COTW: Appendix E: Writing and Spelling

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Count Menelvagor

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Aug 16, 2005, 11:04:04 PM8/16/05
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I’m not big on synopses at the best of times; anyone interested
enough in Tolkien to read this thread will have already read the books,
while those not interested in reading the book certainly won’t bother
to read a summary of it – let alone a summary of details about
made-up languages occurring in it. They will instead, quite properly,
limit themselves at best to amusing themselves with way kewl ackshun
figgers. So I’m going to keep the strictly “summary” parts of
this thing fairly short. (In places, my capitalisation is
inconsistent, out of pure laziness.)
Appendix E has two parts: Part I covers pronunciation, and Part II
writing.

After a brief note that Westron names are to be pronounced as English
(because they *are* English), Tolkien turns in Part I to describing the
pronunciation of elvish words (with a few notes on other languages).
Aesthetics plays at least as strong a role n the transcription as
phonetic accuracy; Tolkien aims at avoiding any spellings that look
“uncouth” to English-speakers. (To say this aesthetic element is
not an overriding concern for most current linguists wd scarcely
overstate the case.) Quenya orthography has been approximated to
Latin, with exceptions such as the use of w (distinct from v), and y
instead of i/j. Sindarin orthography is closest to Welsh, but with
several exceptions: lh instead of ll for the weird lateral fricative
found in Welsh Llanfair and the like; dh (probably from Nance’s
Unified Cornish Orthography (and interestingly, I read somewhere – I
think in Unfinished Tales – that Tolkien was afraid dh was too
“uncouth”); v for Welsh f except at the end of words (lh and v are
found in earlier stages of Welsh, however).

The guide to pronunciation is, naturally, largely geared towards
English-speakers; but there are also references to German. A number of
fine linguistic points are unclear: are c, p, and t aspirated or
unaspirated (compare “top” with “stop” or “pot” with
“spot”)? Is t a dental or alveolar? Probably, though, the average
reader doesn’t care about such minutiae. K is rather arbitrarily
employed for c in non-elvish languages, and vowels and diphthongs are
not discussed here at all, but relegated to a later note. The note on
consonants is also a bit misleading when it says that Sindarin changed
mb to mm/m “in all cases,” when in fact (well, not that it’s
really fact; but you know what I mean), it became b at the beginning of
words.

Despite these flaws, the guide to pronunciation aids the general reader
in using a decently correct pronunciation for names, and, as pointed
out in the COTW: Appendix D thread, it provides a sense of reality and
depth: middle-earth seems really to have existed (or still to exist),
and have possessed its own languages, cultures, etc. I always
regretted, as I’m sure others have, that Tolkien didn’t provide
more on languages, esp. grammar and vocabulary, and maybe a few handy
phrases. But probably space constraints, and possibly also the
unfinished state of the elvish tongues, made that impossible.

That said, the explanation of vowels and diphthongs is fairly clear (at
last to me), as is that of stress and accent. The reference to vowel
changes in Sindarin provides the sense of historical depth that Tolkien
was always at pains to convey. He also continues to show graphically
the “otherness” of non-elvish languages, through the use of the
circumflex in place of the acute for long vowels. A final, very brief
note sums up sounds found in non-elvish languages. I’m curious
whether readers without a smattering of linguistic lore make much of
anything out of, say, the characterisation of gh as a “back spirant,
related to g as dh is to d.”


Part II is devoted to writing: specifically to the tengwar
(“letters”) and cirth (“runes”). Besides adding to the depth
and realism of Tolkien’s representation of middle-earth, the scripts
greatly enhance its aesthetic appeal. They combine (and even improve
upon) the rationality of the Indic scripts with the look and feel of
early medieval handwriting. However, there are also a number of
confusing aspects to the way Tolkien writes about the scripts of
middle-earth.

The initial description and history of the two scripts is fairly clear:
Feanor invented the tengwar, in imitation of those of Rúmil; while the
Sindar invented the cirth for inscriptions, but later expanded them
under the influence of the tengwar, after the Noldorin exiles arrived
in Beleriand; the dwarves, orcs, and rohirrim all adapted the cirth to
their own languages. Following this general introduction to the
scripts, Tolkien gives the table of the tengwar, and explains its
arrangement and use. This is where things start getting weird.

Let me cite at length:

“This script was not in origin an ‘alphabet’, that is, a
haphazard series of letters, each with an independent value of its own,
recited in a traditional order that has no reference either to their
shapes or to their functions. It was, rather, a system of consonantal
signs, of similar shapes and style, which could be adapted at choice or
convenience to represent the consonants of languages observed (or
devised) by the Eldar. None of the letters had in itself a fixed
value; but certain relations between them were gradually recognized.”

In the first place, is the definition of alphabet correct? The
devanagari and related scripts do arrange letters according to
functions. The shapes may not be related to the functions, but I
don’t see the absence of that relation as a defining feature of
alphabets.

Secondly, it sounds as though the tengwar were devised independently of
any particular phonology or language. This is at variance with the way
scripts historically have originated, i.e., as ways of representing
specific languages. It’s also hard to understand how the relation
between the sign for voiced stop and that for voiceless stop could
precede any assignment of actual sounds to the letters. The
“gradually” is weird, too; how did elves communicate in writing
before the relations among the letters and their sounds was grasped?

Incidentally, most human scripts seem to start with some kind of
pictographs, which then are developed both through relations of ideas
and similarities in sound. The alphabet arises later (and very likely
only arose once, as I recall).

The main part of the system consists of 24 signs, grouped in four
témar or series. There are also 12 additional letters and a number of
tehtar or signs, including vowel signs (though vowels could also be
shown by additional letters). For the details of how the letters were
formed, and their values in elvish languages and the common speech, I
refer you to the appendix. Here, one does have to admire Tolkien’s
attention to detail, as well as the neatness with which such features
as voicedness and spiration are shown – although it seems odd that
the pronunciation in Quenya (the language for which the letters would
have been invented?) is squeezed into a note. The printers of my
edition seem to have problems, as there are numerous errors.

Notes on additional letters and tehtar follow, with the Quenya names
for letters coming at the end. These names give the reader a good
sense of the flavor of Quenya, and are very beautiful, though ŋwalme
gave the printers some trouble, and probably won’t come through here.

Tolkien goes on to describe the Cirth or runes. The table of runes, in
my edition at least, does not appear until a few pages into the
section, so that the reader does not know, at first glance, what
numbers Tolkien’s talking about. Unlike the feanorian letters, the
assignment of values was originally unsystematic. The later Angerthas
Daeron imitated the feanorian letters by showing phonetic relations
through certain regular variations in the signs, and added runes for
sounds not occurring in Sindarin. There’s no need to go into the
disgusting details, but it’s interesting that Sindarin once had a
special character for a nasal v or spirant nasal. The table
distinguishes fairy clearly between Sindarin and dwarvish
pronunciations. The changes introduced by the dwarves are interesting,
although sometimes they simply involve using different runes for the
same sound, and one isn’t sure why they bothered. Oddly, the vowels
in “butter” are very common in dwarvish, but don’t seem ever to
appear in transliterations of dwarvish – granted that we don’t have
much. (Dwarvish also possessed the glottal stop.)

Questions for discussion:

What effect do the details presented in this appendix have upon the
work as literature? I’ve suggested a few above: historical depth and
realism. It also goes along with one of Tolkien’s many narrative
voices: that of the scholar who transmits ancient records rather than
inventing them.

What effect does the whole pseudo-scholarly apparatus have on the work
as literature? How does it affect the reader’s appreciation of the
story /as/ a story? (Or does it?)

For those less familiar with languages, or rather with philology: did
this appendix make much sense to you when reading it?

How adept was Tolkien as a world-builder? How persuasive was he? If
he managed to instill “secondary belief” (see Tolkien’s essay on
fairy stories, in Tree and Leaf, which is also contained in The Tolkien
Reader), is it because the details are intrinsically plausible, or
because Tolkien’s treatment (in style, for example) of them persuades
the reader that they are plausible?

Prai Jei

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Aug 17, 2005, 4:17:42 PM8/17/05
to
Count Menelvagor (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
<1124247844....@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>:

> Sindarin orthography is closest to Welsh, but with
> several exceptions: lh instead of ll for the weird lateral fricative
> found in Welsh Llanfair and the like; dh (probably from Nance’s
> Unified Cornish Orthography (and interestingly, I read somewhere – I
> think in Unfinished Tales – that Tolkien was afraid dh was too
> “uncouth”); v for Welsh f except at the end of words (lh and v are
> found in earlier stages of Welsh, however).

The *sound* of the language is similar to Welsh too. (Similarly the sound of
Quenya was inspired by Finnish.) There's nothing weird about Welsh LL.
Klingon speakers will find the sound written /tlh/ to be very similar,
perfectly enunciable by humans also :) The /D/ sound is spelt DD in Welsh,
presumably Tolkien had considered that but it is of course liable to
misinterpretation by Saesneg^H^H^H^H^H^H^H non-Welshmen.

> I'm curious
> whether readers without a smattering of linguistic lore make much of
> anything out of, say, the characterisation of gh as a “back spirant,
> related to g as dh is to d.”

That was one of the sounds which I had already "discovered" for myself as a
kid - and incorporated into my own fantasy languages - long before
discovering Tolkien. So of course I "knew" the sound even if that rather
technical description went over my head at the time.

It is the "missing" sound from the Welsh mutation tables. While B mutates to
F - pronounced V - and D mutates to DD - pronounced as indicated above, the
letter G which ought to mutate to the GH sound, drops out instead. "Gardd"
- "yr ardd" not "y ghardd". (So what about Pen-y-Ghent in Cumbria? How do
locals pronounce the GH? As a hard G most likely.) I would suppose that GH
did once exist in old Welsh but was considered a difficult sound so that it
dropped out of the pronunciation, and eventually dropped out of the
orthography too.

> sense of the flavor of Quenya, and are very beautiful, though ŋwalme
> gave the printers some trouble, and probably won’t come through here.

My copy says ngwalme. Again, initial NG gives no trouble to Welsh speakers,
it arises from the "nasal" mutation of initial C or G.

> What effect does the whole pseudo-scholarly apparatus have on the work
> as literature? How does it affect the reader’s appreciation of the
> story /as/ a story? (Or does it?)

Thinking of how genuine examples look, I feel that it sets the story very
much in a context, a product of its time.

Good fictional pseudo-scholarship like this is rare. Tolkien of course
parodies the technique in Farmer Giles of Ham. Outside Tolkien, the only
decent example I can think of is Clifford D. Simak's "City". If you have
not encountered this book before, but you do come across a copy, try
reading the first couple of stories without reading the pseudo-scholarly
introductions and commentaries first. They won't make much sense. The
introductions and commentaries are essential for "setting the scene",
explaining what sort of world the discovered manuscript has come into.
--
A couple of questions. How do I stop the wires short-circuiting, and what's
this nylon washer for?

Interchange the alphabetic letter groups to reply

aelfwina

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Aug 17, 2005, 5:00:30 PM8/17/05
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"Count Menelvagor" <Menel...@mailandnews.com> wrote in message
news:1124247844....@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com

(snippage of a difficult and technical summary! Good job!)

Questions for discussion:

What effect do the details presented in this appendix have upon the
work as literature? I've suggested a few above: historical depth and
realism. It also goes along with one of Tolkien's many narrative
voices: that of the scholar who transmits ancient records rather than
inventing them.

Not merely depth and realism, but also helpful in sustaining and increasing
the "suspension of disbelief". One can get caught up enough to actually
wonder, "could it really be"? At least for brief moments in time.

What effect does the whole pseudo-scholarly apparatus have on the work
as literature? How does it affect the reader's appreciation of the
story /as/ a story? (Or does it?)

See above. And of course, "suspension of disbelief" is essential to
fiction, and even more so to *this* particular sort of fiction--set in a
wholely *other* sort of time and place than our mundane world.

For those less familiar with languages, or rather with philology: did
this appendix make much sense to you when reading it?

Not really; some of it did, but a good lot of it went over my head. I
remember the most important thing: In Elven languages, "C" was *not* "s" but
"k". The first time I read the book, I mispronounced half the names in my
head; that's *one* part of the appendices I wish I had seen *before* I read
the book. It was a bit disconcerting to realize that Galadriel's husband
was "Keleborn" and not "Seleborn", LOL! I felt almost embarassed, as though
I had actually mispronounced the words in conversation, LOL!

How adept was Tolkien as a world-builder? How persuasive was he? If
he managed to instill "secondary belief" (see Tolkien's essay on
fairy stories, in Tree and Leaf, which is also contained in The Tolkien
Reader), is it because the details are intrinsically plausible, or
because Tolkien's treatment (in style, for example) of them persuades
the reader that they are plausible?

It is both. The plausibility of the details make the belief go down very
easily, and not only their plausibility, but their very number. I have read
books where a few words in a language were invented; I have read books that
pretended to be "translations" of other lost sources; but I have never seen
any that used so much and and so many *different* aspects of world-building.
But no matter how plausible, if the characters had not been engaging and the
plot believable, no amount of "translations" and "genealogies" and
"languages" would have made them so. It is his skill in combining both
these things with a richness not found IMHO in any other piece of fiction,
that makes Middle-earth come alive.

Barbara


Kristian Damm Jensen

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Aug 17, 2005, 5:09:23 PM8/17/05
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Prai Jei wrote:

> Good fictional pseudo-scholarship like this is rare. Tolkien of course
> parodies the technique in Farmer Giles of Ham. Outside Tolkien, the
> only decent example I can think of is Clifford D. Simak's "City".

Isaac Asimov has a short-story "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated
Thiotimoline" written as a chemical research report. (And published just 3
month before he had to defend his Ph.D. in chemistry.)

Kristian

--
"Sex is more fun than logic. One cannot prove this, but it is, in the
same way that Mount Everest is and Alma Cogan isn't." The Album of the
Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy
Grail.

Count Menelvagor

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Aug 18, 2005, 10:05:14 PM8/18/05
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Prai Jei wrote:
> Count Menelvagor (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
> <1124247844....@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>:

> The *sound* of the language is similar to Welsh too. (Similarly the sound of


> Quenya was inspired by Finnish.) There's nothing weird about Welsh LL.
> Klingon speakers will find the sound written /tlh/ to be very similar,
> perfectly enunciable by humans also :) The /D/ sound is spelt DD in Welsh,
> presumably Tolkien had considered that but it is of course liable to
> misinterpretation by Saesneg^H^H^H^H^H^H^H non-Welshmen.

i think in some places he writes it with an ð (edh, anglo-saxon
symbol). (btw, i don't mean weird in a bad sense; more like cool and
unusual.)

> It is the "missing" sound from the Welsh mutation tables. While B mutates to
> F - pronounced V - and D mutates to DD - pronounced as indicated above, the
> letter G which ought to mutate to the GH sound, drops out instead. "Gardd"
> - "yr ardd" not "y ghardd". (So what about Pen-y-Ghent in Cumbria? How do
> locals pronounce the GH? As a hard G most likely.) I would suppose that GH
> did once exist in old Welsh but was considered a difficult sound so that it
> dropped out of the pronunciation, and eventually dropped out of the
> orthography too.

interestingly, in breton, g often becomes c'h (pronounced as
sindarin/welsh/german ch).

Count Menelvagor

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Aug 18, 2005, 10:12:35 PM8/18/05
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aelfwina wrote:
> "Count Menelvagor" <Menel...@mailandnews.com> wrote in message
> news:1124247844....@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com
> What effect do the details presented in this appendix have upon the
> work as literature? I've suggested a few above: historical depth and
> realism. It also goes along with one of Tolkien's many narrative
> voices: that of the scholar who transmits ancient records rather than
> inventing them.
>
> Not merely depth and realism, but also helpful in sustaining and increasing
> the "suspension of disbelief". One can get caught up enough to actually
> wonder, "could it really be"? At least for brief moments in time.

*nod* tolkien presents his fantasy as a history, subject to scholarly
enterprise, but also to doubts, uncertainties, and textual variations.
his fantasy is less a fantasy of the marvellous or supernatural than
fantasy as alternate history. (or rather, i think part of what's
happening at the end of the third age is the movement from lgegend to
history -- the Dominion of Men and all that. the narrator is presented
not as an inventor but a recorder who recuperates the past.

Count Menelvagor

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Aug 18, 2005, 11:01:22 PM8/18/05
to

Kristian Damm Jensen wrote:
> Prai Jei wrote:
>
> > Good fictional pseudo-scholarship like this is rare. Tolkien of course
> > parodies the technique in Farmer Giles of Ham. Outside Tolkien, the
> > only decent example I can think of is Clifford D. Simak's "City".
>
> Isaac Asimov has a short-story "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated
> Thiotimoline" written as a chemical research report. (And published just 3
> month before he had to defend his Ph.D. in chemistry.)

manzoni's promessi sposi claimed to be a corrected version of a
17th-century manuscript, and even begins with a pastiche of one. but
that's historical novel, not fantasy or SF.

Dirk Thierbach

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Sep 12, 2005, 10:56:24 AM9/12/05
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Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
> Count Menelvagor (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message

>> I'm curious whether readers without a smattering of linguistic lore


>> make much of anything out of, say, the characterisation of gh as a
>> "back spirant, related to g as dh is to d."

> That was one of the sounds which I had already "discovered" for myself as a
> kid - and incorporated into my own fantasy languages - long before
> discovering Tolkien.

Just out of curiosity: How did that happen? As a kid, I had no concept
of phonetics, and as I said in the other post, that actually came
through reading LotR. So as a kid, "inventing" a new sound would
have been completely beyond me, not speaking of using regularity of
other sounds as a guide. Having to learn "th" in school was hard
enough :-) (And of course they didn't tell us back then that it
is actually two different sounds, another thing I learned from Tolkien).

> Good fictional pseudo-scholarship like this is rare. Tolkien of course
> parodies the technique in Farmer Giles of Ham. Outside Tolkien, the only
> decent example I can think of is Clifford D. Simak's "City".

Hm. I'd have thought that fictional pseudo-scholarship (though not of
this depth, and not essential) was quite popular in SF at some time,
though I cannot come up with many examples out of my head. Dune?
Foundation? Any others?

- Dirk

Dirk Thierbach

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Sep 12, 2005, 10:50:01 AM9/12/05
to
Sorry for the late contribution; I'm still catching up with articles.

Count Menelvagor <Menel...@mailandnews.com> wrote:
> The guide to pronunciation is, naturally, largely geared towards
> English-speakers; but there are also references to German.

BTW, the part on pronounciation is missing from the first German
translation. I also had a lot of problems with Tolkien's transcriptions
in Appendix E back when I did not know English well enough. Especially
when he used "ch" to denote both English "ch" (as in church) and
German "ch" (as in "Bach") in the description of the Tengwar.
And it doesn't help that German "ch" can acutally denote two different
sounds (also one as in "ich").

> A number of fine linguistic points are unclear: are c, p, and t
> aspirated or unaspirated

Since the tengwar with "extended" stems represent aspirated
consonants, my guess would be that they are not aspirated. It's
difficult to pronounce for me, anyway, because in spoken German
initial consonants are often aspirated, especially when the word
is stressed, so I really have to pay close attention to be sure to
make the distinction :-)

> Is t a dental or alveolar?

Again, the tengwa is in the dental series, so why should it be
alveolar?

> That said, the explanation of vowels and diphthongs is fairly clear (at
> last to me), as is that of stress and accent.

And again, hard to get used to (at least for me), because I just
cannot get it into my head that long or short consonants do make
a difference in stress. Besides that, the stress rule is easy, because
it's very similar to the latin stress rule.

> I'm curious whether readers without a smattering of linguistic lore
> make much of anything out of, say, the characterisation of gh as a
> "back spirant, related to g as dh is to d."

That's again one of the points that confused me for quite a long time.
After I figured out the principles, it seems logical, but I am still
not sure that I pronounce gh correctly (I do a voiced "ch", i.e. /x/).

> Part II is devoted to writing: specifically to the tengwar
> ("letters") and cirth ("runes").

Actually, when reading LotR as a child, this part was very interesting,
because it helped me to figure out the various places where tengwar
and cirth are used. And, like many other people, I made up my
own Tengwar mode for German :-)

> "This script was not in origin an 'alphabet', that is, a
> haphazard series of letters, each with an independent value of its own,
> recited in a traditional order that has no reference either to their
> shapes or to their functions. It was, rather, a system of consonantal
> signs, of similar shapes and style, which could be adapted at choice or
> convenience to represent the consonants of languages observed (or
> devised) by the Eldar.

I found this idea always very elegant.

> In the first place, is the definition of alphabet correct? The
> devanagari and related scripts do arrange letters according to
> functions.

I don't know anything about this. Could you elaborate?

> Secondly, it sounds as though the tengwar were devised independently of
> any particular phonology or language. This is at variance with the way
> scripts historically have originated, i.e., as ways of representing
> specific languages.

Yes, but it's probably not at variance with the way Tolkien might
have invented the Tengwar. He knew the phonetical principles,
and the first 24 tengwar are quite regular. So he may have first
come up with this system, and then he may have tried to use it
to express consonants.

And then, he has possibly transferred the external history to internal
history.

> Here, one does have to admire Tolkien's attention to detail, as well
> as the neatness with which such features as voicedness and spiration
> are shown

And that was also what started my interest in phonetics, BTW.

> Notes on additional letters and tehtar follow,

I've always regretted that the system of tehtar is not as nice and
regular as the system for consonants, and there are just not enough
tehtar to express all vowels.

- Dirk

Dirk Thierbach

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Sep 12, 2005, 11:05:34 AM9/12/05
to

[I tried to add some quote marks, which seem to have been lost, but it
may still be wrong in places]

>> What effect do the details presented in this appendix have upon the
>> work as literature? I've suggested a few above: historical depth and
>> realism. It also goes along with one of Tolkien's many narrative
>> voices: that of the scholar who transmits ancient records rather than
>> inventing them.

> Not merely depth and realism, but also helpful in sustaining and
> increasing the "suspension of disbelief".

Did you really think the appendices are helpful in this respect? At
least for, they are pretty neutral in this respect. But they are very
helpful for the "I want to know more details about this alternate
reality" urge that seems to be shared by many SF/F readers :-)

But IMHO that doesn't effect the work as literature.

>> For those less familiar with languages, or rather with philology: did
>> this appendix make much sense to you when reading it?

> Not really; some of it did, but a good lot of it went over my
> head. I remember the most important thing: In Elven languages, "C"
> was *not* "s" but "k".

I made the same mistake, with the difference that the usual pronounciation
of "c" before "light" vowels is "ts" in German.

> It is both. The plausibility of the details make the belief go down very
> easily, and not only their plausibility, but their very number. I have read
> books where a few words in a language were invented; I have read books that
> pretended to be "translations" of other lost sources;

I found Umberto Eco's /Name of the Rose/ very interesting in this
respect.

- Dirk

Prai Jei

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Sep 12, 2005, 4:46:19 PM9/12/05
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Dirk Thierbach (ul udilshu seda voni mon) saleda sus em nivosha
<20050912145624...@dthierbach.news.arcor.de>:

> Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
>> Count Menelvagor (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in
>> message
>
>>> I'm curious whether readers without a smattering of linguistic lore
>>> make much of anything out of, say, the characterisation of gh as a
>>> "back spirant, related to g as dh is to d."
>
>> That was one of the sounds which I had already "discovered" for myself as
>> a kid - and incorporated into my own fantasy languages - long before
>> discovering Tolkien.
>
> Just out of curiosity: How did that happen? As a kid, I had no concept
> of phonetics, and as I said in the other post, that actually came
> through reading LotR. So as a kid, "inventing" a new sound would
> have been completely beyond me, not speaking of using regularity of
> other sounds as a guide. Having to learn "th" in school was hard
> enough :-) (And of course they didn't tell us back then that it
> is actually two different sounds, another thing I learned from Tolkien).

The difference in the TH's was particularly apparent for a Welshman since
the voiced version is spelt DD in Welsh. (Welsh TH is always the unvoiced
sound.)

But I had been playing with fantasy languages long before discovering
Tolkien. It just came naturally to me, being the sort of (slightly)
introverted child prodigy that I was :) Look at the top line of this post.
You would have seen the English version of this header previously - here it
is in Hallon, my principal fantasy language.

Having come across the Welsh CH sound, somehow I *knew* that there ought to
be a voiced version of it.
Then I thought, "No, a voiced version of CH is impossible."
Then I thought, "No, a voiced version of CH doesn't currently exist, let's
try to create one."
And with a bit of practice, because I knew what I was aiming for, the sound
came.

And then later, when studying Welsh properly in secondary school, they
presented the table of mutations in a systematic way, and I noticed that
the soft mutation of G, where my "new" sound ought to have appeared, was in
fact to drop the G out without making any attempt to enunciate my GH.
Chicken! *I* managed it, why can't anybody else try?

So I was delighted to find the sound alive and well in Tolkien. I at least
could say "agh burzum-ishi krimpatúl" correctly, even if my fellow Welshmen
couldn't.
--
There are very few spiders found on bananas that bite.

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Sep 13, 2005, 2:06:33 AM9/13/05
to
Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
> Dirk Thierbach (ul udilshu seda voni mon) saleda sus em nivosha

Looks nice.

> Having come across the Welsh CH sound, somehow I *knew* that there ought to
> be a voiced version of it.

Ah. So you knew about the concept of voiced vs. voiceless before?

- Dirk

JimboCat

unread,
Sep 13, 2005, 11:41:39 AM9/13/05
to

Dirk Thierbach wrote:

> Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
> > Good fictional pseudo-scholarship like this is rare. Tolkien of course
> > parodies the technique in Farmer Giles of Ham. Outside Tolkien, the only
> > decent example I can think of is Clifford D. Simak's "City".
>
> Hm. I'd have thought that fictional pseudo-scholarship (though not of
> this depth, and not essential) was quite popular in SF at some time,
> though I cannot come up with many examples out of my head. Dune?
> Foundation? Any others?

I'm sure you're right and there are many others. Keith Laumer's Retief
stories come to mind: many of them begin with a quote from the "Annals
of the CDT" extolling the professionalism and heroic competence of the
Terran Diplomatic Corps... and then the story goes on to let you know
what *really* happened.

There is certainly more than one author who has used the "Encyclopaedia
Galactica" notion. Asimov probably originated it, and of course Douglas
Adams spoofed it in his Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy series (where
the fictional pseudo-scholarship was very pseudo indeed). I think you
are right about Dune being another...

Jim Deutch (JimboCat)
--
"The World Trade Center towers MUST rise again,
at least as tall as before...or terror has triumphed."
-- Louis Epstein
"Barad-dûr MUST rise again, at least as tall as
before...or Frodo has triumphed."
-- Flame of the West
"New Orleans MUST be flooded again, at least as deep
as before...or Katrina has triumphed."
-- JimboCat

Prai Jei

unread,
Sep 13, 2005, 4:24:27 PM9/13/05
to
Dirk Thierbach (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
<2005091306063...@dthierbach.news.arcor.de>:

> Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
>> Dirk Thierbach (ul udilshu seda voni mon) saleda sus em nivosha
>
> Looks nice.

ul = or
udilshu = "other-who" = somebody else
seda = with
voni = same
mon = name (cf. monicker)
saleda = write
sus = like this, so, thus
em = in
nivosha = message

Check out the website: http://www.geocities.com/paulvstownsend/hallon

The Ring-verse is available in many languages, real and constructed (the
latter including Hallon) at http://www.ring-verses.w.pl

>> Having come across the Welsh CH sound, somehow I *knew* that there ought
>> to be a voiced version of it.
>
> Ah. So you knew about the concept of voiced vs. voiceless before?

I *had* discovered it for myself. I was merely restating it in the "proper"
jargon. I had called them "hard" and "soft" versions, but that turned out
to be wrong.

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Sep 13, 2005, 7:13:41 PM9/13/05
to
In message
<news:1124247844....@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com> "Count
Menelvagor" <Menel...@mailandnews.com> enriched us with:
>

<snip>

A short tecnical question for our language experts ...

My impression is that the pronunciation in the films is generally
quite good -- not perfect, perhaps, but quite good.

I don't recall the situation, but at some point someone needs to use
the khuzdul name for the Dwarves (one of the few Khuzdul words we
know), Khazad. The word is pronounced as beginning with the sound
that ends the German name Bach.

CH is only used to represent the sound heard in /bach/ (in
German or Welsh), not that in English /church/. Except at
the end of words and before /t/ this sound, was weakened
to /h/ in the speech of Gondor, and that change has been
recognized in a few names, such as /Rohan/, /Rohirrim/.
(/Imrahil/ is a Númenorean name.)
[...]
K is used in names drawn from other than Elvish languages,
with the same value as /c/; /kh/ thus represents the same
sound as /ch/ in Orkish /Grishnákh/, or Adûnaic
(Númenorean) /Adûnakhôr/. On Dwarvish (Khuzdul) see note
below.

This seems to prescribe a pronunciation of Khazad as that I
described, beginning with the German 'ch' (or Spanish 'J' as in
José), however, when we turn to the note referred to for Khuzdul, we
see:

NOTE
In names drawn from other languages than Eldarin the
same values for the letters are intended, where not
specially described above, except in the case of Dwarvish.
In Dwarvish, which did not possess the sounds represented
above by /th/ and /ch/(/kh/), /th/ and /kh/ are aspirates,
that is /t/ or /k/ followed by an /h/, more or less as in
backhand, outhouse.

As I read this, Khazad should be pronounced as Kazad with an
exaggerated aspiration of the /k/.

Given my generally positive impression of the pronunciation in the
films, this surprised me a bit -- did the other pronunciation sound
more 'Dwarvish' to the film-makers, do I read it wrong, or what
happened?

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

They both savoured the strange warm glow of being much
more ignorant than ordinary people, who were only ignorant
of ordinary things.
- Discworld scientists at work, /Equal Rites/ (Terry Pratchett)

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Sep 14, 2005, 2:06:26 AM9/14/05
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@thisisfake.invalid> wrote:
> I don't recall the situation, but at some point someone needs to use
> the khuzdul name for the Dwarves (one of the few Khuzdul words we
> know), Khazad. The word is pronounced as beginning with the sound
> that ends the German name Bach.

I didn't notice it. Maybe somebody else can remember the situation?

[entries for CH and K]


> This seems to prescribe a pronunciation of Khazad as that I
> described,

Apparently it's easy to fall into this trap, because I remember
believing that for a few weeks, too, until someone reminded me
of the note, you cite too.

[Note]


> As I read this, Khazad should be pronounced as Kazad with an
> exaggerated aspiration of the /k/.

Or just aspiration. Probably no need to exaggerate. But since the note
takes precedence over the other explanations, that's definitely the
way to pronounce it.

> Given my generally positive impression of the pronunciation in the
> films, this surprised me a bit -- did the other pronunciation sound
> more 'Dwarvish' to the film-makers, do I read it wrong, or what
> happened?

I don't know. If it really happened, my guess is that maybe someone
fell in the same trap, and nobody told him about the note :-)

- Dirk

Prai Jei

unread,
Sep 14, 2005, 2:19:27 PM9/14/05
to
Dirk Thierbach (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
<2005091406062...@dthierbach.news.arcor.de>:

> Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@thisisfake.invalid> wrote:
>> I don't recall the situation, but at some point someone needs to use
>> the khuzdul name for the Dwarves (one of the few Khuzdul words we
>> know), Khazad. The word is pronounced as beginning with the sound
>> that ends the German name Bach.
>
> I didn't notice it. Maybe somebody else can remember the situation?

In the *book* it comes in Book II chapter 7, "The Mirror of Galadriel", in
that lovely passage beginning "Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram", at which
Gimli marvelled at hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue.

I would pronounce the KH the same as Welsh/German CH, with no exaggeration
of the sound, because ISTR that K is used instead of C when transliterating
non-Elvish tongues.

Count Menelvagor

unread,
Sep 14, 2005, 5:55:40 PM9/14/05
to

Dirk Thierbach wrote:
> Sorry for the late contribution; I'm still catching up with articles.
>
> Count Menelvagor <Menel...@mailandnews.com> wrote:
> > The guide to pronunciation is, naturally, largely geared towards
> > English-speakers; but there are also references to German.

> > Is t a dental or alveolar?


>
> Again, the tengwa is in the dental series, so why should it be
> alveolar?

ah, that makes sense in retrospect; but not when the reader is reading
the guide to pronunciation for the first time. (note to non-linguists:
dentals are pronounced with the tongue against the back of the teeth,
as in french, italian, etc.; alveolars are pronounced with the tongue a
little behind the teeth, as in english.)

>
> > That said, the explanation of vowels and diphthongs is fairly clear (at
> > last to me), as is that of stress and accent.

hmm. i meant: "at least."


> > In the first place, is the definition of alphabet correct? The
> > devanagari and related scripts do arrange letters according to
> > functions.
>
> I don't know anything about this. Could you elaborate?

indian scripts (and the scripts of south-east asian languages that are
derived from indian scripts) are ordered according to phonetic
relations. i think the order is: velars (k, etc.), palatals (ch in
church, etc.), retroflex (tongue on roof of mouth), dentals, and
labials -- followed by sibilants and semivowels (including l and r).
i'm not sure where vowels go. within each of the 1st 5 series,
consonants are ordered as: voiceless, unaspirated; voiceless,
aspirated; voiced, unaspirated; voiced, aspirated; nasal. (i don't
actually know indian scripts, though; i just picked up this detail of
how they're organised.)

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Sep 15, 2005, 2:31:00 AM9/15/05
to
Count Menelvagor <Menel...@mailandnews.com> wrote:
> indian scripts (and the scripts of south-east asian languages that are
> derived from indian scripts) are ordered according to phonetic
> relations. i think the order is: velars (k, etc.), palatals (ch in
> church, etc.), retroflex (tongue on roof of mouth), dentals, and
> labials -- followed by sibilants and semivowels (including l and r).
> i'm not sure where vowels go. within each of the 1st 5 series,
> consonants are ordered as: voiceless, unaspirated; voiceless,
> aspirated; voiced, unaspirated; voiced, aspirated; nasal.

That looks somewhat similar to the way the Tengwar are organized. So
maybe Tolkien meant by "'alphabet', that is, a haphazard series of


letters, each with an independent value of its own, recited in a
traditional order that has no reference either to their shapes or to

their functions" only "most alphabets, to precise, those that work
in the way described".

BTW, I have ethiopian friends, and while I cannot neither speak nor
write amaric, I noticed that amaric letters are also somewhat
systematic in that they added a "squiggle" when a consonant changes by
adding a "spirant", as in going from the first two tengwar "grades" to
the second.

So whoever designed this script must have also thought about it in
advance, and must have known something about phonetics.

- Dirk


John W. Kennedy

unread,
Sep 15, 2005, 5:52:33 PM9/15/05
to

Hebrew and Arabic have similar features, but the alphabet (there is
really only one, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and all the others being
descended from West Semitic) remains essentially haphazard.

--
John W. Kennedy
"Never try to take over the international economy based on a radical
feminist agenda if you're not sure your leader isn't a transvestite."
-- David Misch: "She-Spies", "While You Were Out"

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Sep 16, 2005, 2:47:07 AM9/16/05
to
John W. Kennedy <jwk...@attglobal.net> wrote:
> Hebrew and Arabic have similar features, but the alphabet (there is
> really only one, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and all the others being
> descended from West Semitic) remains essentially haphazard.

But the ethiopian alphabet (amharic, not aramaeic (sp?)) is very distinct
from both the hebrew and the arabic alphabet, at least as far as I can tell.

And I don't argue that it is essentially haphazard, it was just that one
detail where it is regular (in several cases) that I wanted to point out :-)

- Dirk

Prai Jei

unread,
Sep 16, 2005, 2:11:08 PM9/16/05
to
John W. Kennedy (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
<H2mWe.6649$TA2....@fe09.lga>:

>> So whoever designed this script must have also thought about it in
>> advance, and must have known something about phonetics.
>
> Hebrew and Arabic have similar features, but the alphabet (there is
> really only one, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and all the others being
> descended from West Semitic) remains essentially haphazard.

If you arrange our own alphabet into essentially four columns, leaving gaps
(as Mendeleev did with his original table of the elements) to allow for
disused letters, and a minimum of other adjustments, you get this:
A B C D
E F GH
IJ K L
M N
O P Q RST
U VW X

We see the relics of what looks suspiciously like an "original" phonetic
system - vowels in the first column, parmatéma in the second, calmatéma in
the third, tincotéma in the fourth.

Any historical basis for this, or is it just me finding patterns where none
actually exist?

Jamie Andrews; real address @ bottom of message

unread,
Sep 16, 2005, 6:54:13 PM9/16/05
to
In rec.arts.books.tolkien Dirk Thierbach <dthie...@usenet.arcornews.de> wrote:
> BTW, I have ethiopian friends, and while I cannot neither speak nor
> write amaric, I noticed that amaric letters are also somewhat
> systematic in that they added a "squiggle" when a consonant changes by
> adding a "spirant", as in going from the first two tengwar "grades" to
> the second.

IIRC, the Ethiopian writing system is syllabic; i.e. each
letter denotes a consonant plus the following vowel. I had a
friend who grew up in Ethiopia and once sang me the Ethiopian
alphabet song, which goes on about 3 times longer than the
"A-B-C" song. :-)

--Jamie. (Celebrating (?) 20 years on Usenet!)
andrews .uwo } Merge these two lines to obtain my e-mail address.
@csd .ca } (Unsolicited "bulk" e-mail costs everyone.)

the softrat

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Sep 16, 2005, 9:11:39 PM9/16/05
to
On Fri, 16 Sep 2005 19:11:08 +0100, Prai Jei
<pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:

>Any historical basis for this, or is it just me finding patterns where none
>actually exist?

Yes and no. Your patterns do not match the historic patterns. See
_The_American_Heritage_Dictionary_ for historic patterns.

the softrat
Unless Barad-dur is rebuilt, twice as evil as before, Frodo has triumphed!
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--
The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the
cheese. -- Steven Wright

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Sep 16, 2005, 4:25:39 PM9/16/05
to
[Kept crossposting intact]

Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
> John W. Kennedy (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
> <H2mWe.6649$TA2....@fe09.lga>:

> If you arrange our own alphabet into essentially four columns, leaving gaps


> (as Mendeleev did with his original table of the elements) to allow for
> disused letters, and a minimum of other adjustments, you get this:
> A B C D
> E F GH
> IJ K L
> M N
> O P Q RST
> U VW X
>
> We see the relics of what looks suspiciously like an "original" phonetic
> system - vowels in the first column, parmatéma in the second, calmatéma in
> the third, tincotéma in the fourth.

> Any historical basis for this, or is it just me finding patterns where none
> actually exist?

I'd say its finding patterns where none exist. If one allows enough holes
and grouping, I guess one can fit every alphabet in such a scheme :-)

For example, J is definitely no vowel.

- Dirk

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Sep 17, 2005, 4:59:15 AM9/17/05
to
In message
<news:20050916202539...@dthierbach.news.arcor.de> Dirk
Thierbach <dthie...@usenet.arcornews.de> enriched us with:
>

<snip>

> For example, J is definitely no vowel.

That depends, I'd say ...

There was a time in Danish when I and J were used interchangingly --
'Johannes' could just as well be spelled 'Iohannes'. My oldest son's
name is Bjarke, but if an English-speaking person should understand the
pronunciation, I use 'Biarke' to explain it, so all in all it made
perfect sense for me to put 'I' and 'J' together (.

And of course the Spanish makes their 'J's match the German 'ch' in
Bach.

IIRC the German 'J' is also much softer than the English, so that
German 'Jahr' (year) would be easier for an English-speaking person to
understand the pronunciation of if spelled 'yahr' ...

Oh, and in Danish 'Y' is definitely a vowel ;-)

And there are some even stranger ways to pronounce the Latin letters
and some quite exotic extensions to our alphabet in various countries,
so I think we'd need to go as close to the original values of the
letters in Latin in order to have a basis for any system (in which case
we run into the "'C' = 'K' always" problem).

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.
- (Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!)

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Sep 17, 2005, 4:26:28 AM9/17/05
to
Jamie Andrews; real address @ bottom of message <m...@privacy.net> wrote:
> Dirk Thierbach <dthie...@usenet.arcornews.de> wrote:
>> BTW, I have ethiopian friends, and while I cannot neither speak nor
>> write amaric, I noticed that amaric letters are also somewhat
>> systematic in that they added a "squiggle" when a consonant changes by
>> adding a "spirant", as in going from the first two tengwar "grades" to
>> the second.

> IIRC, the Ethiopian writing system is syllabic; i.e. each
> letter denotes a consonant plus the following vowel.

Yes. But the following vowel is in most cases given by the position of
a "dot", so it's quite regular. Only in some cases this combination
has become a special letter.

> I had a friend who grew up in Ethiopia and once sang me the
> Ethiopian alphabet song, which goes on about 3 times longer than the
> "A-B-C" song. :-)

My Ethiopian friends had two small children, and when they learn the
alphabet by heart, they just learn the first "column" (with one vowel).

But even that column contains already 40 consonants or so (because
aspirated consonants are different from non-aspirated ones, for
example), including a "glottal stop" clicking sound (which is frequent
in African languages, AFAIK), which I cannot produce no matter how
hard I try :-)

OTOH, native Ethiopians have really trouble pronouncing the German
umlauts (esp. ue and oe), so we can get even on that.

- Dirk

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Sep 17, 2005, 5:45:36 AM9/17/05
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@thisisfake.invalid> wrote:
> Dirk Thierbach <dthie...@usenet.arcornews.de> enriched us with:

>> For example, J is definitely no vowel.

> That depends, I'd say ...

> There was a time in Danish when I and J were used interchangingly --

Yes, and originally I and J were the same letter. Nevertheless,
phonetically, there's the vowel I and several consonants and one
half-consonant one can attach to the letter J. In the same way, U and
V were once the same letter, but phonetically, they are different.

> And of course the Spanish makes their 'J's match the German 'ch' in
> Bach.

Which is not a vowel either :-), and should be put into the k-series
(calmatema). And since you mention 'ch', to make matters worse,
we now have consonant clusters with a single phonetical value,
which don't fit into the alphabet. And also, sometimes those consonant
clusters or in some other languages single consonants are pronounced
differently depending on their context.

> Oh, and in Danish 'Y' is definitely a vowel ;-)

I've never understood Danish pronounciation, anyway :-) I can guess
some written Danish words, but spoken Danish is completely beyond me :-)

> And there are some even stranger ways to pronounce the Latin letters
> and some quite exotic extensions to our alphabet in various countries,
> so I think we'd need to go as close to the original values of the
> letters in Latin in order to have a basis for any system (in which case
> we run into the "'C' = 'K' always" problem).

And we have the problem that we don't actually know the original
values of Latin. For example, the accusative ending -um was possibly
nasalized (because less educated people sometimes wrote -u instead).

So I'd say it's next to impossible to make any system out if it.
"A haphazard series of letters, [...] recited in traditional order"
is probably not a bad description.

- DIrk


John W. Kennedy

unread,
Sep 17, 2005, 11:19:26 AM9/17/05
to
Dirk Thierbach wrote:
> John W. Kennedy <jwk...@attglobal.net> wrote:
>
>>Hebrew and Arabic have similar features, but the alphabet (there is
>>really only one, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and all the others being
>>descended from West Semitic) remains essentially haphazard.
>
>
> But the ethiopian alphabet (amharic, not aramaeic (sp?)) is very distinct
> from both the hebrew and the arabic alphabet, at least as far as I can tell.

Ethiopic isn't an alphabet, but a syllabary.

--
John W. Kennedy
"The bright critics assembled in this volume will doubtless show, in
their sophisticated and ingenious new ways, that, just as /Pooh/ is
suffused with humanism, our humanism itself, at this late date, has
become full of /Pooh./"
-- Frederick Crews. "Postmodern Pooh", Preface

John W. Kennedy

unread,
Sep 17, 2005, 11:23:02 AM9/17/05
to
Prai Jei wrote:
> John W. Kennedy (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
> <H2mWe.6649$TA2....@fe09.lga>:
>
>
>>>So whoever designed this script must have also thought about it in
>>>advance, and must have known something about phonetics.
>>
>>Hebrew and Arabic have similar features, but the alphabet (there is
>>really only one, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and all the others being
>>descended from West Semitic) remains essentially haphazard.
>
>
> If you arrange our own alphabet into essentially four columns, leaving gaps
> (as Mendeleev did with his original table of the elements) to allow for
> disused letters, and a minimum of other adjustments, you get this:
> A B C D
> E F GH
> IJ K L
> M N
> O P Q RST
> U VW X
>
> We see the relics of what looks suspiciously like an "original" phonetic
> system - vowels in the first column, parmatéma in the second, calmatéma in
> the third, tincotéma in the fourth.
>
> Any historical basis for this, or is it just me finding patterns where none
> actually exist?

You're looking at the English version of the Latin adaptation of the
Etruscan adaptation of the Greek adaptation of the West Semitic alphabet
(which, in its earliest form, didn't even have vowels).

--
John W. Kennedy
"...when you're trying to build a house of cards, the last thing you
should do is blow hard and wave your hands like a madman."
-- Rupert Goodwins

John W. Kennedy

unread,
Sep 17, 2005, 11:29:18 AM9/17/05
to
Dirk Thierbach wrote:
> Jamie Andrews; real address @ bottom of message <m...@privacy.net> wrote:
>
>>Dirk Thierbach <dthie...@usenet.arcornews.de> wrote:
>>
>>>BTW, I have ethiopian friends, and while I cannot neither speak nor
>>>write amaric, I noticed that amaric letters are also somewhat
>>>systematic in that they added a "squiggle" when a consonant changes by
>>>adding a "spirant", as in going from the first two tengwar "grades" to
>>>the second.
>
>
>> IIRC, the Ethiopian writing system is syllabic; i.e. each
>>letter denotes a consonant plus the following vowel.
>
>
> Yes. But the following vowel is in most cases given by the position of
> a "dot", so it's quite regular. Only in some cases this combination
> has become a special letter.

Yes, the Ethiopian syllabary is unusually analytical. Nevertheless, it
is not an alphabet, and is therefore not covered in Tolkien's original
statement.

In fact, it appears to be the case that Ethiopic is descended from the
West Semitic alphabet; the syllables originated as digraphs.

--
John W. Kennedy
"You can, if you wish, class all science-fiction together; but it is
about as perceptive as classing the works of Ballantyne, Conrad and W.
W. Jacobs together as the 'sea-story' and then criticizing _that_."
-- C. S. Lewis. "An Experiment in Criticism"

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Sep 17, 2005, 3:14:31 PM9/17/05
to
John W. Kennedy <jwk...@attglobal.net> wrote:

> Yes, the Ethiopian syllabary is unusually analytical. Nevertheless,
> it is not an alphabet, and is therefore not covered in Tolkien's
> original statement.

I don't want to split hairs whether something is called an alphabet
or a syllabary (and I haven't heard this term before, anyway). And
we don't know what Tolkien meant by alphabet, or if he knew the
Amharic letters at all, so discussing that with respect to Tolkiens
statement is somewhat pointless.

I just wanted to point out one example where, similar to Tolkien's
Tengwar, someone put some phonetical thought into the design of the
letters. Whatever you call them.

> In fact, it appears to be the case that Ethiopic is descended from the
> West Semitic alphabet;

South Semitic, AFAIK.

> the syllables originated as digraphs.

So the difference between an alphabet with digraphs/vowel signs
and a syllabary seems to be not so big, doesn't it?

- Dirk

John W. Kennedy

unread,
Sep 17, 2005, 9:51:45 PM9/17/05
to
Dirk Thierbach wrote:
> John W. Kennedy <jwk...@attglobal.net> wrote:
>>Yes, the Ethiopian syllabary is unusually analytical. Nevertheless,
>>it is not an alphabet, and is therefore not covered in Tolkien's
>>original statement.

> I don't want to split hairs whether something is called an alphabet
> or a syllabary (and I haven't heard this term before, anyway). And
> we don't know what Tolkien meant by alphabet,

As a professional, by "alphabet", he meant "alphabet". If he had meant
"alphabet or syllabary", he would have said so.

> or if he knew the
> Amharic letters at all, so discussing that with respect to Tolkiens
> statement is somewhat pointless.

> I just wanted to point out one example where, similar to Tolkien's
> Tengwar, someone put some phonetical thought into the design of the
> letters. Whatever you call them.

>>In fact, it appears to be the case that Ethiopic is descended from the
>>West Semitic alphabet;

> South Semitic, AFAIK.

Amharic is a South Semitic language, but the Amharic script descends
from the West Semitic alphabet.

>>the syllables originated as digraphs.

> So the difference between an alphabet with digraphs/vowel signs
> and a syllabary seems to be not so big, doesn't it?

The difference is that an alphabet (ideally) has one symbol per phoneme
and a syllabary has one symbol per syllable. The West Semitic alphabet
evolved from an earlier syllabary as a result of the fact that Semitic
languages can be understood when written in consonants alone, because of
the heavy use of ablaut for inflectional forms. When the Greeks picked
it up, they had to add vowels, and that pattern has been followed by all
the writing systems that descend from Greek. Amharic evolved (in
reverse) from the Aramaic alphabet, by digraphs assuming conventional
forms as (conceptually) single glyphs, but it has not evolved so far
that the underlying structure cannot be seen.
--
John W. Kennedy
"Information is light. Information, in itself, about anything, is light."
-- Tom Stoppard. "Night and Day"

the softrat

unread,
Sep 18, 2005, 4:04:04 PM9/18/05
to
On Sat, 17 Sep 2005 21:14:31 +0200, Dirk Thierbach
<dthie...@usenet.arcornews.de> wrote:
>
>I don't want to split hairs whether something is called an alphabet
>or a syllabary (and I haven't heard this term before, anyway).

I'm sorry, Dirk, but John W. Kennedy is *not* responsible for your
(vast) ignorance.

HTH

Yr. fiend

the softrat
Unless Barad-dur is rebuilt, twice as evil as before, Frodo has triumphed!
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--

Some people have one of those days. I have one of those lives.

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