"What fictional language is more realistic?" (was: RE: [Lambengolmor] Re: "Quenya of _Namaarie_" (long)
- 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_ andAs I occasionally do, I here feel the need to interpose a
> _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.
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
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.
- 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
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.
| 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." |
- Carl F. Hostetter wrote on 4 June 2002:
>There is something in particular that I would like to solicit input on fromIf future reprintings are going to be revised, I suggest that this
>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.
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).
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
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.
_Through the Looking-glass_
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'
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
[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
>"_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_.)
[Short answer: Bill discovered that he'd given the wrong translation for
_epe_ from the source document in question. Carl]
- --- In lambengolmor@y..., Fredrik <gwaihir@s...> wrote:
> >"_epe_ 'after'. The gloss should be 'before'."In the document I cited, _epe_ is clearly glossed 'before'. As a
> I see. May I ask, then, what was Bill's motivation to correct/change the
> gloss of _epe_?
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.