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Re: Addenda and Corrigenda: Some observations

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    In Elfling message 30297 ( ), Helge ... You believe incorrectly, as so often when you neglect to provide
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 8, 2004
      In Elfling message 30297
      (<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling/message/30297>), Helge
      Fauskagner writes in reply to Thorston Renk:

      > The verbal system can only be tentatively reconstructed at this stage.
      > It was, maybe, with this in mind that I titled my article on the
      > subject "Reconstructing the Sindarin verb system" (and not, as I
      > believe I once saw the title misquoted on the Lambengolmor list,
      > "Reconstruction of the Sindarin verb system").

      You believe incorrectly, as so often when you neglect to provide even a
      single citation. There are precisely _no_ occurrences of this phrase in
      the Lambengolmor archives (according to a Yahoo Groups search of same).
      A Google search turns up precisely _two_ instances on the Web: one, on
      _I-Lam Arth_ (in the list of links to other articles), and one by none
      other than Helge himself, in an Elfling post, in which he refers to his
      work as "our best reconstruction of the Sindarin verb system"

      > We are still in the process of "reconstructing", and my article is
      > only a contribution, not a definite last-word study that might
      > justifiably be termed a finished "reconstruction".

      And here we are treated to the sight of Helge once again diverting
      attention from the matter at hand, fishing for sympathy by portraying
      himself as a an unfair victim of a claim precisely no one has made
      (except himself, as re: calling it a "reconstruction"), and
      constructing a defense against precisely no opposition.

      (The first and foremost criticism _I_ would make of Helge's title is
      that the article it is attached to is no kind of "reconstruction" at
      all: for that presumes and portrays that there was at one time a
      single, complete, consistent system that can be recovered from indirect
      evidence. This is false. Tolkien never produced any such system in the
      first place, nor did the system "reconstructed" by David Salo and Helge
      Fauskanger ever exist. What Helge and David have _actually_ done is to
      cobble together a system from the bits they like, ignoring the bits
      they don't, and supplying unattested bits of their own invention as
      they see fit. Indeed, "invention" or "fabrication" would thus be more
      accurate terms for the result. The first and foremost criticism I
      _have_ made of Helge's article as a whole is that David and Helge
      freely mix Noldorin and Sindarin evidence whenever it suits their
      preconceived notions to do so, while at the same time ignoring or
      dismissing as erroneous any evidence that does _not_ suit. And we see
      Helge here once again performing the same intellectually dishonest

      > Incidentally, I respect your contribution,

      <Lull him with flattery, and then sneak in the misrepresentation of the
      actual topic:>

      > and though you concur with an earlier study by Carl F. Hostetter on a
      > number of points, I don't think the latter study can be rightly
      > described as "the only original article on this particular topic" (as
      > I read somewhere)

      Oh? What other article has been published featuring an original
      discussion of the nature of the _-as_ past-tense ending Noldorin? On
      what _basis_ does Helge "think" this? Can Helge point to even one other
      example? Again, Helge simply asserts a convenient notion as fact,
      without providing even a single citation in support.

      > -- possibly with the unjust implication that you are mindlessly
      > parroting the work of another in your article.

      Only in Helge's world is citing and concurring with another's published
      thoughts to be equated with "mindless parroting". (Helge of course
      neatly avoids this by simply never citing other people's work by name.)

      > As for the Etym-Noldorin material, I think we can ascribe to it
      > considerable authority _when the forms attested have clear
      > counterparts in Sindarin proper_. Thus, while _teithant_ is our sole
      > attested Sindarin example of an A-stem with a past tense in _-nt_, I
      > feel that the fact that the same ending _-(a)nt_ also occurs in
      > Noldorin allows us to consider all of these forms as part of a
      > "greater Sindarin" corpus.

      Note, of course, that no one is saying that this is an invalid
      assumption to make for theoretical methodological purposes. Instead,
      this is a straw-man that Helge sets up in order to:

      a) distract from Thorsten's actual criticism, which was of Helge's
      claim to know what is _regular_ and what is not based on a very limited
      statistical sampling (Elfling message 30269

      "Based on this variety in such a small data sample it should be obvious
      to anyone who has an idea about statistics or data analysis that
      there's no way to see what is regular and what isn't and that there's
      absolutely no way to tell that we see all possible ways of past tense

      b) silently incorporate his and David's _other_ methodologies, which
      are _not_ so innocuous; sc.:

      1. Dismiss any Noldorin data not conforming to David and Helge's
      promulgated "Sindarin" as "clearly" erroneous (e.g., their original
      position regarding _-as_ that Tolkien mistakenly labeled a _noun_ as a
      pa.t. verb, and that any verbal ending _-as_ would necessarily and
      hopelessly "clash" with the nouns).

      2. Favor their purely theoretical forms over actually _attested_ forms
      that happen not to agree with their theories (e.g., their purely
      invented weak past-tense in _-n_ of basic verbs ending in liquids, such
      as *_garn_, *_tirn_, *_mell_, which they continue to assert over and
      despite the actually _attested_ weak past-tense forms _garant_,
      _tiriant_, and _melant_).

      The net result (and aim, it seems) is that by "Sindarin" Helge and
      David mean "whatever _we_ say is Sindarin", not what the actual
      evidence -- i.e., Tolkien -- says it is. And their chief interest, it
      seems, is not to study what _Tolkien_ thought
      Noldorin/Sindarin/whatever was, is not to discuss the evidence and
      arrive at new and better understandings and portraits of Tolkien's
      concepts, but instead to fabricate and promulgate a fixed "Sindarin" by
      personal fiat, and then to defend their status-quo against all
      criticism, questioning, and evidence by whatever rhetorical means
      necessary (including silencing).

      > The Noldorin material even suggests that this ending is very common,

      Indeed yes, _as the weak form of transitive verbs_. But not all verbs
      are transitive, and in fact _-ant_ is very _rare_ in _intransitive_
      verbs. And again, Helge renewed assertion here simply _ignores_
      Thorsten's _actual_ criticism, which was that the corpus of past-tense
      verbs is too small to support firm assertions based solely on relative

      > simply because it is seen to be spreading to verbs where it cannot be
      > historically justified;

      This is yet another unsupported assertion. As detailed in my article on
      "The Past-Tense Verb in the Noldorin of the _Etymologies_", the _fact_
      of the matter is that we have two _attested_ poetic/archaic Noldorin
      verbs exhibiting an old past-tense ending _-nte_ (sc. †_narante_ <
      NAR2- and †_oronte_ < ORO-) that could be attached to derived verbs.
      There is no reason to suppose that ending is not "historically
      justified", nor do we have to think, despite Helge's assertion, that
      the common weak past-tense ending in _-nt_ is _not_ derived by regular
      development from this old/archaic ending (or its historical

      > even many basic verbs are beginning to take the ending _-ant_ instead
      > of going through more complex manipulations of the verbal stem. We
      > have such forms as _sogant_ coexisting with the nasal-infixed form
      > _sunc_.

      Right; we have both weak and strong past-tense forms. We also have
      †_sint_*/_istas_, †eglant_(_eglent_)/_egledhas_, and _orthant_/_erias_
      as coexisting forms _within the very same set of data you use to argue
      for the significance of _-ant_ in your "Sindarin"_. Why then are
      _those_ pairs to be dismissed, why are _these_ contrasts and
      alternatives any less "valid" than the ones _you_ favor?

      * Note: _not_ **_istant_, as "reconstructed" by David for the movies.

      > Methodological problems do arise when Etym suddenly provides examples
      > of a kind of past tense that has no attested counterpart in Sindarin
      > proper,

      And yet you have no problem with promulgating the _completely_
      unattested (in Noldorin _or_ Sindarin) forms like *_girn_, *_tirn_, and
      *_mell_. How can you defend such utterly inconsistent, subjective, and
      whim-driven "methodology" as this?

      > others may hesitate to bring into Sindarin proper a formation that is
      > quite unattested at that conceptual stage.

      Others may; but you and David certainly don't, when it suits your
      purposes. (Besides which, _nobody_ but _Tolkien_ can "bring into
      Sindarin proper" _anything_. What Helge means, really, is "incorporate
      into _my_ 'Sindarin', which is what _I_ say it is".)

      > With so few samples to go on, and the extra complication of differing
      > conceptual phases added to the mix, who can tell?

      And now Helge restates Thorsten's own point as though it were his own,
      and as though it were _counter_ to what Thorsten was in fact saying.
      _Helge_ claimed to be able to know what is "regular" and what is not,
      based on what he _now_ states is a sample space insufficient to support
      any such claim, which was _precisely_ Thorsten's point.

      > We must simply await the publication of more material, and refrain
      > from commiting ourselves to any theories.

      Do I really even need to say it?

      > In the case of the pa.t. forms in _-as_, I may well work them into my
      > "Suggested Conjugation" as alternatives, adding a note to the effect
      > that we simply don't know whether these forms are conceptually valid
      > in Sindarin or not.

      Wow, what a novel concept!

      > Possibly even the dichotomy of "Sindarin vs. Etym-Noldorin" is too
      > simplistic. It is not at all clear that all the material in the
      > Etymologies is a homogenous mass in terms of grammar and phonology;
      > there may be different conceptual stages evident even within Etym.

      Indeed; and again, this is _not_ a novel idea (except perhaps to Helge
      and his disciples). Pat and I spent a _considerable_ effort in
      discovering and detailing such information as can be gleaned from the
      _Etymologies_ manuscript that would indicate its layers of composition,
      precisely in order to support a study of this matter (and despite the
      horrifying spectre of missing what Helge perceived as a "deadline" for
      its publication by doing so). We encourage anyone with sufficient time,
      thoughtfulness, and patience for it to undertake the study, and will
      answer further queries concerning the manuscript that may arise in the
      course of the study, as we are able, and as addressed to the
      Lambengolmor list (<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Lambengolmor/>).

      But it is _certain_ that there is no _less_ of a "dichotomy" between
      Noldorin(s) of the _Etymologies_ and Sindarin of _The Lord of the
      Rings_. Why then do we see David and Helge not scrupling to pretend the
      two _are_ one mass _when it suits their purposes_ (and dismissing the
      rest)? Just whom does Helge think he is "showing the way" to?

      > If the pa.t. _degant_ with an umlauted stem-vowel must indeed be read
      > like this, it still contradicts a parallel form like _hafant_ (not
      > **_hefant_).

      There is _no_ contradiction here, as already pointed out. The stem of
      _hafant_ is given as _haf-_; **_hef-_ or **_hefi_ are "expected", and a
      "contradiction" claimed, only because David and Helge assume that all
      basic verbs _must_ show i-affection in the stem; whereas once again
      Tolkien, vexingly, fails to agree with David and Helge.

      > Yet this may not strictly prove anything; we may be looking at
      > evidence for changing ideas within Etym itself, and it is not quite
      > certain that these forms belong to the "same" form of Noldorin.
      > Possibly we should not treat them as belonging to the "same" corpus,
      > if we thereby imply that they necessarily reflect a single, unified
      > grammar.

      LOL! Oh man, _smell_ the hypocrisy!

      | Carl F. Hostetter Aelfwine@... http://www.elvish.org |
      | |
      | ho bios brachys, he de techne makre. |
      | Ars longa, vita brevis. |
      | The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne. |
      | "I wish life was not so short," he thought. "Languages take |
      | such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about." |
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