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Author Topic: [s] Sindarin for 'Axe'  (Read 2837 times)

Roman Rausch

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Traverse Travis wrote:
> In the end, as you suggest, when subcreating in Middle-earth, it comes
> down to phonoaesthetic preferrence.

 ... which should only come into play if you are left with some
 reasonable possibilities from the etymological point of view, I think.
 You are making phonaesthetic preference count more than etymological
 reasoning.

Words do not live on their own, they have an environment and a history.
So rather than magically producing Qenya vocabulary and be happy with it
I would try to justify how such words could be derived in later Quenya.

Ql _pelekko_ is from the root pele that also yields _peltas_ 'pivot',
_pelko_ 'leg', _pelte-_ 'run'. Pel- in 'The Etymologies' is quite
similar, also yielding _peltas_ 'pivot' - that's good. But you will
find no derivational suffix _-kko_ at this time of Quenya - that's not
good - so where would _pelekko_ then be derived from?

A strict phonological adaptation into Sindarin would rather bring
_*pelech_, by the way.


Rr.



[elfling ID#34480]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 06, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Roman Rausch »
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Traverse Travis

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Roman Rausch wrote:

> I would try to justify how such words could be derived in later
> Quenya.

That is a good point. Yes, *  should have a Quendian
root...even if the root has to be invented*. It seems likely that
Tolkien did not list all of the Quendian roots, and that many would need
to be invented. I suggest that Proto-Quendian would have about as many
roots as Proto-Indo-European or Proto-Uralic, while Proto- Eldarin would
have about as many roots as Proto-Celtic or Proto- Finnic.

*(Unless the word and tool was borrowed from Orome in Cuivieenen; in
which case Aule may've adapted the same Valarin word to make Khuzdul
*  'axe'.)

> Ql _pelekko_ is from the root pele that also yields
_Peltas_ 'pivot',
> _Pelko_ 'leg', _pelte-_ 'run'. Pel- in 'The Etymologies' is
> quite similar, also yielding _peltas_ 'pivot' - that's good. But
> you will find no derivational suffix _-
Kko_
> At this time of Quenya - that's not good - so where would _pelekko_
> then be derived from?

Are you sure there's no <-cco>  suffix in late Quenya, or only that
it's not attested? Proto-Eldarin likely has as many derivational
suffixes as those Primary World proto-languages as well.

Anyway, I admit I'm not as fluent in Tolkienian linguistics as many
people on this list, which is why I asked for your guys' feedback...and
I'm glad for it. Helge has Qenya adaptations *  'axe',
*  'hew', and *  'bull' (though replaced by )
in his Quenya wordlist, so maybe he has an idea of how the <-cco>  part
could come about.

To float another rough idea: What if *pelek, rather than pele, is the
Quendian root for 'axe'.

Also, I do recognize that a viable Neo-Quenya word for 'axe' could be
modeled on Sindarin  instead. :-)

> A strict phonological adaptation into Sindarin would rather bring
> _*pelech_, by the way.

I'm not suggesting that *  or *  (as I suggested in the
original post) be a Sindarin word for axe. I understand that
is the Sindarin word. Beyond the issue of adapting Qenya  for
Neo-Quenya, I'm only inventing the name 'Axe- land' , as a
Sindarin borrowing from the Neo-Quenya name , like s
 was borrowed from q  or s  was borrowed
from q .

I'm learning a lot from the feedback, and am willing to use a different
Quenya and Sindarin name for 'Axe-land' if a better solution arises that
takes into account the phonoaesthetic issues I mentioned into account.

Travis



[elfling ID#34481]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 06, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Traverse Travis »
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Helge Klåre Fauskanger

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Travis wrote:

> Yes, *  should have a Quendian
Root...even if the root has to be invented. It seems likely that
Tolkien did not list all of the Quendian roots, and that many would
need to be invented.

Plainly the roots actually mentioned in Tolkien's material aren't
'all' the roots that existed on the inside of the legendarium. For
instance, Tolkien says that the Loremasters resisted the merger of _th_
with _s_ in Quenya because it would lead to the confusion of 'many'
stems that had so far been distinct. In published material, there are
actually very few roots or words that would merge.

> (Unless the word and tool was borrowed from Orome in Cuivieenen; in
Which case Aule may've adapted the same Valarin word to make Khuzdul
*  'axe'.)

Hm. Hmm. Hmmm! That is actually an interesting suggestion that had never
crossed my mind before.

If a word is really difficult to analyze in Quenya, one can always
suppose that it is a borrowing from Valarin. Also, Tolkien states in one
of his letters that words, even Elvish words, could sometimes be created
with no clear origin (though there is very little evidence for such
spontaneous creations in his actual writings; he tries very hard to give
each word an individual history).

As for this argument:

> Ql _pelekko_ is from the root pele that also yields _peltas_
> 'pivot', _pelko_ 'leg', _pelte-_ 'run'. Pel- in 'The
> Etymologies' is quite similar, also yielding _peltas_ 'pivot' -
> that's good. But you will find no derivational suffix _-
Kko_ at this time of Quenya - that's not good - so where would
_pelekko_ then be derived from?

Travis asked:  'Are you sure there's no <-cco>  suffix in late Quenya,
or only that it's not attested?' Well, we can't 'know', of course. But
instead of presupposing an unattested suffix, I would assume that
*pel(e) has an extended form *pelek; compare, maybe, kir 'cut' next to
kirik yielding words for an instrument for cutting (a sickle!) Then we
postulate a strengthening of the last consonant to produce _pelekk-_
(such strengthening is at least not uncommon in the case of monosyllabic
roots, as when Tolkien derives _rokko_ 'horse' from rok). The ending
_-o_, primitive _-ô_ or _-u_, would normally be masculine/agental and
not so often used in the case of a tool; yet we do have such words as
_lango_ 'broad sword' (lag).

The derivational mechanisms of the primitive Elvish language are
conveniently flexible; you can manipulate roots in many ways, so that
you can always come up with a primitive form that produces words of the
'desired' shape in Quenya and Sindarin. That is what Tolkien did
himself, of course.

The word _pelecco_ is interesting, actually. During Omentielva Tatya, I
believe Bill Welden pointed out that it was a sort of injoke built into
Qenya because a similar word with a similar meaning has been
reconstructed for some Indo-European language (let him correct me if
memory fails me). I notice that Greek has a verb _pelekízô_ 'I behead
(with an axe)'.

- Hkf



[elfling ID#34484]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 09, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Helge Klåre Fauskanger »
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Lakis Lalakis

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Helge Klåre Fauskanger wrote:
> The word _pelecco_ is interesting, actually. During Omentielva Tatya,
> I believe Bill Welden pointed out that it was a sort of injoke built
> into Qenya because a similar word with a similar meaning has been
> reconstructed for some Indo-European language (let him correct me if
> memory fails me). I notice that Greek has a verb _pelekízô_ 'I behead
> (with an axe)'.
In all probability, pelekko is inspired from Greek _pelekys_, a
word for axe.

Either this, or we are talking about a near-impossible coincidence here.



[elfling ID#34485]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 09, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Lakis Lalakis »
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Aelindis

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Helge Klåre Fauskanger' wrote:
>
> The word _pelecco_ is interesting, actually. During Omentielva Tatya,
I believe Bill Welden pointed out that it was a sort of injoke built
into Qenya because a similar word with a similar meaning has been
reconstructed for some Indo-European language (let him correct me if
memory fails me).

Judging from what Bill Welden wrote on elfling_d
   I am under the
impression that he would not be permitted to reply here, unfortunately.

Regards, Erna



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[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 11, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Aelindis »
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Benct Philip Jonsson

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #20 on: October 13, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

On 2007-10-10 Lakis Lalakis wrote:
> Helge Klåre Fauskanger wrote:
> > > The word _pelecco_ is interesting, actually. During Omentielva
> Tatya, I believe Bill Welden pointed out that it was a sort of injoke
> built into Qenya because a similar word with a similar meaning has
> been reconstructed for some Indo-European language (let him correct me
> if memory fails me). I notice that Greek has a verb _pelekízô_ 'I
> behead (with an axe)'. In all probability, pelekko is inspired from
> Greek _pelekys_, a word for axe.
>
> Either this, or we are talking about a near-impossible
> coincidence here.
>

Clearly this is one of the cases where Tolkien took a Wanderwort or word
of obscure etymology and provided it with an Eldarin 'etymology'. At
the time it was believed that this Greek word, which does after all have
cognates in Sanskrit, several Iranian languages and Tocharian, was
connected to the Akkadian (Babylonian) word _pilakku_ which was wrongly
believed to mean 'axe' -- it actually means 'spindle'. It thus
seemed to be a remarkable Wanderwort, but wasn'T.

This is what Beekes says about this word in his Greek
etymological database:

# Etymology: Identical with Skt. Paraśú- M. 'axe, battle- axe' but
# for the accent as inherited(?) word; ie *peleḱu- (?); further Iran.
# Forms, E.G. Osset. Færæt 'axe'; as Iran. Lw Toch. A porat, b peret
# 'axe' (but see Benveniste, Études sur la langue ossète 107f. . --
# Long as ie lw identified with Accad. Pilakku supp. 'Axe' (E.G.
# Kretschmer Einleitung 105 F.). The Accad. Word however never means
# 'axe' (rather 'spindle'), which is why this comparison must be
# given up. It may be a loan from an southeastern language in a limited
# ie area which seems possible, though there are no further connections
# known. Cf. Mayrhofer kewa 2,213 with further details and lit.; Also
# Porzig Gliederung 160 and Thieme Die Heimat D. idg. Gemeinspr. 52 F. -
# Furnée 150f. points to βέλεκκος ὄσπριόν τι ἐμφερες λαθύρῳ μέγεθος
# ἐρεβίνθου ἔχον H. Further cf. His notes 39 and 40 (P. 150f.). He also
# assumes that the -κκ- rather is Pre-Greek gemination. Further πέλεκρα
# is rather a Pre-Greek formation, like πέλυξ.



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« Last Edit: October 13, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Benct Philip Jonsson »
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Traverse Travis

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #21 on: October 13, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Thanks for the help Helge!

I've been wondering...

Based on the 'external method' of looking for Primary World origins and
inspirations for the Secondary World, such as Tolkien's admitted use of
the Breton family name 'Rohan', Irish  and Scott Bennettish
Gaelic  for Black Speech , and 'Labrador' for Sindarin <-
dor>  'Land', I wonder if:

Rather than *  (as Ardalambion reconstructs it), if the singular
for Khuzdul 'axe' would be * , since early in Tolkien's career,
it was thought that the Sumerian word for 'axe' was  (though, as
Melroch 'Aestan explained for the Akkadian counterpart, it is now
understood to mean 'spindle'). I suggest that Tolkien may have been
evoking the Sumerian word. I understand that Tolkien disliked this sort
of delving, and I admit this is slim evidence, and that it would be easy
to dismiss, but I feel it may be relevant.

Other considerations:
1) Khuzdul * , with its two syllables and unrounded vowels, would
   more closely resemble Qenya  than would * .

2) The pairing of *  and  would be evocative of the
   pairing of Sumerian  and Akkadian . The Akkadian
   word was borrowed from Sumerian. The double /k/ of the Qenya form
   evokes the Akkadian word, while the two /e/ vowels evoke the
   Proto-Indo- European and Greek , which as Melroch
   'Aestan said, were thought at one time to be related to the two
   Mesopotamian words.

Travis



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« Last Edit: October 13, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Traverse Travis »
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Traverse Travis

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #22 on: October 15, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

 I wrote:
> > The Akkadian word was borrowed from Sumerian.<<

Honestly, I don't know for sure if the Akkadian is borrowed from the
Sumerian word, I only guessed that it is. Oops! :-)

Travis



[elfling ID#34496]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 15, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Traverse Travis »
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Jason Fisher

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

>  2) The pairing of *  and  would be evocative of the
>     pairing of Sumerian  and Akkadian . The Akkadian
>     word was borrowed from Sumerian. The double /k/ of the Qenya form
>     evokes the Akkadian word, [...]

Interesting thoughts, Travis. But don't forget that the double /k/ is
also typical of Finnish, on which we know Tolkien modeled much of the
early Qenya phonology very closely. Myself, I wouldn't go looking so
far afield as Akkadian when a Finnish explanation is so much more
defensible, particularly given the fact that we have no reason to
ascribe very much knowledge of Sumerian or Akkadian to Tolkien. He may
have known a little bit of either or both; however, there is no doubt
that these were well outside his primary expertise.

Jason



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« Last Edit: October 16, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Jason Fisher »
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Traverse Travis

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #24 on: October 16, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Jason Fisher wrote:

> > We have no reason to ascribe very much knowledge of Sumerian or
Akkadian to Tolkien.<<

*You* may have no reason to ascribe very much knowledge of Sumerian or
Akkadian to Tolkien, but *I* do. :-)

I imagine that Tolkien was able to grasp the phonoaesthetic style of any
language he even briefly studied.

If I -- an amateur -- am familiar with the general features of many of
the world's languages, Tolkien during his decades of professional and
personal study, likely had at least as much familiarity.

Tolkien certainly modeled the Valarin language on Akkadian, the oldest
recorded Semitic language. Given his familiar with other Semitic
languages such as Hebrew and Arabic (and perhaps Aramaic as well), he
likely had some idea of the historical linguistics of Proto- Semitic.

As far as Sumerian: Sumerian words play a role in Akkadian like Latin
words within English, so Tolkien would've had contact with Sumerian in
this way. Also, his interest in biblical history would've exposed him
to the various languages and cultures of Mesopotamia.

Lastly, upon further consideration, I suggest that Sumerian, along with
Hebrew, was a main inspiration for the wordshapes of Khuzdul. For more,
see 'Sumerian Flavor for Khuzdul?' At
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dwarfling/message/20

Travis



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« Last Edit: October 16, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Traverse Travis »
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Jason Fisher

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #25 on: October 17, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Travis,

> *You* may have no reason to ascribe very much knowledge of Sumerian or
> Akkadian to Tolkien, but *I* do. :-)

You do?! Well, it sounds like you may have a hunch or a feeling that
Tolkien had some knowledge of these languages, but is there any actual
evidence that he did? I don't think so. But I'm happy to be corrected
if anybody knows of any.

On Ardalambion, for example, Helge writes: 'It has been suggested that
Tolkien's inspiration for Valarin was ancient Babylonian; some feel
that the general style of Valarin is reminiscent of such words as
'Etemenanki', the name of the great tower (ziggurat) of Babylon.
However, **such views are purely conjectural**, and we may rightly ask
why Tolkien would use Babylonian as a model for the language of the gods
of his mythos. More likely he simply aimed for a very peculiar style,
since this is supposed to be a language wholly independent of the Elvish
language family, and moreover a tongue developed and spoken by
superhuman beings.' (Emphasis mine)

I am inclined to agree with this assessment.

Also, in their recent Readers Guide, too, Christina Scull and Wayne
Hammond address the too-hasty assumption that Tolkien's linguistic
expertise ranged far wider than can be substantiated when they write:
'Which is not to say that he was fluent in all of these [Indo-European]
languages, as too many readers have assumed; nor is there any evidence
that he was expert in Sanskrit, Hebrew, or various Afri­can languages,
as we have seen stated as fact at one time or another.' (P.461)

The only point from which one might attempt to argue the point (that is,
the only point of which I am personally aware -- if you know of other
evidence, please enlighten me) is a comment in letter #297, where
Tolkien wrote, 'I knew and had read a good deal about Mesopotamia';
however, the point is undermined somewhat when Tolkien goes on to say
that 'In any case the fact that Erech is a famous name is of *no*
importance to The L.R. and no connexions in my mind or intention between
Mesopotamia and the Númenóreans or their predecessors can be deduced.'
Not to mention that knowing 'a good deal about Mesopotamia' may not have
included any study of its languages whatsoever. He could be talking
about history or literature, or any number of other things.

> I imagine that Tolkien was able to grasp the phonoaesthetic style of
> any language he even briefly studied.

Yes, that's probably true. But did he ever, even briefly, study
Sumerian or Akkadian? I have never seen it documented and have no reason
to think he did so. Have you? He did briefly study Hebrew, without any
particularly great success (he called it 'a language so difficult that
it makes Latin or even Greek seem footling'). Even his knowledge of
Finnish and Welsh was far from complete.

> If I -- an amateur -- am familiar with the general features of many of
> the world's languages, Tolkien during his decades of professional and
> personal study, likely had at least as much familiarity.

But you're going further and arguing for the influence even of specific
words, not just broad phonological features. And in any case, you still
haven't explained why we should look to an Akkadian explanation for a
phonological feature Tolkien probably cribbed from Finnish. Not to
mention, your phonoaesthetic tastes may well have differed from
Tolkien'S. There's no reason to assume he knew the same things you or
I do, especially since our professions, and indeed our world of
information availability, couldn't be more different from his. I know
we all have a tendency to canonize Tolkien as the patron saint of
philology, but that doesn't make him Gwrhyr Gwalstawt Ieithoedd, not by
any stretch.

> Tolkien certainly modeled the Valarin language on Akkadian, the oldest
> recorded Semitic language.

Certainly? What's the basis for your certainty? Did Tolkien ever say,
or even imply, this?

> Given his familiar with other Semitic languages such as Hebrew and
> Arabic (and perhaps Aramaic as well), he likely had some idea of the
> historical linguistics of Proto-Semitic.

He had some familiarity with Hebrew -- that much is clear. But on what
foundation do you assert that Tolkien was familiar with Arabic? And how
familiar? I'm not aware of anything to base that on. And Aramaic? Why
do you think Tolkien was familiar with Aramaic? Just because of his
abbreviated involvement with the Jerusalem Bible or the general interest
in biblical history to which you referred elsewhere? That's awfully
thin evidence for knowledge of the original languages in which the Bible
was written.

> As far as Sumerian: Sumerian words play a role in Akkadian like Latin
> words within English, so Tolkien would've had contact with Sumerian
> in this way.

I'm not so sure this analogy holds up to scrutiny. This is rather like
saying that Chinese words play a role in Japanese like Latin words do in
English, so Tolkien would have had contact with Chinese in this way.
Clearly there is absolutely no reason to think so. Not to mention,
Sumerian is generally classified as an isolate, and not as a semitic
language at all. The similarities between it and Akkadian in many words
and word forms more likely has to do with social processes (as Akkadian
supplanted Sumerian in the ancient world) than with natural linguistic
relationships -- rather the same way English influences other world
languages today.

> Lastly, upon further consideration, I suggest that Sumerian, along
> with Hebrew, was a main inspiration for the wordshapes of Khuzdul.

Hebrew, yes, but Sumerian? Again, that's pure speculation, isn't it?
And the corpus isn't nearly large enough to overcome pure coincidence
in word similarities, is it? If we're allowing that kind of margin of
error, one could probably make many different, equivalent, cases (maybe
with native Amerindian languages or for African tribal tongues).

I'm just not convinced.

Jason



[elfling ID#34502]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 17, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Jason Fisher »
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Lakis Lalakis

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #26 on: October 17, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Jason Fisher wrote:
> > If I -- an amateur -- am familiar with the general features of many
> > of the world's languages, Tolkien during his decades of
> > professional and personal study, likely had at least as much
> > familiarity.
> >
>
> But you're going further and arguing for the influence even of
> specific words, not just broad phonological features. And in any case,
> you still haven't explained why we should look to an Akkadian
> explanation for a phonological feature Tolkien probably cribbed from
> Finnish. Not to mention, your phonoaesthetic tastes may well have
> differed from Tolkien'S. There's no reason to assume he knew the
> same things you or I do, especially since our professions, and indeed
> our world of information availability, couldn't be more different
> from his. I know we all have a tendency to canonize Tolkien as the
> patron saint of philology, but that doesn't make him Gwrhyr Gwalstawt
> Ieithoedd, not by any stretch.
>
Jason,

You have expressed a concern of mine, lasting about 8 years, when I
first heard that 'Valarin is based on Sumerian'. I don't know
anything about those languages and I can't judge the correctness of
this assumption, and this puzzled me since we have here a quasi-european
mythology... At least you have addressed your objections and
counter-arguments, asking for a definite answer

However I don't think that a person like Tolkien would need to study
even superficially a language to base his simple onomatopoeic languages
(such as Valarin). For example I don't know a single word from ancient
Persian, yet by coincidence, two years ago I learned that Darius' and
Xerxes' actual names were Darayaveush and Hshayarshah. Well, I think
those names sound very cool, and I think Tolkien would agree with me. If
I was Tolkien, it would be more easy to find more original names and
other words from exotic languages and study them, even if this study
ranged 5 or 10 words. That would be enough to choose the words I find
'cool' and base some names out of their phonoesthetics.

You are right objecting the assumption that Tolkien spent a time with
Sumerian et al, but (I am telling this to both proponents and opponents
of the 'Valarin-Sumerian' theory) I don't think this was really
necessary for him to make up names, since only a brief sample of them
would suffice



[elfling ID#34503]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 17, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Lakis Lalakis »
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Travis Henry

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #27 on: October 17, 2007, 05:00:00 PM »

Jason Fisher wrote:
> > Well, it sounds like you may have a hunch or a feeling that Tolkien
> > had some knowledge of these languages, but is there any actual
> > evidence that he did? I don't think so. But I'm happy to be
> > corrected if anybody knows of any.<<

Both you and I have already stated evidence that Tolkien 'had some
knowledge of these languages'. I do not suggest that Tolkien was a
master Babylonianist, or that he was competent to teach these languages
in a university (like he was for Old English). I suggest only that he
had a passing familiarity with the general phonoaesthetic flavor of
Akkadian and Sumerian -- enough to invent his own languages that
aesthetically evoke them.

> > On Ardalambion, for example, Helge writes: 'It has been suggested
> > that Tolkien's inspiration for Valarin was ancient Babylonian; some
> > feel that the general style of Valarin is reminiscent of such words
> > as 'Etemenanki', the name of the great tower (ziggurat) of
> > Babylon. However, **such views are purely conjectural**, and we may
> > rightly ask why Tolkien would use Babylonian as a model for the
> > language of the gods of his mythos. More likely he simply aimed for
> > a very peculiar style, since this is supposed to be a language
> > wholly independent of the Elvish language family, and moreover a
> > tongue developed and spoken by superhuman beings.' (Emphasis mine)
>
> I am inclined to agree with this assessment.<<

Why would Tolkien use the language of Uralic woodsmen as the chief
flavor for the language of the High Elves of Valinor? Or the language of
Cambrian hill-dwellers as the main flavor of the Grey-elven tongue? He
chose them because he liked those languages' flavor and found them
artistically fitting. When I view or pronounce Valarin words I see and
hear a language fitting of the gods, and a tongue 'like the glitter of
swords'. I have no mechanical device that can measure the 'godliness' or
'glitteriness' of a language, yet that doesn't mean that those
qualities do not exist. 'Subjective' is not synonymous with
'non-existent'.

Using a Mesopotamian language (particular a Semitic language) as a model
for the language of the gods also vaguely fits with how Mesopotamia is
the home of the earliest recorded language (though Sumerian, rather than
Akkadian), and how Mesopotamia plays a large role in early Biblical
legends, such the Tower of Babel and Abraham coming out of Ur, and how
pre-modern philologists thought that the first language was a Semitic
language (though Hebrew, rather than Akkadian). Mesopotamia is also
associated with ancient priest-kings and the first law codes. It seems
artistically fitting that the gods speak a Mesopotamian-style language.
This is not hard logical evidence, only suggestive.

> > Also, in their recent Readers Guide, too, Christina Scull and Wayne
> > Hammond address the too-hasty assumption that Tolkien's linguistic
> > expertise ranged far wider than can be substantiated when they
> > write: 'Which is not to say that he was fluent in all of these
> > [Indo-European] languages, as too many readers have assumed; nor is
> > there any evidence that he was expert in Sanskrit, Hebrew, or
> > various Afri�can languages, as we have seen stated as fact at one
> > time or another.' (P.461)<<

I am not suggesting that Tolkien was 'fluent in' or an 'expert in'
Akkadian or Sumerian. He didn't need to be either of those things to
have a grasp of their general qualities. Heck, off the top of my head, I
could make words and sentences that surficially evoke nearly any major
world language, from any continent (though such words would look weird
to an expert or a fluent speaker). I imagine Tolkien could do the same
-- though there's no way I can 'prove' it. There is one passage (though
I don't remember where, perhaps his letters) where he describes how, as
a philologist, he studied a language to get a general overview.

I know of a couple (minor) examples of Tolkien's use of non-Western
European languages for inspiration: 1) The list of Avarin words which
include an East Asian (likely Chinese) style 'Kinn-lai'. Though someone
could counter that Chinese words don't end in double /nn/s, and the
/k/ in front of /I/ becomes a palatoalveolar sound (similar to English
'ch'), this doesn't negate the suggestion that 'Kinn-lai' is likely
mostly Chinese-flavored. 2) Another example would be the
Hungarian-style of the dream-names in the Notion Club Papers, and of
the invented M�gol language.

I prefer not to respond to: 'Can you prove that Tolkien was fluent in,
or an expert in Chinese or Hungarian? Is there any documented evidence
that he completed coursework in these languages, or even owned a Chinese
or Hungarian dictionary or grammar?'

> > The only point from which one might attempt to argue the point (that
> > is, the only point of which I am personally aware -- if you know of
> > other evidence, please enlighten me) is a comment in letter #297,
> > where Tolkien wrote, 'I knew and had read a good deal about
> > Mesopotamia'; however, the point is undermined somewhat when Tolkien
> > goes on to say that 'In any case the fact that Erech is a famous
> > name is of *no* importance to The L.R. and no connexions in my mind
> > or intention between Mesopotamia and the N�men�reans or their
> > predecessors can be deduced.' Not to mention that knowing 'a good
> > deal about Mesopotamia' may not have included any study of its
> > languages whatsoever. He could be talking about history or
> > literature, or any number of other things.<<

Given Tolkien's enthusiasm for language, it seems far-fetched that he
'read a good deal about Mesopotamia' without imbibing the general
linguistic (at least onomastic) framework.

> > I imagine that Tolkien was able to grasp the phonoaesthetic style of
> > any language he even briefly studied.
>
> Yes, that's probably true. But did he ever, even briefly, study
> Sumerian or Akkadian? I have never seen it documented and have no
> reason to think he did so. Have you?<<

You and I have already documented that he 'studied' (='read a good deal
about') Mesopotamia. Even looking at Akkadian and Sumerian names in
Mespotamian history books would be a 'brief study' as far as giving
Tolkien a phonoaesthetic taste that he could use to flavor his own
languages. And do I have to *prove* that he owned a copy of a
Proto-Semitic dictionary or that he wrote a letter explicitly mentioning
Proto-Semitic to reasonably suggest that he was likely familiar with
Semitic etymology, in which Akkadian (as the oldest recorded Semitic
language) is prominent? Also, I'd find it incredible if Tolkien, as an
educated man, hadn't at least browsed through the Epic of Gilgamesh,
the most important surviving piece of Sumerian literature -- though
again I cannot 'prove' it (short of interviewing Tolkien's children and
asking if they ever remember having seen the book in the house, or heard
him talk about it).

> > He did briefly study Hebrew, without any particularly great success
> > (he called it 'a language so difficult that it makes Latin or even
> > Greek seem footling'). Even his knowledge of Finnish and Welsh was
> > far from complete.<<

I am not suggesting that Tolkien's knowledge of Sumerian and Akkadian
was of 'any particularly great success' or 'complete' -- and 'complete'
knowledge of any language by any human being may be an overbold claim.

> > If I -- an amateur -- am familiar with the general features of many
> > of the world's languages, Tolkien during his decades of
> > professional and personal study, likely had at least as much
> > familiarity.
>
> But you're going further and arguing for the influence even of
> specific words, not just broad phonological features.<<

Beyond the broad phonoaesthetic features, I am only suggesting that
Sumerian  and Akkadian  (along with pie and Greek
) are likely inspirations for Khuzdul  and Qenya
. I don't know exactly what pie etymological dictionaries
Tolkien studied, but it seems likely that the supposed Mesopotamian
versions of this word were mentioned in the pie dictionary entry for
 (regardless of their later re-gloss as 'spindle').

> > And in any case, you still haven't explained why we should look to
> > an Akkadian explanation for a phonological feature Tolkien probably
> > cribbed from Finnish.<<

I am not suggesting that the geminate consonants of Q(u)enya (such as
<-kk-> ) *aren't* inspired by Finnish. I am suggesting that Tolkien had
the pie word  in mind when he invented the Qenya word, and
that he was likely simultaneously aware of the Akkadian form
which was at one time thought to be related to the pie, *and*
simulataneously using the establish Finnish-style geminate (though there
are Quenya words without the geminate, such as  'rush, wild
wind'. Still, I cannot *prove* this without reading Tolkien's mind, or
by finding a slip of paper where Tolkien wrote:

'I had the 'axe' of pie and Greek  and (supposedly related)
Akkadian  in mind when I invented Qenya . The double
 fits wonderfully since it matches the Finnish flavor of Qenya, yet
also provides a clever fictive etymology for both the pie and Akkadian
words, since it's more common for a geminate consonant to shorten than
the reverse.'

> > Tolkien certainly modeled the Valarin language on Akkadian, the
> > oldest recorded Semitic language.
>
> Certainly? What's the basis for your certainty? Did Tolkien ever say,
> or even imply, this?<<

'Certainly' may be too strong a word.

However, it is possible to be certain about things that are not
explicitly stated.

As far as I know, Tolkien left no hand- or type-written note, nor a
mechanical sound recording, explicitly or implicitly saying that he used
Old English as the chief flavor of Danian
(http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/nandorin.htm), or Old Norse as the
paramount flavor of East Danian (Leikvian), yet my own eyes can tell
that this is nearly certain, even by looking at the phonoaesthetic style
of only a few Danian words ( , , ), and the name
element .

Looking at the Valarin wordlist (
http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/valarin.htm ) and the Akkadian wordlist (
http://www.premiumwanadoo.com/cuneiform.languages/dictionary/list.php ),
it seems that Akkadian is a main aesthetic ingredient of Valarin,
especially if the macrons used in that Akkadian romanization were
replaced with circumflexes, and especially considering the longer
Akkadian words. I realize that anyone could point out numerous
differences between Akkadian and Valarin phonology, wordshapes, and
grammar, just as there are similar differences between Finnish and
Quenya (Quenya doesn't have rounded front vowels and all those weird
Finnish diphthongs), and Welsh and Sindarin (the mutations are
different), yet that doesn't negate the idea. That is what I am saying.

Also, I believe it *is* proven that one of Tolkien's devices was to
use one Primary World language as the paramount flavor for most of the
invented languages. I recognize that besides this paramount flavor, he
included other secondary pw flavors, resonances from Secondary World
languages he'd already invented, and fantastic out-of-the-Blue
elements as well.

> > He had some familiarity with Hebrew -- that much is clear. But on
> > what foundation do you assert that Tolkien was familiar with
> > Arabic? <<

The #17 issue of Parma Eldalamberon mentions a letter that
Tolkien wrote:

�The language of the Dwarves� �is Semitic in cast, leaning phonetically
to Hebrew (as suits the Dwarvish character), but it evidentally has some
�broken� plurals, more in Arabic style: _baruk_ being the plural of
_bark_ �axe�, and _Khaz�d_ of _Khuzd_.'

> > And how familiar?<<

Familiar enough to be able to tell the difference between Hebrew and
Arabic grammatical elements, and to invent wordshapes and grammar that
are evocative of Arabic.

> > I'm not aware of anything to base that on. And Aramaic? Why do you
> > think Tolkien was familiar with Aramaic? Just because of his
> > abbreviated involvement with the Jerusalem Bible or the general
> > interest in biblical history to which you referred elsewhere?
> > That's awfully thin evidence for knowledge of the original
> > languages in which the Bible was written.<<

Again, I'm not suggesting that Tolkien was fluent in, or an expert in
Aramaic, only that he had a general idea of what Aramaic was like, for
the reasons you stated, and for his familiarity with the Semitic
language family.

> > As far as Sumerian: Sumerian words play a role in Akkadian like
> > Latin words within English, so Tolkien would've had contact with
> > Sumerian in this way.
>
> I'm not so sure this analogy holds up to scrutiny. This is rather
> like saying that Chinese words play a role in Japanese like Latin
> words do in English, so Tolkien would have had contact with Chinese in
> this way.<<

If Tolkien had 'read a good deal about East Asian history' like he did
for Mesopotamia, and if he had been exposed to Japanese as much as he
apparently was to Akkadian, then I imagine that he would've been
exposed to Chinese names and words, like I suggest he was exposed to
Sumerian names and words. But, I'm not suggesting he was as familiar
with East Asia as he was with Mesopotamia.

> > Clearly there is absolutely no reason to think so. Not to mention,
> > Sumerian is generally classified as an isolate, and not as a semitic
> > language at all. The similarities between it and Akkadian in many
> > words and word forms more likely has to do with social processes (as
> > Akkadian supplanted Sumerian in the ancient world) than with natural
> > linguistic relationships -- rather the same way English influences
> > other world languages today.<<

This sounds fuzzy. Sumerian was the classical language of Mesopotamia:
it was first recorded in Mesopotamia around 3100 bc, and gradually
replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language until it went extinct around
2000 bc, but continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and
scientific language in Mesopotamia nearly to the time of Christ. What
'social processes' would result in the similarity between Sumerian and
Akkadian words other than linguistic borrowing? (Other than supernatural
confluence, which I imagine may be possible, but I don't think you're
talking about that.)

> > Lastly, upon further consideration, I suggest that Sumerian, along
> > with Hebrew, was a main inspiration for the wordshapes of Khuzdul.
>
> Hebrew, yes, but Sumerian? Again, that's pure speculation,
> isn't it? <<

Did you browse through the Sumerian Dictionary I linked to? Entering
'stone' into the electronic edition (the entry box is hidden at the
bottom of the page) brings up a whole page of words that look
surficially like Khuzdul to me. Though most Sumerian and Khuzdul
words are short, even the longer Sumerian words look similar to the
long Khuzdul names. I find it interesting to compare the Sumerian
headwords to the Akkadian equivalents (borrowings) that some entries
have. The Sumerian words are more consise than Akkadian (for example
Sumerian  'wood' versus Akkadian ) -- just like
Khuzdul versus Valarin.

> > And the corpus isn't nearly large enough to overcome pure
> > coincidence in word similarities, is it? If we're allowing that
> > kind of margin of error, one could probably make many different,
> > equivalent, cases (maybe with native Amerindian languages or for
> > African tribal tongues).<<

The Danian corpus is even smaller, yet it is clearly flavored by Old
English (and I do mean *clearly*). I wouldn't look for Amerindian or
African inspiration in the languages of the Westlands or of Rhun. If
Tolkien had written more about the New Lands or Harad, this is where I
would expect it. The Southron words  'north',  'spy', and
 'elephant' are likely from (or transmitted via, in the
case of 'elephant') a North African-style culture rather from a
Sub-Saharan African-style culture. The only Native American elements I
can think of in the legendarium are the snow-houses of the Snowmen (like
Inuit igloos) and some American Indian flavor in the Woses.

> I'm just not convinced.

I don't aim to convince you. I may have to agree to disagree since my
conception of proof seems to be different than yours. Also, I admit that
my ideas are fallable and may change if more comes to light, and so I'm
glad for the opportunity to give them a workout.

Travis



[elfling ID#34504]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Axe']
« Last Edit: October 17, 2007, 05:00:00 PM by Travis Henry »
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Helge Klåre Fauskanger

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #28 on: February 13, 2013, 05:00:00 PM »

There was a question about the Sindarin word for 'read'.

We don't seem to have an attested verb. The cognate of Quenya _henta-_
would be either *_henna-_, *_henha-_ or *_hentha-_, depending on which
version of the diachronic phonology you want to use. I would prefer
*_henna-_.

We do have some late examples where Tolkien wants earlier _nt_ to yield
Sindarin _nh_ (unvoiced n), so that the cognate of Quenya _anta-_ 'give'
becomes _anha-_ (pe17:93). But this contradicts a statement in Appendix
e to the effect that the sound _nh_ was exceedingly rare in the
languages written in Tengwar (so that the letter theoretically
representing _nh_ was actually used for other sounds). Tolkien had
apparently forgotten this when he tried to revise the phonology in a way
that would make _nh_ a fairly common sound in Sindarin.

It's apparently a 'Problem of Ros': the proposed revision is
invalid because it contradicts statements appearing in
already-published material.

- Hkf



[elfling ID#36497]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Read']
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 05:00:00 PM by Helge Klåre Fauskanger »
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Aida Djikic

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[s] Sindarin for 'Axe'
« Reply #29 on: February 17, 2013, 05:00:00 PM »

Thank you, Helge. It's been a while since I last read any of my
languages materials, and I wasn't at all sure how to go about potential
reconstructions. I've been working in a library for a couple of years,
and I wanted to find words connected to books, reading and readers.

Helge Klåre Fauskanger wrote:
>
> There was a question about the Sindarin word for 'read'.
>
> We don't seem to have an attested verb. The cognate of Quenya
> _henta-_ would be either *_henna-_, *_henha-_ or *_hentha-_, depending
> on which version of the diachronic phonology you want to use. I would
> prefer *_henna-_.
>
> We do have some late examples where Tolkien wants earlier _nt_ to
> yield Sindarin _nh_ (unvoiced n), so that the cognate of Quenya
> _anta-_ 'give' becomes _anha-_ (pe17:93). But this contradicts a
> statement in Appendix e to the effect that the sound _nh_ was
> exceedingly rare in the languages written in Tengwar (so that the
> letter theoretically representing _nh_ was actually used for other
> sounds). Tolkien had apparently forgotten this when he tried to revise
> the phonology in a way that would make _nh_ a fairly common sound in
> Sindarin.
>
It's apparently a 'Problem of Ros': the proposed revision is
invalid because it contradicts statements appearing in
already-published material.
>
> - Hkf
>



[elfling ID#36510]
[original subject:  Sindarin for 'Read']
« Last Edit: February 17, 2013, 05:00:00 PM by Aida Djikic »
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