Romulan (Rihan)


/rihan/ (Help:IPA)


Created by – Diane Duane
Homeworld – ch'Rihan (Romulus),
Romulan Star Empire


at least three



Language family

High Vulcan

Writing system


Official Status

Official language in

Romulan Star Empire

Codes and Resources

SLI registry




Learning resources

Imperial Romulan Language Institute

Romulan (native Rihan) is the native language of Romulus and the official language of the Romulan Star Empire. It is descended from High Vulcan, and shares some common traits with the modern Vulcan language.


Very little of the Romulan language seems to come from on-screen references, which are mostly pronouns. The brunt of the original lexicon was developed by author Diane Duane for use in her Rihannsu novel series. According to her own testimony, the majority of the vocabulary was generated by a BASIC computer program she wrote to arrange a diverse set of words. (Scribd) The lexicon has since been expanded by others, and it is unclear how much of the current lexicon or knowledge of grammar is her work; the Sato Institute is still collecting this information.

Prior to the release of the 2009 Star Trek film, various reports quoting actor Scott Clifton, Jr. stated that Paramount had employed a linguist to "invent" the Romulan language used in the film (later revealed to be Marc Okrand, inventor of the Klingon language). However, these scenes were ultimately removed from the final cut, and no reference material is currently available. (Citations needed) It is unknown at this time if the language developed for the film has any relation to Duane's work.

At an undetermined point in recent history, the Central Institute of the Romulan Language (since adapted into the Imperial Romulan Language Institute by a separate entity) emerged on the Internet. This seems to be the most comprehensive guide to the language currently available, and is relevant enough to be recommended by fans; while CIRL has not been updated since 2006 and is now defunct, the IRLI has been active since at least 2010. Other resources, such as the Rihannsu Encyclopedia (now defunct), contain some information which conflicts with the IRLI site; thus there does not seem to be any definite body of authority on the language.

Known dialectsEdit

It is stated in the 2009 Star Trek film that Romulan has three distinctive dialects. No further information on them is given.


Some of the material in this section is original work of the Sato Institute. It may not reflect information found in other sources.


Romulan phonology is comprised of 22 root consonantal sounds. It also contains five basic vowels.

Romanized Romulan and its IPA counterparts
a /a/ h /h/ o /o/ u /u/
b /b/ i /i/ p /p/ v /v/
ch /t͡ʃ/ j /d͡ʒ/ r /r/ w /w/
d /d/ k /k/* s /s/ y /j/
e /e/ l /l/ sh /ʃ/ z /z/
f /f/ m /m/ t /t/ ' /ʔ/
g /g/ n /n/ th /θ/ /ə/

* - Some sources assert that Romulan includes separate phonemes for 'c' and/or 'q.' These letters do appear in romanizations of Romulan, but the Institute currently attributes this to creative license.
† - Has no written value; see schwa under Pronunciation, below.


Some consonants can be doubled, making them slightly longer and more hardened in their sound. Most consonants, single or double, can be aspirated, softening them and adding a light breathing sound to the end.

Doubles dt, fv, kk, ll, mn, nn, rr, ss, tt, yy (/ʏ/)*
Aspirants (+ʰ) bh, dh, fh, gh, hh, kh, lh, llh, mh, nh (/ɲ/), ph, rh, rrh, tth, vh, wh, yh, zh

* - Functions as a vowel.
† - As in Spanish año.

Vowels can also be lengthened, or have an 'i' sound added to the end.

Root vowel Long form With 'i'
a aa (/aː/) ai (/aɪ/)
e ae (/eː/) ei (/eɪ/)
i ii (/iː/)
o ou (/oː/) oi (/oɪ/)
u uu (/uː/) ui (/uɪ/)


To the untrained ear, 'ae' and 'ei' can sound virtually identical, and may be misheard or misspoken as a result. 'e' and 'ae' are pronounced as in "egg," while 'ei' is pronounced as in "day". Recognizing one from the other is mostly a matter of practice.

'r' is trilled, like in Spanish pero, not an approximant like it is in English. 'rr' is more heavily trilled, as in Spanish perro.

The apostrophe represents a glottal stop. It is not considered to be a letter.

The "x" sound in English also occurs in Romulan. It is pronounced 'kz'.

Consonants are sometimes paired against each other; that is, there is no natural transition from one to the next (e.g., the word vaedn). This is resolved either by inserting a short schwa, a vowel sound like the 'y' in "sibyl", or by omitting the second consonant entirely. Hence, vaedn is pronounced either /veːdən/ or /veːd/.

The schwa also occurs in instances where 'l', 'r', or their variations begin a word followed by a consonant, or fall between two consonants in a word. For instance, the word llhnae would be pronounced /ɫʰəneː/.




Basic Romulan syntax follows a verb-object-subject order. For instance, the phrase "I serve the Empire" would become "Serve the Empire I." Subject-verb-object order, like in English, is also acceptable.

Writing system - KzhadEdit

There are several iterations of the Romulan writing system (called Kzhad) currently in circulation. The original and most common form is a simple left-to-right cipher for English, based on designs by Monte Thrasher for Star Trek: The Next Generation; when applied to the Romulan imperial seal from the series (also designed by Thrasher), the inscription reads 'ROMULANIPTQE.' Examples of Romulan writing in television and movies are often pieces of the seal text arranged at random.

The 2009 Star Trek film featured a mutation of the writing system with a more organic appearance. Details on the completeness of this system, or if it actually corresponds to the spoken language, are unknown at this time.

Multiple non-anglicized versions of Kzhad have been developed by fans, the CIRL variant (no longer available) being perhaps the most phonetically accurate. Most of these designs are based on okudagrammar, wherein the various symbols are inversions and rotations of one another, a technique often employed with alien writing on Star Trek. The Sato Institute is currently working on its own reconstruction of Kzhad, intended to follow Duane's phonemes more closely and avoid okudagrammar, while remaining true to Thrasher's design aesthetic.


See alsoEdit


External links and resourcesEdit