_A Gateway to Sindarin_ by David Salo: a review
- _A Gateway to Sindarin_: a grammar of an Elvish language from J.R.R. Tolkien's
Lord of the Rings / David Salo. - Salt Lake City: The University of Utah
Press, 2004. - 24 cm: ill. cov., xvi-438 p.
Bibliogr. p. 416-435. - ISBN 0-87480-800-6
I received my copy of David Salo's book about Sindarin a bit more than a
week ago. This was a week of holiday for me, so I was able to browse though it
quite a lot (though naturally not in every detail). I think a review might be
1. Presentation of the book
It is a very nice volume, well printed on alkaline paper, with a silvery
cover illustrated in blue with an arch inspired by the one on the Moria gate. It
bears a tengwar inscription in the mode of Beleriand, reading _Annon na
Edhellen_, i.e. of course a rendering of "A Gateway to Sindarin" in the language
The plan is quite classical for a linguistic monograph. It begins with a
brief internal history of the language, before a description of the sounds and
the various writing systems used to transcribe it, and then a lengthy
phonological history, which reconstructs a list of all the sound changes that
occurred during the development from primitive Elvish to Sindarin. Then we have a
morphophonology, presenting consonant mutation and vowel affection. An
analysis of the various parts of speech and their inflection follows: nouns,
adjectives, pronouns, verbs, adverbs / prefixes / prepositions, conjunctions,
articles, interjections. Then we have a detailed analysis of the various processes
of word creation - derivation, composition and borrowing from other languages -
and to end this grammar a syntax. There are also copious appendices: the
extant texts analysed, a double glossary accompanied with a classification of
words by roots (attested and deduced), an index of Sindarin proper names, an
account of the Sindarin names for the Valar and Maiar, a study of the numerals,
and a list of the names for months and days. Finally, there are more
peripheral tools: a linguistic glossary, a much annotated bibliography, and an
addendum following the publication of the second part of the "Addenda and
Corrigenda to the _Etymologies_" in VT46 last July (evidently the book had been
2. Choice, treatment and presentation of the data
David Salo announces and justifies in a preface his options for the book. He
chose to treat together all the material from the _Etymologies_ onwards, which
includes the externally late stage of Noldorin as well as the whole of the
conceptually later Sindarin. He dates back the starting point of the stage he
studies to 1939. To explain this choice, he says "the change in name from
Noldorin to Sindarin did not coincide with a change in structure or vocabulary.
We will therefore call this language Sindarin, even though some of the words
and specimens referred to were called 'Noldorin' at the time of their
invention" (p. xiv). Taken literally, this is very questionable, and even quite
wrong. There are differences in the grammar: some plural patterns, the
infinitives in _-i_ and _-o_ which are not attested in Sindarin, some uses of lenition,
the genitive construction with _na_ which is more specifically Noldorin
(though not completely given _Orod-na-Th�n in LR book III ch. 4). As for the
lexicon, comparison is not easy (as we know, we have much more Noldorin than
Sindarin because of the Etym), many a Sindarin word was already extant in
Noldorin but there are sometimes slight shifts in meaning, e.g. _iant_ "yoke" in the
Etym (V:400) and "bridge" in the Silm. Appendix or _c�_ "arch, crescent" in
the Etym and "bow" in the Silm Appendix. It is true however that much of the
divergence lies in a series of well-established phonological differences,
which are regular enough to allow reliable revision, and to "update" Noldorin
into Sindarin if wanted (notably for composition). David Salo's statement is
much more acceptable if one understands that the two stages are in continuity,
that there is no abrupt break between the two. No doubt he wrote it in this
sense, but it is slightly misleading to newcomers I think.
This sense of continuity explains the treatment of Noldorin in the book.
David Salo chose a very internist point of view and regarded Noldorin as a
special dialect of Sindarin, possibly the one spoken by the population of Gondolin
during the First Age. So he can reconcile contradictory facts: the specific
traits of Noldorin are just to be seen as dialectal. Since the Gondolindrim
were cut off from the other inhabitants of Beleriand, they were bound to
develop linguistic peculiarities; indeed in Tuor's story a mention is made of
their somewhat strange Sindarin (UT:44). If Noldorin and Sindarin did coexist in
our primary world, they would probably be seen as dialects of the same
language: at least on a phonetic basis, their differences would probably be small
enough to allow them to be mutually comprehensible (they are not greater than
between BBC English and American AFAIK). So on an internal point of view this
interpretation can be sustained to reconcile our various data; as a matter of
fact it has been employed for a long time on Ardalambion's page about
Nonetheless, there is a great disadvantage in this: it leads to viewing
everything through the prism of *one* interpretation, one very peculiar at
that, not sustained by Tolkien's texts. David Salo treats Sindarin like any
other ancient language, and is clearly successful; but he does not consider
another side, which is the personal dimension of Tolkien's languages, the fact
that they have an author and bear the mark of it. More generally, it can be said
that most of the external side is crushed in this approach. Only a facet of
Sindarin is therefore represented in the book. This is not a problem actually
as long as it is borne in mind, but I am afraid it could not be for beginners.
There are other problems in this lack of consideration for the external
point of view. It deprives the author of the possibility to explain some
discrepancies which can be understood only as different stages of external development.
Sometimes one really gets the impression that David Salo wants to explain too
much and forces the facts into his theoretical frame. Some conclusions are
not expressed with enough caution, so the image of Sindarin the book gives is
in my opinion clearer than it really is. It is not said enough how dubious
some points are - e.g. the liquid mutation, the status of the Noldorin
infinitives in Sindarin, what _aen_ is. In some instances things really become
strongly objectionable: for instance, since the absence of mutation cannot be
accounted for in _bo Ceven_ "on Earth" in the Sindarin Lord's Prayer, the
author boldly asserts that it is a transcription error for _* bo Geven_ because
of Tolkien's famously difficult handwriting (pp. 230-1). This is too hasty an
explanation, and not corroborated by the source (VT44), but much worse is the
fact that this "corrected" form **_bo Geven_ is quoted everywhere else in the
book! Being very severe, one cannot help thinking that if facts do not match
the theory, well, facts are wrong.
Besides, as he wishes to keep Sindarin distinct as a study subject, he
strongly criticizes the search for analogies with primary world languages and
inspirations (p. 427). He is right to emphasize that Sindarin is not a
distortion of extant languages and has its own logic, but possibly goes too far. Take
for instance the aforementioned _bo Ceven_: _Ceven_ is capitalised, lacks an
article, might be a proper noun. Now some of these are susceptible to resisting
mutation in some registers of Welsh; is it not possible that we have something
similar here? To be fair I must say that David Salo nonetheless uses a Greek
parallel at least once to explain the contrast _diheno / gohenam_ in the
Lord's Prayer in a very interesting manner.
The presentation is sometimes a bit annoying. For instance it is quite
difficult to get at the first glance what is attested and what is not. True, the
asterisk is duly used in (internal) diachronic study to mark reconstructions.
Other signs are used in the glossaries to mark deduced and altered forms, but
unfortunately they are not used in the main text, so one constantly has to
search in the glossary to know. Certainly it can be done, but quickly becomes
tedious. I understand that the author did not want to clutter his text with
stars (it necessarily contains a large amount of reconstructions) but why did
he not choose another more pleasant sign, like putting all attested instances
in bold? This bit of additional rigour would have been really helpful to the
reader. The book also lacks an index (even if the list of contents is
detailed, it cannot be used in the same way); true, this tool is very long and
tiresome to finalize.
3. Interest of the content
Concerning the internal history, the major texts must have been published
now, so we cannot expect major surprises. Well-known elements are given again,
except that Noldorin is treated in a very special way, as I said above;
according to the general outline of the book, this is the reconstruction of a
possible history rather than a thorough analysis of the possibilities Tolkien
examined. It is based on the later scenario (after Sindarin became a native tongue
of Beleriand and Thingol's ban was introduced), the old one from the time of
the _Etymologies_ is not a part of it.
No surprise either in the section about the sounds and the writing, it simply
summarizes our current knowledge. Tables would have been helpful for the
_tengwar_ and runes, a question of space perhaps - but as they can be found back in
the appendices of LR, it is not a problem. The use of the IPA is welcome for
the description of the sounds, it helps much to make it clear.
The historical phonology is a very strong point of the book. We have been in
great need of a global reconstruction of how Sindarin evolved from
Primitive Quendian, and the forty pages of this chapter fulfill it very largely. The
presentation is more or less chronological, quite abstract and synthetic. The
author uses a featural notation based on the Jakobsonian distinctive traits
of phonemes, happily completed by a paraphrase for the readers to which it
would be opaque, and accompanied with examples. An introduction discusses the
advantages and limits of the presentation. I have been especially engrossed in
that aspect of Sindarin for some time, and find this essay superb indeed. It
will be interesting to compare it with the etymologies propounded in Didier
Willis' Sindarin Dictionary.
The morphophonology discusses consonant mutation and vowel affection, both
as diachronic and synchronic processes. The account of mutations looks
quite like the one on Ardalambion, but with more details on the historical
processes involved. Some of its conclusions are rather tentative. There are more
new elements in the presentation of the various kinds of vowel affection.
There is finally a very original section on apophony (ablaut), its importance in
Common Eldarin and its inheritance in Sindarin - both Tolkien's and Salo's
interest in Indo-European linguistics clearly surface here.
The study of the various parts of speech is also reminiscent of Ardalambion,
but there are more details and it is intended for a readership more
familiar with grammar and linguistics. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of
reconstruction in some areas, especially the pronouns and the verbal system. The latter
is much like the one already known from Ardalambion; it takes however the new
data of VT45 into account and treats the new forms revealed in it, notably
the past tenses formed by apophony or by the ending _-as_. Again, as there is
a fair deal of uncertainty in the domain of verbs, I would have liked to
see the actually attested forms marked in some manner.
The detailed study of word formation is a second brilliant part of the book.
Every aspect is treated: the inheritance of old Eldarin processes,
suffixion, prefixion, the various kinds of compounds with the phonological
alterations their elements undergo, in all their complexity. As far as I know this
topic had never been treated so extensively till now, and it was much needed.
No doubt it will be very useful for the analysis of words (especially the
ones which will appear in the publications to come), and for their creation for
people who try to compose in Elvish. This part is completed by a brief
account of the lexical influences Sindarin underwent from foreign languages, mostly
The syntax is small (twenty-five pages) if compared with the whole length of
the book, partly because the data are not many anyway - Tolkien himself
visibly worked much more on morphology and lexicology, following the
Neogrammarian trend of his time (though there is an noticeable inclination towards
more syntax in later texts, especially _Quendi and Eldar_). The presentation is
traditional: a substantial part of the syntax is actually treated in the study of the
parts of speech, which sometimes compels one to browse through to find the
information on one particular topic (the use of the articles for instance) - but it
is also a matter of becoming familiar with the book. I would have expected a
more modern treatment, on the other hand people used to traditional grammars
will not be confused. There is a quite detailed account of noun phrases and
then a discussion of the various kinds of sentences. David Salo considers a
basic VS(O) structure for the verbal sentence with many possibilities of
topicalisation. I must say I was a bit disappointed not to find discussion of much
debated points like the lenition in _guren b�d enni_ (VT41:11) or the famous
_i sennui Panthael estathar aen_ and its many interpretations (with
interesting possibilities to express modality or passive). On the other hand I realise
that such points are perhaps not best placed in a book intended to stand as a
This is the end of the grammar, but there are many interesting elements in
the appendices. First we have a full analysis of the Sindarin corpus; it
interestingly includes examples found in the drafts of LR (though they are
difficult to interpret). Then we have a long Sindarin-English glossary, a shorter
English-Sindarin back glossary, and between an etymological classification of
words by roots, naturally mostly based on the _Etymologies_ but more
compressed, and altered to fit Tolkien's later conceptions; for instance the roots GAL
and GIL of the Etym are replaced by �AL and �IL found in later writings
(respectively XII:347 and X:388); a number of roots are reconstructed. Especially
interesting is the list of Sindarin proper names that follows; it intends to
list all names from _The Lord of the Rings_ and afterwards, with the source
and an interpretation. This is again a welcome work that will be much used.
Of the other tools I will mention the annotated bibliography, in which primary
sources are given with a summary of their linguistic interest. The author
also lists two known secondary works, namely Jim Allan's _An Introduction to
Elvish_ and Ruth Noel's _The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth_, makes a
critique of them (not too gently) and corrects many of their errors, of which a
great deal come from their early date of publication, especially for the first.
4. Conclusion: which kind of public?
We have then a very complete book, a detailed analysis of Sindarin which
shows a long and in-depth work. The mass of information is very impressive;
nearly all points of the grammar are treated, in a way that will sum up our
current knowledge about the language. As the reader will have guessed, my chief
reservations are with the way data are presented. The book will be of no great
help for an external study of Tolkien's creation, indeed it is not made for this.
I believe one of David Salo's problems was his readership. Books about
Tolkien's languages are not numerous and cannot be, so he knew he would have to
accommodate various categories of readers: people who want to discover one
great constructed language of Tolkien's and await a primer; people who want to
learn Elvish and use it in fan-fiction composition, and await a normalised
version of the language; people who are already familiar with the domain and are
eager to see theories dealing with Sindarin in all its complexity. (The same
person can of course be interested in several ways, but the thought processes
are quite distinct.) He implies this at the end of the preface: "I hope [this book] will
furnish the necessary groundwork for future investigation into Sindarin. For
those who wish to learn Sindarin, such errors as there may be should not
affect their ability to read Sindarin texts or to construct their own" (p. xv).
Often he succeeds in fulfilling these various needs; sometimes he is at risk to
frustrate all his readers together.
Quite like Ardalambion on the Web, _A Gateway to Sindarin_ presents a
personal vision of Tolkien's creation. Its point of view matches David Salo's
contributions to Elvish linguistics as we have been able to see them: internist,
reconstructionist, very concerned with clarity and consistency, much less with
explaining Tolkien's role as a language maker. These are the limits of the
book; once they are taken into account it is enjoyable. You just need to be
aware of the author's point of view and to use this resource with discernment.
Anyway, David Salo makes it clear in the preface that "this volume is not and
cannot be the last or most accurate word on Sindarin" (p. xv). It is also the
responsibility of the reader to do his part of the work and keep his critical sense.
Under that condition, will this book succeed in becoming a reference? I
believe it has the potential to do so; no doubt it will be much used, and if you
are interested in Sindarin it certainly deserves to stand on your bookshelf.
Language has both strengthened imagination and been freed by it. Who shall
say whether the free adjective has created images bizarre and beautiful, or
the adjective been freed by strange and beautiful pictures in the mind ? -
J.R.R. Tolkien, A Secret Vice
- BertrandBellet75@... wrote:
> since the absence of mutation cannot beThe preceding reminds me strongly of the normalised texts of Old Germanic languages,
> accounted for in _bo Ceven_ "on Earth" in the Sindarin Lord's Prayer, the
> author boldly asserts that it is a transcription error for _* bo Geven_ because
> of Tolkien's famously difficult handwriting (pp. 230-1). This is too hasty an
> explanation, and not corroborated by the source (VT44), but much worse is the
> fact that this "corrected" form **_bo Geven_ is quoted everywhere else in the
> book! Being very severe, one cannot help thinking that if facts do not match
> the theory, well, facts are wrong.
levelling out irregularities and manuscript varieties. The Parable of the men who built
their houses on stone or sand in one AS manuscript ends ...mychel was seo (?) ryre and
in another ...mycel was seo (?) hryre: but Sweet's AngloSaxon reader gives just the former
variety, unless the text be one not found in any manuscript at all. A 19th C editor of Tatian
gives a normalised text, deviating from the manuscript.
[There are a number of crucial reasons why the two cases (i.e., Old Germanic languages
and Sindarin) are not at all analogous in this regard. For one, unlike Sindarin texts, ancient
and medieval texts almost always come down to us in the form of later (often _much_ later),
non-authorial copies. This process of copying and re-copying in the course of transmission
notoriously introduces errors into a text, which can often be discovered by _comparison_
with other copies in which any given error was _not_ introduced scribally. In the case of
Tolkien's texts, we have a _single_ authorial scribe and (usually) only a _single_ copy.
And where we do have multiple versions of texts, being _authorial_ versions (unlike
ancient and medieval mss), the variations we see will (almost) always be due to Tolkien
trying different ways of expressing a meaning, not simply Tolkien nodding and
mistranscribing his own composition. Because errors and variations in texts in real-world
languages can often be checked against a (relative to Tolkien's languages) large body of
data for the language and its cognates, establishing likely "norms" for the languages at
various dates, yes, it is quite possible to normalize the likely variances from this norm
for pedagogic purposes (though you will find, I think, that even in such cases, the
editors of scholarly texts will scrupulously note where they have made editorial changes,
and give the actual manscript reading in notes, and explain the basis for those editorial
changes that are not entirely straightforward: a long-standing scholarly practice that
David Salo typically does _not_ follow.)
For another, ancient and medieval orthography is _notoriously_ variable, again unlike
Tolkien: in old mss. one often finds different spellings of _the exact same word_ within
the space of a page, a paragraph, or even a sentence. And for yet another, ancient and
medieval spellings often reflect older pronunciations no longer current (I'm thinking here
esp. of Celtic mss., where this is rampant because an orthographic standard was early
developed). These are often systematic, and thus can be discerned and normalized for
pedagogic purposes. Such historical spellings rarely occur in Tolkien's texts, and where
they do they are also quite systematic (according to a system that Tolkien himself explains).
But what David has done is entirely other than this. On the basis of a (relatively) very small
amount of data, he develops a personal "theory" -- e.g., that all objects following
prepositions that end in a vowel must show lenition, _regardless of the grammatical
or semantic category of that object_;* and that where such objects do _not_ show lenition,
it must be that the preposition formerly ended in a consonant -- and then _inconsistently_
alters (or does not alter) the actual data (often enough silently, or by appeal to a supposed
"fact" that is demonstrably false, e.g. his claim that Tolkien's Cs and Gs are often not
distinguishable) in order to make it fit his "theory". (I put the term "theory" in quotes
because David's conviction is not truly a theory in that it does not explain all the data,
even by his own logic: see my discussion of this in message 761
in particular the latter half regarding _bo Ceven_, _vi Menel_, and _sui m�n_, all from the
same text, which David treats in three different and inconsistent ways with respect even
to his own "theory". Worse, David flatly declares, without even an attempt at justifying his
assertions, against even _trying_ to construct a theory that _does_ explain _all_ the data
without alteration and without appealing to authorial error: "In any case, there's nothing
about the word 'menel' that ought to except it from the general rule of lenition" -- note
that David here even alters the actual spelling in the ms., _Menel_, to subtly reinforce his
assertion against the actual data -- or, "If the mutation rules hold in this example as
elsewhere", implying that we do in fact see these "rules" everywhere else, which even
David in fact knows is plainly false _by his own account_, given _sui m�n_ _in the exact
same text_, _without lenition_, and which David does not even _try_ to explain by his own
"theory" (i.e., he neither declares that _m�n_ "must" be a error for *_v�n_, as he does in
the case of _bo Ceven_/**_bo Geven_, nor analyses _sui m�n_ as reflecting earlier
**_suin m�n_ or the like, as he does in the case of _vi Menel_ (< he asserts *_min menel_),
again with the subtle and silent alteration of the actual form _Menel_ in order to obscure
what may well be the determining feature in the absence of lenition here).
* An assertion that in fact David himself can't really believe, since at the same time he
interprets _Daur_ in _Daur a Berhael! Eglerio!_ as a lenited form of *_Taur_, due to its being
the object of the imperative verb _Eglerio!_ (p. 225), _despite_ the fact that it does not
occur in a _phonological_ environment that would cause lenition. That is, contrary to what
David insists _must_ be true about _Menel_: that nothing about its form or function could
possibly explain the absence of lenition, David interprets _Daur_ as lenited _solely_ because
of its grammatical function, and _not_ because of its phonological environment.
So unlike with editions of ancient and medieval texts of the sorts Hans is referring to,
what we have instead is the (nearly always) silent imposition of David Salo's personal
construction of a version of Sindarin that in fact Tolkien himself never conceived of, by
appeal to "theories" that very often are nothing of the sort _even by his own account_,
in order to justify (nearly always) silently altering the actual data in order to fit his
However objectionable from the scientific point of view, this is not too bad when it comes
to _teaching_ a language.
[This would be true _if_ David were in fact teaching a normative _language_ that actually
exist(s/ed). But the language David is teaching is one _he_, not Tolkien, constructed, a
language that in fact _never_ existed _even by his own account_, itself a fact that he does
his best to obscure both in his book and elsewhere by flat assertions and silent alterations.
It is as if I decided to teach German (which of course has a long textual history and many
dialectal variations), using actual German texts from a variety of eras and regions, but
normalizing all the texts to fit the grammatical and orthographic standards of Modern High
German. Which so far as this goes is all fair and well (so long as I don't pretend that I'm _not_
normalizing the texts, and explaining all variations from the NHG norm as _errors_), because
Modern High German actually is a known entity against which variations can be measured --
but this of course is _not_ true with Sindarin (a fact that David obscures for his readers, as
Bertrand points out). But David does not stop there: it is _further_ as if I also decided (and
asserted) that, e.g., because the definite article sometimes appears as _der_, then the
definite article must _always_ be _der_, and any other forms (_die_, _das_, etc.) "must" be
erroneous, because there "cannot possibly" be any explanation for the variance of forms in
the actual texts, and so I can just silently "correct" them all to _der_. Would you say then that
this was justifiable since I'm "only" trying to "teach German" (as opposed to, it seems, being
accurate in describing even Modern High German as it actually is)? Would you even say that I
was teaching "German" at all? Sure, the language I would have thereby constructed would
certainly _resemble_ German, but it would in fact not _be_ German, if by German we mean a
language that actually exists independently of my own personal construction, and reflecting
After all, it is not as though David simply said: "Most objects of prepositions that end in
vowels show lenition. In the case of _vi Menel_, it may be that _vi_ is for underlying *_min_,
where the original consonantal ending suppresses the otherwise expected lenition. But
such an explanation seems not to be suitable for _bo Ceven_ and _sui m�n_, so it may be
that some other phenomenon is at work. In any event, for purposes of this treatment, I
will assume that there is a general rule of lenition in objects of prepositions ending in
a vowel, to which these may be exceptions". No; instead, he decided that Tolkien _must_
have made a mistake, or that we editors of Tolkien's texts must have made a mistake
(despite the fact that anyone, even David, can see that Tolkien plainly and clearly
wrote _bo Ceven_). I would have no objection to the former: it is accurate and presents
the facts of the matter, without imputing incompetence to Tolkien or his editors, and
simply humbly accepts the notorious fact of languages that prescribed rules such as
characterize language pedagogy _typically_ have some exceptions. But David chose
instead to assert his preference for how he thinks Tolkien _should_ have made Sindarin
behave over the facts, and to pretend that there is simply no other possible explanation
than a mistake on Tolkien's part or that of his editors. It is this unscholarly method (to
put it mildly) to which I and others have objected.
I also have to add that I find the dichotomy you assume and rely on, Hans, between _accuracy_
and _pedagogy_, to be false. Pedagogy may be excused for eschewing certain _details_, but
_never_ for teaching demonstrable _falsehoods_. In fact, does not a _teacher_, i.e., one
presuming to instruct others with _less_ knowledge than themselves, and thus _far more
likely_ to be unable to detect errors and inconsistencies in the teacher's presentation of
a matter, and thus _far more likely_ to defer to the teacher's (presumed) _authority_ than
to an investigation of the actual facts, bear an even _greater_ responsibility to _avoid_
misrepresenting the actual sitation of things, and to _avoid_ relying on personal
"authority" against the evidence and scholarly consensus? CFH]
Which is precisely what Salo intended, whatever the objections some here may feel about such a project.
[I'm not aware that _anyone_ has objected to the idea of teaching Sindarin as a language.
What is objected to is the deliberate and silent alteration of the language itself, as it
actually is, in order to "support" pet "theories" that in fact a) do not explain the data; and
b) against which there are other, entirely plausible explanations that _don't_ rely on alteration
of the data, despite the fact of David's encouraging reliance among his "students" on his
personal "authority" by asserting unsupported dismissals of any other possibilities, solely
by personal fiat.
Finally, I quote here the epigraph of the current issue of _Vinyar Tengwar_ (provided by
"[Regarding grammatical 'corrections' made to the text of L.L. Zamenhof�s
Esperanto translation of the _Malnova Testamento_ by editor W.J. Downes,
under the guise of correcting "typographical errors" in the third printing of
the Bible in Esperanto:]
'Professor Downes apparently does not realize that he has started down a
road that could lead to strange adventures. Today he corrects, as something
"idiomatic" and "suspect", Zamenhof's usage of the conditional mood; so what
guarantees us simple Esperantists that in the fourth printing he won't find
Zamenhof's use of that or some other form equally worthy of condemnation:
the participles, for example, or the subordinating conjunctions, etc.? Under
the pretext of correcting 'typographical errors', we could one day receive --
perhaps from hands even less careful than his -- and always under the name
of Zamenhof, a text thoroughly unfaithful to the tradition of our Maestro,
and perhaps even of Esperanto. As the Chinese say: "A journey of a thousand
miles begins with a _single_ step".'
� Gaston Waringhien, in _Lingvo kaj Vivo_ (Rotterdam: Universala Esperanto-
Asocio, 1989; 2nd ed.)"
-- Hans Georg Lundahl
- Regarding my comparison of a 19th C editor of Tatian giving a normalised text, deviating from the manuscript, with David Salo's treatment of Tolkien's Sindarin texts in his _Gateway to Sindarin_, Carl Hostetter writes:
> There are a number of crucial reasons why the two cases (i.e., Old Germanic languagesNot true of many documents, which have been similarly normalised in editing. Where the original document is preserved, we have authorial manuscripts.
> and Sindarin) are not at all analogous in this regard. For one, unlike Sindarin texts, ancient
> and medieval texts almost always come down to us in the form of later (often _much_ later),
> non-authorial copies.
[I don't know what texts you have in mind, but to my knowledge it is certainly _not_ the case that we have "many" authorial manuscripts of ancient and medieval texts. Either you haven't understood what I mean by "authorial manuscript" (that is, a manuscript written _by the author in his own hand_), or you will have to establish your claim. CFH]
> This process of copying and re-copying in the course of transmissionIn Latin, errors are the most significant sources of deviations in copies. In O Gmc Languages, the most significant source is actually the scribes' inconsistent adaptation to his own norm.
> notoriously introduces errors into a text, which can often be discovered by _comparison_
> with other copies in which any given error was _not_ introduced scribally. In the case of
> Tolkien's texts, we have a _single_ authorial scribe and (usually) only a _single_ copy.
[Let's say that's true (though I don't know it to be, and you haven't established it). Your attempted analogy then still presumes a "norm" that _does not exist_ for Sindarin. The particular "norm" under discussion, sc., the asserted "fact" that all objects of prepositions ending in vowels _must_ show lenition, or else the preposition _must_ have ended formerly in a consonant (that is, more generally, that lenition in objects of prepositions _must_ be conditioned solely by (original) phonological environment, and cannot possibly have anything to do with grammatical function or semantics) _does not exist_, and is _contradicted_ 1) by the evidence _even_ from within the _single_ authorial text under discussion, which can be _expected_ to employ the same "rule" in this matter throughout (even if the rule does not apply to any other of Tolkien's Sindarin texts), and 2) _even_ by David's own account of the matter within this text (**_bo Geven_ but _sui mín_). And do you really mean to imply that Tolkien was no more consistent in his orthography _within a single text_ (or even across _all_ his writings) than ancient or medieval scribes working in a context where orthography was notoriously variable? If so, I certainly do not agree, and would ask you to at least attempt to establish your claim by providing, for starters, even one other case where Tolkien could conceivably have meant to indicate capital _G_ but wrote _C_. CFH]
> And where we do have multiple versions of texts, being _authorial_ versions (unlikeTrue. But that would go for many manuscript readings from Middle Ages too.
> ancient and medieval mss), the variations we see will (almost) always be due to Tolkien
> trying different ways of expressing a meaning, not simply Tolkien nodding and
> mistranscribing his own composition.]
[But my point is that the kinds of variations we see in Tolkien's authorial manuscripts are very different from the kinds of variance in ancient and medieval manuscripts that you are attempting to use anaologically to justify David in his alterations. That is, although we _do_ see considerable variance of orthography in ancient and medieval texts of the sort that you are basing your analogical justification on, we _don't_ see much (if any) of that kind or anything like that degree of orthographic variance in Tolkien's texts. And thus the essential feature of your attempt at analogy does not apply to the case of Tolkien's texts. To put it another way: if David had written about Quenya instead, and decided to give only the last of the multiple versions of Tolkien's translation of the _Paternoster_ as "the" text (of which the other versions are characterized as only imperfect variants), that would be one thing. And if David decided that all _k_s in Tolkien's Quenya texts should be normalized to _c_s in order to correspond with an orthographic convention that Tolkien indeed preferred at one point in his life, that would be fine. But if David decided that since the Quenya texts in _The Lord of the Rings_ exclusively employ imperatives of the form _a + <verb-stem>_, the forms in the _Átaremma_ using _á<pronominal-stem> + verb-stem_ must be _errors_, and silently "corrected" them all to employ what he regards as the only possible "correct" form, that would be quite a different matter. Yet that is precisely what David has done in the case of _bo Ceven_.
Further: I trust that you don't really mean for us to believe that there is no essential difference between the nature of the centuries of ancient and medieval manuscripts and their transmission and the editorial practices developed for treating with the same, and the nature of Tolkien's texts and the practices one is justified in employing with his compositions? If so, I'm afraid I will have to demure. What's more, I must demure for precisely the reasons stated in the next paragraph of mine that you quote below, the argument and reasoning in which you do not acknowledge or address in any way: sc., that the _basis_ for the methods and practices with regard to ancient and medieval mss. is _inherently_ different in nature, scope, and statistical significance than that for Tolkien's writings in and about his invented languages. CFH]
> Because errors and variations in texts in real-worldDavid Salo was not acting as scholarly editor, but as a grammarian taking examples from texts.
> languages can often be checked against a (relative to Tolkien's languages) large body of
> data for the language and its cognates, establishing likely "norms" for the languages at
> various dates, yes, it is quite possible to normalize the likely variances from this norm
> for pedagogic purposes (though you will find, I think, that even in such cases, the
> editors of scholarly texts will scrupulously note where they have made editorial changes,
> and give the actual manscript reading in notes, and explain the basis for those editorial
> changes that are not entirely straightforward: a long-standing scholarly practice that
> David Salo typically does _not_ follow.)
[I beg to differ. When one presents a series of texts in a foreign language, in "normalized" form, and provides a word-by-word semantic, etymological, and grammatical analysis of each form, that _is_ acting as a scholarly editor. And when one produces hundreds of pages of a book adhering to the traditional structure of historical descriptive grammars, employing page after page of Jakobsonian distinctive-feature notation, Sanskrit-grammarian compound classifications, and syntactic classifications, and extensive criticism of the errors of _previous_ efforts;* and then publishes the results with a university press, one is at least pretending at scholarship. David does not present his work as "Sindarin For Dummies", or the "Berlitz Sindarin Guide", or "The Elvish Language Rainy-Day Fun Book": it is presented as a descriptive historical grammar (as Bertrand has also pointed out), from a university press. The book by its very form and presentation _invites_ us to regard it as a work of linguistic scholarship; and so to expect that it would adhere to the standards of linguistic scholarship, including a) not altering data to fit one's theories, b) not making knowingly false claims about one's sources in order to justify altering the data, and c) not simply inventing forms to exemplify whole classes of formation for which there is in fact no evidence while not indicating in any way that one has done so, despite having claimed that one _has_ indicated where one has done so.
* Indeed, we may ask: if we are to give David a pass for his scholarly lapses (putting it mildly) in the name of pedagogy, as you assert, why then do you not fault David (or anyone else, for that matter) for failing to give _The Languages of Middle-earth_ a similar pass? After all, Ruth Noel had just as "valid" a "theory" about Elvish as David, according to your own construction of "validity" and "theory" and consequent practices; and she clearly just wanted to "teach" people Elvish, and did not even pretend to be a linguistic scholar or to have produced an historical descriptive grammar; and clearly fabricated far less "evidence" than David did. CFH]
> For another, ancient and medieval orthography is _notoriously_ variable, again unlikeAnd in Tolkien the variation span is within decades of his real life.
> Tolkien: in old mss. one often finds different spellings of _the exact same word_ within
> the space of a page, a paragraph, or even a sentence.
[Yes, but the point is that unlike ancient and medieval mss. with their notoriously variable orthography _even within a single page or less_, Tolkien's orthography is _not_ noticeably or demonstrably variable within individual texts, and not even really very variable (except in such minor variations as "q" vs. "qu" and "c" vs. "k", basically distinctions without a phonological difference) across _decades_ of compositions. So you've really just reinforced my point: namely, that where one _is_ justified in regularizing orthography in ancient and medieval texts, due to their nature, one is _not thereby necessarily_ justified in doing so for Tolkien's texts, because they are _not_ of the same nature. So, thanks! CFH]
> And for yet another, ancient andSalo might call the non-marking of lenition in written _bo Ceven_ a preservation of older orthography -- supposing him to be correct in the matter.
> medieval spellings often reflect older pronunciations no longer current (I'm thinking here
> esp. of Celtic mss., where this is rampant because an orthographic standard was early
> developed). These are often systematic, and thus can be discerned and normalized for
> pedagogic purposes. Such historical spellings rarely occur in Tolkien's texts, and where
> they do they are also quite systematic (according to a system that Tolkien himself explains).
[Sure, he _might_, but he _doesn't_. Instead, he claims that _either_ Tolkien made a mistake in writing C; _or_ that his editor made a mistake in misreading a C for a G: this latter being a claim that he _knows_ is false, because the source he cites has a _facsimile_ of the text. He _further_ asserts that Tolkien's Cs and Gs are inherently hard to distinguish, for which he offers not a _shred_ of evidence, not a _single_ example, and which I know is also false, having worked with Tolkien's papers for well over a decade now. So _none_ of these claims withstands an examination of the actual, unaltered data. To nonetheless assert these claims, and to justify it _solely_ by making other, baseless assertions, is unscholarly (again, to put it politely). CFH]
Your argument that Salo is incorrect in his theory seems to be correct, but I would rather withhold judgement on the matter. Whether you are or Salo is correct about the lenition, the practise of writing according to one's theory is not reprehensible: just as Donat may have been mistaken when calling _vocavero_ a future subjunctive, but was not reprehensible in writing according to his, if so, mistake.
[My argument is that Salo does not actually have a theory (as it does not explain all the available data, nor does he even attempt to do so (e.g. _sui mín_); and as it is in fact contradicted by the available data); and I haven't really claimed to have one myself (only suggested the possible basis for a theory of the post-prepositional lenition patterns seen _in the Adar Nín_); so it is not a question of competing theories. It's a question of methodology, and fundamentally of intellectual honesty; of whether one wishes to describe Tolkien's Sindarin as it actually is in scholarly fashion, as David's book by its form and venue and marketing invites us to think he has done; or instead to make Sindarin what it never was, while _pretending_ to know what Tolkien "really" meant to write, and to simply be correcting Tolkien's "mistakes" rather than in fact altering the data in order to accommodate a (non-)theory, while "supporting" one's alterations by making _knowingly false_ claims. It is this sort of intellectual dishonesty, both about what Tolkien actually created (and how), and about David's actual methods and practices in his book (vs. his claims for the same: e.g., his claim to have marked all unattested forms, which is simply _not_ true, not even approximately, which can _only_ mislead the student and hide the shaky basis of David's claims and assertions), that is "reprehensible" (to use your term). CFH]
>> However objectionable from the scientific point of view, this is not too bad when it comesFull circle. When Tolkien constructed Animalic and Nevbosh, he had collaborators. When going on to Naffarin, Qenya/Quenya (where the differences are very great, so as to make the identification dubious), Noldorin/Sindarin (where I suppose Salo could be right) he was alone: but now he has collaborators in these languages as well: Salo, Fauskanger.
>> to _teaching_ a language.
> This would be true _if_ David were in fact teaching a normative _language_ that actually
> exist(s/ed). But the language David is teaching is one _he_, not Tolkien, constructed, a
> language that in fact _never_ existed _even by his own account_, itself a fact that he does
> his best to obscure both in his book and elsewhere by flat assertions and silent alterations.
[Do you honestly expect anyone to equate Tolkien's knowing and willing participation in a group language development effort in the cases of Animalic and Nevbosh, with the unknowing and unassented alterations of his own, self-described "private" languages by David and Helge, long after his death, under the term "collaboration"? Would you similarly claim that if I spraypainted Groucho-glasses and a mustache on the Mona Lisa that I have "collaborated" with Da Vinci? If so, I must again demure. And really, I'm afraid I find it hard to take your other claims about languages and linguistics and manuscripts seriously when you can attempt such a Newspeakish sleight-of-hand as this: it at any rate makes me feel that you're not taking _my_ end of the discussion seriously. CFH]
And it brings those languages so much closer to "actually existing" ones. They too, through history, have been constructed by more than one speaker and writer. How many constructors must a language have, by the way, to be "actually existing"?
[I said nothing about the existence of a normative language depending on some minimal number of constructors. What I said was that for German, for example, such a thing does exist; but it does _not_ exist for Sindarin. If David wants to create his own language, based on Tolkien's Sindarin, that's fine: _so long as he does not pretend or state that he is doing otherwise_, as he very clearly does in his book. CFH]
> it is _further_ as if I also decided (andThe German article is so much more common than the Sindarin preposition, that such a slight would be less excusable.
> asserted) that, e.g., because the definite article sometimes appears as _der_, then the
> definite article must _always_ be _der_, and any other forms (_die_, _das_, etc.) "must" be
> erroneous, because there "cannot possibly" be any explanation for the variance of forms in
> the actual texts, and so I can just silently "correct" them all to _der_. Would you say then that
> this was justifiable since I'm "only" trying to "teach German" (as opposed to, it seems, being
> accurate in describing even Modern High German as it actually is)? Would you even say that I
> was teaching "German" at all? Sure, the language I would have thereby constructed would
> certainly _resemble_ German, but it would in fact not _be_ German, if by German we mean a
> language that actually exists independently of my own personal construction, and reflecting
> actual usage.]
[By what measure is it "so much more common"? I'm not convinced that it is so as a proportion of all the textual evidence for German and Sindarin. But in any event, you again really make my point: given such a small amount of data for Sindarin, it is difficult if not impossible to argue that just because a bare majority of forms (arguably) exhibits some pattern, that those that do not exhibit that pattern must be "erroneous" (as David does), or even "irregular" (as is often asserted). And by extension, your attempt to draw an analogy between the situation and practices with respect to ancient and medieval texts and those of Tolkien's texts is further shown to be inapt. CFH]
Though I should not be surprised if there be a Platt dialect the levels all articles down to de.
[I don't suppose I would be surprised either. But I stipulated Modern High German, not some dialect of Plattdeutsch. CFH]
> It is this unscholarly method (to put it mildly) to which I and others have objected.As unscholarly as the appoach of editors who normalise spellings in original documentary manuscripts - because they thought the secretary did not know the language he was trying to write as well as the modern scholar did. Neither more, nor less.
[I disagree, for the reasons stated above. The amount and kinds of evidence we have for ancient and medieval mss. and languages is vastly different from what we have for Tolkien's languages. Pretending otherwise indeed inevitably leads to error: and why should we be surprised, after all, and why should we not comment or even object, when false assumptions lead to false conclusions? But even if we grant that there is no difference, for the sake of argument: so what? Do the errors of the past forgive the errors of the present? You are again making my point for me: for If we are to fault those (pseudo-)scholarly editors you rightly decry for (sometimes) _wrongly_ (and thus arrogantly) presuming to know the scribe's language better than the scribe did, then why should we not fault and decry David Salo for wrongly (and thus arrogantly) presuming to know Tolkien's languages better than Tolkien did? For I have no doubt that David believes that he knows Tolkien's languages better than Tolkien did -- he has publicly stated as much -- but the only reason he can believe that is because he does not in fact understand Tolkien's languages _as they really are_ (again, just like with your notorious editor and the scribe); or, at any rate, does not want to acknowledge their _actual_ nature and status (for whatever reason). CFH]
> I also have to add that I find the dichotomy you assume and rely on, Hans, between _accuracy_Scholarly consensus have been built around far more objectionable personal "authority" in the teeth of evidence. If David Salo is in error he is not the first one to fall in such due to overconfidence in Jung Grammarian positions. Not to mention Biblical scholarship.
> and _pedagogy_, to be false. Pedagogy may be excused for eschewing certain _details_, but
> _never_ for teaching demonstrable _falsehoods_. In fact, does not a _teacher_, i.e., one
> presuming to instruct others with _less_ knowledge than themselves, and thus _far more
> likely_ to be unable to detect errors and inconsistencies in the teacher's presentation of
> a matter, and thus _far more likely_ to defer to the teacher's (presumed) _authority_ than
> to an investigation of the actual facts, bear an even _greater_ responsibility to _avoid_
> misrepresenting the actual sitation of things, and to _avoid_ relying on personal
> "authority" against the evidence and scholarly consensus? CFH]
[Perhaps; but even if so, how does the fact that the _Junggrammatiker_ sometimes overstepped their bounds in asserting their knowledge (real or claimed) over the ancient and medieval scribes (which is undeniably so), excuse David Salo for overstepping his bounds in asserting his (claimed) knowledge of Tolkien's languages over Tolkien? At least the _Junggrammatiker_ had a firm linguistic and textual basis, derived from centuries and untold thousands of pages of written material and scribal transmission; which is _not_ the case in the instance of Tolkien's writings and Tolkien's languages. How does that justify David altering and fabricating data silently, while at the same time claiming not to do so? How does that justify David in making knowingly false claims about what Tolkien actually wrote? And in any event, how does this address my question, which was: _if_ we regard David as "just" a teacher, not a scholar (despite all appearances and claims to the contrary), as you urge, ought he not as a "teacher" be held to higher standards of _avoiding_ overstating his case or making knowingly false claims, given that his audience is not scholars but students who necessarily rely (and, in David's presentation, are deliberately _encouraged_ to rely) not on the actual evidence, but utlimately on his authority?
You seem to think, Hans, that I am arguing _for_ all the practices of the _Junggrammatiker_, even their unfounded and arrogant ones, when applied to ancient and medieval texts, while inconsistently arguing _against_ the employment of _any_ of them in the case of Tolkien's texts, which two cases you believe to be precisely analogous. I am not. _Some_ of the practices of the _Junggrammatiker_ were indeed overstepping and even outright arrogant, and are to be criticized (as they have been, well and thoroughly). But _at least_ their practices, objectionable and unobjectionable alike, were developed and executed on a _much firmer and significant basis of data and systematics_ than we have, or ever will have, for Tolkien's languages, _because_ of their actual nature. _Instead_, what I am arguing is, in effect, that, to the extent that you fault the _Junggrammatiker_ for their arrogant practices, then David is to be faulted even more for his, given the _much more ethereal and subjective basis_ and _more blatantly contrary-to-fact assumptions and assertions_ that they are based on (and indeed the moreso _because_ David has the historical example of the _Junggrammatiker_ to serve as a cautionary tale); and I am further arguing that this is because the analogy you draw in _support_ of David's practices is _inapt_, for precisely the reasons that make those arrogant practices of the _Junggrammatiker_ that you decry even _less_ warranted if applied to Tolkien's texts than it was when applied to ancient and medieval mss. CFH]
-- Hans Georg Lundahl
An error in VT46 p 27, last line.
The roots "WAWA-, WAWA-" should read "WAWA-, WAIWA-". No?
PS: Yello for VT47! Hope to read VT48 soon. :)
[You are absolutely right: the reading should be "WAWA-, WAIWA-".
Thank you for catching the error! As for VT 48, I'm diligently working
away on it! PHW]
- One statement of fact, and one or two of principle will have to suffice as answer on this longish contribution.
1) Regarding my comparison of a 19th C editor of Tatian giving a normalised text, deviating from the manuscript, with David Salo's treatment of Tolkien's Sindarin texts in his _Gateway to Sindarin_, Carl Hostetter writes:
> There are a number of crucial reasons why the two cases (i.e., Old Germanic languagesTo which I responded:
> and Sindarin) are not at all analogous in this regard. For one, unlike Sindarin texts, ancient
> and medieval texts almost always come down to us in the form of later (often _much_ later),
> non-authorial copies.
> Not true of many documents, which have been similarly normalised in editing. Where theAnd Carl replied:
> original document is preserved, we have authorial manuscripts.
> I don't know what texts you have in mind, but to my knowledge it is certainly _not_ the caseIn the case of ancient texts, indeed we have no authorial manuscripts of either literary texts or documents. In the case of mediæval literary texts, we usually have too many copies to identify an authorial manuscript. Usually that is, but not exclusively: certain very occasional literature, which yet cannot be classed as legal documents may exist only in one authorial manuscript. But in the case of legal documents, it is even usual that they exist in only two manuscripts, both of which were written by secretary or notary, and both authorised with a signature by both parties or by the granting party. In those cases there cannot be any "errors of transmission". When the spelling varies in those, it is because of the intention of the original writer: whether it be the author or just his secretary. I appreciate your disclaimer on loyalty to the Junggrammatiker and their arrogance (though I do not quote it) but I cannot feel that a fault committed by a whole set of scholars that were our masters in linguistic scholarship can be a valid reason for harsh denunciations. We need only avoid them, not make them also a cause of opprobrium.
> that we have "many" authorial manuscripts of ancient and medieval texts. Either you haven't
> understood what I mean by "authorial manuscript" (that is, a manuscript written _by the
> author in his own hand_), or you will have to establish your claim. CFH]
[This is getting far afield now, but I would point out that from the fact that we have many different manuscripts of any given text it does not follow that one of them is the authorial text and we just can't discern which is which: it is also entirely possible that _none_ of them is the authorial manuscript. Again, the situation is quite different from the case of Tolkien, where _every_ text we have is an authorial manuscript. CFH]
2) I also wrote:
> And it brings those languages so much closer to "actually existing" ones. They too, throughTo which Carl replied:
> history, have been constructed by more than one speaker and writer. How many constructors
> must a language have, by the way, to be "actually existing"?
> I said nothing about the existence of a normative language depending on some minimalYou said that Salo had been describing a language that never existed: I took you to mean a non-natural art-lang as such. I am sorry for the misinterpretation. You did not mean Sindarin as such being a piece of art rather than an existing language - have I got it right this time? - you meant Salo describing a Sindarin that never existed in Tolkien's actual manuscripts.
> number of constructors. What I said was that for German, for example, such a thing does
> exist; but it does _not_ exist for Sindarin. If David wants to create his own language, based
> on Tolkien's Sindarin, that's fine: _so long as he does not pretend or state that he is doing
> otherwise_, as he very clearly does in his book. CFH]
[That's correct. And demonstrable from David's own presentation, in that much of what he presents as "Sindarin" is nowhere to be found in Tolkien's own writings. CFH]
Now, this I cannot see as a valid argument against Salo's Sindarin or Fauskanger's Quenya existing, at least virtually, in Tolkien's intentions. The fact seems to be, Tolkien never finally realized himself his intentions, because Noldorin and Qenya of the _Etymologies_ were superceded by other forms of Sindarin and Quenya, and because those were not elaborated with all that vocabulary.
[Here we part company completely. You imagine, as apparently do Salo and Fauskanger, that Tolkien's intention was to achieve a single, final, ideal form of his languages, which form he was working towards all his life. Whereas Tolkien makes it quite clear that not only is this not true, but it is in fact _contrary_ his _actual_ intention in creating and re-creating his art-languages: "It must be emphasized that this process of invention was/is a private enterprise undertaken to give pleasure to myself by giving expression to my personal linguistic 'aesthetic' or taste _and its fluctuations_" (L:380, written in 1967, I note; emphasis added). CFH]
I take it as a valid interpretation of his intentions, that any word in _Etymologies_: Noldorin and Qenya not changed by him would remain a valid word, with due phonetic and grammatic changes in Sindarin and Quenya. That interpretation is not exclusively scholarly, in the sense of not going beyond incontrovertible evidence, it is rather artistic: but it makes sense.
[Indeed, that is a perfectly valid theoretical approach to take, _when in fact there is no evidence to the contrary_. But what is not valid is to, on the one hand, claim that one has marked all cases where forms have been normalized or constructed in accordance with personal theory (setting aside the issue of "theory" here) -- David writes that "in the appendices ... all of these new words, constructions, and correction have been indicated by various signs", which is not even approximately true* -- but then, on the other hand, immediately proceed to present altered and fabricated forms _without the promised indication_, solely in order to "support" one's "theory", even to the point of misrepresenting Tolkien's _actual_ intentions by altering what he actually wrote and by attributing mistakes to Tolkien and/or his editors that are in fact nothing of the sort. Which is the issue at hand.
*To pick just one example at random, I turned to the first page of David's glossary of "Sindarin Names" (p. 339), and instantly find an entry for "Aecthelion", which David claims is found on "WJ:318". Note that there is no indication that this form is altered or "corrected" in any way, and that in fact David creates the appearance that the form is actually attested in Tolkien's writings. But turning to the cited page, we find that what Tolkien actually wrote, _twice_, is _Aegthelion_. Nor is this merely a typo on David's part, since he repeats the form in his "Historical Phonology of Sindarin" (p. 55). And I could provide many, many, many other examples of this sort of misleading treatment of the _actual_ evidence for Sindarin, and thus of Sindarin as it _actually_ is, and as Tolkien _actually_ intended it. CFH]
The opposite interpretation - that Noldorin and Sindarin are two different languages the similarities of which are totally incidental, and the same for Qenya and Quenya, I take as excluded not so much by the state of manuscript evidence as by common sense.
[I'm not aware that anyone has claimed that the similarities between Noldorin and Sindarin, or between Qenya and Quenya, are "totally incidental" (or indeed merely "incidental" to _any_ degree); so this is a straw-man argument. But it is indisputable that Noldorin and Sindarin, and Qenya and Quenya, _are_ different. Again, it is the _silent_ removal of these differences, esp. when the reader has been assured that such changes are _noted_, that is the issue at hand as regards flaws in David's presentation. CFH]
And if someone extrapolates vocabulary material from Noldorin or Qenya and intrapolates it into Sindarin and Quenya, as long as the identification is not explicitly contradicted by Tolkien himself, I cannot see that such a procedure is artistically or linguistically objectionable. In that sense I cannot regard Salo and Fauskanger as vandals scribbling a moustache on Mona Lisa, but rather as pupils completing another man's work, as the Summa Theologiæ was completed by pupils of St Thomas Aquinas, the parts known as the Supplementum III Partis, or as Jean de Meun completed a book left incomplete by Guillaume de Lorris, (which Tolkien disliked both parts of, but not due to the completion being left to another one than the original author, as Leaf by Niggle would show his feelings on that part of the story) an allegory called Romance of the Rose. Or as for that matter I believe Chapman similarly completed a work by another epic writer.
[Again, your portrait of the actual situation ignores a very basic fact: Salo and Fauskanger are not "completing" Tolkien's work, which being as he states an expression of his personal aesthetic was only his own to do, and which was in fact completed with the demise of his aesthetic upon his death. Further, in ignoring or dismissing as "errors" various features that Tolkien himself put into his languages as expressions of his aesthetic (for example, the different forms of the past-tense in Noldorin, or the precise conditions of lenition following prepositions), Salo and Fauskanger are not "completing" Tolkien's art, but remaking it in their own image, forcing it to conform to their own aesthetic, and their own limited willingness to admit to Tolkien's languages all the richness of real languages, the semblance of which it was also Tolkien's intention to create by secondary art. CFH]
3) I wrote:
> David Salo was not acting as scholarly editor, but as a grammarian taking examples fromTo which Carl replied:
> I beg to differ. When one presents a series of texts in a foreign language, in "normalized"Do you regard Sweet as a linguist and a scholar? I do, but his _Anglo Saxon Reader_ - used by Tolkien as instruction book in tha language - does give us texts in a normalised form without stating the manuscript varieties: for the reason that the Reader is not a scholarly text edition, but a scholarly learning aid. I am referring in particular to the text found in either Cotton manuscript or the other main one in this form:
> form, and provides a word-by-word semantic, etymological, and grammatical analysis of
> each form, that _is_ acting as a scholarly editor. And when one produces hundreds of
> pages of a book adhering to the traditional structure of historical descriptive grammars,
> employing page after page of Jakobsonian distinctive-feature notation, Sanskrit-
> grammarian compound classifications, and syntactic classifications, and extensive criticism
> of the errors of _previous_ efforts;* and then publishes the results with a university press,
> one is at least pretending at scholarship. David does not present his work as "Sindarin For
> Dummies", or the "Berlitz Sindarin Guide", or "The Elvish Language Rainy-Day Fun Book":
> it is presented as a descriptive historical grammar (as Bertrand has also pointed out),
> from a university press. The book by its very form and presentation _invites_ us to
> regard it as a work of linguistic scholarship;...]
"Eornostlice ælc þæra þe ðas mine word gehyrð & þa wyrcþ byþ gelic þam wisan were se hys hus ofer stan getimbrode. Þa com þær ren & mycele flod & þær bleowun windas & ahruron on þæt hus & hit na ne feoll; soðlice hit wæs ofer stan getimbrod. & ælc þæra the gehyrþ ðas mine word & þa ne wyrcþ se byþ gelic þam dysigan men the timbrode hus ofer sandceosel. Þa rinde hit & þær cómon flod & bleowon windas & ahruron on þæt hus. & Þæt hus feoll & hys hryre wæs mycel;"
Sweet deviates both from this and from the other manuscript form when quoting this passage (Matth 7: 24-27), and he does not tell us so right there. And the title about the book being a "gateway" to Sindarin suggests it is at least as likely in Salo's intention to be an instructive learning aid as to be a purely descriptive grammar.
[David Salo does not present his work as "A Sindarin Reader". Instead, in the very first sentence of his book he claims that it is "a description of Sindarin, one of the many invented languages of author and linguist J.R.R. Tolkien"; he further presents it as utilizing "the tools and techniques of historical linguistics" to present an "analysis" of Tolkien's Sindarin. And though he claims otherwise (a claim that can only further mislead his reader), he does not distinguish, except incidentally, _his_ version of "Sindarin" from Tolkien's own versions. Therein lie the essential differences. CFH]
4) As for Tolkien's G's, a lot depends on whether he wrote G's with a tail (like a minuscule g but open) or only G's with a dash (like this typed G). In the latter case forgetting the dash by a slight is possible, though not very probable; in the former forgetting the tail is not just not very probable, but it is very improbable. As I have not seen his handwriting lately and do not remember a capital G, I am not in any position to judge the matter.
[Neither is David Salo, but that does not prevent him from presenting himself as an expert on Tolkien's handwriting and making a completely false, self-serving claim, completely without any supporting evidence and contrary to the the actual evidence of the facsimile, as though it were an established fact. CFH]
-- Hans Georg Lundahl
> [Neither is David Salo, but that does not prevent him fromSalo's statement as quoted by Carl, "Tolkien's handwritten capital _C_
> presenting himself as an expert on Tolkien's handwriting and making a
> completely false, self-serving claim, completely without any
> supporting evidence and contrary to the the actual evidence of the
> facsimile, as though it were an established fact. CFH]
and capital _G_ are very similar", must indeed be understood as a fact
established by somebody who knows Tolkien's handwriting. In reality,
one doesn't even have to be an expert, or to have access to original
manuscripts, to see that it's completely false. The shortest look at
the facsimile (VT44:23) shows that the C is written connected with the
following letter (e) in a way impossible for a G. That alone would be
sufficient to dismiss Salo's claim as lacking evidence.
But it's not difficult for most persons seriously interested in
Tolkien's work to have a look at lots of capital G in Tolkien's
handwriting. All one has to do is to have a look into _The War of the
Ring_, containing many facsimiles of original manuscript pages, those
in turn containing many words like "Gollum", "Gandalf", "Gondor" or
"Gate" for obvious reasons.
Hans Georg Lundahl wrote:
>As for Tolkien's G's, a lot depends on whether he wrote G's with aJust open the book and look at the first frontispiece. The seventh
>tail (like a minuscule g but open) or only G's with a dash (like this
line contains a nice "Gollum" clearly showing the tail, so it's the
former case (a G like printed may be found in rare case, like on the
extremely fair copy of a map, VIII:434, but one would find it hard to
confuse that with a C).
In this case (and actually often) the G is not connected with the
following letter, and the tail ends at its lowest point. Then, the
tail may be even not connected to the rest of the letter G, as one can
see in the last paragraph of VIII:204 ("Gollum" and "Gondor").
When the capital G is connected with following letters (as it seems,
that happened in more hasty writing), the tail turns upwards again in
a characteristic loop, as one can see in the last line of VIII:90 (the
last two words are "Good luck", cf. the bottom of VII:91). That loop
is often formed more clearly than the rest of the letter, so it's not
just improbable, but downright impossible to confuse with a capital C.
- David Salo: _A Gateway to Sindarin_
a discussion by Thorsten Renk
I. General remarks
Now David Salo, probably most famous for the creation of the Elvish
dialogues in the "Lord of the Rings" movies, has published his ideas on the
grammar of Sindarin. The book has very much the flavour of a review
published as a summary of long research. It aims to cover all aspects of
Sindarin, from the internal history of the language in Tolkien's
legendarium to the phonological development from the primitive Common
Eldarin forms to the Sindarin of the 3rd age, from the grammatical and
syntactical rules of the language to the way names and other compound
words are formed. In addition, it contains several appendices providing
Sindarin-English and English-Sindarin wordlists, a list of primitive
roots, an analysis of all known texts in Sindarin, and an annotated
The book is written in a highly technical language (at times unnecessarily
so), and although there is a glossary of linguistic terms, in order to
actually read and understand the text the reader needs more than an
elementary knowledge of grammar.
This, in combination with the scheme employed by Salo for distinguishing
between attested and reconstructed forms, leads to the greatest flaw of
the book -- its false pretense of rigor. While the technical language and
the presence of the signs ! "reconstructed form in external history",
* "reconstructed form in internal history", and # "form with regularized
spelling" suggest that the book is a serious scholarly attempt to deduce
the grammar of Tolkien's invented language by starting from Tolkien's own
writings, a closer look reveals that this is actually not quite true. The
book represents rather a grammar of Sindarin as Salo thinks it should be,
sometimes regardless of what Tolkien wrote.
Therefore, although the book is written in the style of a comprehensive
review, it lacks an important element which would be present in a
scholarly work, i.e., citations to the underlying reasoning for the grammar
given here. All we get to see is the end product, but we seldom get a
glimpse at the logical deductions leading to the forms which are
presented. This makes it very difficult to actually judge the value of a
given idea. Richard Feynman characterized scientific method with the
words: "Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be
given if you know them. [...] If you make a theory [...] and advertise it,
or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree
with it. [...] In summary, the idea is to try to give all the information
to help others to judge the value of your contribution, not just the
information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or
another" (from _"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of
a Curious Character_). Clearly, that is not the approach David Salo
In the following, I will try to give an overview of what I can see of
Salo's methology in dealing with Tolkien's original texts, followed by
comments on selected chapters of the book.
II. Standardizing Sindarin
David Salo tries to discuss the grammar of a fictive, "classical" Sindarin
that is supposed to be a unified description of everything Tolkien
wrote about the language.
However, the texts Salo refers to range from early sources like the
_Etymologies_ (c. 1937) to late sources like _The Shibboleth of Feanor_
(c. 1968), and for all we know Tolkien's ideas about the phonology and
the grammar of the language (and even its role in his legendarium --
initially it was "Noldorin", the language of the Exiles, before it became
"Sindarin", the language of the Grey-elves) changed considerably. Thus,
Tolkien's changing ideas clash frequently with Salo's attempt to find
Consequently, Salo employs a variety of strategies to deal with
"irregular" pieces in Tolkien's writing. In the following, an example for
each of them is provided:
1) Open dismissal:
On p. 390, Salo discusses the phrase _Sarch nia Hîn Húrin_ 'grave of the
children of Húrin' stating "The word _nia_ is almost certainly wrong,
though also seen in _Glaer nia Chîn Húrin_ WJ:160, 251. Perhaps for _nia_
should be read _ina_, as in the early form _Haudh-ina-Nengin_ WJ:79". No
reason is actually given why the form is "almost certainly wrong", though
it doesn't fit into the theory Salo developed earlier.
2) Silent dismissal:
On p. 108, Salo makes a distinction between _si_ 'now' and _sí_ 'here'. On
p. 212 in the discussion of Lúthien's song he stresses this distinction
again: "_si_: adverb, 'now' [...] not to be confused with the related _sí_
However, that doesn't go too well with Sam's cry _le nallon sí
di-nguruthos!_ and the translation given by Tolkien in L:278: 'to
thee I cry now in the shadow of (the fear of) death'. In Salo's discussion
of the text, the translation reads 'I cry to you under the horror of death',
and the form _sí_ is conveniently ignored in the word-by-word analysis.
3) Dismissal on a fictional basis:
On p. 118, Salo discusses the past tense formation _car-_ > _agor_. He
acknowledges that Tolkien states that the formation is "usual in Sindarin
'strong' or primary verbs" (XI:415) but continues with the claim "but in
fact examples are much rarer than those of the nasal past. One might
expect such formations as *_udul_ 'he/she/it came', *_idir_ 'he/she/it
watched', *_egin_ 'he/she/it saw', etc., but these are not in fact found."
He conveniently fails to mention that while these three forms are indeed
unattested, his own suggestions *_toll_, *_tirn_, and *_cenn_ are not found
4) Possible updates
Discussing the conjunction 'and', Salo dismisses the form _ar_ widely
found in Sindarin texts with: "Although this has not been emended in any
of the texts cited in this book, it is clear that Tolkien intended to
generally replace _ar_ with _a(h)_. The change appears to have taken place
in the early 1950s, prior to the publication of _The Lord of the Rings_."
For all I know, that could be true, although Salo doesn't really provide a
compelling reason. The latest text including _ar_ is the 'Ae Adar', which
dates to "sometime during the 1950s" (VT44:21), and in late notes (1968)
Tolkien gives a Common Eldarin form _as_ and Sindarin _ah_ (VT43:30); cf.
also _Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth_ (X:303). However, it seems rather
absurd to assume that Tolkien would have gone over his early texts some
time around 1960 and changed just _ar_ into _ah_ everywhere and nothing
III. "Proving" the theory
Especially in the discussion of the verbal system, Salo doesn't show a lot
of hesitation to throw out a Tolkien-made example or to emend it to a form
which goes along with his theory. Since most of the attested verbal forms
are actually Noldorin, this is not so much trying to standardize and unify
Sindarin and Noldorin, it is closer to fabricating evidence to "confirm" a
pre-existing theory. The strategies are pretty similar, though:
1) Silent "correction"
Verbs that do not conform to the expected pattern are simply emended
where needed -- this is the fate of the infinitive _garo_ (V:360, VT45:14),
which becomes ?_geri_ in the paradigm shown on p. 126; of the verb
_aphad-_ (XI:387), which is changed into **_aphada-_ (p. 128); of the past
tense _degant_ (VT45:37), which is quoted as **_dagant_ (p. 119) to
"confirm" a pattern; of the verb _dant-_ (V:354), which leads to the
invention of the verb **_danna-_ (p. 135); and a lot of other forms which
don't fit into a neat theory.
2) Silent dismissal
Sometimes forms which do not agree with the theory are left out of the
discussion. On p. 119, Salo states: "There was also a past tense suffix
that added _-s, -ss-_ to the stem. This suffix is found attached to the
_-ta_ verbs. It is also found in the composite form _-a-s, -a-ss-_ with CVC
root verbs that originally ended in the alveolar stops _t_ and _d_ [...] However,
this past tense may have been preserved only in the Noldorin dialect of
Sindarin, as we have _teithant_ from the _-ta_ verb _teitha-_ but not
Of course that seems plausible -- unless you include the past tense form
_erias_ from _eria-_ (VT46:7), which spoils not only the statement that it
is a suffix for _-ta_ verbs but also the relevance of _teithant_ (the fact
that VT46 appeared during the final preparation of the book is hardly
relevant -- _erias_ was known from  published on _Tengwestië_ shortly
after VT 45 appeared).
3) "Exceptional" status
Forms that do not conform to the pattern but for some reason resist
emendation are explained as "exceptions", like on p. 118 where we learn
about what Salo terms "Ablaut" past tenses: "Pasts of this form are rare
and were probably replaced by analogical formations by the period of
The actual distribution of nasal infixion past tenses vs. ablaut past
tenses in Noldorin is 12:4, i.e. about 25% of the attested forms show this
variant (see ). That is not really negligible. As for the replacement
by analogical formation, 2 of the ablaut past tenses show alternative weak
past tenses using the ending _-ant_ and 6 of the 12 nasal infixed past
tenses show _-ant/-as_ -- the ratio is therefore pretty much the same,
analogical past tenses did not specifically level ablaut past tenses but
all "strong" past tenses in the same way, be it n-infixion or ablaut.
4) Unresolved discrepancies
Occasionally a form that doesn't agree with the theory is allowed to
stand in apparent contradiction to the grammar, though no explanation is
given. For example, we find in the discussion of the preposition _athar_
that it causes liquid mutation, followed by the example _athar harthad_
'beyond hope', where we might expect to see ?_athar charthad_ according to
Salo's liquid mutation table. No discussion of this phenomenon is provided.
IV. Marking (un)attested forms
In the preface, Salo introduces the following scheme to distinguish
attested and reconstructed forms: A ! is used to mark a reconstruction, a
* is used to mark an historic form in the fictional timeline of language
development, and a # is used to mark a form with regularized spelling.
This scheme has one disadvantage which is obvious a priori -- Salo doesn't
distinguish between a historic form found in Tolkien's writings and one
reconstructed by himself: they are both listed using *. In addition, Salo
occasionally lists forms he considers doubtful also marked with the *, cf.
*_udul_ or *_idir_ on p. 118.
Forms not found in Tolkien's writings are sometimes marked with a ! in the
main grammar sections of the book, sometimes not; there is no clear
scheme. In order to learn if a complete word is deduced somewhere one can
usually refer to the Sindarin-English wordlist in the appendix where the
scheme has been carried out more thoroughly, but which inflectional forms
of a given word are actually attested and which are not is impossible to
determine from the book.
To be fair, Salo discusses outright reconstructions in text passages (so
e.g. for the pronouns or the verb 'to be'), and the pattern of the four
consonant mutations is marked very thoroughly according to what is
attested and what is deduced. Nevertheless, this rigor is lacking in many
other discussions of the grammar. Regularized spelling likewise is only
indicated in the appendix, not in the main bulk of the text. This creates
the (false) impressions that a lot of forms would be comparatively well
The translations given for Sindarin expressions and names are often
different from those found in Tolkien's writings (and as such unattested).
For example, for _nad_ 'thing' (V:374) we find on p. 121 the additional
translation 'being'. However, this translation isn't actually given
anywhere by Tolkien; its purpose is evidently to provide support for
Salo's idea that the form is a gerund of the verb 'to be'.
V. Sindarin phonology development
A large portion of the first part of the book deals with the sequence of
sound changes from Common Eldarin to "classical" Sindarin across the
intermediate stages of Old Sindarin and Middle Sindarin. This is a highly
detailed analysis involving a staggering amount of work and is very
fascinating to read, although it is difficult to see the complete picture
due to the wealth of details.
The main problem here is that Salo did not introduce a scheme to make a
distinction between forms by Tolkien and by himself. Thus, while the
sequence of sound shifts may have been as Salo describes, it is very hard
to see to what degree one can rely on the tables without re-doing the
whole analysis. This is very sad, but as it is, I would hesitate to base a
serious conclusion on the tables.
VI. The grammar and syntax of Sindarin
In the discussion of Sindarin grammar and syntax, David Salo presents new
observations and interesting insights alongside forms pressed into a
framework he thinks should be correct.
I found the observation that the first noun in a genitive sequence or
adjective is often shortened (p. 93, 103) very interesting and new.
Similarly the A-affection on p. 82 (the change from e.g. near-final _i_ to
_e_ in the presence of an ending _a_ in Old Sindarin, cf. the adjective
ending _-ina_ > _-en_) is a very good explanation of a phenomenon of which
I had only noticed some particular instances. Likewise, the presentation of
the ablaut phenomenon (p. 90) is very clear and nicely done.
The presentation of the adjective employs a few unusual interpretations,
which nevertheless are possible. So is Salo's assumption that _menel-vîr
síla díriel_ should be read as 'watchful sky-jewel shines' rather than
'sky-jewel shines watchful' (p. 101), and the observation that if the
adjective precedes the noun, the noun may be lenited (p. 102) is very good
indeed. On the other hand, it is odd to see _fen hollen_ as an example for
the lack of lenition (p. 102) -- since that is the only place where the word
is attested, we don't know if it is lenited ?_sollen_ or unlenited ?_hollen_.
The discussion of the pronominal system is as expected -- since Tolkien
changed this particular aspect of his languages over and over, it is hard
to make certain statements, and this is a chapter in which Salo is very
careful and honest in the distinction between attested and reconstructed
A critical view on the presentation of the verbal system has already been
given in some detail above: The presentation suffers strongly from the
fact that Salo tries to force attested forms to conform to his ideas
rather than let the attested forms guide the development of his theory.
The discussion of the definite article includes the old idea that it may
become ?_ir_ before nouns beginning with _i-_ -- while there is a
possibility that this is so, there is _i innas lin_ 'thy will' from the Ae Adar
(VT44:21f) to show that this is not necessarily so, and Qenya _írë_ (V:72)
'when' to provide a plausible alternative translation of the (untranslated)
_Ir Ithil ammen Eruchîn _ (III:354). Salo doesn't mention this possibility.
VII. Sindarin word formation
To be frank, Salo's chapter on word formation from Common Eldarin roots
doesn't make much sense to me. On p. 158, he seems to assume that words
like _cam_ 'hand' or _gamp_ 'hook' are derived from a nasalized root (as
opposed to the derivation using a suffix described later), hence KAB >
?_kamb_ > _cam_ or GAP > ?_gamp_ > _gamp_. That idea completely neglects
the simple fact that a form in Common Eldarin is often not only relevant for
Sindarin only but also for Quenya. Therefore we should be looking for a
form which is able to yield both Sindarin _gamp_ and Quenya _ampa_ -- and
that rather suggests a derivational suffix like _-na_. It so happens that
Tolkien himself describes the derivation _gapna_ > _gampa_ > _gamp_ in
VT47:20, where we also find the Common Eldarin form of _cam_ -- it is
_kambâ_ (VT47:7), which is the result of _kab-mâ_ (VT47:12), i.e. it also
involves a derivational suffix.
The same is true for the nouns with doubled finals -- Salo derives _peth_
'word' via a doubling of the final root consonant, not via a suffix -- and
yet we find under KWET the Common Eldarin form _kwetta_ (V:366), which
evidently employs a derivational suffix _-ta_ (and leads to Quenya
_quetta_ attested in XI:391).
A similar lack of consistency with the formation of Quenya words flaws the
whole chapter -- Salo fails to recognize that Sindarin _aegas_ 'mountain
peak' is the cognate of Quenya _aikasse_ (V:349), and the latter form
gives a good clue as to the origin of _-as_ in this case: it probably
represents a fossilized locative _aikasse_ *'on pointed place' >
'mountain-peak' and probably is not the same suffix seen in e.g. _galas_
'growth' but rather in _ennas_ 'there' (the latter form is interpreted by
Salo as fossilized locative on p. 109).
Likewise, the gerund endings are not really ?_-ad_ (from ?_-ata_) and
?_-ed_ (from ?_-ita_) as Salo claims (p. 162f), they rather represent the
same ending _-ta_ which is seen in Quenya, for A-verbs directly attached
to the stem, cf. _*lindata_ > _linnad_, for stem verbs by means of a
connecting vowel _i_ just like any present tense ending, hence _*karita_ >
*_cared _ with A-affection.
I cannot find much useful information in the word formation part, too much
of what could be learned by comparing parallel evolution of Sindarin and
Quenya from the same Common Eldarin stem has simply been neglected.
The discussion of Sindarin compound words on the other hand is a different
matter. Salo goes nicely into the different ideas behind compounding words
and provides an impressive list of examples which show the rich variety of
consonant and vowel changes which may occur according to the phonological
environment. This piece of work goes far beyond the Ardalambion statement
in  that "when a word is used as the second element of a compound, it
often undergoes changes similar to the effects of the soft mutation."
VIII. Discussion of attested texts
The discussion of the attested Sindarin samples is seriously flawed by
Salo's unwillingness to accept what Tolkien wrote.
First of all, translations given by Salo seldom agree with Tolkien's own
words (but there is no statement that the translations have in fact been
altered). Compare, for example, the translation of Sam's inspired cry given
'O Queen of the Stars, Kindler of the Stars, far-watching from heaven, I
cry to you under the horror of death! O watch over me, Ever-white Veil!'
and by Tolkien (L:278):
'O Elbereth Starkindler, from heaven gazing-afar, to thee I cry now in the
shadow of (the fear of) death. O look towards me, Everwhite!'
I see no necessity not to provide Tolkien's own translations and not to
mark what is probably intended as a more literal translation as such. But
it doesn't stop here: Salo likewise shows no hesitation in altering the
actual texts he quotes. While the original of the Ae Adar (VT4:21f) has _i
innas lin_, Salo's version has a long _i innas lín_ (I agree that it
probably can be regularized, but I don't agree that it can be done without
a remark); and while the original has _bo Ceven_, Salo alters this into _bo
Geven_, stating that _bo Geven_ "is expected here" (p. 232).
It certainly doesn't make too much sense to me to discuss the attested
texts if they are altered in the process without notice to fit Salo's
theory. In an appendix designed to discuss Tolkien's attested texts, Salo
should be doing that rather than just pretending to.
IX. Annotated bibliography
If you are one of the people who wondered "Where the hell do we find all
the stuff these grammar texts refer to?", then the annotated bibliography
is for you. In fact, it is an excellent idea. David Salo describes nicely
where in Tolkien's writings what information can be found, so anyone
looking for the original references can plan his trip to the bookstore
accordingly. This is not unimportant, since there are books in which only
a few names can be found whereas from other sources a wealth of grammar
information can be extracted.
It seems a bit odd that Salo tries to provide corrigenda to the
_Etymologies_ -- while the published texts certainly contain misreadings,
VT 45 and VT 46, edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne, provide
"Addenda and Corrigenda to the _Etymologies_" -- unlike Salo's work, their
work is based on a re-examination of the original manuscripts and not on
theoretical considerations, and therefore is bound to be much more
meaningful. While Salo contends that they still may contain mistakes,
_Vinyar Tengwar_ has a list of errata, so there is no need to make point
out of it.
The book concludes with a review of previous works about Sindarin --
Ruth S. Noel's _The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth_ and Jim Allan's
_An Introduction to Elvish_. Since both books are very outdated, the result
is predictable -- Salo points out a lot of flaws in the identification of
forms that were (at that time) rather mysterious.
Without question, _A Gateway to Sindarin_ is currently the best English
book available on Sindarin. However, given the fact that the only
competitors are Ruth S. Noel's _The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth_
and Jim Allan's _An Introduction to Elvish_, which are both outdated and
inaccurate simply due to a lack of published samples of Sindarin when they
were written, that in itself is not much of an achievement.
Who will profit from the book? It is not for someone seeking to learn
Sindarin and to use it for his own compositions -- it is no language
course, doesn't contain exercises, and (apart from what Tolkien has
written) no continuous texts in Sindarin that would show how the language
could be used. Teaching is not Salo's aim.
It is probably not even an easy resource for someone who is looking for an
introduction to Sindarin without the aim to learn it as a language, due to
the highly technical terms used by Salo -- one has to have more than just
a basic knowledge of linguistic terminology in order to understand some
It cannot be used as a reference for scholarly studies -- Salo's many
alterations of Tolkien's material, the lack of distinction between
Tolkien-made and Salo-made historic forms, and the inaccuracy in providing
Tolkien's own translations make this impossible -- which is a clear loss.
With a little more effort, a valuable resource could have been produced.
As it is, the only safe option (though time consuming) is to look up
things scattered in Tolkien's original writings -- lists of CE roots, names
and words are useless for scholarly purposes if they do not reproduce the
original sources faithfully.
Given all that, someone with an interest in technical studies of the
language, be it phonology or grammar, will find a lot of interesting ideas
in the book. Unfortunately, the reasoning behind these ideas is never
explained; therefore to get the most out of it one needs both a good
knowledge of the underlying sources and of other secondary literature
discussing Sindarin grammar with Tolkien's writings as starting point.
With a pricetag of $50, my counsel would be to think seriously if one
would like to have the book. For learning the grammar of Sindarin on a
technical level, it is not better than what Ardalambion or other sources
provide for free. For learning how to use the language it is not a
suitable resource (there are likewise various internet resources available
for free for that purpose), and for scholarly studies it cannot be used.
If you have read everything else about Sindarin already -- then get it, it
is interesting and brings some novel aspects.
 'The Past-Tense Verb in the Noldorin of the _Etymologies_' by Carl F.
Hostetter on http://www.elvish.org/Tengwestie
 'Sindarin -- the Noble Tongue' by Helge Fauskanger on
- Thorsten Renk sent his most welcome and knowledgeable discussion of
'A Gateway to Sindarin' by David Salo. Regarding your review, I've got two
1) You say David Salo's language is often over-technical. Could you
provide some examples, where you feel a term to be 'too technical' ?
Certainly, if Salo addresses a scholarly audience there is nothing
wrong with that. In my world, technical language is highly useful and
being employed because it is accurate. So, 'unnecessarily technical' in
2) Under section V. you state
> "it is difficult to see the complete picture due to the wealth ofwhich sounds rather astounding to me. In fact, it seems like an
oxymoron. At least in my world an accurate historical description of a
language can only come close to a complete picture by using all the
details one can get. Indeed, earlier in your review you (quite rightly,
I think) expose David Salo's omissions or dismissals of attested forms
as giving a wrong, or incomplete picture. Or do you refer to the manner
of presentation rather than the amount of details? Indeed, it seems
like David Salo actually aims at a 'complete picture' of Sindarin, but
according to what he views as 'standard Sindarin', not attested
Tolkienian Noldorin, Sindarin etc. That is why he follows a somewhat
reductionist and/ or reinterpreting approach, much to the detriment of
his work. A 'complete' picture needs to point out the many layers,
lacunae and often patchy evidence rather than create the image of
totally homogeneous Sindarin, that probably never existed. Which leads
to my third point:
3) To me it seems David Salo's book is meant to 'teach'. To teach a
fictional, 'regularized' Sindarin and to provide a tool to create forms
not actually attested, using a -more or less- Salonian pattern.
Surely, a less technical book could have been written for the less
linguistically savvy reader but that, we agree, wasn't Mr. Salo's aim.
Rather, he wanted to present 'Sindarin' as _per Salonem_ in a
comprehensive matter. To be used, perhaps, in productions and
fabrications à la 'The Lord of the Rings, the movie'.
- With regard to the questions raised by David Kiltz:
> 1) You say David Salo's language is often over-technical. Could youPlease let me first say that I do not object to the use of technical
> provide some examples, where you feel a term to be 'too technical' ?
> Certainly, if Salo addresses a scholarly audience there is nothing
> wrong with that. In my world, technical language is highly useful and
> being employed because it is accurate. So, 'unnecessarily technical' in
> what respect?
language as such -- as long as it is done for precision and with proper
consideration of the audience. I use a highly technical language in my own
scientific publications (which are intended to be read by heavy-ion
physics theorists). Likewise, Vinyar Tengwar employs a technical language
and I can't find anything wrong with it -- it is written as a scholarly
publication and fulfills the criteria for scholarly work, i.e. citation of
other works, references to sources where applicable and so on.
However, in my field (physics), I would make a difference in the use of
technical terms when addressing heavy-ion theorists, physicists or
scientists in general, acknowledging that there is a tradeoff between the
use of precise terms for precision and making other people understand what
I mean. This is a personal judgement, and my remark about Salo's use of
technical terms reflects precisely that -- my personal impression. I feel
that the intention of the book is being a 'summary' rather than an ongoing
research project, and as such I think that technical terms are at times
To give an example from my own field (I am sorry, that is easiest for me)
-- I could say something like "Applying the 'plus' operator to the '1'
element and the '2' element leads to an equivalence relation to the '3'
element of the group with respect to this operator." While using technical
terms, the sentence actually means only '1 plus 2 is 3', and unless I am
talking about other groups defined by other operators where the
meta-language of group structure actually would be necessary, I cannot
find that there is any loss of information in the simple version.
Coming back to Salo -- this is how I feel about Chapter 17 on syntax. I
count myself among the intended audience -- although I have no formal
knowledge of linguistics, I know the grammar of several languages apart
from my mothertongue. I would be unable to make much of the chapter if I
had not read a book on X-bar syntax theory once. As far as I know, syntax
theory is a kind of meta-language for the description of language -- neat
if you want to compare two languages with very different grammar, say
Japanese and Finnish, where the Finnish terms would be inadequate to
describe Japanese grammar and vice versa, but not adding to clarity if you
discuss only one language. I would assume that people who have not read
X-bar theory are confused when Salo calls _i_ a complementizer (p.202) (a
term non-linguists are in my experience not familiar at all) whereas
Tolkien calls the Qenya relative pronoun _ya_ a relative pronoun (PE14:54,
that's admittedly Early Qenya, but I think the point that Tolkien didn't
use X-bar theory anywhere to describe the grammar of his languages is
So, to give the example of a sentence which I find unnecessarily
techincal, p. 203: "A sentence can consist of a noun phrase and a
prepositional phrase (...), in which case the sentence has a jussive
sense. These are distinct from noun-phrase sentences, as the prepositional
phrase does not form part of the noun phrase but rather functions
adverbially to the unexpressed verb 'to be'." I confess I have no idea what
'a jussive sense' is (it isn't explained in the glossary) but from the
examples given below I gather (by backwards engineering) that the actual
meaning of the paragraph is rather simple: If a noun is given as subject
of the sentence and if there is an object with a preposition, often the
imperative 'be!' is implied but not written. I fail to see how Salo aims
for clarity here, as his translations (e.g. '(let there be) fire for the
saving for us') place 'fire' as object, which doesn't seem to be implied
by the Sindarin version since there is no lenition of _gurth_ in e.g.
_gurth an glamhoth_.
It is my impression that the technical language used here is a complicated
way of expressing simple grammatical constructions.
> 2) Under section V. you stateThere is a German saying 'Den Wald vor lauter Baeumen nicht sehen' (to be
>> "it is difficult to see the complete picture due to the wealth of
> which sounds rather astounding to me. In fact, it seems like an
> oxymoron. At least in my world an accurate historical description of a
> language can only come close to a complete picture by using all the
> details one can get. Indeed, earlier in your review you (quite rightly,
> I think) expose David Salo's omissions or dismissals of attested forms
> as giving a wrong, or incomplete picture. Or do you refer to the manner
> of presentation rather than the amount of details?
unable to see the forest because of all the trees) -- that is what I had in
mind there. I am lost in the many details -- which I for sure would not
want to be left out -- I would just be glad for a guideline indicating the
patterns, the differences in flavour in the changes at the different
conceptual stages. In a nutshell, I would like to read (in addition to
the text as it is) the answer to the question, "If you were to write a
paragraph summarizing the changes from Old Sindarin to Sindarin, what
would that be?" So -- this is only a reference to the manner of
> 3) To me it seems David Salo's book is meant to 'teach'. To teach aI am not quite sure about Salo's aim (we might ask him, I suppose). I am,
> fictional, 'regularized' Sindarin and to provide a tool to create forms
> not actually attested, using a -more or less- Salonian pattern.
> Surely, a less technical book could have been written for the less
> linguistically savvy reader but that, we agree, wasn't Mr. Salo's aim.
> Rather, he wanted to present 'Sindarin' as _per Salonem_ in a
> comprehensive matter. To be used, perhaps, in productions and
> fabrications à la 'The Lord of the Rings, the movie'.
however, asked by very different people "Would you recommend that I read
the book?" -- so I know that non-linguistic minded people are thinking
about ordering it.