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Re: Similarities between Elvish and real-world languages

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  • Edward J. Kloczko
    ... Not exactly. ;-) It is impossible, as I see it, to determine when the Word is voluntarily made by Tolkien to resemble a Word in a Real language or if it is
    Message 1 of 13 , Mar 30 2:58 PM
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      David Kiltz wrote:

      >You may not be interested in the origin of these words but others,
      >including me, are.

      Not exactly. ;-)

      It is impossible, as I see it, to determine when the Word is voluntarily made
      by Tolkien to resemble a Word in a Real language or if it is just a chance
      similarity, i.e. a pure coincidence.

      It is possible to determine the external origin only when the Word explains
      some Old English "mystery" (as Earendel/Earendil or Wingilot), or when Tolkien
      states its origin, as for miruvor. A Word made in his Neo-Gothic Language.

      I believe also that we should not reject what the author has to say: "It is
      [?] idle to compare chance-similarities between names made from ?Elvish
      Tongues? and words in exterior ?real? languages, especially if this is
      supposed to have any bearing on the meaning or ideas in my story" (Letters, p. 380).

      And also: "Actual congruence (of form + sense) occur in unrelated real
      languages, and it is impossible in constructing imaginary languages from a
      limited number of component sounds to avoid such resemblance (if one tries
      -- I do not)" (Letters, pp. 384-385).

      So, I do not believe that it is possible to determine the true external
      origin of "these words" (Word from Tolkien invented languages), since Tolkien
      did not work that way.


      Edouard Kloczko
    • Hans Georg Lundahl
      ... It must be borne in mind that this was not in answer to queries about loans from Icelandic (Icel. _alft, alpt_ = swan, Q _alqua_, S _alph_) or Finnish
      Message 2 of 13 , Mar 31 10:33 AM
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        Edouard J. Kloczko wrote:

        > I believe also that we should not reject what the author has to say:
        > "It is [...] idle to compare chance-similarities between names made
        > from 'Elvish tongues' and words in exterior 'real' languages, especially
        > if this is supposed to have any bearing on the meaning or ideas in
        > my story" (Letters, p. 380).
        >
        > And also: "Actual congruence (of form + sense) occur in unrelated
        > real languages, and it is impossible in constructing imaginary
        > languages from a limited number of component sounds to avoid
        > such resemblance (if one tries to -- I do not)" (Letters, pp. 384-385).

        It must be borne in mind that this was not in answer to queries about
        loans from Icelandic (Icel. _alft, alpt_ == swan, Q _alqua_, S _alph_) or
        Finnish (_tule_) or Welsh, but supposed loans from Hebrew and
        Sanskrit (_Gilgalad_ supposedly == _Gilead_, _Galahad_!) depending on
        whether he was accused of parodying the Old Testament or of
        reinventing some Hindoo or Mithraistic cult mythology (like dance of
        Shiva and Vashti supposedly depicted in the tengwar!). If the
        questions had been somewhat more intelligent or Tolkien somewhat less
        sensitive about being misunderstood, his answers might have come closer to
        the candour of the author of Verdurian, Mark Rosenfeld, who admits to using
        nearly loans - _cuo_ for dog, like Gaelic _cú_ and Lithuanian _shuo_, for
        instance. Q _Ravi_ comes rather close to Gmn _Löhwe_ -- though not close
        enough to be a loan. Rather it is more onomatopoetic than _Löhwe_.

        Hans Georg Lundahl

        Gå före i kön och få din sajt värderad på nolltid med Yahoo! Express
      • David Kiltz
        ... Well, I think he certainly didn t just copy words (or change them a little) as others have done. However, in the course of writing he sometimes made up
        Message 3 of 13 , Apr 2, 2003
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          On Montag, März 31, 2003, at 12:58 Uhr, Edward J. Kloczko wrote:

          > So, I do not believe that it is possible to determine the true external
          > origin of "these words" (Word from Tolkien invented languages), since
          > Tolkien did not work that way.

          Well, I think he certainly didn't just "copy" words (or change them a
          little) as others have done. However, in the course of writing he
          sometimes made up words not necessarily from existing roots but just
          "ad hoc". This is amply exemplified e.g. in the case of the river names
          of Gondor where Tolkien states that they were devised in a hurry and
          where he clearly, in some instances, had "to find" an etymology for
          them afterwards.

          [In the essay "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor", Tolkien wrote:
          "The names of the Rivers give some trouble; they were made up
          in a hurry without sufficient consideration" (VT42:8) -- PHW]

          To give one example where I think a probably "ad hoc" formation might
          have been influenced by real word language (Germanic in this instance)
          is _loiko_ "corpse, dead body" in _loikolíkuma_ (MC:222/223) which is
          so patently similar to Germanic *_lîk-_ "(dead) body, corpse" (cf.
          German _Leiche_ idem) that a correlation is very likely. Tolkien probably
          just liked the sound and used it but the vorlage is pretty obvious.

          [To play "Morgoth's advocate" -- Gmc. *_lîk-_ more closely resembles
          _líko_ 'wax' and its derivative _líkuma_ 'taper, candle' (MC:223), which
          provides the second element in the cpd. _loikolíkuma_ 'corpse-
          candle'. If Tolkien liked the correlation of sound and sense in Gmc.
          _lîk-_, we have to wonder why he made the Quenya word for
          'corpse' _loiko_, and instead used _líko_ as 'wax'. -- PHW]

          Another interesting case is Arctic. We've got the following
          sentence: _Mára mesta an ni véla tye ento, ya rato nea._

          [Which means, 'Goodbye till I see you next and I hope it
          will be soon'. Please include glosses! -- PHW]

          While the whole sentence is interesting I will focus on roughly the
          second half.

          _Véla_ 'see' is not, as far as I know, attested anywhere in the
          Elvish corpus. It seems to me to be an instance of "ad hoc"
          formation because it is evidently nothing else but the Celtic
          (and PIE) root *_wel-_ "to see, look" (cf. Welsh _gweled_,
          Bretonic _gweloud_ OldIrish _fili_ "seer" et al.) dressed in
          Quenya phonetics+ending.

          _Ya_ 'and'. I don't know whether this is actually attested in Elvish
          but it is certainly reminiscent of Finnish _ja_ "and" (itself probably
          a loan from Germanic, cf. Gothic _jah_, OldHIghGerman _ioh_ "and").

          [QL gives _ya(n)_ 'and'. -- PHW]

          _Rato_ 'soon' is pretty obviously Spanish _rato_ with the exact
          same meaning in this context.

          _Nea_. This is a very interesting form. It seems as though it is not
          explicable from Quenya. There is _nai_ but that is _na+i_ "be it that".
          However if we take _n(V)_ to be the base for the word "to be" here from
          which Tolkien would work, it is very close to Spanish _sea_ "may it
          be". Indeed, this form was perhaps present in Tolkien's mind and,
          having gone Spanish one word before, he just substituted Spanish
          (Indo-European) _s-_ with _n-_.

          I'm not saying it has to have been exactly like this. Also, one should
          bear in mind that Arctic isn't really Quenya or Sindarin and that he
          would perhaps be "more lax" with it, if you will. That is, that he
          deliberately mixed real world elements into it. Still, similar things,
          to a lesser degree or just somewhat differently, may have occurred when
          Tolkien "did" Elvish proper.

          And now for something completely different: In VT 12 Arden R. Smith
          comments on one aspect of the German translation of the Lord of the
          Rings. Namely, the reproduction of the difference between (Gimli's):
          "When Aragorn comes into his own,..." and (Legolas') "If Aragorn comes
          into his own,...". He then explains that German _wenn_ can be used
          for both, English "if" and "when". However, he rightly points out,
          alternatives (synonyms) exist when the context isn't clear.
          He then goes on to state: "These "synonyms" (_falls; unter der
          Bedingung, dass; im Falle, dass; vorausgestzt dass_), however, seem to
          be stronger than _wenn_ and would be more suitably used to translate
          expressions like _in case_ and _under the condition that_ rather than
          _if_. _Wenn_ is therefore properly used as a translation of both _if_
          and _when_, but the German version this lacks a fine nuance found in
          the English original.

          I have to contradict this statement. _Wenn_ is the most frequent word
          used in cases where English has either _if_ or _when_. However, when
          ambiguity arises, _falls_ can and is used instead of _wenn_. Indeed, it
          is, I would say, imperative in this case. While the "synonyms"
          A.R. Smith adduces are indeed more similar in use to English _in
          case_ etc., this is not true for _falls_. It is far more frequent and
          stands often for English _if_. It is certainly not too strong but
          simply the correct word to use here.

          While I hold M. Carroux's translation to be superior to more recent
          ones using _wenn_ in both cases here definitely is a slip. My
          perception as a native speaker is that _falls_ is the only natural word
          to be used here, especially since _when_ and _if_ are so clearly
          contrasted in the English original.

          My apologies if this has already been discussed.

          David Kiltz
        • David Kiltz
          ... Well, there may be a variety of reasons. Again, I did not say he used words to be exactly the same (phonetic calques). One possibility is, that he devised
          Message 4 of 13 , Apr 2, 2003
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            On Mittwoch, April 2, 2003, at 12:32 Uhr, Patrick H. Wynne wrote:

            > [To play "Morgoth's advocate" -- Gmc. *_lîk-_ more closely resembles
            > _líko_ 'wax' and its derivative _líkuma_ 'taper, candle' (MC:223),
            > which provides the second element in the cpd. _loikolíkuma_
            > 'corpse-candle'. If Tolkien liked the correlation of sound and
            > sense in Gmc. _lîk-_, we have to wonder why he made the Quenya
            > word for 'corpse' _loiko_, and instead used _líko_ as 'wax'.
            > -- PHW]

            Well, there may be a variety of reasons. Again, I did not say he used
            words to be exactly the same (phonetic calques). One possibility is,
            that he devised _líko_ + _líkuma_ and only afterwards was looking for a
            word for corpse and perhaps even because of the similarity he came up
            with _loiko_. However, the similarity is remarkable, _líko_ or no
            _líko_. Besides (to push this further) _loiko_ is closer to what the
            Modern English form [laik] would be or the Modern German [laiçe] is.
            Indeed, I've heard people pronounce "like" rather as [loik] than
            [laik].

            On the completely different note: Probably the best translation (most
            in tune with Tolkien's own usage) of Legolas' "If Aragaron..." would
            have been "So Aragorn...". This is unmistakably conditional (not
            temporal) but has a slightly archaic touch to it, which, I think, would
            fit Legolas' style.

            David Kiltz
          • Arden R. Smith
            ... I was going by my own feeling for the language, but I ll trust that a native speaker s _Sprachgefühl_ is more reliable than my own. My perception is most
            Message 5 of 13 , Apr 4, 2003
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              At 12:32 PM +0200 4/2/03, David Kiltz wrote:

              >I have to contradict this statement. _Wenn_ is the most frequent word
              >used in cases where English has either _if_ or _when_. However, when
              >ambiguity arises, _falls_ can and is used instead of _wenn_. Indeed, it
              >is, I would say, imperative in this case. While the "synonyms"
              >A.R. Smith adduces are indeed more similar in use to English _in
              >case_ etc., this is not true for _falls_. It is far more frequent and
              >stands often for English _if_. It is certainly not too strong but
              >simply the correct word to use here.

              I was going by my own feeling for the language, but I'll trust that a
              native speaker's _Sprachgefühl_ is more reliable than my own. My
              perception is most likely colored by the etymology of _falls_,
              originally the genitive of _Fall_ "case", so in my mind it triggers
              the (to me) stronger meaning "in case" rather than a simple "if".
              However, I do agree with you that if the distinction between "if" and
              "when" is to be retained, then the use of _falls_ is the way to do it.

              >My apologies if this has already been discussed.

              It hasn't (to the best of my knowledge), so thanks for your input!

              --
              ********************************************************************
              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_
              ********************************************************************
            • Hans Georg Lundahl
              [This is drifting off topic for this list... CFH] ... To my language sensitivity - I am RATHER native, being born in Vienna, though of Scandinavian stock -
              Message 6 of 13 , Apr 7, 2003
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                [This is drifting off topic for this list... CFH]

                At 12:32 PM +0200 4/2/03, David Kiltz wrote:

                >I have to contradict this statement. _Wenn_ is the most frequent word
                >used in cases where English has either _if_ or _when_. However, when
                >ambiguity arises, _falls_ can and is used instead of _wenn_. Indeed, it
                >is, I would say, imperative in this case.

                To my language sensitivity - I am RATHER native, being born in Vienna, though of Scandinavian stock - "wenn" means simply "if", "wann" (of future or uncertain events) or "als" (of certain past events) means "when"; and "falls", - it does mean "in case", though I am not certain why the genitive is used like an instrumental of circumstance - is a colloquial synonym for "wenn", Engl. "if". If there is any confusion between "wenn" (if) and "wann" (when), it does not occur in the German speaking circles I have frequented. Possibly that Hamburg/Hannover gets confused by speaking much to Englishmen who use "when" rather than Chaucer's "whan" for "when" rather than "if".

                Hans Georg Lundahl

                Gå före i kön och få din sajt värderad på nolltid med Yahoo! Express

                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Hans Georg Lundahl
                Speaking of the topic - we have a Quenya word for when , but do we have one for if ? Hypothetical clauses are part of language structure, and such a one
                Message 7 of 13 , Apr 7, 2003
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                  Speaking of the topic - we have a Quenya word for "when", but do we have one for "if"?

                  Hypothetical clauses are part of language structure, and such a one Quenya should by now be recognised to have. I have speculated on the possibility that Tolkien didn't invent any hypothetic conjunction, because, like in Old Norse and Modern Swedish - in fact any Scandinavian language - hypothetic sentences may be expressed by juxtaposition of simple clauses with some discreet difference from ordinary clauses, here an inversion of subject and predicate main verb, also used for question clauses (yes/no questions). This _might_ be an ossified rhetorical figure, two rhetorical questions juxtaposed with the implication, after the first one: "you might as well ask:" - a rhetoric figure I think Tolkien and Pengolod would relish, though I am not so sure of their relishing its fading into a commonplace expression for hypothetical sentences.

                  I have noted the compound _aiquen_ in the sense of 'if anyone' or 'whoever' (XI:372), and wondered if this obvious calque of, for instance, Latin _siquis_ doesn't imply another sense (obsolete or not?) of simple _ai_ than an interjection of pain. Any takers?

                  Hans Georg Lundahl

                  Gå före i kön och få din sajt värderad på nolltid med Yahoo! Express

                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • David Kiltz
                  ... You note the word _ai_ in _aiquen_. Since, indeed, the formation and meaning (as you say) resembles Latin _siquis_ very closely, I think there is a good
                  Message 8 of 13 , Apr 8, 2003
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                    On Montag, April 7, 2003, at 02:28 Uhr, Hans Georg Lundahl wrote:

                    > Speaking of the topic - we have a Quenya word for "when", but do we
                    > have one for "if"?

                    You note the word _ai_ in _aiquen_. Since, indeed, the formation and
                    meaning (as you say) resembles Latin _siquis_ very closely, I think
                    there is a good chance that _ai_ is a candidate.

                    There is also Q. _íre_ [V:72]. This looks like the demonstrative _i_ +
                    a (short) locative ending _-se_: At that (scil. time/occasion). Indo-European
                    has similar formations, cf. Latin _si_ and Greek _ei_. The difference being
                    that it means rather "when" than "if".


                    I would plea for the lenience of the administrators to allow me a last
                    take on the if/when issue (suggesting that any further on that topic
                    should go privately). This is mainly to avoid people from taking
                    factual errors for real (see my second response):

                    [I'll allow this, since the topic was broached on the list. Any further
                    discussion should be carried on off-list. When a concensus is
                    reached -- which it should be, since this is a matter of standard
                    grammar, not opinion -- one of you can write back with the results.
                    Perhaps someone would like to begin a "Tolkien in Translation"
                    mailing list? CFH]

                    In response to A. Smith: _falls_ is indeed one of the many adverbial
                    genitives in German. It is, however, not on the same "level" as
                    ("gesetzt den Fall" etc. or, I think, "in case"). It works as a simple
                    conjunction.

                    In response to H. G. Lundahl:

                    > "wenn" means simply "if"

                    This is simply wrong. "Wenn ich nach hause komme, werde ich etwas
                    essen" means "when I come home..." not "if". "If I come home" is
                    "falls/wenn ich nach hause komme". _Wann_ is *only* used as
                    interrogative or indefinite pronoun ("Wann kommst du ?" "Wann du
                    willst" == "When will you come?" "Whenever you want").

                    _Falls_ is in no way more colloquial than the indiscriminate use of
                    _wenn_. Rather on the contrary. The genitive of circumstance is a
                    heritage from Indo-European. It abounds in German (cf. _tags, nachts,
                    andererseits, andernfalls etc.)

                    I assure you that there is no confusion at all here, just correct
                    German. The usage you refer to, although unknown to me, must be
                    dialectal. It's a common phenomenon for speakers of dialects to confuse
                    "standard" usage with dialectal usage. Note that for Austrians
                    "standard" German is a "foreign" language learned in school and through
                    the media). I encourage you to check any German grammar and
                    double-check with your native speaking circles.

                    David Kiltz
                  • David Kiltz
                    In two earlier posts ( Similarities between Elvish and real-world languages
                    Message 9 of 13 , Dec 3, 2013
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                      In two earlier posts ("Similarities between Elvish and real-world languages"<http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/lambengolmor/conversations/messages/388>  and "Some remarks on _loikolíkuma_"<http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/lambengolmor/conversations/messages/772>),
                      I talked about Elvish words having a striking resemblance to "real-world" languages. There may be various reasons for this. However, in some cases, notably (although not exclusively) where often archaic or otherwise marked Germanic words are concerned, one may think of deliberate etymological punning or, at least, allusions on the part of J.R.R. Tolkien.

                      One such instance, I would suggest, is the root PHIR- (cf. Etym.) and its derivatives. We find, amongst others, Q _fir-_ 'to expire, die' with nominal derivatives _fire_ (Etym.) 'mortal man', *PHIRI (XI:387), _F/firya_ 'mortal, human (ibid.), _fírima_ 'apt to die, mortal_ (ibid.). This is used as an Elvish expression for humans as 'mortals', i.e. those that die just by 'expiring'.

                      These words bear a remarkable resemblance to ONo. _fírar_, OE _fíras_ (both only in the plural) 'humans, men'. For the OE cf. e.g. _f^yra (= fîra) gehwylcne lêoda mînra_ 'all members ('men') of my tribe' (accusative). OHG _firiha_ with the same meaning 'people, humans, men' is related. The word is most probably to be connected with Goth. _fairhvus_ 'world' (translating Greek _kósmos_), ONo. _fjor_, OE _feorh_, OHG _ferah_, the latter three all meaning 'life, being alive' and hence also 'inner life, soul, life-force'. Intriguingly, these words are apparently connected with IE _*perqu-_ (_*perkᵂu-_) 'oak' or other big tree. This is not the place to go into the specifics of the Germanic derivation. It may be of interest, however, to find an Elvish word closely resembling both in form and meaning words in Germanic languages, which clearly belong to an archaic, poetic register. Interestingly, whereas the Germanic semantics seem to be 'having life, life-force', the Elvish word is explained as 'exhale, expire, breathe out', only later applied to human death, cf. XI:387 with note 20.

                      What exactly Tolkien thought of the connection remains unclear; it is, however, part of the intellectual richness of his work.

                      -David Kiltz

                      [Patrick Wynne and I also noted the similarity of PHIR- to OE _firas_ and various I.E. cognates (and potential cognates) in an installment of "Words and Devices" in _Vinyar Tengwar_ 20 (pp. 15ff., q.v.) — CFH]
                    • davidkiks
                      I also noticed such similarities in this (French) study: http://lambenore.free.fr/telechargements/langrelext.pdf showing relations with Gothic, Finnish, Latin,
                      Message 10 of 13 , Dec 3, 2013
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                        I also noticed such similarities in this (French) study:


                        http://lambenore.free.fr/telechargements/langrelext.pdf


                        showing relations with Gothic, Finnish, Latin, Greek, Proto-Indo-European in both structure and meaning, despite Edward's assertion.


                        In my list of Q(u)enya words in Parma Eldalamberon #21 (http://lambenore.free.fr/downloads/NQL_PE21.pdf), compared _*caima_ 'bed' (PE21:17) with Lat. _cama_ 'small low bed'; _hos_ (_host-_) 'assembly, crowd' (PE21:20:27) with Old Fr. _host_ 'army' or, more strikingly _sat_ (_sap-_) 'pit' (PE21:20:27) with Fr. _sape_ ‘1° trench dug under a wall or a building in order to spill it. 2° Mil. (siege warfare) buried transmission’.


                        J.R.R. Tolkien being signals officer during the First World War, the last example is an interesting example of possible loan of structure and (maybe) meaning.



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