On Wed, 28 Oct 2009 17:41:51 -0400, Craig Daniel wrote:

> [...]
> > If they have limited mental capacity, one would *not* expect their
> > language to be excessively dense and complex - to the contrary.
> > The Sidhe language would then be very simple and rigid in structure,
> > and perhaps highly redundant.
> Indeed. Although speakers of English tend to take "this language has
> lots of strict agreements" as meaning it's "more complex" (a nebulous
> enough term I wouldn't apply it to any language) because it's
> different from what they're used to, it's actually what I'd expect the
> Sidhe to have - and then I'd expect the structure to be way more rigid
> about everything than highly-inflected natlangs are.

It is often said that inflectionless languages with rigid word order
are easier to learn than highly inflected languages with free word
order, but I don't know to which degree this is true, and anyway, the
Sidhe are not human, so very different things may be easy to them than
to us.

On Thu, 29 Oct 2009 20:36:04 +0200, Toms Deimonds Barvidis wrote:

> Quoting "Jörg Rhiemeier" <[log in to unmask]>:
> [...]
> > One could argue that Quenya and Sindarin would fit human speakers better 
> > than 
> > a race of immortal demigods like Tolkien's Elves.
> I think they really are. There is nothing un-humanlish about neither
> of these languages. It's quit easy for me to visualize a human society 
> speaking Sindarin. It's harder to do the same with Quenya, though. 

Where's the problem with Quenya?  It is not more difficult than Latin
(which has more irregularities in its inflections) or Finnish (which has
more noun cases).  I have seen natlangs which are much "wilder" than

> > This page about the elflang Sperethiel from the Shadowrun and Earthdawn
> > RPGs
> >  
> >
> > 
> > begins with the usual lofty buzzwords about Elvish ("runic
> > language"
> > - what does that mean?  Runes are just an old Germanic alphabet;
> I think it could mean "written with runes"

Of course; it becomes evident from the text itself.  What kind of runes,
is not said, though.  "Runes" is, in the role-playing game scene, a
frequently used buzzword for "magical symbols".  Of course, the actual
Germanic runes were simply an alphabet - they *were* used for magical
purposes, but not exclusively nor even predominantly so, and such
magical usage of letters is found in many cultures.

> > "perhaps the most complex language on earth"; "very
> > efficient
> > information transfer"; "over a dozen declensions") - and
> > then presents
> > which appears to be a language with a seemingly quite humdrum European-
> > style grammar.  There is nothing especially intricate or ingenious
> > about it.
> I managed to see only one declination :) IMHO, Nom., Gen., Dat. and Acc. 
> case system is quit poor for the "most complex language on earth"... If it 
> were my tongue, I would've threw at least Locative, Ablative and Allative :) 

Indeed.  What we see of Sperethiel looks like a run-of-the-mill
euroclone, with a phonaesthetic loosely (very loosely) modelled on
Celtic languages.  There is no evidence for it being the "most
complex language on Earth", nor is there even evidence for the kind
of depth we can find in Quenya or Sindarin.

> > But perhaps that is too much to expect from an elflang.  We are all just
> > human, and designing a truly superhuman language is beyond our
> > capacities.
> But of course we are (and of course it is)


On Thu, 29 Oct 2009 20:01:28 +0100, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:

> On 2009-10-28 Jörg Rhiemeier wrote:
> > Elven children are few and far between, and there are some 
> > *very* old Elves around who still remember how people spoke 
> > 10,000 years ago
> They don't remember.  Tolkien actually addressed
> this somewhere, saying that Elves 'update' (my
> word, not his) their memories, so that they
> remember their past as if they had spoken the same
> form of language then as they do in the present.

I see.  That is what to expect from Tolkien: when he found a problem
in his cosmos, he came up with an elaborate explanation for it.

> We shortlived mortals can change our speech
> patterns quite radically during our life.  Not
> only do words and expressions go in and out of
> fashion, but so do syntactic patterns and so can
> habits of pronunciation[^1], and we most of us
> can't readily recall the way we spoke only a few
> years ago or reliably tell which of the language
> patterns which we use now but didn't use in the
> past, or worse still tell which patterns we used
> then but don't use anymore.  Given that I don't
> find this it far-fetched that the Elves would
> experience the same difficulty on an even larger
> scale.

A good point.  Indeed, languages change not only from generation to
generation, but even within the lifetime of an individual.  The
"imprecise learning" hypothesis does not really cut it.  It is
thus indeed conceivable that a being living thousands of years may
wind up speaking a language quite different from the speech of his
childhood.  And we don't know how the memory of an immortal being
works.  Given that the Elves are anatomically not much different
from humans, the vastness of their experience over all those
centuries would lead to much of their memories being overwritten
with new experience many times over.  Even we forget most of the
things we have experienced years ago; it must be even more so with
the Elves.  Under such circumstances, one would indeed expect their
languages to change, though probably at a slower rate than human
languages.  This lower rate of change is actually evident from what
we know about the Eldarin languages.  Quenya and Sindarin are about
as similar to each other as Italian and French, or Icelandic and
English; if they were human languages, one would expect them to
descend from a common ancestor spoken about 2000 years before.
However, we know that Common Eldarin was spoken about 10,000 years
(if not earlier) before the War of the Ring.

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