Lesson 1: Common Words and Phrases

<< Pronunciation Learn Romulan Lesson 2 >>

Class and Rank

Rihan society is based on class and rank. Thus its language reflects the divisions and formalities of such a system. When you speak to a Rihanha (a Romulan person) it is very important that you use the proper form of address.

Rihan has four different class/rank variations:

  • Normal also called Informal (used only among family and close friends)
  • Formal Superior-to-Inferior (sup>inf) (used when speaking to someone of a lesser rank)
  • Formal Inferior-to-Superior (inf>sup) (used when speaking to someone of a higher rank)
  • Formal Nonmodal (non) (used when speaking to an equal)

When the rank or class of the person to whom you are speaking is unknown, it is safe to use the Formal Nonmodal variation. In addition, a few common words have taken on a Semiformal state which can be safely used in any situation.

Simple Words and Phrases

Greetings and Farewells
Jolan'tru Semiformal “hello,” the most popular greeting. Used as both “hello” and “goodbye.”
Y'hhau An informal hello, used among friends and family
Æfvadh Formal greeting, "be welcome"
Shaoi ben Formal greeting, superior to inferior
Shaoi dan Formal greeting, nonmodal
Shaoi kon Formal greeting, inferior to superior
Bedah Formal goodbye
Bed aoi Goodbye forever

Thank you
Khnai'ra Semiformal; nonmodal
Khnai'ru rhissiuy Superior to inferior
Khlinæ arhem Inferior to superior

Yes and No
Ie Yes
Daie Yes, inferior to superior
Au'e An emphatic yes
Dhat No

A Simple Conversation

Let's look at a simple conversation in Rihan. Don't worry about grammar in the following examples. Just try to get an understanding of how the language flows. We'll concentrate on learning grammar later.

Pretend you're a Federation trade representative name Susan Taylor who has been sent to Romulus on a diplomatic mission. You've just arrived at the main spaceport in Ra'tleihfi, the Romulan capital city, and you're to be met by a Romulan government official who will act as your escort while on the planet. You don't know Rihan very well, so you decide to ask him if he speaks English.

First, you say:

Jolan'tru. Dochai-difv Ænglish hwio?
JOH-lahn'trew. Do-CHAH-ee deev AYN-glish HWEE-oh?

Jolan'tru we have learned is a common greeting among the Rihanh (Romulan people). Ænglish should be apparent as referring to the English language. But what about Dochai-difv and hwio?

There are three ways of asking questions in Rihan. One way is by affixing the suffix -difv to the verb. (We will learn the other two in later lessons.) Dochai is the Rihan verb for “speak.” So dochai-difv means “do you speak?” Hwio is the nonmodal nominative case for “you.” (Again, we'll learn more about case later.)


Jolan'tru. Dochai-difv Ænglish hwio?
Hello. Do you speak English?
(Literally:) Hello. Do speak English you?

Rihan word order can be different than in English. Sentence order is either Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) or Verb-Object-Subject (VOS). The above sentence follows the latter rule.

The man responds:

Dhat, rhanne dochaikhe Ænglish. Dochai-difv Rihan hwio?
Thaht, RHAH-nyeh doh-chah-EE-Kheh AYN-glish. Doh-CHA-ee deev REE-hahn HWI-oh
No, I don't speak English. Do you speak Rihan?

We have seen that dhat means “no.” Dochaikhe is the negative form of dochai, thus it means “do not speak.” Rhanne is the nomodal nominative case for “I.” Word order is SVO here.

You respond to the man:

Rhanne dochai Rihan khiilalev. Narihu Susan Taylor rhanne. Narihu-difv hwio?
RHAH-nyeh doh-CHA-ee REE-hahn KHEE-lah-lev. Nah-REE-hoo Susan Taylor RHAH-nyeh. Nah-REE-hoo deev HWI-oh?
I speak Rihan a little. My name is Susan. What is your name?

Khiilalev means “a little.” Na is a verb that means “to be called.” -rihu is a verb ending that expresses the reflexive ("-self," as in "I hit myself") in the continuative aspect (an ongoing action). So Narihu Susan Taylor rhanne literally means “I am calling myself Susan Taylor.” Narihu-difv hwio would be “What are you calling yourself?”

This particular method of asking someone's name is a peculiarity of Rihan culture. Rihan personal names can be rather complicated, and if often isn't clear how someone wishes to be addressed even if you know their full formal name. People also might hide their identity in certain situations for fear of their actions being reported to the Tal'Shiar, thus Romulans always ask what the other person wishes to be called rather than requesting their name. Requesting a fvadni, "true name," is done only by authority figures, never in polite conversation.

The man says:

Narihu Helev Ekkhæ rhanne. Rhanam vahuus.
HEH-lev EK-khay nah-REE-hoo. RHAH-nahm va-HOOS.
My name is Helev Ekkhæ. I'm pleased to meet you.

Rhanam vahuus literally means “my pleasure.”


Now let's look at that conversation again uninterrupted. See if you can follow along without referring back to the examples.

Susan: Jolan'tru. Dochai-difv Ænglish hwio?
Helev: Dhat, Rhanne dochaikhe Ænglish. Dochai-difv Rihan hwio?
Susan: Rhanne dochai Rihan khiilalev. Narihu Susan Taylor rhanne. Narihu-difv hwio?
Helev: Narihu Helev Ekkhæ rhanne. Rhanam vahuus.

<< Pronunciation Learn Romulan Lesson 2 >>