NewsWire: Tolkien Linguistics Makes a Impact – Tolkien fans speak a language all their own

by May 7, 2003Other News

This Article in the Nassau Telegraph tells the story of one fans discovery of the linguistic side of Tolkien Fandom. It is a great read as well as a good list of top resources for anyone who would like to take a look at this aspect of Tolkien’s world themselves. As he writes:

<< I might “boast” of enjoying Tolkien’s work on many of the myriad levels it’s possible to enjoy such densely textured material, including a classically Romantic level, a Christian theological level, a mythopoeic level, a plain-old-adventure-story level and a complex linguistic level.

It’s the latter that concerns us here.

I was recently rereading “The Lord of the Rings” in Spanish. I was curious as to how the problem of translating the names in the book had been approached, so I turned to the Internet. A Google search didn’t turn up what I was looking for

. . . but what I did find amazed me.

There are volumes of material online, written by apparently scholarly and serious people, on the linguistics of the “simulated” languages in Tolkien’s works. These include deep examinations of the various scripts, analyzed texts, vocabulary lists, courses, downloadable fonts and amazingly – original works written by devotees in one or another of Tolkien’s created languages.

I suppose in one aspect this shouldn’t have surprised me – Tolkien was primarily a linguist. “The invention of languages is the foundation,” Tolkien wrote. “The `stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse.

To me a name comes first and the story follows.”
Even so – as a fan of both language and Tolkien’s work – I was hard pressed to imagine myself devoting countless hours to learning and analyzing languages that never existed. After all, devoting oneself to learning a modern language, or even a “dead” language like Latin or ancient Greek, has obvious payoffs. Beyond the inherent fun of learning to decode language, there’s also the opportunity of using it, from conversation, entertainment and study in the case of the modern languages, to the exploration of the vast body of literature that forms the foundation of Western thought, in the case of classical languages.


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