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30Tengwar Unicode comments

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  • Mans Bjorkman
    Apr 19, 2000
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      Fellow Elfscribes,

      Here are my first comments on Michael Everson's proposal to encode the
      Tengwar in Unicode.

      1. "compare Quenya [...] nelde ‘three’, [...] neltildi ‘triangle’ with
      Sindarin [...] neled ‘three’ and [...] nelthil ‘triangle’ (the use of
      [númen] for n in Quenya and [óre] for n in Sindarin (since [númen]
      generally = nn in Sindarin) is irrelevant here)."

      Though it indeed is irrelevant, I would like to point out that in the
      attested Sindarin mode where ómatehtar are used (see the third copy of
      "The King's Letter") _númen_ actually represents /n/ and _óre_
      represents word-final /r/. The unattested Sindarin mode used by Mr.
      Everson is, if nothing else, a slight distraction and should therefore
      be corrected.

      2. "In Old English, the vowel preceding a consonant is written above it,
      and following a consonant is written after it: [...] þære."

      This is the case in the first version of "Edwin Lowdham's manuscript".
      In the second version, the consonant is pronounced *before* all vowels
      attached to it; if there is both a superscripted and a subscripted
      ómatehta, they together represent a diphtong (as in _weorulde_).

      3. I very much doubt that xx32 TENGWAR LETTER ANNA SINDARINWA,
      supposedly attested in the Moria Gate inscription, is a letter distinct
      from xx16 TENGWAR LETTER ANNA. This decorative version of _anna_ simply
      follows the general style of the characters in the inscription, as a
      comparison with the samples of _númen_ and _vala_ should demonstrate.

      4. The title page Tengwar inscriptions in _The Silmarillion_ and _The
      Lost Road_ were not written by Tolkien, and should thus not be treated
      as reliable sources. From this follows that xx34 TENGWAR LETTER REVERSED
      PARMA and xx35 TENGWAR LETTER REVERSED FORMEN should be removed (xx4B
      TENGWAR SIGN RIGHT CURL BELOW is attested in "Edwin Lowdham's

      5. Attestations:

      * xx2D TENGWAR LETTER HALLA is described in Tolkien 1965a, in the last
      footnote to the section describing the Tengwar.

      * xx2F TENGWAR LETTER EXTENDED LONG CARRIER is, as far as I know, not

      * xx33 TENGWAR LETTER OPEN ANNA is attested in Tolkien 1992, third
      script sample.

      LETTER REVERSED ROOMEN, are attested in Tolkien 1992, second script

      * xx54 TENGWAR SIGN GRAVE was, to my knowledge, never used by Tolkien.

      * xx56 TENGWAR SIGN THREE INVERTED DOTS ABOVE is attested in Hammond and
      Scull, _J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator_, ill. ## 184, 186.

      the "Namárie inscription" in Donald Swann, _The Road Goes Ever On: A
      Song Cycle_.

      * The distinction between xx66 TENGWAR SECTION MARK and xx68 TENGWAR
      LONG SECTION MARK is probably by necessity typographic rather than

      * The numeric tengwar xx70--xx7D were published in Doughan and
      Bradfield, _Quettar_ Special Publication #1, 1997.

      6. Missing characters:

      * The numeric _12_ had a variant form resembling a lower-case _9_, i.e.
      with a diagonal line descending from the bow of the circle (ibidem).

      * The quotation marks and the _&_ sign used in "Edwin Lowdham's
      manuscript" may perhaps be excluded because they occur in other writing
      systems as well; but then the double dots, the acute accent and the
      breve should be excluded on the same grounds.

      * Tolkien 1965a mentions a variant form of the a-tehta "like a

      * In the first copy of "The King's Letter", a special variant of xx30
      TENGWAR LETTER STEMLESS ANNA is used in word-final position.

      * I am of the opinion that the glyph used for _mh_ in "The King's
      Letter" is a distinct grapheme, and *not* an m-s ligature. I base this
      on the following:

      1) We have no other samples of the s-curl being used for anything other
      than /s/.
      2) The curl in this letter is shorter and more "compact" than any s-curl
      by Tolkien I've seen. Also, this would be the only sample of an s-curl
      occuring somewhere else but word-finally.
      3) Adding a curl to a letter seems in Sindarin to have been the
      preferred way of "de-voicing" a letter: compare _rómen_=/r/ vs.
      _arda_=/rh/; _lambe_=/l/ vs. _alda_=/lh/.


      P.S. I've pointed this out before, and it really is a trivial point, but
      it was *not* me who published a "competing" Unicode proposal some years
      ago, though I provided the compilator with much input. I would beg Mr.
      Everson to consider rephrazing his Guidelines before posting them again.

      Måns Björkman "'Min drotzete signe then helge and!
      Törnby Nw hauer iak Swerighe i mynne hand.'
      SE-179 75 Skå Tha swarade en riddere, het herra Knut:
      Sweden 'Jak tror, tik brister alt annat wt'."
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