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148Re: [Lambengolmor] [LDB] An earlier experiment

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  • Kai MacTane
    Jul 26, 2002
      At 7/25/02 02:07 AM , John Garth wrote:

      >My aim was to create a diachronic database covering all the language-matter
      >Tolkien devised for "Middle-earth" from its inception with Qenya in c. 1915.
      >I made no judgements about grammatical categories and just forged ahead with
      >recording the occurence of words and names (and yes, phrases) in _HoMe_,
      >etc. Naturally I made a full note of everything that Tolkien _said_ about
      >each word (e.g. etymological information).

      As you might guess, I find this very interesting. Is your work available?
      If so, please consider this a request for a copy, as well as an assurance,
      if necessary, that I will not redistribute it.

      >The project was abandoned primarily through a sense of its enormity. I
      >catalogued all the texts and linguistic data in _HoMe_ volumes 1-5 and 10,
      >apart from _Etymologies_, and I made a start on 6, 7, and 11 too. That took
      >me months of work; pleasant enough, but not terribly thrilling.

      Indeed, this is one reason why I have strongly considered, from the outset,
      having QH be a collaborative project, leveraging the Internet in much the
      same way that open-source projects do. If a bunch of _lambengolmor_
      collaborate on the work, it becomes much easier. (Coordinating such work
      is, of course, something whose details have yet to be worked out; such
      discussion might not be appropriate here (and it certainly would be
      premature at this point!), but I can set up a mailing list of my own later,
      if it becomes appropriate.)

      >But I think this textual-history aspect is essential to the idea of a
      >diachronic database, and the issue can't be fudged. The _Quettahostanie_
      >system, with its very broad phases of composition, seems to me to rely on
      >arbitrary divisions. Looked at close up, each of these phases turns out to
      >have been in internal flux. All changes must be recorded, and all (with the
      >exception of those which resulted in versions authorised by Tolkien) are
      >equally valid.

      I agree that you have a strong point here about the "breadth" of the
      chronological categories QH uses. I have had, since I started that
      grouping, a sneaking suspicion that it's likely to bite me in the ass
      sooner or later -- what happens when we need to enter some form that was
      used in, say, 1946, but has an opposing use in 1948? In theory, it should
      then have both a green check mark *and* a red X in the late '40s.

      My excuse for why I did it the way I have done, when the potential problem
      is there, is simply that if I tried to list all years from 1915-1973, the
      table formed would be far wider than most people's browsers can display.
      (And I've always had in mind that this database should be Web-accessible;
      to my mind, there's little point in making such a tool *not* be public.)

      I agree that it's something of a problem; at the moment, my best solution
      would be to have a symbol for "conflict", and list the details in the Notes
      or Attestations section (or perhaps introduce a new field, like
      "Diachrony", and put the specific chronology notes there). If you (or
      anyone else) has any other suggestions (that don't involve everyone who
      wants to use QH having to get 25" monitors), please let me know.

      >It is, I feel, premature to speak about this in the future tense, except in
      >terms of a sample database such as _Quettahostanie_. The copyright problem
      >is considerable.

      I think the copyright problem is resolvable fairly easily, by simply asking
      the Estate's permission. If they give it, hoorah! If not, then the project
      will need to be abandoned anyway. (Of course, the range of responses they
      can give is *not* a strict binary set, but if they give some answer that's
      more complex, I/we can deal with it when it happens; I can't possibly
      predict all their possible responses. If, for example, they want all
      references to Tolkien's works in the Attestations and Notes fields to be
      hyperlinks to the appropriate "buy this book" page at amazon.com, that's
      actually not too hard to set up.)

      However, since a refusal on their part this time around is likely to
      predispose them negatively to any future database attempts, I'd like to
      make sure that QH is in the best possible shape before approaching them.
      Hopefully, the feedback here will enable me to make some sort of
      improvements. (For example, switching the Silmarillion into the
      "unpublished" category is something I'm already working on. It's turning
      out to be pretty simple.)

      Alternatively, if the general consensus is that it's very likely to get
      turned down, I can always just kill the project and not bother to approach
      the Estate about it at all, so as not to pollute the prospects for future
      attempts. (Naturally, that idea doesn't appeal to me much. But it is an

      I know that some folks on this list have prior experience in dealing with
      the Estate. If any of you have any advice to render on what would make them
      more likely to give their permission, I'd love to hear it.

      --Kai MacTane
      "And the Devil in a black dress watches over,
      My guardian angel walks away..."
      --Sisters of Mercy,
      "Temple of Love"
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