Post YsZP82rYaPs

Paul Strack Nov 18, 2017 (05:51)

This is a bit of a speculative post. Amazon recently announced a deal with the Tolkien estate for a Middle Earth TV series. Who knows how long it will be in production, but this may mean that in 2 or 3 years we may have an popular media presentation of the Elvish languages and a spike in interest in Quenya and Sindarin along the lines of what happened with a Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies.

Assuming that all happens, what kinds of preparations could we make in the next couple of years to make Elvish more accessible to new potential fans? Dictionaries, grammars, video lessons, social media forums? What kind of things did you most miss when you started studying these languages?

Александр Запрягаев Nov 18, 2017 (08:38)

What I want to make is a comparative grammar, Sihler's style. The thing that I most drastically miss is a guide for more intricate grammar and syntax.
By the way, shouldn't we try and get employed at Amazon as linguistic consultants?

Severin Zahler Nov 18, 2017 (14:09)

Well, quite obviously the biggest problem is that there is no clear "what is right and what is wrong" when it comes to grammar, and also vocabulary. By now we have good guides to learn Sindarin or Quenya, but none can (and ofc also should not) live without the constant reminders of "this is the opinion of the author only"... Ofc we cannot change that really, but the thought I am playing with right now is that we might attempt gathering the most active and knowledgeable elvish students and discuss the many grammar aspects where there is multiple options to choose from and eventually agree on one, so that we can find a version of the languages that a majority of persons can agree and stick with. Then teaching this version of the languages would still not be 'officially right' but at least it would be beyond "this is the opinion of the author only"

Robert Reynolds Nov 18, 2017 (14:57)

The most prominent obstacle that I encountered when first learning Quenya was the initial linguistics learning curve. I, like most potential fans I think, had no linguistics background and this meant that I had to teach myself quite a bit before I could even begin to parse primary philological sources like PE and VT. I'm very academically minded and actually appreciated that process but most persons likely won't have sufficient time or interest in general linguistics or indeed for going through such dense material as those journals which, in turn, seemed necessary merely to acquire certain fundamentals. In other words, many of us here are interested in studying Elvish from linguistic/academic perspectives; many potential fans will likely be interested in studying Elvish to pick it up as a secondary or tertiary or quaternary language and leave the academic analysis to folks like us.

Therefore we could endeavor to produce teaching materials, preferably several with each oriented toward different learning styles and objectives, that give up-to-date, relatively comprehensive instruction aimed at acquiring rather than studying the languages while still taking them seriously (i.e. sticking to real Elvish/Neo-Elvish, authoritative/knowledgeable authorship, etcetera).

That may be challenging given Tolkien's and his languages' natures but should be possible: Helge Fauskanger's Quenya course was excellent for me in that regard. He started from basic concepts, assuming little to no specific linguistic knowledge, and yet built up to advanced topics. He taught not merely "what" but "why" and "how"; this immeasurably helped me with my thinking style to more deeply understand and retain the material. His verbosity and dry sense of humor clicked well with my own corresponding traits (cf. this reply). The main challenge that I had with it was that once I'd completed a preliminary pass through it, whenever I tried making my own translations and compositions I found many gaps in my knowledge: I could say much in English that I didn't know how to properly say in Quenya.

That was the primary factor in my needing to delve into heavy linguistic material for up-to-date, comprehensive info on (particularly) verbal forms and derivatives, formation of compounds, and (recently) numbers. Once within that realm, it was difficult to fit particular ideas of Tolkien's into context: without having studied most of his primary linguistic material, it's hard to distinguish between passing thoughts that never took hold and ideas that he later changed and ideas that were "final" insofar as that concept makes sense regarding Tolkien. I've been enjoying that linguistic journey and continue to (just received VT41-50 yesterday) and have begun delving deeper into Quenya evolution and phonology. Many potential Elvish fans may not go so far and we should try to cater to them as well as persons like us.

Paul Strack Nov 18, 2017 (17:39)

I must admit I am somewhat surprised that the first couple of responses called for new grammars. I tried not to put my opinions in the original post because I did not want to bias replies too much, but I thought that existing course materials (Helge's, Thorten's and Fiona's) mostly address grammatical issues, at least as far as they can given the inconsistencies in the source material. Maybe there is an unmet need here that I was not aware of.

It could be my own biases speaking, but I feel like the biggest unmet need in both Sindarin and Quenya is a lack of a consistent vocabulary. That was my original motive on working on Eldamo: to collect all the available data to produce an internally consistent set of definitions across the major languages. As much as I like Helge's Quettaparma Quenyallo, it jumbles words together across various periods without a lot of distinctions between them. I think Didier Willis's Sindarin Dictionary does better in this regard, but it is getting pretty dated.

What's missing from the existing from the existing grammars that needs to be addressed? What kind of work would we need to do to improve the available vocabulary, maybe even have working dictionaries?

Robert Reynolds Nov 18, 2017 (18:29)

+Paul Strack​ I agree that internally consistent, centralized vocabulary resources are invaluable. From my perspective, Eldamo does an excellent job for attested vocab; I think that something analogous for neologisms could help many potential fans considerably. When I first started translating/composing, whenever I couldn't figure out how to say something using Eldamo or other attested vocab compendiums, I had to resort to searching Helge's New Testament translations and a few other scattered resources that I trusted well enough; general googling resulted in myriad, often conflicting results with different levels of updatedness and differing interpretations. A proposal analogous to +Severin Zahler​'s regarding "authoritative" (insofar as that makes sense) consistent centralized vocab seems worth considering.

Also, something like "extended" or "neo-"glosses could help at times. For example, if one searches 'many' as a gloss in Q in Eldamo one gets a prefix and suffix based on √LI but not rimba as its attested glosses say 'numerous' though it seems likely usable with this meaning, ᴹ√RIM is glossed 'large number', and the Early Quenya equivalent is glossed 'many'. A centralized resource of these interpretations may make attested vocab easier to find.

Regarding grammar, a recent example of mine was translating a past retrospective/pluperfect 'until torment had burned/consumed it' which I rendered tenna anquale náne urtiélas. This likely isn't the only interpretation of such a grammatical construct but I might not have known any without possessing PE22. An up-to-date centralized grammatical reference that puts essentially everything (including alternate potential approaches as applicable) in one place, like Eldamo is for vocab, could help. For me, tabular formats often effectively organize such data. Some analog of Eldamo's searching and filtering goes along the same lines.

Paul Strack Nov 19, 2017 (01:05)

Hmm. I get now what you are saying with grammar. I must admit I haven’t bothered much with the new verb tenses in PE22, but they could be very useful if we could wade through and eliminate the contradictory material.

Regarding vocabulary, there are a whole host of minor contradictions in the corpus. One example on my mind at the moment (since I was recently worked on PE21) is Q. hón “heart”. In the Etymologies this is derived from the root KHO-N, but Tolkien seems to have changed this root the KHOM, from which we also have the lovely Q. holmo “sincerely” (originally “from the center”).

The problem is that the root KHOM is not compatible with N. hûn “heart” (also from the Etymologies), since primitive final m would become v in Noldorin/Sindarin. There is also evidence of a possible reversion to primitive khōn in later writing (PE21/71, 77). It is unlikely we would have both Q. holmo “sincerely” and S. hûn “heart” in an internally consistent Elvish paradigm.

As much as I like holmo, I think it needs to be discarded because overall, S. hûn is probably a more important vocabulary word. The languages are littered with little linguistic puzzles like this, many of don’t have straightforward solutions.

Tamas Ferencz Nov 19, 2017 (09:44)

Speaking about a strong vocabulary: my opinion is that it is only achievable (barring the sudden discovery of a several thousand word strong secret dictionary notebook of Tolkien) is by reaching a critical mass of students/speakers who are willing to hang around places like this one and have conversations about everyday topics ranging from the weather to the film they saw the day before. Only that way can idioms cement themselves into usage, neologisms be picked up, spread and firmly incorporated into the vocabulary. I am a bit skeptical about it, 6 Jackson movies weren't able to lure enough people to Eldarin to get to that. Granted, we knew much less about Eldarin in the noughties.

Tamas Ferencz Nov 19, 2017 (10:03)

What I would like to do is send you guys (Paul, Aleksandr, Robert, Severin, Bjorn if you are willing of course) the 4 chapters of the Koirea Q grammar I am working on (it's a slow progress mainly because life keeps interfering) - to cast a critical eye on it, is it comprehensible, consistent, heading in the right direction etc. (Aleksandr I am sorry but this won't be the all-encompassing scientific analytical grammar you are after, it's meant to be an everyday grammar and reader. I would be really grateful if you would do this for me - that way, if it's complete rubbish, I can spare myself from writing further 15 chapters 😊

Robert Reynolds Nov 19, 2017 (12:26)

+Tamas Ferencz A agree that the quite limited number of Eldarin speakers is a great obstacle and that using the languages for a diverse array of subject matter is important for achieving a critical mass which is important for precisely the reasons that you state: having languages become living like non-constructed natural languages while remaining true to the principles on which they were constructed that made them attractive in the first place. I'm skeptical of the effects of this Amazon series too, in several ways. Noting the recent popularity of Star Trek and Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, perhaps we could investigate how widely Klingon, Dothraki, and High Valyrian are currently used.

I still feel optimistic, perhaps more with estel than amdir: I briefly described Q and the Eldarin language evolution tree to a friend last night and he exclaimed that Tolkien had been "insane"; I countered "or genius: he was rather successful" (referencing a saying "madness and genius are separated only by degree of success"). Tolkien and his works seem to be in a different category in certain respects, and even many people who aren't diehard Tolkien fans seem to feel it.

Robert Reynolds Nov 19, 2017 (12:29)

+Tamas Ferencz​ I would be glad to look closely at (kenda) your work. Unless it's somehow actually complete rubbish, though, I probably won't let you off the hook for writing the rest 😉

Paul Strack Nov 19, 2017 (13:52)

+Tamas Ferencz I’d also be happy to look at your Quenya grammar.

Regarding Jackson’s movies, I agree that it was a golden moment in the interest in Elvish, and may not be reproducible. However, I think PE17 was transformational in our knowledge of the later forms of Elvish and the fact that it was published after the first three movies was unfortunate.

I’ve stumbled across a number of rather depressing messages on various forums where people express an interest in learning Elvish only to be told “No, sorry, that’s impossible, because Elvish was never finished.” I wonder how many casual fans are being turned away because of this incompleteness, and what we might to do to cater to such beginners.

Lokyt L. Nov 19, 2017 (18:55)

One more opinion. I hope no one will stone me for this ;)
But I don't think at all that the main obstacle in furthering and deepening our knowledge of Tolkien's languages is the "lack of agreement" (or the "lack of personnel"). I think it's the lack of sources.
I mean: Maybe I'm missing something, but how can we move forward from just processing Tolkien's own, explicitly stated data, when we haven't even collected it yet? A considerable part of the primary sources are still not available for use (how much of the collection in Bodleian has been published in extenso so far? two thirds? less? and Bodleian is not all there is)...
I know off course that many actually are trying to "fill the gaps" already (and have been trying since decades). But in my opinion it's still somewhat premature - we can't be positively sure if "gaps" really are gaps, we can't be sure that our fan-made creations won't get proven wrong in the near future by newly surfaced original materials.

So - could we do something about THIS before the theoretically expected wave of interest arrives?
And to turn the question the other way around, couldn't the possible future rise of Tolkien's popularity actually help to achieve a better accessibility of Tolkien's unpublished or incompletely published materials?

Robert Reynolds Nov 19, 2017 (19:01)

+Lokyt L. It would seem that you're safe... at least until more sources are published 🤔

Paul Strack Nov 19, 2017 (22:20)

+Lokyt L. I don’t think anyone in this group has any influence over the publication rate of new Elvish material. Based on some conversations at the last Omientielva, I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of the existing material remains unpublished. It could easily be another 20 years before everything is available. It’s also possible that some things will never be published.

For introducing new fans, perfection may not matter, especially since true perfection is essentially impossible. The publication of new material could easily make things worse rather than better, since there is no guarantee that the new material will be consistent with what is already published.

Assuming we are want to get new people into the study of these languages, we may not have the luxury of waiting.

Rick Spell Nov 20, 2017 (03:49)

+Tamas Ferencz +Robert Reynolds As a non-linguist fan, I would be very interested in seeing Tamas's grammar. Perhaps I could give some input as to how non-linguists would see it. I hope there is a greater interest in the languages because of the TV shows, and hope they will be accurate and true to Tolkien's story.

Rick Spell Nov 20, 2017 (03:58)

I am an audio-visual learner, so spoken dictionary entries would be helpful. I have found some audio around the web, but not enough for a good Quenya course. Of course, that will be difficult, since the only native Quenya/Sindarin etc speaker didn't leave much audio to help.

Tamas Ferencz Nov 20, 2017 (10:07)

Thanks, guys. Paul, Robert, Rick, I will send you a link to the text in a private message.

Александр Запрягаев Nov 20, 2017 (10:48)

+Tamas Ferencz I will also accept. Ando hopefully not get too depressed over my procrastination and lack of time stopping me from major contributions recently :D

Leonard W. Nov 22, 2017 (10:27)

I will continue to improve on Parf Edhellen ( and find new, exciting ways to study attested phrases and vocabulary. I also hope that the community will grow, and things like quality neologisms will enrich the dictionary.

But I would agree that we need something like Thorsten Renk's courses, but updated with the new things we have discovered in post-PE17 material. Thorsten's courses are great in the sense that they make things accessible for those who do not even know how to distinguish a verb from a noun. In fact, you would learn a lot about grammar just reading his course material!

Ицхак Пензев Nov 22, 2017 (13:09)

+Tamas Ferencz​ I'd love to see your grammar materials too.

Leonard W. Nov 22, 2017 (22:34)

+Tamas Ferencz With the risk of being late to the party, so would I! I am not a linguist by trade, so I would perhaps be able to offer a layman’s perspective on it.

Tamas Ferencz Nov 22, 2017 (22:36)

+Leonard W. I am not a linguist either, so it's a layman writing for laymen

Leonard W. Nov 22, 2017 (22:42)

+Tamas Ferencz Ah, I see. Then I must be honest and say that I doubt that I would be able to contribute with much else, though you have have certainly teased my curiosity! I look forward to seeing the complete grammar, when (and hopefully if!) you decide to publish it online.

Fiona Jallings Dec 09, 2017 (09:55)

It's 1 AM, and this is something that I've been puzzling over ever since the announcement. Whether the TV series is good or not, we're going to get a LOT more attention. I started my interactive Sindarin lessons when the fandom was starting to wain, and still, I was getting 60+ applicants per a semester. So, for me, much of the preparation for this series is getting ready for a sudden boom in traffic.

But, more on the topic at hand:

1. We need more (good!) material accessible to laymen, in more languages than just English. We need people to do the difficult work of translating material so that the discourse on the languages isn't so trapped in English. So, this means that we have to think along the lines of how casual fans will engage with the languages.

2. Reference grammars need to catch up with the latest publications. A lot of the sources that I was going through for the research for my book have gotten really moldy. I've got my up-to-date Neo-Sindarin reference grammar (A Fan's Guide to Neo-Sindarin), but there needs to be at least one for Neo-Quenya too, as several people pointed out - all of the readily available textbooks/courses are pretty outdated at this point.

2a. There needs to be a published in book form, fully edited and annotated Neo-Quenya reference grammar. I can help publish, edit, or co-author a textbook for Neo-Quenya if need be - reach out in PM if you're interested. Interest in the scholarship is going to rise, so we need to make that scholarship more accessible.

3. I agree on the need for a more easily-updated, better filtered online dictionary or app for Neo-Elvish vocabulary. It will need a jury to accept/reject suggestions.

4. We need to get linguistic journals like I Lam Arth going again, so that our scholarship isn't so hidden away from the rest of the internet. This will also encourage in-depth articles on specific topics, something that I haven't seen much of lately.

5. We also need to gather and distribute links to each other's websites, so when a newbie stumbles on one corner of our community, they can quickly find their way to the scholar they need.

6. We need to have a way to archive our discussions here on Google+ in such a way that we can actually find them again, and reference them if need be.

7. We need some competent web-design. There's a lot of "GYAAAAAAH THE 90'S HAVE ATTACKED MY BROWSER AND NOW I CAN'T SEEEEE" in our websites. Most people will probably first find their way onto our websites via their phones. Speaking of vision-impairment - screen-readers work best with mobile-versions of websites. With the information organized and displayed better, people will be able to find what they need faster, and they'll continue to use our resources instead of some terrible Grelvish website that is really well-designed. So, we NEED competent web design. We really, REALLY do.

Leonard W. Dec 09, 2017 (15:56)

+Fiona Jallings Oh, but Fiona! Your points 3 and 7 fall perfectly within Parf Edhellen’s purpose and scope. I have spent the last six months intensively improving the website to that end.

It has a contribution system, both for words and phrases, as well as a means for reviewers (or a “jury” as you call it) to approve quality contributions. The jury consists today only of myself and Elaran, as interest has been scarce. It is as if everyone wants to do their own thing.

I encourage you to check it out again! A lot has happened since you last checked it out. I can also give you administrator privileges, if you would like to join the “jury”!

Fiona Jallings Dec 09, 2017 (19:15)

Yeah, I love your website! It's easy to use, modern... Yeah, I would love to be a reviewer of neo-elvish words. PM me and let's get this party started!

Paul Strack Dec 09, 2017 (19:33)

+Leonard W. I think Parf Edhellen, as a technology platform, does most of what we need to craft a coherent Quenya and Sindarin dictionaries. Before we can do so, though, I think we have a big “data quality” issue to solve first. In particular, we need to pare down Tolkien’s material to remove mutually inconsistent words.

To take a trivial example, we can’t have a language that uses both lá “yes” and lá “no”. It would be nonsensical. - Aldaleon

If you are going to build a set of internally consistent languages, you are going to need to reject some of Tolkien’s words as well as have an approval process for adding new words. Right now I am planning on focusing on this kind of analysis as the “next phase” of Eldamo once I finish the basic data entry, though I think I probably need to finish the phonetic analysis of Sindarin and Quenya first.

Leonard W. Dec 09, 2017 (20:05)

+Paul Strack I believe we can resolve the "data quality" by using a function I call "gloss groups". It is a logical grouping of glosses that administrators can assign to individual glosses. In that manner, we can qualify as well as disqualify words for consistency.

I would need curators for that, though, and a basic understanding of what is consistent, and what is inappropriate.

Paul Strack Dec 09, 2017 (22:33)

+Leonard W. Hmm. It is becoming clear to me that I don’t know enough about the internal workings of Parf Edhellen to make good suggestions. I don’t suppose you have a data model documented anywhere?

I wish I could offer to contribute more directly, but realistically, my work on Eldamo is going to consume at least a few more years of my time. I really like to see other efforts in this arena, though, and is a lovely site.

Leonard W. Dec 10, 2017 (11:20)

+Paul Strack Thank you! :) I unfortunately have not made a data model for the latest version of Parf Edhellen. Documentation has admittedly lagged behind as I have been heavily refactoring the source code.

I will put something together, and publish it to Github. It should be available in a few days, I believe.

Leonard W. Dec 11, 2017 (16:19)

+Paul Strack I have uploaded a data model diagram available on Github now: - Parf-Edhellen

Paul Strack Dec 19, 2017 (03:51)

+Leonard W. I apologize for the slow response. I look over your model and I agree that the gloss groups will cover a lot of the cases for words with contradictory definitions. There are another set of cases, though, where there are synonyms that are unlikely to coexist an any internally consistent Elvish language, such as the various words for “daughter”. If you want to produce a curated dictionary, you might want to consider those as well.

Lúthien Merilin Dec 27, 2017 (12:09)

I should get back to work on the dictionary as well. I haven’t done anything since the Omentielva last summer an there’s a list of recommendations waiting.

Sigh, it’s either running at breakneck speed, or standing still, it seems ...

Fiona Jallings Dec 27, 2017 (20:11)

Agreed... Sometimes looking at all of the work I have to do I get overwhelmed and freeze up. Like I am right now.