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[LDB] An earlier experiment

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  • John Garth
    I ve resisted commenting on the discussion of a linguistic database because I haven t the time, I m afraid, to go into it. However, I think my own attempt at
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 25, 2002
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      I've resisted commenting on the discussion of a linguistic database because
      I haven't the time, I'm afraid, to go into it. However, I think my own
      attempt at creating one might be instructive. I think Anders and Carl are
      both fairly aware of what I had in mind when I worked on it for several
      years (from the publication of _The Peoples of Middle-earth_ until about
      four years ago, when it led on to better things).

      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).

      Allied to this was a database file of a sort which has not been mentioned in
      posts that I've read: a catalogue of texts with their (usually estimated)
      dates of composition. Something of the sort has been begun in French online,
      and can be seen at http://www.ifrance.com/jrrvf/effeuille/home.html � though
      my version was more thorough-going to say the least.

      For each text (say, the pencil manuscript of _The Music of the Ainur_) I
      would create an entry for every word or name or phrase of Qenya, Gnomish,
      etc. Information in each entry would fall into two plainly distinct
      categories, internal (sub-created Tolkienian linguistic data such as
      etymology or usage notes) and external (emendations and additions or
      deletions pertaining to the word, name or phrase, e.g. in the abovementioned
      text [plural] Ainu >> Ainur).

      My database therefore held a complete linguistic "census" of each text. As a
      whole it could generate lists of all the linguistic data pertaining to any
      given word throughout its existence, or all the textual transformations it
      underwent.

      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. The most
      taxing aspect was cataloguing and dating the texts, and dealing with the
      many ramifying questions which arose in the process (for example, whether it
      was necessary or possible to date the internal changes to a document).

      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 absolutely agree with Carl, though, that there is simply no room for other
      people's coinages in such a database. It is a vast task in itself, and
      making it into a hobbyists' playground would detract entirely from its
      validity as a scholarly tool. (I don't wish to denigrate those who enjoy
      Quenya composition, but I do wish to stress the fundamental divergence
      between that and the primary analysis of what Tolkien created. I believe it
      is in the interests of both parties to maintain the distinction.)

      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.

      John Garth






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    • Boris Shapiro
      Aiya! Thursday, July 25, 2002, 1:07:01 PM, John Garth wrote: JG My aim was to create a diachronic database covering all the JG language-matter Tolkien
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 26, 2002
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        Aiya!

        Thursday, July 25, 2002, 1:07:01 PM, John Garth wrote:

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

        JG> For each text (say, the pencil manuscript of _The Music of the
        JG> Ainur_) I would create an entry for every word or name or phrase
        JG> of Qenya, Gnomish, etc. Information in each entry would fall into
        JG> two plainly distinct categories, internal (sub-created Tolkienian
        JG> linguistic data such as etymology or usage notes) and external
        JG> (emendations and additions or deletions pertaining to the word,
        JG> name or phrase, e.g. in the abovementioned text [plural] Ainu >>>
        JG> Ainur).

        That is very interesting! Of course I do agree with everything you've
        said about textual-history aspect. That is certainly a vital part of
        the hypothetical ELDA. I wonder if your database could be imported in
        that project?

        To sum it all up, we have one more level of description: the overall
        dating of the text piece (together with all the necessary history
        notes) and the amendment history of each word-object.


        Namaarie! S.Y., Elenhil Laiquendo [Boris Shapiro]


        : yasse laa lantar lassi · i noore nossenyo tennoio! :
      • Kai MacTane
        ... 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
        Message 3 of 3 , Jul 26, 2002
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          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
          option.)

          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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