- ... I m not sure. Redundancy can, I think, only be claimed if you assume the root to be sufficient . If not, only determining the status of _-n_ would allowMessage 1 of 8 , Apr 4, 2004View SourceOn 04.04.2004, at 00:17, cgilson75 wrote:
>> --- In email@example.com, David Kiltz wrote:I'm not sure. Redundancy can, I think, only be claimed if you assume
>> A form like _ammen_ doesn't really seem to help much in this
>> context as the status of the _-n_ in _men_ cannot, I think, be
>> determined with a reasonable degree of certainty. Especially as
>> _ammen_ cf. LR:291, 299] and [III:354] seems to correspond to _anim_
>> [LR:1036] and not +_annin/ennin_.
> Though we may not be certain of the status of the _-n_ in _ammen_, we
> can at least conclude that it is somehow redundant, since the
> translated meaning 'for us' is conveyed by the components _am-_
> ('for', if indeed this is parallel to _anim_ 'for myself' as David
> suggests) and _-me-_ (1st person plural root 'we, us').
the root to be 'sufficient'. If not, only determining the status of
_-n_ would allow us to speak of redundancy. In _an-im_, we seem to have
_an_ construed with a nominative or casus rectus _im_. Whereas in
_enni_ (if < _an-ni_) we seem to have an oblique form combining with
Alternatively, both _im_ and _ni_ may mean 'I' (nominative), the first
being an emphatic form. (For _im_ cf. [LR1:402 and III:354]). _Nin_ on
the other hand seems to be the 1st sg. accusative pronoun in Sindarin.
At least, in my view, Tolkien's translation of Sam's invocation
[LR2:425/399] in [R:72/64] seems to favour such an interpretation.
Hence I would tend to view _ammen_ as having no redundant markings as
_men_ is most likely: 1) Casus rectus (nominative) or 2) Casus obliquus
(accusative), i.e. has no beneficiary connotation. In that, _nin_ seems
to contrast Quenya where _nin_ is clearly 'for me' [R:67].
To recap: S. _nin_ contrasts with _anim_ 'for me' (beneficiary) and
_enni_ 'me/to me' (indirect object). It is thus most likely a direct
object, i.e. accusative of the 1st sg. pronoun.
By contrast, an abstracted _men_, while apparently exhibiting an ending
_-n_, combines with _an-_ and thus parallels _im_ (and probably _-ni_).
Hence, it is not implausible to see in _men_ the 1st plural nominative.
Alternatively, it may stand for the accusative. In both cases, when
combined with _an-_, there is no redundancy as _an-_ adds the
beneficiary notion which _men_ alone, probably doesn't convey.
> Probably the _-n_ marks plural number or dative case. But either waySee above why I think there is no evidence for a dative case scenario
> it undermines the rejection of *_an-ni-n_ solely on the grounds of a
> presumed avoidance of double markers.
The idea that _-n_ denotes plurality looks very good (to me). That
would not, however, undermine the conclusion that _ammen_ doesn't
contain double markers, *as referring to case/or rather the notion of
'beneficiary'. Number marking is something totally different.
Indeed, I wrote:
>> In fact, it is precisely because we have _anim_, _enni_, and _nin_Granted, this statement might not have been totally clear. What I meant
> but *not* X-nin that I'm doubtful. Such a form is not, of course, a
> priori to be declared impossible but _enni_ apparently <_*an-ni_ (?)
> and _nin_ ==== _*n-in_ or _ni-n_ don't show double markers (i.e. en (an)
> + n-/-n).
was 'double marking of case'. Again, I'm not saying it's impossible, it
just doesn't seem to be attested as such.
> And even if the etymologicalI don't think *_anni_ means 'for me' but 'to me'. The meaning of _nIn_
> form of 'for me' were *_anni_, the existence of forms _nin_ '(towards)
> me' and _ammen_ 'for us' would be ample basis for an analogical
> reshaped *_annin_.
is crucial here. I think it may be interpreted as accusative sg. or
(towards) me. Note, however, that Tolkien glosses "...tiro nin..."
[loc. cit.] as '_tiro_ == 'look towards (watch over), _nin_ == 'me'. It
seems hard to drag over the 'towards' to _nin_. The only semantic
parallel construction to _ammen_ is _anim_.
> Not that I actually believe that _-nin_ is a 1st person singularI agree. Although I differ in my assessment of the attested forms. It
> pronoun in _porennin_ and _porannin_, only that we cannot rule this
> out because of what else we know about Sindarin pronouns.
remains that preposition X + _nin_ would be a hapax legomenon, in an
>> If _porannin_ is to be taken as a variant (developed in the processTo which Christopher responded:
> of writing) of _porennin_ and, furthermore, _nithrad_ means 'entry',
> we have a sort of chiasm here:
>> _Annon porennin ... porannin nithrad._
> I would note that, whatever the external history of the development ofThat's a very interesting thought. Clearly, assuming a misspelling
> _porennin_ and _porannin_, the fact that Tolkien allowed the
> distinction between them to stand here suggests that the difference
> must stand for something. If we could argue that one is plural and
> the other is singular, it might be convenient for my theory that
> _nithrad_ ==== _ni_ + _(a)thrad_. Thus _Annon porennin_ ==== 'Gate (of)
> those skilled at hand' and _porannin nithrad_ ==== something like '(I)
> skilled at hand let me pass' or 'skilled at hand I (will) pass'.
isn't very elegant.
However, as this version was discarded, how likely do you think would
such a 'variant' spelling be ?
> Another possibility is that one (or both) of these words is the 1stAgain, I think that is a very interesting idea. What would the 3rd sg.
> person singular verb, since they end in _-in_. The beginning _po-_
> might be an adverbial prefix like those in Noldorin _tre-vedi_
> 'traverse' (Etym. BAT- 'tread') or _ath-rado_ 'to cross, traverse'
> (Etym. RAT- 'walk'). It could be related to the preposition _bo_ 'on'
> in the Sindarin Lord's Prayer. A verb *_po-rado_ or *_po-redi_ could
> conceivably have a meaning either 'approach' or 'advance' developed
> from an original sense 'walk on, go on'.
be? *_porant_ as paralleling _echant_ (<ET-KAT)? That would nicely fit
the assimilation described by Tolkien in [VT42:27] "In the Southern
dialects _nt, ñk, mp_ remained when standing finally - or more probably
the spirant was re-stopped in this position; (...). Medially however,
_nth_ (...) became long voiceless _n_ (...)." The interpretation as
both _pora/ennin_ and _nithrad_ as 1st pers. sg. would be mutually
exclusive however, don't you think ?
- ... While I agree with the last statement, I do not think it follows that _nin_ is accusative in _tiro nin_. Is there not a benefactive notion in watch over ?Message 2 of 8 , Apr 4, 2004View SourceDavid Kiltz skrev:
> The meaning of _nIn_ is crucial here. I think it may beWhile I agree with the last statement, I do not think it follows
> interpreted as accusative sg. or (towards) me. Note, however,
> that Tolkien glosses "...tiro nin..."[loc. cit.] as '_tiro_ == 'look
> towards (watch over), _nin_ == 'me'. It seems hard to drag over
> the 'towards' to _nin_.
that _nin_ is accusative in _tiro nin_. Is there not a benefactive
notion in 'watch over'? And could not, at least in some languages,
a direction verb 'look towards' easily govern dative -- I think
- ... No, I too think it is not 100% safe to take _nin_ here as an accusative. However, given that we can identify _enni_ as dative and _anim_ as for meMessage 3 of 8 , Apr 5, 2004View SourceOn 04.04.2004, at 18:07, Beregond. Anders Stenström wrote:
> David Kiltz skrev:No, I too think it is not 100% safe to take _nin_ here as an
>> Tolkien glosses "...tiro nin..."[loc. cit.] as '_tiro_ ==== 'look
>> towards (watch over), _nin_ ==== 'me'. It seems hard to drag over
>> the 'towards' to _nin_.
> While I agree with the last statement, I do not think it follows
> that _nin_ is accusative in _tiro nin_. Is there not a benefactive
> notion in 'watch over'?
accusative. However, given that we can identify _enni_ as dative and
_anim_ as 'for me' (benefactive), taking formally distinct _nin_ as
denoting something different, doesn't seem unnatural. Rather, it
looks like the most likely scenario.
As for the 'benefactive': I use the term in a more restricted,
syntactical way, not in its broadest semantical way. Naturally, such
things as 'I praise, support, guard him' do carry a 'beneficiary'
notion. That's not what I mean by it. 'Benefactive' means that in a
sentence, a 3rd or 4th 'object' is involved, which does not function as
direct of indirect object proper. In English, such objects are usually
marked by 'for': Peter (subject) gives Mary (indirect object) a book
(direct object) for John (beneficiary/indirect object). In classical
grammar it's called 'dativus commodi'.
So in a sentence like:
1) I wrote him a letter, I would speak of 'addressee' function, or
indirect object proper, whereas in a sentence
2) I killed him an animal (i.e. I killed an animal for him) I'd speak
of 'beneficiary' function.
> And could not, at least in some languages,Maybe. But compound verbs (preverb/preposition + primary verb) have
> a direction verb 'look towards' easily govern dative -- I think
> _entgegenblicken_ does?
always to be treated with caution when it comes to governing. It would
seem that S. _tir-_ means 'to guard, watch' [Etym sub TIR-] cf. also
_minas tirith_ 'tower of guard' [LR:passim]. An indirect object proper
would require a direct object, I think. But yes, it may stand for a
kind of 'prepositional' object in other languages but I cannot right
now think of an example. Considering what we have in other languages,
a direct object would seem more natural.
Also, at least in Quenya, _tir-_ governs the accusative, cf. _man
tiruva rákina kirya_ [MC:222].
Conversely (I know you're not saying that but) If indeed, _nin_ would
be a beneficiary in the phrase _a tiro nin Fanuilos_, I think an
obligatory direct object would be missing.
- ... By redundant I was referring to a distinctive form or formal feature that the language could theoretically do without because there is no context inMessage 4 of 8 , Apr 13, 2004View Source--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, David Kiltz <dkiltz@g...> wrote:
> On 04.04.2004, at 00:17, cgilson75 wrote:By "redundant" I was referring to a distinctive form or formal feature
> > Though we may not be certain of the status of the _-n_ in
> > _ammen_, we can at least conclude that it is somehow redundant,
> > since the translated meaning 'for us' is conveyed by the components
> > _am-_ ('for', if indeed this is parallel to _anim_ 'for myself' as David
> > suggests) and _-me-_ (1st person plural root 'we, us').
> I'm not sure. Redundancy can, I think, only be claimed if you assume
> the root to be 'sufficient'. If not, only determining the status of
> _-n_ would allow us to speak of redundancy. In _an-im_, we seem to have
> _an_ construed with a nominative or casus rectus _im_. Whereas in
> _enni_ (if < _an-ni_) we seem to have an oblique form combining with
that the language could theoretically do without because there is no
context in which that distinction alone serves to convey a difference
in meaning. An example of what I am talking about is the distinction
in English between _we_ and _us_. This does convey a difference in
meaning when taken out of context, but in any syntactic construction
where either form is used the difference is also conveyed by word
order -- thus _the man saw us_ vs. _we saw the man_. In fact in
modern English the case distinctions among pronominal forms are
largely superfluous, though naturally very useful, as can be
illustrated by an example of nearly identical contexts: _mother gave
me socks_ vs. _mother gave my socks_ (to someone, away, etc.)
There is also a degree of redundancy for certain preposition + pronoun
combinations, like _to me_ and _for me_. Thus in _he bought the book
for me_ vs. _he gave the book to me_ the difference in force between
'for' and 'to' is already sufficiently conveyed by the difference in
verbs, such that either can be expressed by the so-called "indirect
object" construction: _he bought me the book_, _he gave me the book_.
The alternative **_he bought the book to me_ is ungrammatical in
English, while _he gave the book for me_ (meaning 'on my behalf')
would normally have an additional context like 'to someone else'
either expressed or implied, and this use of _for me_ cannot be
conveyed by the indirect object in English.
Given that Sindarin is a language that, within the mythology, human
beings are capable of learning to speak (see Appendix F), it seems
reasonable to hypothesize that similar cognitive strategies underlie the
interplay of redundancy and ambiguity that seems evident in its syntax,
though our insights must depend largely on a much better understanding
of the inner workings of our own native languages. Indeed such an
hypothesis is evident (sometimes explicitly but usually implicitly) in most
discussions of Elvish. Ironically, the very analytical or pattern-seeking
process, by which we can extrapolate information from a limited corpus
of data, inherently favors theories that involve fewer redundancies and
ambiguities over theories that involve more. Not that I see any way
to avoid this pitfall other than to be aware of it when attempting to
draw inferences about likelihood.
While Sindarin retains a more extensive inflexional component than
English, at a morpheme level the situation of its pronouns seems to be
similar. In so far as we can tell, the forms _im_ in _anim_ and _im
Narvi_, _nin_ in _tiro nin_, and _ni_ in _bêd enni_ are in
complementary distribution. And in this sense the final consonant of
_nin_ would be redundant, unless there is a contrasting construction
*_tiro ni_ which means something different from 'guard me!' (Which of
course there might be...)
But all this really implies is that the differences among these forms
are relicts of an earlier stage of the language where they may have
had more extensive paradigmatic parallels or occurred in contexts
where they contrasted minimally with each other. Such residual formal
distinctions could very well retain a correlation with the basic
syntactic roles they had at an earlier stage, though the fact that the
system is essentially redundant (or largely so -- the evidence is
admittedly sketchy) would render it easily susceptible to analogical
Nothing David proposes is incompatible with these observations. But
neither do the data seem incompatible with (or even unfavorable to)
the possibility that _nin_ 'me' could combine with a preposition. The
form _im_ can be used both with and without preposition, and perhaps
_ni_ also if it occurs in the sentence (a "password") _Gir..
edlothiand na ngalad melon i ni [?sevo] ni [?edran]_ (VIII:293).
> Alternatively, both _im_ and _ni_ may mean 'I' (nominative), the firstIn contrast with _ammen_ ('for us' VI:413, 'of us' VII:175) part of
> being an emphatic form. (For _im_ cf. [LR1:402 and III:354]). _Nin_ on
> the other hand seems to be the 1st sg. accusative pronoun in Sindarin.
> _men_ is most likely: 1) Casus rectus (nominative) or 2) Casus obliquus
> (accusative), i.e. has no beneficiary connotation. In that, _nin_ seems
> to contrast Quenya where _nin_ is clearly 'for me' [R:67].
the context of the form _anim_ ('for myself' Appendix A I (v)) is its
co-reference with the subject ('I' in _ú-chebin_ 'I have kept
no'). In the other two occurrences of the pronoun _im_ it accompanies
the name of the subject (_im Narvi hain echant_; _le linnon im
Lúthien_ III:354). In English the subject can be emphasized this way
using the nominative, as in "I, Christopher, made them", or the
reflexive pronoun can be used (in essence meaning 'by oneself'), as
"John himself bought the book" or "I myself, Christopher, sing this
So there are two possibilities, either (1) _im_ is nominative, used
emphatically with a named subject and combining with a preposition to
indicate the object is the same as the subject, or (2) _im_ is
specifically reflexive, combinable with a preposition to indicate
reflexive object and usable with the subject for emphasis. Whichever
theory one picks there is little to suggest that _-men_ 'us' in
_ammen_ is the same case as _im_. In its sentences the subjects are
_naur_ 'fire' and _annon_ 'gate', unconnected with 'us'. So _ammen_
is neither reflexive nor nominative, judging by the contexts and the
translations. This leaves "objective'"cases.
Between the pronouns in _tiro nin_ 'look towards me, guard me' and
_guren bêd enni_ 'my heart tells me', it is difficult to say which
is semantically closer to _-men_ in _edraith ammen_ 'saving of us' and
_edro hi ammen_ 'open now for us'. We also have _ammen_ 'us' as
indirect object of _anno_ 'give!' and _díheno_ 'forgive!' and even
in the sense 'against us' in _gerir úgerth ammen_ '(who) trespass
against us', all in the Sindarin Lord's Prayer (VT44:21).
Considering the semantic range of _ammen_ and especially how close
_anno ammen_ comes to _bêd enni_ (both would use 'to' in English if
the indirect object were expanded to a prepositional phrase), it seems
quite reasonable to suggest that we could say *_anno enni_ 'give me!'
and *_bedir ammen_ '(our hearts) tell us'.
Alternatively, we may consider that _enni_ and _ammen_, though
etymologically connected by the historical derivation of _en-_ < _an-_
by affection, actually have different syntax, with the historically
later _ammen_ using a distinct case of the pronoun. If so, I would be
inclined to tie together two ideas suggested by David as
> By contrast, an abstracted _men_, while apparently exhibiting an endingIf we assume that _nin_ 'me' is syntactically detached from its
> _-n_, combines with _an-_ and thus parallels _im_ (and probably _-ni_).
> Alternatively, it may stand for the accusative. In both cases, when
> combined with _an-_, there is no redundancy as _an-_ adds the
> beneficiary notion which _men_ alone, probably doesn't convey. [...]
> I don't think *_anni_ means 'for me' but 'to me'. The meaning of _nIn_
> is crucial here. I think it may be interpreted as accusative sg. or
> (towards) me. Note, however, that Tolkien glosses "...tiro nin..."
> [loc. cit.] as '_tiro_ == 'look towards (watch over), _nin_ == 'me'.
(perhaps etymological) dative, allative, or benefactive sense in the
context of _tiro_ 'look towards, watch over, guard' and is simply the
"accusative" form of the pronoun used as the direct object of a verb;
and if we assume that the dative, benefactive, or even adversative
sense of _ammen_ is conveyed by the semantic range of the preposition
_an-/am-_ and the attached pronoun is simply marked as the object,
using this same "accusative" case-form -- then we could by implication
say *_anno annin_ 'give me!'
This is comparable to the situation in English where the same forms
(me, us, him, etc.) are used for both direct object of a verb and
object of a preposition. There is even an exceptional idiom (like
_enni_ would have to be under this theory), which uses a different
case of the pronoun. This is the possessive construction with the
preposition _of_, as in _I read that book of his_, which contrasts
with a usage like _I was speaking of him_. This is I think the only
relict in English of the older situation where different prepositions
may govern distinct cases -- a situation familiar in more highly
inflected languages, such as Latin (e.g. _ad infinitum_ vs. _de
facto_) or Quenya (e.g. _mí oromardi_ vs. _et Earello_).
-- Christopher Gilson
- The following (edited?) paragraph was included in a post from me ... beings are capable of learning to speak (see Appendix F), it seems reasonable toMessage 5 of 8 , Apr 16, 2004View SourceThe following (edited?) paragraph was included in a post from me
>Given that Sindarin is a language that, in the mythology, humanbeings are capable of learning to speak (see Appendix F), it seems
reasonable to hypothesize that similar cognitive strategies underlie
the interplay of redundancy and ambiguity that seems evident in its
syntax, though our insights must depend largely on a much better
understanding of the inner workings of our own native languages.
The paragraph I actually intended to be posted began as follows:
> Given that Sindarin is a language human beings are capable oflearning to speak (see Appendix F), it seems reasonable to hypothesize
The difference is subtle, but I think important to the point I was
trying to make. So I would like to offer some clarifation and
further thoughts on the matter.
Tolkien invented a language which he (eventually) called Sindarin.
Certain things are (demonstrably) true about the language either from
assertions made by Tolkien, or logical inferences from those
assertions. There are also (of course) a virtually limitless number
of things that are untrue about Sindarin and a (large?) grey area of
those that might be true, some perhaps in mutually exclusive sets and
some either more or less likely than each other.
Tolkien used Sindarin as a part of the background detail in his
fictional stories. In a sense these constitute a sort of extended
"thought experiment" involving a premise: If the invented language
were actually spoken by people, what would that be like? As a
consequence of this the demonstrable facts about Sindarin fall into
two categories. (1) Some are 'circumstantially' true about the
language as used in the fictional world of the story, e.g. there is a
person whose name is _Legolas_ which means 'green-leaves' in Sindarin.
(2) Others are facts about Sindarin per se, e.g. that _laeg_ is a
word for 'green', and _lass_ for 'leaf' (Letter #211).
Of course these categories are intimately connected, since all of the
non-circumstantial facts about Sindarin per se are by implication true
of it as the fictional "language" spoken by people in Tolkien's
stories. But this is only *by implication*, and certainly nothing
prevented Tolkien from devising *circumstantial* facts about Sindarin
as a langage that were not supposed to be realized in the fictional
world. For instance the fact that the beginning of the Lord's Prayer
has been translated into Sindarin as _Ae adar nín i vi Menel_ is
not necessarily true within Tolkien's mythology. And Tolkien's own
recorded pronunciations of Sindarin words and names are facts about
the invented language but not facts inside the fiction.
For these and other various reasons I prefer to discuss Sindarin
primarily as an invented language, and only allude to its use as
background in the stories where the circumstances of that usage are
relevant to the argument. Consequently my original assertion (or
rather really a hypothetical stipulation) "that Sindarin is a language
human beings are capable of learning to speak" was intended to be
about Sindarin per se.
This did not seem *to me* to be in any way controversial -- Tolkien is
a human being and he invented Sindarin, and he gave a great deal of
care toward the verisimilitude of the language by closely modeling the
components of the phonology, morpohology, syntax and much of the
semantics on actual languages of human beings. In other words
Sindarin contains an abundance of features in each of its linguistic
components that human beings are capable of (and in many cases have
All of this has been long known and thoroughly discussed. The only
possible way in which Sindarin could be beyond the mental or physical
capabilities of human beings to learn would be if Tolkien imagined
some difference between human beings and his imaginary elves that was
essential to the ability to learn to speak the language. Appendix F
shows that he imagined no such thing -- hence my reference to it.
Possibly there was some confusion between the human *capability* to
learn Sindarin and the existence of sufficient evidence about the
details of Sindarin to provide an *opportunity* for present-day humans
to learn to speak Sindarin. Two very different matters, about the
latter of which I haven't seen any convincing linguistic argument one
way or the other, and so offered no opinion.
-- Christopher Gilson
[Chris and I clearly have differing opinions about how such a claim as
"Sindarin is a language that human beings are capable of learning to
speak" is likely to be interpreted without further clarification. In a time
and medium where the false notion that Quenya and Sindarin are
languages that people can learn to speak, like French or Spanish, is
rampant, I feel it is important to avoid anything that might be used by
others to give credence to the notion. Moreover, if we can take a
statement by Tolkien about the capability of (certain) humans in the
mythology to speak Sindarin as implying that it was his intention that
we non-mythological humans could do so as well (if, as you further
note, given the opportunity) -- as indeed I think we can, although it
is to be noted that Tolkien also tells us that there are characteristic
mistakes that Men make, and that the Sindarin as spoken by Men did
differ in some respects from that spoken by the Elves* -- without the
need even to acknowledge the existence of the underlying assumption,
then I don't see how conveying the fact that the reference to Appendix
F is to specifically to Tolkien stating that Sindarin was known and spoken
by (certain) Men within the mythology detracts in any way from an
argument based on the cognitive and linguistic faculties and capacties of
humans in general: even left unspecified, the underlying assumption that
the Men of Middle-earth were in all respects pertaining to the cognitive
and linguistic faculties and capacties equivalent to us remains. CFH]
[*Nor are we necessarily to assume that Tolkien saw linguistic capacities
as the same across a race, at least not within the mythology. In one text
(XI:26) we are given a good indication to the contrary: "the Noldor learned
the Sindarin tongue far more readily than the Sindar could learn the
- ... It is also of importance to indicate that Tolkien did have an opinion on the human ability to learn the Elvish tongues -within- his invented world. A goodMessage 6 of 8 , Apr 17, 2004View Source--- In email@example.com, "cgilson75" <cgilson75@h...> wrote:
> Given that Sindarin is a language that, in the mythology, humanIt is also of importance to indicate that Tolkien did have an
> beings are capable of learning to speak (see Appendix F), it seems
> reasonable to hypothesize that similar cognitive strategies underlie
> the interplay of redundancy and ambiguity that seems evident in its
> syntax, though our insights must depend largely on a much better
> understanding of the inner workings of our own native languages.
opinion on the human ability to learn the Elvish tongues -within-
his invented world. A good example from _The Lord of the Rings_ would
be the Gondorians: we are told throughout the story and in the
appendices that they spoke Sindarin (<< Noldorin). The famous example
is the name _Rochand_ which in their speech became _Rohan_.
Now, if we hypothize that they could only speak Elvish as a second
language, we learn that their pronunciation (and supposedly also
parts of grammar) were affected by their own speech (in the
aforementioned example - the lack of /x/ in their speech lead to the
shift of S. /ch/ > /h/).
However, if we hypothize that Sindarin was a living language amongst
Men in Gondor, we inevitably learn that the rules of nature applied
once more and in time, Sindarin began to change ceaselessly among
Men and in time would become a different dialect and later a
Therefore, we must conclude that only the Sindar (and the Noldor of
Middle Earth) could speak what is to be, internally, considered
as "true" Sindarin for they would only change the language according
to their taste and love for sounds and it would forever remain their
own, while Men would change it to be theirs.
[It is indeed clear that the Men of Gondor spoke a dialect of Sindarin,
with distinct phonological and lexical developments. See, for example,
Tolkien's essay on _The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor_ (_VT_ 42).
However, I don't think this is really the sort of "ability to learn
languages" that Chris has in mind, which instead goes to more
fundamental typological and cross-language features, such as the
presence and role of formally redundant markers that are nonetheless
quite happily tolerated in many human languages. CFH]