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A review of ' A Gateway to Sindarin'

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  • Thorsten Renk
    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
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 22, 2005
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      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
      bibliography.

      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
      has chosen.

      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
      "standard Sindarin".

      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_
      'here'."

      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
      anywhere either.

      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_."
      (p. 148)

      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
      else.


      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
      _teithas_."

      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 [1] 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
      Classical Sindarin."

      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 [1]). 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
      known.

      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
      forms.

      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 [2] 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
      by Salo:

      '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!'
      (p. 223)

      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.


      X. Summary

      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
      passages.

      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.

      [1] 'The Past-Tense Verb in the Noldorin of the _Etymologies_' by Carl F.
      Hostetter on http://www.elvish.org/Tengwestie

      [2] 'Sindarin -- the Noble Tongue' by Helge Fauskanger on
      http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/
    • David Kiltz
      Thorsten Renk sent his most welcome and knowledgeable discussion of A Gateway to Sindarin by David Salo. Regarding your review, I ve got two questions: 1)
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 31, 2005
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        Thorsten Renk sent his most welcome and knowledgeable discussion of
        'A Gateway to Sindarin' by David Salo. Regarding your review, I've got two
        questions:

        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
        what respect?

        2) Under section V. you state

        > "it is difficult to see the complete picture due to the wealth of
        > details."

        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? 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'.

        David Kiltz
      • Thorsten Renk
        ... Please let me first say that I do not object to the use of technical language as such -- as long as it is done for precision and with proper consideration
        Message 3 of 9 , Apr 11 6:23 PM
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          With regard to the questions raised by David Kiltz:

          > 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
          > what respect?

          Please let me first say that I do not object to the use of technical
          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
          overused.

          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
          valid).

          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 state
          >
          >> "it is difficult to see the complete picture due to the wealth of
          >> details."
          >
          > 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?

          There is a German saying 'Den Wald vor lauter Baeumen nicht sehen' (to be
          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
          presentation.


          > 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'.

          I am not quite sure about Salo's aim (we might ask him, I suppose). I am,
          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.

          * Thorsten
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