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Authenticity (Was: stop it please! will you!)

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  • Michael Everson
    ... I happen to agree with you, Carl. I think you re right. I think Helge doesn t listen to what you actually say. I also think he enjoys winding you up. I
    Message 1 of 8 , Sep 4, 2003
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      At 14:23 -0400 2003-09-03, Carl F. Hostetter wrote:
      >On Sep 3, 2003, at 1:42 PM, Michael Everson wrote:
      >
      >> He does troll you pretty successfully, though.
      >
      >That's one way to look at it, I suppose. ("Gee,
      >it's a shame your store was robbed, mister. You
      >did open your doors to the public, though....")
      >Another way is that which I went on to state:
      >
      >"And I will _not_ remain silent in the face of
      >his lies, misrepresentations, and demagoguery.
      >Or in the face of attempts to equate our
      >characters and responses."

      I happen to agree with you, Carl. I think you're
      right. I think Helge doesn't listen to what you
      actually say. I also think he enjoys winding you
      up. I don't know whether you need to defend
      yourself so vociferously,

      You know, it's possible to learn Gothic. People
      do. Tolkien did. It's possible to study the
      language to learn about Germanic linguistics,
      Gothic grammar, and to read the things that the
      Goths wrote to learn about them.

      It's also possible to make up new words in
      Gothic, to use them with other people. Tolkien
      did this in school, at least a little. What
      results may be well-formed, and it may be
      grammatical, if it follows the rules of grammar
      and morphology which we learn from Gothic. Is a
      Gothic word for "iuplausan" 'liquidize' (calqued
      on German "auflösen") Traditional Gothic? More so
      than if it were calqued on "pürieren" 'purée'
      perhaps) can only be Neo-Gothic, perfect,
      imperfect or not.

      Cornish is an interesting counter-example.
      Cornish died out as a native language at the end
      of the 18th century but has been successfully
      revived -- even if marginally -- in the 20th.
      People speak it to one another; some children
      have been raised with it alongside English.
      Neologisms are coined for it, like "lynnushe"
      'liquidize'. (As it happens there are competing
      orthographies for Cornish, which people argue
      about, but it's agreed that word-formation and
      borrowing and coinage are needed and useful.)
      Scholars who study Traditional Cornish limit
      themselves to the texts. That study sometimes
      informs Neo-Cornish, which, because it is being
      used productively. Good Neo-Cornish is something
      that a speaker of Traditional Cornish might
      accept. Nicholas Williams' translation of the New
      Testament in Cornish is probably the best example
      of Neo-Cornish one could hope for.

      Now, how does this relate to the study of
      Tolkien's languages? Well, there are different
      things people do. On one end of the spectrum we
      have people who are interested in the corpus of
      what I will call here Traditional Tolkienian
      (lumping all the languages together just for the
      sake of this argument). This is serious academic
      linguistic and literary work, and is important
      and satisfying and helps us to understand both
      the creator and his creations. It is "the proper
      study of Tolkien and his languages".

      Now from the beginning some folks have enjoyed
      writing new texts in Tolkienian, and some of
      those texts are quite good too. (Tolkien's Old
      English is great fun as well.) Of course people
      get frustrated when there is a gap in the record,
      whether a lexical or a grammatical gap. Does this
      justify inventing new things? Well, the INSTANT
      one does it is no longer Traditional Tolkienian,
      but it is Neo-Tolkienian. And there you're stuck.
      Because there's no "guarantee" that anything
      Neo-Tolkienian is authentic in any way. There is
      a much higher likelihood of the 25,000 words in
      Williams' English-Cornish Dictionary being
      accepted as authentic, because (1) we have a fair
      bit of Traditional Cornish, (2) we have Welsh and
      Breton and English and French and lots of
      information as to how to borrow from them into
      Cornish.

      Does the same obtain for Tolkienian? Could it? I
      think not. I think it's easy for people with "a
      little" linguistics to grossly overgeneralize,
      and to just make things up when it suits them.
      It's just as easy for people with "a lot" of
      linguisics to err. An infinite variety of
      Neo-Tolkienians is possible. And at the end of
      the day, what does it get you?

      Part of the study of Tolkien's languages
      naturally involves reconstruction and conjecture.
      So does the study of Proto-Indo-European. No
      reconstruction is anything but conjectural,
      however obvious the reconstruction might be.
      Authentic Tolkienian is found in the writings of
      the man himself.

      I'm going to make a complaint, to give this
      thread some ElfScript relevence. I once thought
      that I could use ElfScript to help us encode
      Tengwar and Cirth in Unicode. The reason for
      doing that encoding is ONLY to assist in the
      study of the primary sources. That the encoding
      could be used for other things is fine, but, for
      instance, no tengwar which are unattested will be
      entertained for encoding, however clever or
      useful they may be to a Neo-Fëanor. At the
      beginning I did get some good feedback on the
      Elfscript list, and will eventually get back to
      the encoding (living scripts like Cham and N'ko
      are taking precedence at present). Probably I
      will create a separate list for further
      discussion.

      Why? Because Jackson's films have thrilled
      millions, and Legolas is cute, and when the Elves
      speak it is sexy. (One might say that about many
      films. In "Shunkmanitu t'anka 'ob wachi" (Dances
      with Wolves) the Lakota does sound cool.) So
      ElfScript descends into alphabet magic: "How do I
      write 'I am eternally eternal' in Elvish? I am
      getting a tattoo on Friday."

      I think Professor Tolkien would not have approved.
      --
      Michael Everson * * Everson Typography * * http://www.evertype.com
    • Carl F. Hostetter
      ... Then neither do you know whether I _don t_ need to. Nor do I. ... It is possible to _study_ Gothic. It is possible to examine authentic texts in Gothic,
      Message 2 of 8 , Sep 4, 2003
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        On Sep 4, 2003, at 7:25 AM, Michael Everson wrote:

        > I don't know whether you need to defend yourself so vociferously,

        Then neither do you know whether I _don't_ need to. Nor do I.

        > You know, it's possible to learn Gothic.

        It is possible to _study_ Gothic. It is possible to examine authentic
        texts in Gothic, analyze and theorize about what those texts tell us
        about the language as it might have been spoken. It is possible to
        examine the traces of Gothic influence left in other languages, and
        incorporate theories derived from analysis of those remnants into
        broader theories about the language as it might have been spoken. It is
        possible to draw inferences about spoken Gothic from the theoretical
        results of the historical linguistics of the Germanic and Indo-European
        language families to which Gothic belonged.

        But no, it is _not_ possible to "learn Gothic", not in the sense that
        "learn" means when unqualifiedly applied to languages, such as "learn
        Japanese" or "learn German". _No one knows_ how Gothic was actually
        spoken. _No one knows_ for sure what was and what was not grammatical
        in spoken Gothic. _All we know_ is theory derived from _written_ Gothic
        and other theoretical results.

        And precisely the same is true of Tolkien's languages.

        > Tolkien did.

        Tolkien was able to write and speak (to some extent; we have only
        second-hand reports, not transcriptions, so know way of knowing what
        Tolkien actually said, or how artificial or rehearsed it was) sentences
        composed of words and grammatical devices according (for the most part)
        with the predominant theories of the day concerning Gothic (and, no
        doubt, with his own personal theories and convictions). Nor was he
        entirely successful even at that, even in writing, as he himself
        pointed out.

        > It's also possible to make up new words in Gothic, to use them with
        > other people.

        Strictly speaking, it is possible to make up new words that conform
        with theory regarding Gothic phonology and morphology. But those words
        are nonetheless _not_ "genuine" and "authentic" Gothic. Still, in the
        usual sense of the phrase "make up new words in a language", yes, what
        you say is true. Of course, the very fact that one would do this "to
        use them with other people" speaks volumes about the vast difference
        between (relatively) poorly attested languages like Gothic and
        Tolkien's languages and other, spoken languages: If I were learning
        Japanese with some other people, we wouldn't be making up new words to
        use amongst ourselves. Nor would I pretend to "know Japanese" (as many
        pretend to "know Quenya" or "know Sindarin") just because I can string
        together words I look up in a dictionary into sentences that happen to
        conform to broad syntactic models.

        > Is a Gothic word for "iuplausan" 'liquidize' (calqued on German
        > "auflösen") Traditional Gothic?

        I have no idea what you mean by "Traditional Gothic". "Traditional" is
        not a linguistic term. Is it "genuine" or "authentic" Gothic? No. Does
        it conform to theory regarding Gothic phonology and morphology? Yes.
        Might it turn up in some as-yet-undiscovered Gothic text? Yes. Might it
        never ahve existed in any form of Gothic ever? Absolutely.

        > Cornish is an interesting counter-example.

        Cornish is an interesting _case_. But there are also key differences:
        First, there are far more surviving Cornish texts than there are for
        Gothic. Second, Cornish texts are not nearly so artificial as written
        Gothic was when compared to the spoken language (Wulfilas's translation
        of the Bible being _heavily_ influenced by vocabulary and syntax of the
        Greek texts).

        > Cornish died out as a native language at the end of the 18th century
        > but has been successfully revived -- even if marginally -- in the
        > 20th.

        I don't know much about the specifics of the Cornish Revival, so at
        this point I can only ask questions: apart from the _lexicon_ of what
        you call Neo-Cornish, how much of the grammar is reconstructed or
        invented? In other words, is the body of surviving Cornish texts, and
        information regarding the spoken language, sufficient to exemplify
        broadly and in detail the phonology, morphology, and syntax of the
        deceased language, or did much of this have to be reconstructed from
        fragmentary evidence? I ask this because, to the extent that the latter
        is true, I would question the precision of the claim that "Cornish" --
        which term would have to be qualified -- has been "revived".

        > it's agreed that word-formation and borrowing and coinage are needed
        > and useful.)

        Of course; but that's because it was first agreed among the same group
        of people that "reviving Cornish" (see my reservations about those
        terms above) was a goal they wished to pursue in common. But neither
        word-formation nor borrowing nor coinage are "needed" or "useful" to
        those wishing to study Cornish.

        > Good Neo-Cornish is something that a speaker of Traditional Cornish
        > might accept.

        "Accept" as what?

        > Nicholas Williams' translation of the New Testament in Cornish is
        > probably the best example of Neo-Cornish one could hope for.

        Whoa now. If Neo-Cornish has _truly_ become a living, spoken language,
        then there must be a community of fluent speakers of Neo-Cornish, and
        _anything_ said by _any_ of them would be just as good an example of
        Neo-Cornish as any other. On the other hand, if Neo-Cornish is in fact
        an _artificial_ language, then indeed one person's productions could be
        said to be better than another's -- and the phrasing of what you just
        wrote seems to betray a level of artificiality to the language, and a
        privileged status to Mr. Williams. Against what, exactly, do you
        measure Mr. Williams's translation to decide that it is the "best"?

        I should note that these are _not_ rhetorical questions. They go to the
        very heart of a crucial distinction between a dead/poorly-attested
        language (including nearly all artificial languages) and a living one.

        > This is serious academic linguistic and literary work, and is
        > important and satisfying and helps us to understand both
        > the creator and his creations. It is "the proper study of Tolkien and
        > his languages".

        I don't agree with that statement at all, as it implies that there is
        something improper about the sort of activity that Helge and the
        majority of posters to Elfling enjoy, and there absolutely is not.
        (Helge _wants_ you to believe that I feel it is improper, but even he
        knows better.)

        What _is_ improper is to attempt to eradicate the distinction between
        that activity and the activity of scholarship, which Helge does with
        his frequent use and fierce defense of applying such terms as "genuine"
        and "authentic" to the products of his and others' efforts at writing
        "in Elvish". It is this and other such (dare I say unscholarly)
        attempts to falsify the distinctions and actual natures of the two
        spheres of activities that I have spoken out against, and _only_ this..

        > Of course people get frustrated when there is a gap in the record,
        > whether a lexical or a grammatical gap. Does this justify inventing
        > new things?

        Of course it does, _if_ your goal is to produce (what matches your
        personal sense of what constitutes) a complete grammatical system for
        use with others. What it does _not_ justify is taking the results of
        these inventions and attempting to pass them off as "genuine" or
        "authentic". Nor does it justify elevating the hypothetical to the
        level of fact or evidence.

        > Because there's no "guarantee" that anything Neo-Tolkienian is
        > authentic in any way.

        In fact, it is _not_ authentic in _any_ way.

        > There is a much higher likelihood of the 25,000 words in Williams'
        > English-Cornish Dictionary being accepted as authentic,

        As authentic _what_? As accepted Neo-Cornish? You bet! As authentic
        (what you call Traditional) Cornish? It most certainly is not. You
        yourself draw a distinction between Traditional and Neo-Cornish; they
        are not interchangeable.

        And let's be honest here: in the case of _any_ artificial language
        lacking a community of fluent speakers (only Esperanto has, to my
        knowledge, achieved this status), the work of one or more "authorities"
        on the language will not be subject to a "vote": they will in fact
        _define_ the language. You will have people who accept their authority
        citing them as sources and their writings as proof (How else could it
        be? By what other measure can you judge the authority or evidentiary
        status of elements of a non-native artificial language?) -- and as we
        have seen throughout the history of artificial languages, you will very
        often have _other_ people following _other_ authorities, with resulting
        schisms (of course, because the work of each such authority defines
        their own artificial language). The difference between a scholar of
        Cornish and a student or speaker of what you call Neo-Cornish is that
        the former accepts only the actual written evidence of Cornish as facts
        about the language, while the latter will accept the writings and
        productions of their authorities as facts about the language. And the
        difference between a scholar of Tolkien's languages and a student of
        Neo-Elvish is that the former accepts only the actual evidence of
        Tolkien's writings as facts about the languages, while the writings and
        productions of their authorities as facts about the languages.

        And there is not one thing wrong with that, so long as the students,
        and _especially_ the authorities, don't misunderstand or deliberately
        misrepresent the fact that they are _defining_ new languages, _not_
        speaking or reviving the pre-existing language.

        > I think it's easy for people with "a little" linguistics to grossly
        > overgeneralize, and to just make things up when it suits them.

        Yep.

        > It's just as easy for people with "a lot" of linguisics to err.

        Yep.

        > An infinite variety of Neo-Tolkienians is possible.

        Yep.

        > And at the end of the day, what does it get you?

        Indeed.

        > Part of the study of Tolkien's languages naturally involves
        > reconstruction and conjecture. So does the study of
        > Proto-Indo-European. No reconstruction is anything but conjectural,
        > however obvious the reconstruction might be.

        Indeed. But no scholar of Proto-Indo-European will ever pretend that
        those reconstructions are anything more than theoretical, or that we
        know how to speak Proto-Indo-European.

        > Authentic Tolkienian is found in the writings of the man himself.

        Exactly so.

        > Jackson's films have thrilled millions, and Legolas is cute, and when
        > the Elves speak it is sexy. (One might say that about many
        > films. In "Shunkmanitu t'anka 'ob wachi" (Dances with Wolves) the
        > Lakota does sound cool.) So ElfScript descends into alphabet magic:
        > "How do I write 'I am eternally eternal' in Elvish? I am getting a
        > tattoo on Friday."
        >
        > I think Professor Tolkien would not have approved.

        I think you are right.
      • BP Jonsson
        ... Nobody has contested that. ... And some are trying to do exactly the same with Tolkien s languages. You, Mr. Hostetter seem to find this morally
        Message 3 of 8 , Sep 6, 2003
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          "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@...> wrote:

          >But no, it is _not_ possible to "learn Gothic", not in the sense that
          >"learn" means when unqualifiedly applied to languages, such as "learn
          >Japanese" or "learn German". _No one knows_ how Gothic was actually
          >spoken. _No one knows_ for sure what was and what was not grammatical
          >in spoken Gothic. _All we know_ is theory derived from _written_ Gothic
          >and other theoretical results.
          >
          >And precisely the same is true of Tolkien's languages.


          Nobody has contested that.


          >Tolkien was able to write and speak (to some extent; we have only
          >second-hand reports, not transcriptions, so know way of knowing what
          >Tolkien actually said, or how artificial or rehearsed it was) sentences
          >composed of words and grammatical devices according (for the most part)
          >with the predominant theories of the day concerning Gothic (and, no
          >doubt, with his own personal theories and convictions). Nor was he
          >entirely successful even at that, even in writing, as he himself
          >pointed out.

          And some are trying to do exactly the same with
          Tolkien's languages. You, Mr. Hostetter seem to
          find this morally reprehensible. I wonder why?
          Just as Tolkien knew what hat he was wearing
          when he pursued scholarship and when he pursued
          linguistic creation, so do I know what hat I'm
          wearing when I'm working as a scholar and when
          I engage in linguistic creation, whether a-priori
          or a-posteriori, and I'm sure that all other
          adult people know what hats they are wearing at
          any given time. So where is the problem?

          /BP 8^)
          --
          B.Philip Jonsson mailto:melrochX@... (delete X)
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~__
          A h-ammen ledin i phith! \ \
          __ ____ ____ _____________ ____ __ __ __ / /
          \ \/___ \\__ \ /___ _____/\ \\__ \\ \ \ \\ \ / /
          / / / / / \ / /Melroch\ \_/ // / / // / / /
          / /___/ /_ / /\ \ / /Gaestan ~\_ // /__/ // /__/ /
          /_________//_/ \_\/ /Eowine __ / / \___/\_\\___/\_\
          Gwaedhvenn Angeliniel\ \______/ /a/ /_h-adar Merthol naun
          ~~~~~~~~~Kuinondil~~~\________/~~\__/~~~Noolendur~~~~~~
          || Lenda lenda pellalenda pellatellenda kuivie aiya! ||
          "A coincidence, as we say in Middle-Earth" (JRR Tolkien)


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Carl F. Hostetter
          ... May I remind you that my reply was to the claim that we can learn Gothic ? ... And you, Mr. Jonsson, are _completely_ wrong, as you would know if you had
          Message 4 of 8 , Sep 6, 2003
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            On Saturday, September 6, 2003, at 05:21 AM, BP Jonsson wrote:

            > "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@...> wrote:
            >
            >> But no, it is _not_ possible to "learn Gothic", not in the sense that
            >> "learn" means when unqualifiedly applied to languages, such as "learn
            >> Japanese" or "learn German". _No one knows_ how Gothic was actually
            >> spoken. _No one knows_ for sure what was and what was not grammatical
            >> in spoken Gothic. _All we know_ is theory derived from _written_
            >> Gothic
            >> and other theoretical results.
            >>
            >> And precisely the same is true of Tolkien's languages.
            >
            > Nobody has contested that.

            May I remind you that my reply was to the claim that we can "learn
            Gothic"?

            >> Tolkien was able to write and speak (to some extent; we have only
            >> second-hand reports, not transcriptions, so know way of knowing what
            >> Tolkien actually said, or how artificial or rehearsed it was)
            >> sentences composed of words and grammatical devices according (for
            >> the most part) with the predominant theories of the day concerning
            >> Gothic (and, no doubt, with his own personal theories and
            >> convictions). Nor was he entirely successful even at that, even in
            >> writing, as he himself pointed out.
            >
            > And some are trying to do exactly the same with Tolkien's languages.
            > You, Mr. Hostetter seem to find this morally reprehensible.

            And you, Mr. Jonsson, are _completely_ wrong, as you would know if you
            had read even just my most recent posts to this list, in which I have
            _repeatedly_ denied that there is anything improper in doing so. My
            issue is _only_ with the blurring of the line between scholarship and
            creativity, specifically between fact and hypothesis: Tolkien never
            attempted to pass his Gothic off as "genuine" or "authentic" Gothic.

            (If anyone wonders why I feel so strongly the need, and claim the
            right, to correct the charges and misrepresentations leveled against
            me, how can you wonder after reading this? Here Mr. Jonsson, a
            prominent contributor to this and other Tolkienian-linguistics lists,
            lazily maintains a completely false opinion of me, because he can't be
            bothered to read my words, but instead simply accepts the distortions
            and misrepresentations fostered by Helge Fauskanger as true.)
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