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Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien, Jonah, and Job

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  • David Bratman
    ... Try a library. Preferably a university library, or a public library with inter-library loan. My knowledge of the book comes from a university library
    Message 1 of 20 , Jun 2, 2004
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      At 06:43 PM 6/2/2004 -0400, Elizabeth Apgar Triano wrote:
      >>I recommend looking at Kenny's book, _A Path from Rome_,
      >
      >Sounds like an interesting book -- but is it a snoozer to us laypersons?
      >In any case, amazon says it's out of print with limited availability, and
      >abebooks has no idea what I'm talking about.

      Try a library. Preferably a university library, or a public library with
      inter-library loan. My knowledge of the book comes from a university
      library copy.

      It's not highly technical, but it is detailed. So its interest level
      depends on how much one wants to know about that stuff.
    • Larry Swain
      ... Michael, None of this should be news to you; I posted this to you four years ago, only to be told by you in no uncertain terms that I lied. As for what
      Message 2 of 20 , Jun 2, 2004
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        >
        > So, is this all there is to the story? And how do you folks feel
        > about my saying that Tolkien "translated the book of Job for the
        > Jerusalem Bible"? It has always been an offhand remark, included in
        > broader discussions of Tolkien's work with languages. But is it
        > unmerited, even as a casual point of reference?
        >

        Michael,

        None of this should be news to you; I posted this to you four years ago, only to be told by you in no uncertain terms that I lied.

        As for what Tolkien did and did not do for the JB: Alexander Jones, the head of the English committee, states that the project began simply as a translation from the French edition. Sections were divied up and assigned. It was later decided that to do a proper job of it they should go back to the original Hebrew and Greek mss that the French committee had consulted and offer a fresh English translation that kept its eye carefully on the well-received French edition, but was independent of it. They also used the French committee's notes on the text. This naturally necessitated the reassignment and the redoing of those texts already completed. By this point Tolkien had already resigned due to his increasing work on Ancrene Riwle, revising LoTR, and other projects.

        Did Tolkien know Hebrew well enough to have been part of the process after this decision was made? Probably not, though he had already resigned. There is no evidence independent of the circular reasoning that he did Job therefore he knew Hebrew that Tolkien knew Hebrew to any great extent. Sure as a linguist and philologist he knew many languages and had looked at many more. He likely was very aware of the Hebrew alphabet and the history of the alphabet and likely could work with Hebrew words and lexica and discuss semantic ranges of Hebrew words in relation to English words being used to translate them. He knew Greek and undoubtedly the LXX and the Vulgate helped him out here as well. But there is no mention of his knowledge of Hebrew when at school anytime in his youth (unlike Welsh and Esperanto), nor while he was teaching, giving exams and the like at Oxford, nor in his private notes or in his correspondance. There are many other languages we know that Tolkien knew
        because he left us that information. Such information so far as I have been able to discover does not exist for his knowledge of Hebrew.

        As David suggests, Tolkien and Kenny are in agreement. If Tolkien contrbuted a version of Jonah and Carpenter is undoubtedly correct that it had to revised and redone, and only the review in Amon Hen says otherwise, I find it likely that only Jonah was completed and was done so at the early stage before Tolkien resigned.

        Thus, it is inaccurate to claim that Tolkien knew Hebrew to the extend of serving on the JB committee. It is further inaccurate to claim that Tolkien did Job. With David, I would say that the wariness with which Hammaond and Anderson report this should be taken to note. The publisher was probably mistaken...easy to take Jon. for Job, particularly if in hand written notes and memos at a remove of some years. (The JB appeared in 1966, the review in Amon Hen is a decade later. So at best, 10 years.) So I'd have to say that yes, it is an unmerited credit to Tolkien even as a casual reference and you should retract.

        Larry Swain
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      • Wayne G. Hammond
        ... [etc.] Sorry, Michael, I ve been too busy to reply to this question on r.a.b.t., though I ve had it on my to-do list. Since writing the _Bibliography_ I ve
        Message 3 of 20 , Jun 3, 2004
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          Michael wrote:

          >A few weeks ago, a small brouhaha erupted over my statements in
          >various places about Tolkien having translated the Book of Job for the
          >Jerusalem Bible. Many people keep pointing out that he only claimed
          >to have finished Jonah (though without mentioning Job referring to
          >other unspecified texts he had been assigned) in Letter 294.

          [etc.]

          Sorry, Michael, I've been too busy to reply to this question on r.a.b.t.,
          though I've had it on my to-do list.

          Since writing the _Bibliography_ I've seen the letters written to Tolkien
          by the General Editor of _The Jerusalem Bible_, Alexander Jones, preserved
          in the Tolkien Papers at the Bodleian. Jones first wrote to Tolkien in
          January 1957, asking him to contribute to the Bible project, on the
          strength of _The Lord of the Rings_ with which Jones was very impressed. He
          hoped that Tolkien would translate several books of the Old Testament, but
          held out Jonah (only three pages in the finished printed Bible) if Tolkien
          was pressed for time. Tolkien quickly sent a sample translation from
          Isaiah, and then a draft translation of Jonah. After that he was indeed too
          pressed for time to do much more. He did, however, discuss points of
          translation with Jones, including what to do about archaisms (a potentially
          very interesting subject, especially in relation to his comments on
          archaisms in _The Lord of the Rings_; unfortunately, copies of Tolkien's
          letters to Jones are not at the Bodleian), and Jones solicited Tolkien's
          opinions on a first draft of most of the Book of Job. Tolkien passed a
          final revision of Jonah only in 1961.

          So, Tolkien did translate Jonah, which others revised (in the
          _Bibliography_, p. 279, "revision of the latter [i.e. Jonah]" should read
          "version of the latter"), and the evidence strongly indicates that this was
          the only book that he translated in full. He certainly did not translate
          Job -- one of the letters from Jones makes it clear that this was done by
          someone else -- though he may have given his advice about it (Jones's
          letters at the Bodleian end at the point at which he sent Job to Tolkien),
          and this may have led to some confusion on this point at Longmans.

          Jones wrote in his foreword to _The Jerusalem Bible_: "In the case of a few
          books the initial draft was made from the French and was then compared word
          for word with the Hebrew or Aramaic by the General Editor and amended where
          necessary to ensure complete conformity with the ancient text. For the much
          greater part, the initial drafts were made from the Hebrew or Greek and
          simultaneously compared with the French when questions of variant reading
          or interpretation arose." That the work was never simply a translation from
          the French was made clear to Tolkien by Jones in an early letter: reference
          by the General Editor to Hebrew and Greek was always a given. Nor was Jones
          overly concerned to recruit translators who were fluent in French:
          obviously they had to have some facility with it, but he was concerned in
          the first instance with their command of English. Thus he wanted Tolkien on
          board, and others such as Roy Campbell (who died before completing his work).

          I agree with Larry's argument about the level of Tolkien's knowledge of
          Hebrew, but can add that Tolkien wished to know more, and in April 1957 he
          wrote to his grandson Michael George (an unpublished letter) that he was
          immersing himself in the language so that, when he retired, he could
          participate in a Bible translation project, i.e. _The Jerusalem Bible_. But
          there is no evidence that he got very far with this study before other
          matters became too pressing.

          Wayne Hammond
        • Michael Martinez
          ... Thank you. While I cannot change anything which has appeared in prince, I ll post a followup to the newsgroups. Cover your ears, as the roar of
          Message 4 of 20 , Jun 3, 2004
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            --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Wayne G. Hammond"
            <Wayne.G.Hammond@w...> wrote:
            > Michael wrote:
            >
            > >A few weeks ago, a small brouhaha erupted over my statements in
            > >various places about Tolkien having translated the Book of Job
            > >for the Jerusalem Bible. Many people keep pointing out that he
            > >only claimed to have finished Jonah (though without mentioning Job
            > >referring to other unspecified texts he had been assigned) in
            > >Letter 294.
            >
            > [etc.]
            >
            > Sorry, Michael, I've been too busy to reply to this question on
            > r.a.b.t., though I've had it on my to-do list.

            Thank you. While I cannot change anything which has appeared in
            prince, I'll post a followup to the newsgroups.

            Cover your ears, as the roar of jubilation over a retraction from
            Michael Martinez -- in any form -- will undoubtedly be deafening for
            years to come.
          • Michael Martinez
            ... Even a finger-fumble would not explain how I managed to write prince for print , but I did have a good time dancing last night. David, thank you for the
            Message 5 of 20 , Jun 3, 2004
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              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Martinez" <Michaelm@x> wrote:

              > Thank you. While I cannot change anything which has appeared in
              > prince, I'll post a followup to the newsgroups.

              Even a finger-fumble would not explain how I managed to write "prince"
              for "print", but I did have a good time dancing last night.

              David, thank you for the suggestion. I will look into Kenny's book.
            • Larry Swain
              Wayne, Thanks very much for writing and taking time from toher things. ... Just for the sake of clarity, what we are talking about here is a translation from
              Message 6 of 20 , Jun 3, 2004
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                Wayne,

                Thanks very much for writing and taking time from toher things.

                >
                > Since writing the _Bibliography_ I've seen the letters written to Tolkien
                > by the General Editor of _The Jerusalem Bible_, Alexander Jones, preserved
                > in the Tolkien Papers at the Bodleian. Jones first wrote to Tolkien in
                > January 1957, asking him to contribute to the Bible project, on the
                > strength of _The Lord of the Rings_ with which Jones was very impressed. He
                > hoped that Tolkien would translate several books of the Old Testament, but
                > held out Jonah (only three pages in the finished printed Bible) if Tolkien
                > was pressed for time. Tolkien quickly sent a sample translation from
                > Isaiah, and then a draft translation of Jonah. After that he was indeed too
                > pressed for time to do much more. He did, however, discuss points of
                > translation with Jones, including what to do about archaisms (a potentially
                > very interesting subject, especially in relation to his comments on
                > archaisms in _The Lord of the Rings_; unfortunately, copies of Tolkien's
                > letters to Jones are not at the Bodleian), and Jones solicited Tolkien's
                > opinions on a first draft of most of the Book of Job. Tolkien passed a
                > final revision of Jonah only in 1961.
                >

                Just for the sake of clarity, what we are talking about here is a translation from French, not a translation from Hebrew that Tolkien did for the portion of Isaiah and Jonah. That's the impression I devloped and have in my notes. I'll be in the Bodleian later this summer and can check again. Same thing with the draft...Jones was soliciting Tolkien's opinion on the English of the translation, not its accuracy from the original language. Please do correct me if your impression is different.


                > Jones wrote in his foreword to _The Jerusalem Bible_: "In the case of a few
                > books the initial draft was made from the French and was then compared word
                > for word with the Hebrew or Aramaic by the General Editor and amended where
                > necessary to ensure complete conformity with the ancient text. For the much
                > greater part, the initial drafts were made from the Hebrew or Greek and
                > simultaneously compared with the French when questions of variant reading
                > or interpretation arose." That the work was never simply a translation from
                > the French was made clear to Tolkien by Jones in an early letter: reference
                > by the General Editor to Hebrew and Greek was always a given.

                I can only imagine that this is in reaction to my statements that initially the project translated from French and later switched gears and translated from Hebrew and Greek with an eye on the French. In the end I don't see much difference. Some books in their initial drafts were translated from French as I said. That these initial drafts were then compared to the Hebrew and Greek has no bearing on whether Tolkien translated Jonah from Hebrew or not.


                Thanks again!

                Larry Swain
                --
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              • Wayne G. Hammond
                ... This is my interpretation also. Wayne
                Message 7 of 20 , Jun 4, 2004
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                  Larry wrote:

                  >Just for the sake of clarity, what we are talking about here
                  >is a translation from French, not a translation from Hebrew
                  >that Tolkien did for the portion of Isaiah and Jonah. That's
                  >the impression I devloped and have in my notes. I'll be in the
                  >Bodleian later this summer and can check again. Same thing
                  >with the draft...Jones was soliciting Tolkien's opinion on the
                  >English of the translation, not its accuracy from the original
                  >language. Please do correct me if your impression is different.

                  This is my interpretation also.

                  Wayne
                • alexeik@aol.com
                  In a message dated 6/3/4 12:14:08 PM, Wayne Hammond wrote:
                  Message 8 of 20 , Jun 4, 2004
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                    In a message dated 6/3/4 12:14:08 PM, Wayne Hammond wrote:

                    <<I agree with Larry's argument about the level of Tolkien's knowledge of
                    Hebrew, but can add that Tolkien wished to know more, and in April 1957 he
                    wrote to his grandson Michael George (an unpublished letter) that he was
                    immersing himself in the language so that, when he retired, he could
                    participate in a Bible translation project, i.e. _The Jerusalem Bible_. But
                    there is no evidence that he got very far with this study before other
                    matters became too pressing.
                    >>

                    I think there's also the evidence of Adûnaic, which seems specifically
                    designed to incorporate elements characteristic of Semitic languages. Of course,
                    this doesn't mean that Tolkien "knew Hebrew", but it does suggest that he had
                    delved into it deeply enough to be generally aware of the unique non-European
                    features of its grammar (and naturally used it as inspiration for his own
                    linguistic subcreation).
                    Alexei
                  • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                    Alexei said: I think there s also the evidence of Ad?naic, which seems specifically designed to incorporate elements characteristic of Semitic languages. Of
                    Message 9 of 20 , Jun 4, 2004
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                      Alexei said:

                      I think there's also the evidence of Ad?naic, which seems specifically
                      designed to incorporate elements characteristic of Semitic languages. Of
                      course,
                      this doesn't mean that Tolkien "knew Hebrew", but it does suggest that he
                      had
                      delved into it deeply enough to be generally aware of the unique
                      non-European
                      features of its grammar (and naturally used it as inspiration for his own
                      linguistic subcreation). >>

                      I'm sorry, but I have no idea what that A word is or what it means.
                      There's also the evidence of what?


                      Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                      lizziewriter@...
                      amor vincit omnia
                    • Michael Martinez
                      ... The Tolkien linguists have identified Hebrew influence in Adunaic, Khuzdul, and Elvish (the latter being some comments by Helge Fauskanger). Carpenter
                      Message 10 of 20 , Jun 4, 2004
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                        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, alexeik@a... wrote:
                        >
                        > I think there's also the evidence of Adûnaic, which seems specifically
                        > designed to incorporate elements characteristic of Semitic languages.
                        > Of course, this doesn't mean that Tolkien "knew Hebrew", but it does
                        > suggest that he had delved into it deeply enough to be generally
                        > aware of the unique non-European features of its grammar (and
                        > naturally used it as inspiration for his own linguistic subcreation).
                        > Alexei

                        The Tolkien linguists have identified Hebrew influence in Adunaic,
                        Khuzdul, and Elvish (the latter being some comments by Helge
                        Fauskanger). Carpenter says one of Tolkien's early alphabets was
                        apparently modelled in part on Hebrew.

                        There are tons of references to Tolkien and Hebrew. It's impossible
                        to determine where everyone got their ideas/information from. Some
                        other authors besides me have identified him even more closely with
                        Hebrew and the Jerusalem Bible (there seems to be a virtual tidal wave
                        of religious Tolkien books these days -- too many for me to keep up with).
                      • Michael Martinez
                        ... Adunaic is the name of the language Tolkien devised for his Edainic peoples. It replaced an earlier language, Taliska, which had been devised for the
                        Message 11 of 20 , Jun 4, 2004
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                          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Elizabeth Apgar Triano"
                          <lizziewriter@e...> wrote:
                          >
                          > I'm sorry, but I have no idea what that A word is or what it means.
                          > There's also the evidence of what?

                          Adunaic is the name of the language Tolkien devised for his Edainic
                          peoples. It replaced an earlier language, Taliska, which had been
                          devised for the so-called mythology for England (THE BOOK OF LOST
                          TALES) and was a pseudo-Germanic language.

                          Adunaic was incorporated into the LORD OF THE RINGS mythology. It is
                          mentioned in the Appendices.
                        • Bianca Iano
                          ... It s been a while since I looked at Helge s website, but IIRC, he identifies some common features like plural forms ending in im , and triconsonantal
                          Message 12 of 20 , Jun 5, 2004
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                            Michael Martinez wrote:

                            > The Tolkien linguists have identified Hebrew influence in Adunaic,
                            > Khuzdul, and Elvish (the latter being some comments by Helge
                            > Fauskanger). Carpenter says one of Tolkien's early alphabets was
                            > apparently modelled in part on Hebrew.

                            It's been a while since I looked at Helge's website, but IIRC, he
                            identifies some common features like plural forms ending in "im",
                            and triconsonantal roots in Adunaic, etc. 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 :).

                            With all due respect, I find it hard to believe JRRT planned to work
                            up his Hebrew during retirement so he could translate the book of Job (?)
                            from the original. Unless by translating one means being able to check
                            words in a dictionary using an already existing translation as an aid
                            and polishing up the English?

                            Not meaning to tread on any toes here ...

                            Bianca
                          • Larry Swain
                            ... Hi Alexei, I ll start by saying that I am somewhat less than expert on Tolkien s languages, to be honest. I ll respond to the things I ve seen about
                            Message 13 of 20 , Jun 6, 2004
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                              > In a message dated 6/3/4 12:14:08 PM, Wayne Hammond wrote:
                              >
                              Hi Alexei,

                              I'll start by saying that I am somewhat less than expert on Tolkien's languages, to be honest. I'll respond to the things I've seen about Adunaic and its dependence on Hebrew, though.

                              One thing I've seen is that plurals in adunaic are in -im which is a Hebrew plural. That's true....one of the plurals, the masculine, in Hebrew is -im. But other languages have that as well, and it is not hard to go from a -"ium" ending in Latin third declension i-stem genitive plurals to sometimes an -im by medieval Latin writers. If there were other plurals in Adunaic that were in -oth or -ot, then I think a good case of modeling on Hebrew could be made, but not on -im alone.

                              I've also read that in changing to the plural Adunaic changes the vowels of the stem, like Hebrew. But again other languages do this, notably Old Norse where depending on the case and number the stem vowels change. So its possible, but again not enough on this alone.

                              I've also read that Adunaic has triconsonantal primitive roots like Hebrew...but this is true of all Semitic languages and if true is probably more demonstrative of a basic knowledge of certain things about Hebrew/Semitic languages than anyone with linguistics training would know than knowing the language.

                              Is there more? This is suggestive, but far from conclusive.

                              I think Michael mentioned the early alphabet that Carpenter mentions that was based on Hebrew. I wonder about this too, and have a theory that at the moment is baseless. I suspect though that Tolkien was probably thinking about the well known fact that the NW Semitic alphabet delevoped from Ugaritic gave rise to the Phoenician and Hebrew alphabets. The latter of course became the language of the Bible. The former passed its alphabet onto the Greeks and through them to the Romans and then to the rest of Europe. I suspect that he was playing around with the origins of the alphabet and trying to develop a different one from the "roots" so to speak, rather than modeling it directly on Hebrew. Of course this is just a guess since I've not seen the original (and might just need to go and see if I can find it), but given Tolkien's early interests in these sorts of things and what is known about his mind, I suspect that this is more likely than an imitation of a known language.

                              Just some thoughts.

                              Larry Swain

                              found> I think there's also the evidence of Adûnaic, which seems specifically
                              > designed to incorporate elements characteristic of Semitic languages. Of course,
                              > this doesn't mean that Tolkien "knew Hebrew", but it does suggest that he had
                              > delved into it deeply enough to be generally aware of the unique non-European
                              > features of its grammar (and naturally used it as inspiration for his own
                              > linguistic subcreation).
                              > Alexei
                              >
                              --
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                              Web-based SMS services available at http://www.operamail.com
                              From your mailbox to local or overseas cell phones.

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                            • alexeik@aol.com
                              In a message dated 6/6/4 3:39:16 AM, Bianca wrote:
                              Message 14 of 20 , Jun 11, 2004
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                                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
                              • Carl F. Hostetter
                                ... Also in Tolkien s later concept of Valarin, also with, I feel the same intended effect of alienness, both to the Indo-European and the Eldarin ear. For
                                Message 15 of 20 , Jun 11, 2004
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                                  On Jun 11, 2004, at 4:45 PM, alexeik@... wrote:

                                  > 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

                                  Also in Tolkien's later concept of Valarin, also with, I feel the same
                                  intended effect of alienness, both to the Indo-European and the Eldarin
                                  ear.

                                  For what it's worth, I have yet to encounter any evidence, published or
                                  unpublished, that Tolkien had made any special study of Hebrew or any
                                  Semitic language, beyond that that any philologist and comparative
                                  linguist of his age would naturally encounter.
                                • dianejoy@earthlink.net
                                  Pardon my linguistic ignorance, but what is an extended verb? Thanks in advance. ---djb ... From: alexeik@aol.com Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 16:45:58 EDT To:
                                  Message 16 of 20 , 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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                                  • alexeik@aol.com
                                    In a message dated 6/14/4 1:58:04 PM, Diane Joy wrote: A verb
                                    Message 17 of 20 , Jun 14, 2004
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                                      In a message dated 6/14/4 1:58:04 PM, Diane Joy wrote:

                                      <<Pardon my linguistic ignorance, but what is an "extended verb?" Thanks in

                                      advance. ---djb>>

                                      A verb with various affixes in addition to its basic root and
                                      number/gender/person indicators, thus modifying its meaning.
                                      Alexei
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