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22"Making a big splash": On David Salo's "scholarship"

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    Jan 28 8:31 AM
      In Elfling message 19980
      (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling/message/19980), David Salo
      attempted to smear Bill Welden as one who:

      > care[s] less about getting [his] facts straight than in making a big
      > splash

      I have already pointed out, in Elfling-d message 19
      (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling-d/message/19), the breathtaking
      hypocrisy of this statement, coming as it does from one who, e.g.,
      published a presentation and analysis of all the known (to him) drafts
      (there are others...) of "Galadriel's Lament", _based solely on a
      fourth (or higher) generation photocopy of notes taken by a third
      party_, _never having seen one jot of the original texts_, and _without
      making even the most minimal effort to verify his readings of the
      texts_; with the result that there are a number of misreadings in his
      "scholarly presentation".

      I have also pointed out the breathtaking hypocrisy of this statement,
      coming as it does from the only "scholar" of Tolkien's languages I am
      aware of who has actually _issued press releases_ declaring his
      expertise (e.g.:
      http://www.newswise.com/articles/2001/12/RINGS.UWI.html ), press
      releases _soliciting interviews_, and resulting in numerous
      self-promotional articles.

      Here is the latest:


      Let's take a look at some of David "Lord of the Rings Language" Salo's
      claims and representations in this interview:

      > Salo ... [is] probably the world's leading expert on Sindarin and
      > Que[nya]

      On what basis, other than wishful thinking and self-promotion, can
      David make this claim? Scholarly expertise is both earned and measured
      by _publication_, not by proclamation. _What has David Salo published_,
      of _scholarly_ nature, on _Tolkien's_ languages? A couple of (flawed)
      articles in _TyTy_? _I_ have published more in the past year than David
      Salo has during his entire "career" as an "expert"; and I certainly do
      not consider myself to be "the leading expert" on Tolkien's languages,
      nor even particularly well-published, compared to the decades of work
      done by some of my colleagues.

      > his linguistic marks are all over the films.

      Well put. Meanwhile, _Tolkien's_ linguistic "marks" are barely in

      > Salo translated into Dwarvish (another of Tolkien's languages)

      This is a sleight-of-hand. By David's own admission, he translated
      texts into his own, fabricated language loosely based on Tolkien's
      Khuzdul. It doesn't take much "expertise" to pull pseudo-Dwarvish words
      and grammatical devices out of one's arse and string 'em together.

      > Salo came up with the Elvish dialogue:
      > Arwen: "Renich i l i erui govannem?" (Do you remember the time when we
      > first met?)

      Let's take a brief look at our "expert"'s version of "Elvish", and see
      how it compares with Tolkien's Sindarin:

      *_renich_ is intended to mean 'you (sg.) remember'. But David cannot
      point to a single published source or justification for his
      oft-asserted idea that the ending _-ch_ _ever_ meant 'you (sg.)' in
      Sindarin. Indeed, very strong reasons to think it _cannot_ have had
      that meaning has been discussed on Elfling.

      _erui_ is intended to mean 'first'. According to _Tolkien_, in a
      document published in July 2001 (well before the first film was
      released), _erui_ "cannot be used for 'first'. In Eldarin _er_ was not
      used in counting in series: it meant 'one, single, alone'" (VT42:10).
      Perhaps if our "expert" could be bothered to follow the primary
      literature of his field of "expertise", we wouldn't have Arwen asking
      Aragorn whether he remembers "the only time we met".

      And so on.

      > the language needed to be firmly based on Tolkien's creations, to
      > satisfy the purists

      David's "expertise" failed him on the first count; and of the
      dismissive labeling of those of us who actually _do_ care about
      _Tolkien's_ languages as "purists", recalling his falsehood-laden
      charges against Bill Welden in the Elfling message referred to above, I
      will quote his own words back to him:

      "I am dismayed by what this seems to say about "Tolkien language
      scholars" .... This kind of thing makes us who study Tolkien's
      languages come off as
      idiots or buffoons".

      What does it say about David's "scholarship" that he would participate
      in portraying those who are _actually_ concerned about _Tolkien's_
      languages, the truth, and substantive authenticity (instead of merely
      _claiming_ such while making stuff up to suit whims, as both David and
      Jackson have done in the films), as "purists", only to be patronized
      and chuckled at?

      > Thus, said Salo, Quenya, the formal Elvish, used in proclamations such
      > as Galadriel's farewell and in official histories, should sound noble
      > and sonorous

      Yes, it should. Too bad you can't actually hear "Galadriel's farewell"
      in the movie (at least, not distinctly); while Christopher Lee's
      "Quenya" declamation is mispronounced, misintoned, and muffled by a
      very loud storm. Not that David had any control over either of _those_

      > As a result of his study of Tolkien languages, he's written a 300-plus
      > page grammar of the Sindarin language - which traces origins and
      > variations of words - that he hopes to publish someday.

      And once again, David dangles his 300-plus page book on Sindarin in
      front of the press ... but not, of course, in front of those who would
      presumably want to read such a thing. And once again, David expresses
      the "hope" that he will be able to publish it "someday". Well. What,
      exactly, is _stopping_ David from publishing the work _today_? He has
      on numerous occasions expressed his utter contempt and demonstrated his
      utter disregard for any question of copyright -- while urging the same
      views on others -- so of course, it cannot be any _legal_ concern
      keeping David from publishing his tome. (After all, certainly David
      would not be so hypocritical as to work to convince others that there
      can be no possibility of legal issues arising from publishing an
      extensive work on Tolkien's languages without the Estate's permission;
      and yet be too timid to publish his own work without seeking or
      obtaining that permission; would he?) What, then, can possibly have
      kept David from simply publishing his completed grammar on the Web?

      Could it be that he wants to make _money_ from his work (unlike, say,
      Bill Welden, whom David smears as being only self-interested), instead
      of giving it away for free by publishing it on the Web? Well no, that
      certainly can't be it: after all, his wife, Dorothea, just one week ago
      declared her utter disregard for the rights of artists to make money
      from their work (http://www.yarinareth.net/mt/mt-tb.cgi/273 ):

      "Explain to me why, from a long-range point of view, I as admirer of
      literature and other creative arts should care how content creators
      make their living.... I should also like an explanation of why the
      artist’s living should automatically trump concerns over the strength
      and viability of culture in general, or the preservation of cultural
      artifacts for future generations."

      "Some of the concerns about contributing work to the public domain
      strike me as dog-in-manger. “What happens if somebody else makes money
      off my work because I didn’t know I could?” Er, you lose. Happens."

      "It is entirely possible to believe that artists should and can make a
      living from their work while still hoping that they will donate some or
      all of their work to the public domain"

      So, it's not money, nor is it concerns of copyright, that has stopped
      David from freely publishing his for-years-dangled book. What, then, is
      it, David? Do you have some sort of religious objection to publishing?
      Would publishing it on the Web not make big enough of a "splash" for

      And while we're considering the words of Dorothea, former moderator and
      manager of the Elfling list, and thus supernally concerned with
      accuracy, truth, and fairness, let's consider these from the same

      > Did you know, apropos of nothing in particular, that under arguments
      > put forth by some folks with close ties to the Tolkien Estate, all
      > that lovely Elvish in the Lord of the Rings movies would have been
      > considered a massive copyright violation?

      As a matter of fact, no one could know this, as it is a bald-faced lie.
      There are no "folks with close ties to the Tolkien Estate" claiming
      that the "Elvish" in the movies are a copyright violation. As has in
      fact been argued by the "folks" Dorothea has in mind (including
      myself), part of copyright is the right to make derivative works, such
      as films. It is these specific, derivative rights that Peter Jackson
      owns and exercises in making his films. No one disputes that.

      It is worth noting, however --- though I have not thought of it before
      reading Dorothea's words -- that Jackson's derivative rights extend
      _only_ to material, characters, and situation found in _The Hobbit_ and
      _The Lord of the Rings_, and _not_ to any other of Tolkien's works,
      published or unpublished. Therefore, just as a legal case against
      Jackson could (easily) be mounted were he to use characters or
      situation from, say, _The Lost Road_ in his film (material to which he
      has no derivative rights), it could be argued that using the
      _linguistic_ material from _The Lost Road_ (or any other source than
      those two novels) -- which Jackson has certainly done, via David's
      "translations" -- _likewise_ falls outside Jackson's derivative rights.
      As Dorothea herself notes:

      > there’s no case law specifically contradicting this point of view.

      Dorothea continues:

      > that hasn’t stopped the folks I’m thinking of from intimidating people
      > with threats of copyright suits or general blacklisting. Don’t believe
      > me? Go read the Tolklang archives from, say, 1998 or thereabouts.)

      I don't believe you, and neither should anyone else, since this is
      another bald-faced, and intensely hypocritical, lie. No one has _ever_
      threatened copyright suits; nor has has _anyone_ _ever_ been
      "blacklisted" by _anyone_ other than David Salo himself, and his
      "colleague" Lisa Star. David's current (and Dorothea's former) list,
      Elfling, has a long-standing policy of censorship, and of banning
      participants from the list entirely; as does Lisa Star's so-called
      "ElvishLinguistics" list. Unlike, say, my own list, Lambengolmor, which
      does not restrict membership in any way (only the content of posts,
      which must be scholarly: again, unlike Elfling and ElvishLinguistics).

      > He's made study trips to Marquette University in Milwaukee,

      But only _after_ publishing a purported (and flawed) presentation of
      the drafts of "Galadriel's Lament" that are found there. I'm still
      trying to work out how this demonstrates a concern for "getting his
      facts straight" instead of "making a big splash". Perhaps David can
      explain this to us.

      > and has become expert enough that he can point out where Tolkien made
      > mistakes writing in his own invented languages.

      Oh? Would David care to point out a few of these "mistakes" that
      _Tolkien_ made, which have been uncovered only by his "expertise"? Or
      would that not make a big enough splash to be worth your time?
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