Tolkien Language Studies

Discussion in 'Books' started by jeremiah.l.burns, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    Hi guys n' gals -

    I was wondering if anyone would be interested in participating in a thread which analyzes Tolkien's created languages through examples and ideally through practice wherein we'd submit our own translations for critique and assistance/guidance.

    Who's interested?
     
  2. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    Interested in the first part my fellow Cheshiran (if that's how you say it), though the translations might be quite difficult for a few people. I'd happily read this, but maybe not participate as I do not know that much about the languages themselves in professional linguistic terms.
     
  3. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    Nor do I, Druid. My idea was to learn as the thread grew. Offer ideas about how concepts work, and ask a lot of questions such as "Do you understand why/how/...?"

    This is not intended for experts.
     
  4. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    I suppose I'll start this off, and if people join in that will be fantastic. If not, well it's given me a place to put down my thoughts on the subject.

    Caveat from the start:- I'm not an expert on the subject matter, nor even very knowlegeable. I'm an interested party, and want to learn more. Anything that follows is my understanding of the topic(s), and I am very likely to be wrong on several points. In instances like these, I actively encourage participation and correction by others. This is not, however, a debate thread. It is intended as a place to share ideas and concepts in a calm and rational manner.

    *******

    When people consider Tolkien's work, often times the consider the people, the places, the events, the narratives. But it may surprise some (admittedly, the type of folk who frequent TFF are less prone to be surprised) to learn that to Tolkien created his 'world' as a means of giving his invented languages a place to exist, and in which to give them history. That is not to say Tolkien was not interested in telling the stories themselves, as he very clearly was. However, a philologist at heart, the languages came first. The rest of the details were incidental.

    More than a philologist, Tolkien was a philophile, if such a thing can be said to exist. To take a quotation from Wikipedia (apologies):

    Tolkien learned Latin, French, and German from his mother, and while at school he learned Middle English, Old English, Finnish, Gothic, Greek, Italian, Old Norse, Spanish, Welsh, and Medieval Welsh. He was also familiar with Danish, Dutch, Lombardic, Norwegian, Icelandic, Russian, Swedish, Middle Dutch, Middle High German, Middle Low German, Old High German, Old Slavonic, and Lithuanian,[156] revealing his deep linguistic knowledge, above all of the Germanic languages.
    (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolkien#Languages_and_philology)

    A natural branch of Tolkien's love for existing languages was the invention of his own languages. When people think of Tolkien's own invented languages, they most often will think of Elvish first and foremost. This is a natural reaction as they are the most developed, most referenced, and have the most material available for the purposes of study.

    This is where I'll begin as well, as it is what I'm most familiar with, and it also seems to have the most material available for reference and study.
     
  5. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    **Pilophile means the "one who loves loving-" something**

    I don't know if any of those languages are related to Anglo-Saxon, but I do know that he did do Anglo-Saxon studies at St-John's, Oxford, and taught that - and much more - as a Professor there. The Rohirrim, so therefore the few snippets of their language, was very much inspired by the saxons and Anglo-Saxons. I know that he loved Old Norse and all that went with it (Tale of Sigurd and Gudrún) and based elvish off Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse, as well as his runic alphabet (Cirth) that was used by both the Elves and the Dwarves.
    The research of Grammar for Elvish - both Quenya and Sindarin - must have been very hard work, as it is very "deep"(can't find the right word) and has a few roots from German; when a noun is written in the plural form, sometimes the vowels change - though in elvish each vowel changes in a certain way.
    I haven't yet taken a look at his conjugation rules, but they would be very interesting.
     
  6. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    Tolkien's Invented Languages - Elvish

    In regards to the elvish languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth, it is a safe assumption that the person doing the referring is doing so relative to either of two primary sub-sets: Quenyan and Sindarin. Historically (within Tolkien's fictional universe) these were one language. This was "Primitive Elvish".

    At a time when there was a split amongst the elves and some left Middle-earth for Aman whilst others remained behind, there was also a split in the language. To those who stayed behind (known as the Teleri) the language changed from its original form. It developed, altered, and became known as "Sindarin", whilst the original form became known as Quenyan. Sindarin was therefore the 'normal' elvish language of Middle-earth, whilst Quenyan was a 'high tongue' and ancient...used ritualistically for the most part and preserved historically, but not used in everyday speech.

    It's interesting to note that the two languages share phonetics and grammatical structure with Finnish and Welsh, but I'm no linguist so I can't say exactly how this is so. I will say that hearing Welsh people speak reminds me of hearing the elves speak in Peter Jackson's trilogy. But I digress.

    The languages are constructed of phonemic sounds which may be visually represented by a series of characters known as the tengwar and the tehtar. The tengwar and tehtar are essentially the elvish alphabet. However, just because the alphabet itself is elvish in origin, that doesn't mean it must always or will always be used to write in the elvish languages. Case in point: the inscription on The One Ring. It is written in an elvish script, but the language is that of the Black Speech of Mordor...or so some old grey guy said once upon a time.

    Consider that the Greek alphabet A, B, C...etc. can be used to write in English (e.g., book), Spanish (e.g., libro), French (e.g., livre) and more besides. The letters remain for the most part the same, but the language itself changes dramatically.

    Alternatively, we can write Elvish in the Greek alphabet. This is done numerous times in Tolkien's books.

    e.g.,
    "A Elbereth Gilthoniel
    silivren penna miriel
    o menel aglar elenath!
    Na-chaered palan-díriel
    o galadhremmin ennorath
    Fanuilos le linnathon
    nef aear, si nef aearon!"


    Because of Tolkien's attention to detail and a strong desire to give history to his languages and to his world, clues were given to us, the humble reader, about its construction and correct usage. This is more prevelant with the elvish languages than any other for one simple reason: Tolkien's stories, as we know them, were written from an elvish point-of-view.

    The Hobbit - Written by Bilbo Baggins about his adventures with (mostly) dwarves. Dwarves are historically known to be notoriously secretive concerning their language. No surprise then that Bilbo does not reference it in his tale.
    The Lord of the Rings - Written by Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee,et al. - This tale concerned very much the fate of the elves. Many of the events took place in the company and residences of elvish people, and they are not so secretive about their language as are the dwarves. They have even taught it to dwarves, with whom they have long-standing grudges. Therefore, a great deal more emphasis on the elvish language is given in LotR than there is of dwarvish in TH.
    The Silmarillion - Written by Bilbo Baggins from translations of elvish stories and manuscripts. Therefore written from an Elvish point of view. Concerns almost entirely elves and little else. Extremely heavy useage of elvish languages.

    Indeed, taking the example of LotR further, anyone whose read the book (and it is a single book, people) knows of The Appendicies. These are historical references, notes, tables, charts, etc. which refer heavily to the events of the aforementioned works (TH, LotR, TS) but which actually do not take place within a constructed narrative. It is quite literally like reading a log book or diary. The Appendices, too, were intended to have been written not by Tolkien's own hand, but by the characters in the story such as Frodo and Sam. This just shows the lengths Tolkien was keen to go to in order to give historic believability to his sub-creation. But I'm digressing again.

    If you have a copy of RotK lying about, you may well keep it handy and bookmarked to Appendix E at this point.

    The Tengwar:
    Tengwar Chart.JPG

    [​IMG]

    More on this later.
     
  7. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    Yes, hence my struggle with the word. I'm aiming for something that says a lover of languages. Bibliophile - lover of books. Philology is the study of languages. Philo-phile...? I dunno. As I say, I'm no linguist.

    EDIT: Linguaphile, apparently! http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091219044957AA4WubK


    This is the type of discussion I'm interested in! Everyone bringing something to the table. I've not read my copy of Sigurd and Gudrún yet, and I know nothing of elvish roots in German. But it's all fascinating, don't you think?
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011
  8. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    The above chart shows the tengwar. These are, for simplicity's sake, an alphabet. Caveat: that's my point of view as a non-linguist, and as someone who had absolutely nothing to do with its creation.

    Appendix E goes out of its way to state, "The script was not in origin an 'alphabet': that is, a haphazard series of letters, each with an independent value of its own, recited in a traditional order that has no reference either to their shapes or to their functions. It was, rather, a system of consonantal signs, of similar shapes and style, which could be adapted at choice or convenience to represent the consonants of languages observed (or devised) by the Eldar. None of the letters had in itself a fixed value; but certain relations between them were gradually recognized."

    Whilst that may well be so, in my view they serve the same function as an alphabet as being visual representations of oral sounds for the purposes of writing a language.

    As AE states, the tengwar chart shows the consonantal sounds. It does not display the vowels, which are represented by the tehtar. These can be seen in examples given in the book such as the inscription on the Gate of Moria, the title page of LotR, and the inscription of The One Ring. Why a chart was not given in the appendices for usage of the tehtar, I do not know.

    As we are discussing the consonants and vowels, however, is worth noting what the sound value of each is. This is integral not only to learning how to write in elvish, either with or with out the tengwar and tehtar, but to do so at all. AE goes into some great detail explaining each letter. For reference, see "Return of the King, Appendix E, I, Pronunciation of Words and Names".

    • C has always the value of k even before e and i: celeb 'silver' should be pronounced as keleb.
    • CH is only used to represend the sound heard in bach (in German or Welsh), not that in English church. Except at the end of words and before t this sound was weakened to h in the speech of Gondor, and that change has been recognized in a few names, such as Rohan, Rohirrim. (Imrahil is a Númenórian name.)
    • DH represents the voiced (soft) th of English these clothes. It is usually related to d, as in S. galadh 'tree' compared with Q. alda; but is sometimes derived from n+r, as in Caradhras 'Redhorn' from caranrass.
    • F represents f, except at the end of words, where it is used to represent the sound of v (as in English of): Nindalf, Fladrif.
    • G has only the sound of g in give, get: gil 'star', in Gildor, Gilraen, Osgiliath, begins as in English gild.
    • H standing alone with no other consonant has the sound of h in house, behold. The Quenya combination ht has the sound of cht, as in German echt, acht: e.g. in the name Telumehtar 'Orion'. See also CH, DH, L, R, TH, W, Y.
    • I initially before another vowel has the consonantal sound of y in you, yore in Sindarin only: as in Ioreth, Iarwain. See Y.
    • K represents the same sound as ch in Orkish Grishnákh or Adûnaic (Númenórian) Adûnakhôr. On Dwarvish (Khuzdul) see note below.
    • L represents more or less the sound of English initial l, as in let. It was, however, to some degree 'palatalized' between e, i and a consonant, or finally after e, i. (The Eldar would probably have transcribed English bell, fill as beol, fiol.) LH represents this sound when voiceless (usually derived from initial sl-). In (archaic) Quenya this is written hl, but was in the Third Age usually pronounced as l.
    • NG represents ng in finger, except finally where it was sounded as in English sing. The latter sound also occurred initially in Quenya, but has transcribed n (as in Noldo), according to the pronunciation of the Third age.
    • PH has the same sound as f. It is used (a) where the f-sound occurs at the end of a word, as in alph 'swan'; (b) where the f-sound is related to or derived from a p as in i-Pheriannath 'the Halflings' (perian); (c) in the middle of a few words where it represents a long ff (from pp) as in Ephel 'outer fence'; and (d) in Adûnaic and Westron as in Ar-Pharazôn (pharaz 'gold')

    ....more to come
     
  9. Ser Land

    Ser Land New Member

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    Reading the History of Middle Earth "novels" can be very rewarding in this (and other) matter(s).
     
  10. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    Indeed. Particularly book 5.
     
  11. Ser Land

    Ser Land New Member

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    Ah! The Lost Road! The best book never to be written. I wish I could read the copy in Morpheus' library.
     
  12. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    The letters in the Tengwar alphabet are, as you say phonetic, as they have a few different ways to write the same letter depending on the pronunciation of the word.
    However, the way it was written, as seen in the Appendices, is as a table, which bears resemblance to the "Periodic Table of Elements" in the way it has families and periods. These show the way the letter is written, with a high or low bar, and one or two rings. These can be compared to families 1a;2a;3a;4a;5a;6a;7a, whilst the 25 to 36 can be compared to the "b"s, as they have no relation.
    The script itself does bear a relation to some types of old writing styles used in the middle-ages, and could even resemble curved runes.

    What you said about the language resembling welsh, then saying that in the film it doesn't seem like it, depends completely on the pronunciation and rhythm of the sentence. Welsh and finnish are both languages that bear a lot of importance in rhythm when spoken (though finnish is related to the language of the Magyar, and has nothing to do with Indo-European.)

    **btw, what's the first tengwar letter in your sigpic, can't be bothered to fetch my sheet with greek/tengwar alphabet**
    A...ile
     
  13. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    Well said. And indeed we see exactly this when we look at Tolkien’s own runic alphabet which was primarily used by the elves for carving into stone, wood or metal due to its straight lines. This is why it was so popular amongst the dwarves.

    Maybe I misrepresented my thoughts regarding that one, because what I mean to say is that the film indeed does seem to resemble the Welsh language. Whilst I don’t know the specific language structures which make these so very similar in sound, I can audibly recognise the similarity. Thanks for the info!


    This was written in an attempt at writing in Quenya, therefore the consonantal sounds are represented first with the vowels and carrier following.

    My daughter’s name is “Lucy”, which is a derivative of “Lucius”. This is derived from the Latin “light”.

    The Quenyan for ‘light’ is cal- / cali-. Thus, “calie” is what I’m attempting (however successfully/unsuccessfully is not really for me to yet decide) to represent.

    Thoughts, critiques, suggestions much appreciated.
     
  14. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    Oh, I thought it was Sindarin. Thanks for the info.

    For the sound of elvish in the films, watching the extras I saw/heard that that was where they were inspired for the pronunciation of elvish, as the rhythm of Welsh suited Tolkien's language.

    I do find it strange though, that Tolkien expand more on the Quenyan than the Sindarin side of elvish, even though Sindarin was the one spoken currently in Middle-Earth. It would probably go with the fact that we encounter a lot of elvish in the Sil, and that those are high elves speaking.
     
  15. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    Really? I didn't know that. I'm still very much an ignorant newbie when it comes to the languages and what's available. But anyone can see that there are vast quantities of elvish in TS when compared to LotR. I'm sure you're on the right track in your reasoning.
     
  16. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    Well, I'm only really 15... But when researching for English-Sindarin and English-Quenya glossaries, I've found that the Quenyan ones are more complete than the Sindarin, and that most people who can speak elvish speak Quenya
     
  17. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    I think that makes a lot of sense, to be honest.
     
  18. Ser Land

    Ser Land New Member

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    Quenya is the most used elvish language in Tolkien's works, and the language that the Noldor used to talk among themselves. Sindarin was the language of the grey elves, and later that of all the elves who did not depart Middle Earth. When the Noldor returned to Middle Earth, they quickly learned Sindarin, but only used it to comunicate with the other peoples of the elves(non-noldorin).
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2011
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  19. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    So Quenya was most developed as elvish appears mostly in TS
     
  20. jeremiah.l.burns

    jeremiah.l.burns Callo

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    • QU has been used for cw, a combination very frequent in Quenya, though it did not occur in Sindarin.
    • R represents a trilled r in all positions; the sound was not lost before consonants (as in English part). The Orcs, and some Dwarves, are said to have used a back or uvular r, a sound which the Eldar found distasteful. RH represents a voiceless r (usually derived from older initial sr-). It was written hr in Quenya. Cf. L.
    • S is always voiceless, as in English so, geese; the z-sound did not occur in contemporary Quenya or Sindarin. SH, occurring in Dwarvish and Orkish, represents sounds similar to sh in English.
    • TH represents the voiceless th of English in thin cloth. This had become in Quenya spoken s, though still written with a different letter; as in Q. Isil, S. Ithil, 'Moon'.
    • TY represents a sound probably similar to the t in English tune. It was derived mainly from c or t+y. The sound of English ch, which was frequent in Westron, was usually substituted for it by speakers of that language. Cf. HY under Y.
    • V has the sound of English v, but is not used finally. See F.
    • W has the sound of English w. HW is a voiceless w, as in English white (in northern pronunciation). It was not an uncommon initial sound in Quenya, though examples seem not to occur in this book. Both v and w are used in the transcription of Quenya, in spite of the assimilation of its spelling to Latin, since the two sounds, distinct in origin, both occurred in the language.
    • Y is used in Quenya for the consonant y, as in English you. In Sindarin y is a vowel (see below). HY has the same relation to y as HW to w, and represents a sound like that heard in English hew, huge; h in Quenya eht, iht had the same sound. The sound of English sh, which was common in Westron, was often substituted by speakers of that language. Cf. TY above. HY was usually derived from sy- and khy-; in both cases related Sindarin words show initial h, as in Q. Hyarmen 'south', S. Harad. Note that consonants written twice, as tt, ll, ss, nn, represent long or 'double' consonants. At the end of words of more than one syllable these were usually shortened: as in Rohan from Rochann (archaic Rochand). In Sindarin the combinations ng, nd, mb, which were specially favoured in the Eldarin languages at an earlier stage, suffered various changes, mb became m in all cases, but still counted as a long consonant for purposes of stress (see below), and is thus written mm in cases where otherwise the stress might be in doubt. ng remained unchanged except finally where it became the simple nasal (as in English sing). nd became nn usually, as Ennor 'Middle-earth', Q. Endóre; but remained nd at the end of fully accented monosyllables such as thond 'root' (cf. Morthond 'Blackroot'), and also before r, as Andros 'long-foam'. This nd is also seen in some ancient names derived from an older period, such as Nargothrond, Gondolin, Beleriand. In the Third Age final nd in long words had become n from nn, as in Ithilien, Rohan, Anorien.

    Thus ends the consonants.

    I now have a query for the experts and non-experts alike: F supposedly has the sound of "v" when ending a word. Yet we do not pronounce the name of the Grey Pilgrim as Gan-dalv.

    My theory is that this is because "Gandalf" is a common-language name, not an elvish name. The elves had their own name for Gandalf, Mithrandir.

    Am I right?

    Edit: Cracked open my RotK again to ensure I wasn't posting a stupid question, and I found this note:

    Note
    In names drawn from other languages than Eldarin the same values for the letters are intended, where not specially described above, except in the case of Dwarvish. In Dwarvish, which did not possess the sounds represented above by th and ch (kh), th and kh are aspirates, that is t or k followed by an h, more or less as in backhand, outhouse. Where z occurs the sound intended is that of English z. gh in the Black Speech and Orcish represents a 'back spirant' (related to g as dh to d); as in ghâsh and agh. The 'outer' or Mannish names of the Dwarves have been given Northern forms, but the letter-values are those described. So also in the case of the personal and place-names of Rohan (where they have not been modernized), except that here éa and éo are diphthongs, which may be represented by the ea of English bear, and the eo of Theobald; y is the modified u. The modernized forms are easily recognized and are intended to be pronounced as in English. They are mostly place-names: as Dunharrow (for Dúnharg), except Shadowfax and Wormtongue.


    This suggests that the common tongue should have used the same sounds for the letters above. So...why is it Gandalf and not Gandalv? After all, in the example for F given in the appendices when discussing f as v at the end of words, "Nindalf" is given...which is extremely similar to the suffex of Gandalf.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2011
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