esperanto). Instead, though, Dave said, would I like
            to do a Romulan novel?...
            The idea was interesting enough. I liked the Romulans, always
            had, and the thought of doing a book about their culture
            attracted me. Could I just make up the culture, then? I asked
            Pocket. Yes, they said, I could.
            So I got on with it.
            Language came up for consideration fairly early, because I like
            languages. Though I'm fluent only in English, I read Latin well,
            and German fairly well, and Romansch slightly, and classical
            Greek haltingly, and I have a nodding acquaintance with about
            twelve other languages (this means I know in a general way how
            their grammars and syntaxes work, and how their sentences are
            put together. It also means I know how to say please and thank
            you and good morning and good night, how to ask where the
            ladies' room is, how to ask for another drink, the same as last
            time, and how to point at things in stores and ask for one of
            those, please: that kind of thing). It seemed impossible to
            write much about the culture without doing at least a little
            work on the language.
            Now, I had just finished working out a language for an alien
            species in one of my fantasy novels (the Dracon language, in The
            Door Into Shadow), and was pretty much "linguistically pooped"
            when it was time to start work on the Romulans. But at the same
            time, something had to be done for I sighed and got on
            with it.
            The first thing to do was to decide what the language should
            sound like. It seemed inevitable that it should sound slightly
            Latinate, since there had always been a slightly Roman cast to
            the Romulans we saw in the original series. At the same time, a
            language's evolution also has to reflect its people's history:
            and harking back to the Romulan Commander's reference to the
            Vulcans as "our ancient brothers", it seemed likely to me that
            Romulan would have at least some grammatical likenesses to
            Well, we knew, and know, very little (in the canonical sense)
            about Vulcan grammar. But what about the sound of the language?
            If the Romulans were (as I increasingly began to suspect during
            the writing of Enemy/Ally) an offshoot of the Vulcan culture who
            might equally have been thrown out, or might have left it on
            purpose, would they necessarily sound that much like the Vulcans
            any more? Mightn't it be possible that they had extensively
            retooled their own language to emphasize the difference between
            them and their parent stock? (The history of the Pravic
            language, in Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossessed, probably gave
            me this idea.) And if there's anything we know about the Vulcan
            language, it's its harshness: full of fricatives and other sharp
            So there at least was a hint. I wanted the Latinate sound, all
            right, but also intended to suggest that the Romulans /
            Rihannsu-to-be had purposely gone for a more melodious-sounding
            language, as a reaction against the hard sounds of Vulcan. So I
            thought that the language should be strong on liquid
            combinations and soft diphthongs. Welsh suggested itself to me
            as an example, right away: so did some of the vocalic
            ingredients in Greek. I started coining some words to get the
            feel of it, and produced a few pages' worth.
            At this point, I ran across one of my problems with inventing
            languages. Not grammar -- exotic grammars are easy to build. And
            if you can't build, you can always steal. Real languages are
            often much crazier and less logical than anything one would
            normally invent: look at Irish, or Maltese, for good examples of
            this. (Indeed, Mark Okrand doesn't appear to have hesitated in
            this regard: Klingon orthography looks a whole lot, to me, like
            some of the orthographies used to write various Native American
            dialects in the early part of this century.) My problem was
            that, when coining "alien" words, I tend to get in a rut: they
            start sounding alike. I don't know if other writers have this
            problem. I just knew I was going to have to find a way around
            And, lazy naughty creature that I am, I found it. One of the
            other languages I have a nodding acquaintance with is BASIC. I
            am not a great programmer -- I have too many other calls on my
            time to become really elegant at it -- and Heaven knows that
            BASIC has been bypassed by other languages far more
            sophisticated. However, it suited my needs. Having decided what
            kinds of sounds I wanted to appear in Romulan, and how
            frequently they might appear, and having decided what
            combinations looked ugly and should be "impossible", I then
            spent a week or so writing a quick-and-dirty BASIC program which
            would take numerous consonantal and vocalic "building blocks" I
            had chosen, and combine them to create words that would avoid my
            own "ruts" or repetitive tendencies in word-coining. The program
            would produce several thousand words of Rihannsu in a given run,
            in a format that looked kind of like blank verse.
            Once it was running, I must have gone through about half a ream
            of paper this way, generating words, and then going through the
            output and choosing the words I best liked. Ael's name came up
            in one such run. To that word, and others, I assigned meanings
            as I wrote the novel. And that was all the work I did on the
            language, except (when Peter and I sat down [during our
            honeymoon!] to write The Romulan Way) to collect all the words
            together into a glossary, which appears at RomWay's end.
            Nowadays it seems unusual for a week to go by in which I don't
            get a request for Romulan language information. I don't have any
            more, alas, except what you see above, and what's in the books.
            But I have no problems with passing my tools along to those who
            feel like using them.
            So, for those who might be interested, I hereby bequeath you
            enthusiasts (check the links below) two versions of the Romulan
            language generator. Its first version was written in the form of
            BASIC that ran on my first computer, an Osborne. (This is the
            faithful machine that appears with me in the picture in The
            Faces of Science Fiction: those with a good magnifying glass
            might just be able to make out, on the tiny screen, that it's
            Enemy/Ally which was being worked on at the time.) Later the
            program was rewritten slightly, when I moved to a PC, so that it
            would run in GW-Basic. Having just tested it, I find that it
            runs happily enough in Microsoft QBASIC as well.
            The only thing I'll ask regarding the program is that, should
            anyone produce a better version of it, that they please send me
            a copy, with the code, for my files.
            Note that these files, being framed in HTML format, will need to
            have the PRE and tags /PRE, and the material before and
            after them, edited out. Once that's done, they should run all
            right. You all have my permission to give copies of this program
            to whoever you like. Note also that it works well for other
            invented languages: just edit the data statements to contain
            different combinations of sounds. (While preparing to write The
            Door Into Sunset, I plugged the Dracon language "building
            blocks" into it and saved myself some time.)
            How to run them: Load the file into your BASIC program. It will
            ask you for a carriage return: this provides a value to the
            random number generator. It will then ask you for a number seed.
            Give it a number within the specified range, and hit the
            carriage return again. A screenful of Romulan will spill out.
            (In the print version, especially if you're using a laser
            printer, you may have to give it several seeds one after another
            before a page will print.) Continue until you've got enough
            output to make you happy. Control-C should break out of the
            program (though if I remember right, the program will break
            [down...] itself after a while, either because of a divide-by
            error, or because of some other more picturesque error committed
            by the programmer). I leave it to some other, more skilled
            programmer, to tinker one or another version of the program into
            one that produces both screen and print output. I've got my
            hands full with another TNG novel at the moment, and am
            wrestling with other linguistic problems (such as working out
            what French swearwords are hot enough to adequately reflect
            Picard's feelings without causing the publisher to have a
            At any rate, I hope you have fun with the program.
            -- Diane Duane
            January 6, 1996
I have converted the program to PHP for web-output complete with source code here.