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12254Re: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien, Jonah, and Job

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  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
    Jun 14, 2004
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      Pardon my linguistic ignorance, but what is an "extended verb?" Thanks in
      advance. ---djb

      Original Message:
      -----------------
      From: alexeik@...
      Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 16:45:58 EDT
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien, Jonah, and Job



      In a message dated 6/6/4 3:39:16 AM, Bianca wrote:

      <<I'm no philologist,
      but the borrowings didn't seem to me to be based on any systematic
      desire to create a thoroughly Semitic language. Specialists could
      probably tell you more.

      Nor to my ear do phrases like "Ephalak idon Yozayan" sound like
      any Semitic language spoken in this universe :).>>

      That's strange, because to mine it does. It doesn't closely reflect any
      particular Semitic language, but it does suggest to me the kind of
      aesthetic effect
      Semitic languages in general could have on an outsider for whom they
      represent something alien and exotic. All of the sounds in the quoted
      phrase can be
      found in Semitic languages in comparable combinations, and the shapes of
      the
      words reflect elements that are common features of Semitic (eg, the _-ak_
      ending
      of 2sg. possessives; the _-an_ ending of many Arabic plurals and Hebrew
      extended verbs, etc.) -- even the orthographic use of _ph_ reflects the use
      of _ph_
      in transliterations of Hebrew and Aramaic where it points up the origin of
      that sound as a lenited _p_. The sound _z_ (common in Semitic) tends to be
      used
      by Tolkien as a sign of alienness, being characteristic of Adûnaic, Khuzdul
      and
      the Black Speech but absent from most recorded forms of Eldarin languages
      (except for very early Quenya, where it primarily serves to illustrate the
      phenomenon of rhotacism). The point is that Tolkien's linguistic
      subcreations are
      rarely close imitations of primary-world languages, but more usually
      elaborations of aesthetic reactions to certain of their features, so one
      shouldn't expect
      Adûnaic to be a "thoroughly Semitic language", even though it does indeed
      reflect both phonetic and structural aspects of Semitic. It's commonplace
      to
      point out that Quenya and Sindarin respectively resemble Finnish and Welsh;
      and
      yet Quenya is obviously not "a thoroughly Finno-Ugric language", any more
      than
      Sindarin is "a thoroughly Celtic language". Their sound-systems reflect
      certain
      characteristic features of Finnish and Welsh that Tolkien particularly
      liked,
      but leave out others that were judged less attractive (Quenya lacks the
      "umlauted" vowels of Finnish; Sindarin omits the ubiquitous short-_y_
      "schwa" vowel
      of Welsh, etc.). On the structural level the subcreated languages share
      certain salient features with their primary-world models (eg, a great
      variety of
      case-suffixes in Quenya/Finnish; initial consonant mutation in
      Sindarin/Welsh,
      etc.), but by and large don't reproduce the primary-world languages'
      grammars
      closely at all. I see the relation of Adûnaic to Semitic languages as being
      of
      exactly the same degree: Tolkien incorporated aspects of Semitic phonetics
      that he found particularly suggestive or striking aesthetically (while
      ignoring
      others), and singled out one aspect of Semitic grammar (vowel variation
      within
      triconsonantal roots -- a far more complex and sophisticated phenomenon
      than
      Ablaut in Germanic languages) as particularly interesting and distinctive
      and
      worthy of being experimented with in a subcreated language. This last
      choice
      would indeed have necessitated his being exposed to the conjugation of a
      Hebrew
      (or Arabic) verb. I don't see that this would have been beyond his reach,
      or
      that it would have required devoting a great deal of time to intensive
      study of
      Hebrew.
      Alexei



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