Futility: On the current state of Elfling
- [Please feel free to refer to or forward this message to the Elfling
In message 17077 (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling/message/17077),
Ben Hamill rehearses at length what he terms two "differing theories"
to explain various 1st pl. endings encountered in Tolkien's writings.
In doing so, he (self-admittedly) relies only on what Helge Fauskanger
last had to say on the matter, and on what he was able to glean from
the Internet, and not on the actual evidence. He therefore regards the
two "differing" accounts as "theories" (i.e., explanations that
sufficiently account for all the known evidence), and as having equal
theoretical weight; though in the end he "sides" with Helge's "theory".
Now, the purpose of this post is not to pick on Ben, who at least
recognizes that he hasn't considered all of the evidence, and the
consequent limitations of his methodology. Instead, I selected Ben's
post because it and the subsequent discussion (which includes asking
for a "vote" to see what the most common "usage" is) provides a
forceful example of the sorry state in which Elfling finds itself.
The fact is, in light of actual evidence published in _Vinyar Tengwar_,
Helge's "theory" is clearly invalid, in that it does not explain _all_
the available evidence. I think Helge knows this, but, for whatever
reason, he chooses not to point this fact out in Elfling, despite once
having been an eager and active participant on the list. Nor does he
choose to update his web site (of which he is justly proud and upon
which he is proud to see so many rely for their view of Tolkien's
languages -- often, solely) to reflect the new knowledge. Nor, for
whatever reason, does list manager David Salo choose to provide any
correction, despite his renewed interest and participation in the list,
and his newfound concern for reducing the blather that has all but
overwhelmed the list. Meanwhile, I have been banned from the list, and
so unlike David and Helge have no choice in the matter.
The facts about Tolkien's languages must be determined by thorough
consultation and citation of the actual evidence. Any list that, like
Elfling, proclaims itself to be concerned with the "_scholarly_ study
of _the languages invented by J.R.R. Tolkien_" must recognize and
enforce this, or it has no claim on scholarship, and will inevitably
fall into a state of continuous argument by assertion, propagation of
error, and the creation of accepted truths by constant repetition of
"facts" that were "read somewhere" or that "Helge said" sometime,
somewhere in his more-or-less outdated web tomes.
In message 17141 (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling/message/17141),
an Elfling member writes:
> if the students were thrown a few incomplete reference books and leftThe extreme irony of this statement, especially as made on Elfling, is,
> to teach themselves and each other, NOW THAT WOULD BE FUTILE.
I feel sure, lost on the poster. The fact is, anyone trying to "learn"
Elvish, in the sense of being able to "use" it, to speak or write it,
is and forever will be "teaching themselves and each other" from "a few
incomplete reference books", because that is all that Tolkien left
behind. There are not, never have been, and never will be, any fluent,
or even competent, speakers of Tolkien's languages (not even Tolkien
himself qualifies). The effort is, therefore, as the poster correctly
concludes (without recognizing the larger situation) utterly futile. It
is only "learning" Elvish, in the sense of studying Tolkien's writings,
the actual facts of the language, that is ultimately _not_ consigned to
But even within the smaller context of the specific situation the
poster was thinking of, they apparently fail to recognize another
irony: that the very "teachers" being imagined have all but abandoned
the list they started, and are quite content to sit in the sidelines
and watch error after error (often enough "learned" from themselves)
being repeated and turned into truth.
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