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Re: "Quenya of _Namaarie_" (long)

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  • williamwelden
    ... I don t know about comprehensive and Creed , but the question is one close to my heart. I can certainly contribute to a thread which might then be mined
    Message 1 of 12 , Jun 1, 2002
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      Boris Shapiro wrote:

      > In a message on Elfling Pavel has argued that there could
      > be no general "Namaarie-style Quenya", for that particular
      > phase of Quenya begins and ends with "Namaarie"...

      and then:

      > ... comprehensive ... Creed ...

      I don't know about "comprehensive" and "Creed", but the
      question is one close to my heart. I can certainly contribute to a
      thread which might then be mined for a creed (or at least a FAQ).

      The statement is bold (as you say), and true as far as it goes; but
      it fails to take into account the most important transformation in
      all of the (external) history of Quenya: a transformation in which
      _Namárie_ played a pivotal role.

      This will be a _compare and contrast_ exercise. _Quenya_ and
      _natural language_.

      Almost all of our energy has been directed toward the
      similarities. I don't think I will get any argument when I say that
      Quenya is extraordinary in this regard: what fictional language is
      more realistic? Lewis' Old Solar is just a scattering of nouns.
      Klingon is purely synchronic. I am particularly touched by
      LeGuin's Kesh, but it is a sketch compared to the tapestry of
      Quenya. Quenya will always be for me the bright window through
      which I first glimpsed the vivid reality of Middle-earth. I
      acknowledge this at the outset so that I can let it go, because it
      obscures the point I want to make.

      Which is this: that Quenya is also different from natural
      language, and the way in which it is different changed on the day
      that the first copy of _Fellowship_ hit the newsstands.

      Prior to publication, Quenya was a sort of workshop in which
      Tolkien could try out his _lámatyáve_, his sense of what was
      pleasing in language. I will call this "workshop Quenya".
      Tolkien's development of Quenya has often been characterized
      as a progression from primitive to polished, but it seems to me
      rather to be a series of sketches, with experimental features
      more often discarded than making an immediate and lasting
      contribution to the language. One day subject inflections precede
      the verb, but before long follow again with no proclitic legacy
      (other than a clarification in Tolkien's mind of word-order in
      Common Eldarin). Features appear and are rejected only to
      appear and be rejected again many years later (e.g., _lá_ = `no').
      What is constant in Quenya was mostly there to begin with.

      Note that Tolkien's essays and compositions do not document
      distinct stages of the development of the language, as might at
      first be expected. They are, instead, the driving force behind the
      development, so that almost all of the change in the language
      happens between some first draft and some final draft. This,
      together with the fact that most drafts are incomplete and that
      subsequent drafts tend to become progressively sketchier and
      less complete, accounts for quite a bit of the difficulty in
      preparing this material for clear presentation.

      Whether this wandering Quenya would have converged (or
      "matured") in the absence of publication is academic. What
      happened instead was that the nature of Quenya changed, and it
      changed overnight. It became a literary illusion, no different than
      the History of the Third Age or the Geography of Gondor.

      A skillful author (and Tolkien was among the best in this regard)
      will give us glimpses of a greater reality: exactly the sort of
      glimpses we would get if we had really been there. Of course, if
      we really _were_ there, we could explore what intrigued us
      (counting the layers of rock in the weathered outcrops of the
      White Mountains or cornering an Elf and demanding the word for
      `if'), but this is fancy. The glimpse is well constructed, but it is
      only our own minds that fill in the details (or rather assume their
      existence).

      Actually, the transformation in Quenya was subtler. Tolkien held
      the principle of "canonical Quenya" (as I will call this literary
      illusion, in order to maintain consistency with my earlier posts on
      the subject) in high respect, and was reluctant to change it; but
      workshop Quenya was still a passion for him, and the tension
      between the two fractured the language: Quenya became
      _partitioned_. The word _ar_ `and' is canonical (and therefore
      fixed); words for `if' came and went: they still belong to the
      workshop.

      Note that these are the _only_ two aspects of Quenya. At least
      there is no "mature" Quenya which we could query as if the Elves
      were still with us.

      We know that the fixed portion of Quenya chafed ("The history of
      the Eldar is fixed and the adoption of Sindarin by the Exiled
      Noldor cannot now be altered." XII:331 – many more examples
      remain unpublished). Tolkien took advantage of the second
      edition revisions to change bits of it. It was clear to him that every
      bit of information that he published (or sent to correspondents in
      letters) passed out of his hands into canonical Quenya where he
      could no longer change it; and he was very deliberate and
      careful about doing so. For example, the workshop partition of
      Quenya continued to change after publication, perhaps as much
      and as fast as it had beforehand; but letters written in the last
      years of Tolkien's life (see, e.g. Letters, number 347 to Richard
      Jeffery from December of 1972, p. 426 in particular) give only the
      most conservative glimpses, consistent with the 1955 version of
      the language, of the grammar and history underlying what was
      published. It now makes perfect sense to me why Dick Plotz
      never received his verb conjugation. I am rather surprised that he
      got the nouns.

      _Namárie_, of course, was a linchpin of canonical Quenya, and
      contained more grammar than all other bits of Elvish combined,
      and quite a bit of vocabulary. It constrained everything which
      followed, including workshop Quenya, but only and exactly in
      those aspects fixed by the published text. To say, then, that "there
      could be no general `_Namárie_-style Quenya'", while true
      enough when speculating about the workshop partition of
      Quenya (which is, of course, where all of the speculation takes
      place), does not take account of the fact that there is (by
      definition) no overlap between _Namárie_ and workshop
      Quenya. That Quenya is SVO (and many other facts of vocabulary
      and grammar) was established once and for all, and honored
      even behind the scenes.

      But it was only the Elvish text and a (loose) gloss which were
      published. These admitted, naturally, of a range of interpretation.
      It is unlikely that Tolkien's "clearer and more normal style" of
      word-order would have been the same when the published
      version of _Namárie_ was finished as it was in 1966 when the
      commentary for RGEO was being written. The gloss "beyond
      (the borders of)" for _pella_, from that commentary, looks to me
      like an attempt to change the derivation of this word to be from
      the root PEL (V:380), which never exactly meant "border" before.

      The distinction "canonical Quenya" has not really caught on:
      when I have seen it used, it most often refers simply to anything
      that Tolkien wrote. Such a distinction ("anything Tolkien wrote") is
      important, but not as powerful a tool as "canonical" as I have
      used it here.

      For example, for many years we had two stories about
      _omentielvo_: Plotz' story that it was simply a correction (along
      with the "inclusive/exclusive" bit), and Carpenter's more fanciful
      tale of Frodo's mistake and its subsequent correction by a scribe
      (and something not quite interpretable about the dual). Many
      factors were weighed (both were second-hand reports), but
      nobody asked about canonicity: Plotz' explanation was released
      deliberately by Tolkien into the realm of canon; but Carpenter's
      was lifted from Tolkien's notes without his cooperation. We
      would have done better to hold it in this light.

      One more example: I have made vague reference to _Cirion's
      Oath_ (UT:305) in this regard. It is often taken to have the force of
      canon, because it is, in grammar and vocabulary, utterly
      consistent with _Namárie_. But if you have followed my
      argument you will see that this is a consequence, not of both
      being drawn from an unattested grammar of Mature Quenya, but
      simply of its having been composed subsequent to and under
      the influence of the published canonical _Namárie_. It can add
      nothing to our knowledge of canonical Quenya, because it is not
      canonical. Note in particular, the third-person plural ending
      _-nte_, one of my favorites in the whole declension (because of
      its natural connection both with Eldarin and Indo-European
      structure), is still only workshop. Tolkien would have felt perfectly
      free to change it (and remember that he was moving away from
      primary-world influence at this time). He would have been very
      aware of the freedom he would have sacrificed in publishing it or
      sending it to a correspondent.

      The distinction of canon has not been brought into the current
      discussion, further clouding the issue of the relationship
      between _Namárie_ and _Quenya_. The earliest version of
      _Namárie_ is definitely in a class by itself and also (most
      important) it is not canon. The published version is also in a
      class by itself, _and_ as the most important text of canonical
      Quenya has had a profound impact on all subsequent
      development of the language.

      Perhaps the term _canon_ was not the best for what I want to
      convey. I would welcome other suggestions, but I would like to
      see the concept kept in the forefront of discussions.

      I hope this gets the ball rolling.

      --Bill
    • And Rosta
      As something of an aside in a longer message making a different ... As I occasionally do, I here feel the need to interpose a corrective to our own local
      Message 2 of 12 , Jun 1, 2002
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        As something of an aside in a longer message making a different
        overall point, Bill Welden says:
        > This will be a _compare and contrast_ exercise. _Quenya_ and
        > _natural language_.
        >
        > Almost all of our energy has been directed toward the
        > similarities. I don't think I will get any argument when I say that
        > Quenya is extraordinary in this regard: what fictional language is
        > more realistic? Lewis' Old Solar is just a scattering of nouns.
        > Klingon is purely synchronic. I am particularly touched by
        > LeGuin's Kesh, but it is a sketch compared to the tapestry of
        > Quenya. Quenya will always be for me the bright window through
        > which I first glimpsed the vivid reality of Middle-earth.

        As I occasionally do, I here feel the need to interpose a
        corrective to our own local version of bardolatry....

        If by 'fictional language' you mean 'invented language that appears
        in a work of literary fiction', you won't get any argument, but
        this in itself is no great testimony to the extraordinariness
        of Quenya; rather it reflects the rarity of those skilled and
        motivated enough to produce publishable fiction multiplied by the
        rarity of those skilled and motivated enough to invent a language.
        The very paucity of rivals to Quenya reveals this, with Tsolyani
        being the only worthy contender.

        But if by 'fictional language' is meant 'invented language', which
        thereby locates Quenya among a much larger pool of rivals, to
        Quenya's potential greater glory-by-comparison, then we must
        realize that realism is proportional to, among other things,
        derivativeness and functional incompleteness.

        To take the latter first, if a grammar of Quenya were written
        as though it were natural language, the description would clearly
        be drastically incomplete; Quenya's realism would lie in its
        resemblance not to fully-fledged living languages, but rather
        to a dead language, of which only fragments are known, imperfectly,
        gleaned from highly fragmentary evidence. In this sense, then,
        realism is somewhat a reflection of a lack of ambition or
        achievement, vis a vis creating a fully fledged (simulacrum
        of a) living language.

        As for derivativeness, the more derivative (from Real World
        natural languages) the materials worked with, the more realistic
        the product. Since the grammatical devices of Quenya and the
        sound changes it underwent are pretty much all drawn from
        European languages and their histories, it is not surprising
        that Quenya should seem realistic. But a more derivative
        invented language might be still more realistic (e.g. an
        invented Romance language created by someone with a decent
        knowledge of Romance diachrony).

        Given the specific properties of Quenya -- its degree of
        derivativeness, and Tolkien's concentration on exactly those
        things that give the patina of realism -- the elaborate
        history & its synchronic traces in half submerged patternings
        and irregularities, Quenya is indeed extraordinary and
        without equal. But move the goalposts, change the criteria
        for what counts as realistic, and add in other criteria for
        extraordinariness (such as functional completeness), and
        his achievement is, though still inspirational, less
        extraordinary.

        I realize that these remarks are not germane to the main thrust
        of your post, but I think it's important to recognize that
        Tolkien's greatness lies in his work when taken collectively,
        as a totality, or perhaps also specifically in _The Lord of
        the Rings_, though this cannot be separated from the mythopoeia
        that underlies it so profoundly. If we isolate Quenya from
        the rest of the oeuvre it remains a delight and the epicentre
        of the conlang canon, but not so ineluctably sans pareil.

        --And.
      • Carl F. Hostetter
        One purpose I would like to put this list to is a forum for feedback on _Vinyar Tengwar_. Given the irregular nature of its publication, and further given the
        Message 3 of 12 , Jun 4, 2002
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          One purpose I would like to put this list to is a forum for feedback on
          _Vinyar Tengwar_. Given the irregular nature of its publication, and further
          given the fact that there has for years now usually been too much new,
          primary material in each issue to allow for a lengthy or active letters
          section (not that anyone's complained, mind you!), I think a mailing list
          such as this may be the most practical way for readers of _VT_ to
          communicate with one another about its contents.

          There is something in particular that I would like to solicit input on from
          any readers of _VT_ that are on this list: namely, errata. If you've noticed
          typos of any sort (spelling, punctuation, grammar, citation error,
          misquotation, etc.) in any issue of _VT_ (well, 10 and up, since issues
          earlier than that can only be "reprinted" by photocopying), I want to know
          about them so that I can correct them in future reprintings.

          If you'll provide me with errata (_off list_, that is, to:
          Aelfwine@...) I'll compile a list of them and put them on a Web page
          at:
          http://www.elvish.org/VT/errata.html
          and update it periodically with new errata as they are found.

          As an added incentive (beyond the satisfaction of invaluable service to
          future humanity, that is), the first person to alert me of a genuine but
          previously unnoticed erratum for any issue will receive a complimentary copy
          of the corrected issue when it is next reprinted.

          Oh, please help me out by prefixing VT ERRATUM: to the subject line of any
          erratum report e-mail.

          Thanks!


          |======================================================================|
          | 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." |
          |======================================================================|
        • Arden R. Smith
          ... If future reprintings are going to be revised, I suggest that this fact be stated clearly on the reprints, otherwise confusion will most definitely ensue
          Message 4 of 12 , Jul 7 1:47 PM
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            Carl F. Hostetter wrote on 4 June 2002:

            >There is something in particular that I would like to solicit input on from
            >any readers of _VT_ that are on this list: namely, errata. If you've noticed
            >typos of any sort (spelling, punctuation, grammar, citation error,
            >misquotation, etc.) in any issue of _VT_ (well, 10 and up, since issues
            >earlier than that can only be "reprinted" by photocopying), I want to know
            >about them so that I can correct them in future reprintings.

            If future reprintings are going to be revised, I suggest that this
            fact be stated clearly on the reprints, otherwise confusion will most
            definitely ensue when differing citations from revised and unrevised
            versions start showing up.

            [That's a good suggestion, and one I'll give some thought to how best to
            indicate the fact. Some revisions have, of course, already been silently
            incorporated in various reprintings. Reprintings, by the way, are usually
            able to be distinguished from original printings by the fact that their
            covers are plain paper (i.e., the same paper as the conents); whereas
            original printings used a heavier, textured papers for the cover (only).
            Carl]

            I also suggest that, in addition to posting a complete list of errata
            on the _VT_ website, you should also periodically publish lists of
            newly observed errata in _VT_ itself, for the benefit of those few
            subscribers who do not (or choose not to) have Internet access.

            [Another good suggestion. The problem there is going to be a usual lack of
            space in the printed issues. Carl]

            It would also be a good idea to announce which issues are being
            reissued with a revised text, for the benefit of the die-hard
            completists who would want to have both the old and new versions.

            [At this point, I doubt that I could produce such a list. In any event,
            none of the revisions made to date have been substantive, being limited
            to typos and the like. Corrections of argument or linguistic detail have
            always been made in letters or articles in subsequent issues. Carl]

            This would be an ideal place to note that the second printing of
            _Parma Eldalmaberon_ #11 incorporated a few corrections, and though
            it is clearly labelled as a "second impression", I don't recall that
            the fact that it is a *corrected* edition was announced anywhere. To
            the best of my knowledge, three errors were corrected in the second
            impression:

            p. 23, col. 2, l. 2: "mutatation" > "mutation";
            p. 53, col. 1, l. 13: "_lattta_" > "_latta_";
            back cover: "haprwire" > "harpwire".

            The second impression also included a change in the phone and fax
            information on the back cover, as well as (of course) new printing
            information on the inside of the back cover.

            --
            ********************************************************************
            Arden R. Smith erilaz@...

            "Do you know Languages? What's the French for fiddle-de-dee?"
            "Fiddle-de-dee's not English," Alice replied gravely.
            "Who ever said it was?" said the Red Queen.

            --Lewis Carroll,
            _Through the Looking-glass_
            ********************************************************************
          • fr3dr1k_s
            Arden, In VT44, p. 37 n. 3 you write: Another Quenya preposition with a similar form and meaning is _epe_ after (VT42:32), seen also in _epesse_
            Message 5 of 12 , Jul 8 1:22 AM
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              Arden,

              In VT44, p. 37 n. 3 you write:

              "Another Quenya preposition with a similar form and meaning is
              _epe_ 'after' (VT42:32), seen also in _epesse_ 'after-name'
              (UT:266, XII:339)."

              And on the next page Bill Welden corrects his VT42 article:
              "_epe_ 'after'. The gloss should be 'before'."

              Are both meanings, 'before' and 'after', attested for _epe_ in
              Tolkien's papers?

              /Fredrik

              [Yes. Arden's cross-reference to _VT_ 42 was an editorial oversight, due
              to his article being written and prepared for publication before Bill's
              letter was submitted. The cross-reference to UT and XII, of course, remain
              valid. Carl]
            • Fredrik
              ... I see. May I ask, then, what was Bill s motivation to correct/change the gloss of _epe_? (Note that my question concerns the attested meaning(s) of the
              Message 6 of 12 , Jul 8 1:10 PM
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                >"_epe_ 'after'. The gloss should be 'before'."

                I see. May I ask, then, what was Bill's motivation to correct/change the
                gloss of _epe_?

                (Note that my question concerns the attested meaning(s) of the word _epe_,
                regardless of what may be guessed from the word _epessi_.)

                /Fredrik

                [Short answer: Bill discovered that he'd given the wrong translation for
                _epe_ from the source document in question. Carl]
              • williamwelden
                ... In the document I cited, _epe_ is clearly glossed before . As a novice to this sort of work, I glossed the word based on my (incorrect) confidence that it
                Message 7 of 12 , Jul 8 3:46 PM
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                  --- In lambengolmor@y..., Fredrik <gwaihir@s...> wrote:

                  > >"_epe_ 'after'. The gloss should be 'before'."
                  >
                  > I see. May I ask, then, what was Bill's motivation to correct/change the
                  > gloss of _epe_?

                  In the document I cited, _epe_ is clearly glossed 'before'. As a
                  novice to this sort of work, I glossed the word based on my
                  (incorrect) confidence that it meant 'after', without bothering to
                  check the reference. I have learned my lesson, and spent quite a few
                  hours looking up the references for the work I did in the latest VT.

                  --Bill
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