--- On Sat, 2/25/12, Daniela Amsler <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I think the problem here is quite similar to the contrast
> between a descriptive or prescriptive way of approaching a
> language. Some would like to to fill in the gaps, to add
> features to T.'s work,  or, possibly, to improve it.
> Others are contented with describing what he did as far as
> we can know from the material we have. Who is right there? I
> think both of them are, as long as each party accepts that
> any attempt of intervening in Tolkien's languages, no matter
> how competent and accurate, would in any case change the
> intended project for the simple and evident reason that no
> one is Tolkien. I mean, exactly as no one is me.

Something to consider regarding prescriptivism v. descriptivism: these are
really simply ways of approaching one's methodology of describing and
codifying some aspect of a language. The one "prescribes" rules for
correct usage while the other simply "describes" all the right and wrong
ways people actually use a language. Neither one really addresses additions
or extensions added on to the language.

For example, I read a fantasy novel the author of which invented a
non-gendered third person singular pronoun paradigm which was used quite
regularly throughout the book. Naturally, a prescriptivist will say "this
is incorrect usage because this is a made-up word and made-up grammar and
does not accord with (our) rules." The descriptivist will simply say: "ok,
this is clearly an example of artistic license and seems to be confined to
this author in this book; we have no further comment, because no one else
is using it."

As far as Tolkien's languages are concerned: one can describe what Tolkien
created or one can take some subset of Tolkien's grammatical work and say
"these are the rules for the correct usage of Sindarin." (As Michael said,
over the course of his lifetime, his languages suffered from the same kinds
of drift, correction and change that most of our languages suffer from at
some point in time.) It therefore becomes a little inappropriate to speak
either of a correct set of rules or of an average way the language is

As for groups of fans adding to his languages, one can really only say
"well, these additions are 'after market' additions and thus not original
to the creator of the language" and leave it at that. You can't really
definitively say it's right or wrong; and without any kind of broad
consensus, you can't really speak of trends that can be described.

> Then the question boils down to be: do you want to show your
> respect for a work which he surely valued as Fëanor valued
> his Silmarils by merely studying it and describing it, or
> you'd rather prefer to show your admiration for it by making
> it your own object of delight as he did? 

And I think it can fairly be said that both camps have valid points. And
I don't think they are necessarily at odds with each other. The one group
can happily mine Tolkien's papers, published works and Tolkien Jr.'s 
works in order to respectfully study. Fans (not just Tolkien fans) always
seem to like to engage in a little coat-tail story telling. It's natural.
An author always leaves unintended gaps; and people always like to fill in
gaps. Fanfic is nothing new. We see it in just about any well known
constructed universe, from Star Trek to Star Wars to Middle Earth to
Discworld to Harry Potter and the Bible and hundreds of others as well.
Take a look at

I would not be at all surprised if a good percentage of our ancient myths
and legends were not some kind of primal fanfic. Some ancient sawyer comes
up with a neat story about Cu Chullainn and another one hears it and later
comes up with his own embellishments, extensions and details.

> If asked I'm more of the first group, also because I think
> it should be quite more rewarding building up something
> which is completely (as knowledge can be) ours. But somehow
> both approaches are acceptable under the condition that is
> made clear which of the two is used when writing something
> about a Tollingua (my idiolect for the whole of Tolkien
> languages).

But just because Tolkien fans are basing their work on his legendarium,
does that diminish their work as not being "their own"? I don't think so.
Should we think of Rowlings's work as diminished simply because the story 
is set in England? I do not subscribe to the notion that a work has to be
verifiably 100% devised with absolutely no external influences in order
for it to be considered good or "more rewarding".

Agreed though that the author of such fan fiction needs to make clear that
his work is "based on" the work of another (if for example I write a story
about Hobbits in the Shire of the fourth age). From a more strictly
academic perspective, I do agree with the former perspective. Someone who
is studying Tolkien's languages should avoid contaminating his data or his
conclusions with his own conlanging!

> These considerations can be applied to any conlang. I tend
> to consider languages as very personal and intimate
> constructions which are to be treated with the same care we
> would accord to someone else's child.

I'm not sure if this particular issue has arisen here. That is, someone
wanting to borrow / use someone else's conlang in his own world and also
wanting to alter it to suit. *Without* the language being wholly given to
the other person. Somewhere in there, credit needs to be given to the
language creator.

> Locuta sum

Thou am talked indeed!

> Daniela


> Il giorno 25-feb-2012, alle ore 01:58, Michael Everson ha
> scritto:
> > On 24 Feb 2012, at 10:24, BPJ wrote:
> > 
> > 
> >>> You can't "revive" Quenya. Or Sindarin. Or
> Goldogrin. Or Khuzdul. Or the Black Speech. You can make up
> stuff to
> >>> fill in the gaps, but the result is never
> "authentic"
> >> 
> >> By the same criteria you can't revive Cornish
> either, because you can never know how authentic a form
> modelled on
> >> Welsh or Breton, or on general morphological
> principles would be in the light of what was not recorded.
> > 
> > Actually, one *can* revive Cornish, because the
> traditional corpus is large enough gives one enough answers
> that there really aren't any holes, apart from vocabulary,
> which can be coined successfully in various ways. There
> *are* people who actually do speak Cornish; I know two boys
> personally who spoke nothing but Cornish with their father
> when growing up; as you know I have recently published a
> number of novels and the entire Bible in Cornish. 
> > 
> > Tolkien's languages can't be revived because the
> phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics of roots and
> affixes were pretty much in a state of flux throughout his
> life. Mining the Goldogrin vocabulary for Sindarin words is
> problematic (or "inauthentic") in a way that Cornish
> loanwords from Welsh/Breton/English/French is not.
> > 
> >> And what do you think Fr. Schleyer would have
> thaught of Arie de Jong's Volapük!?
> > 
> > He knew that there were issues with the language. I
> don't know whether he would have approved of the notion of
> revision at all, much less the specific revisions made.
> Having looked at both, I think that de Jong's Volapük Nulik
> is an improvement on Schleyer's Volapük Rigik, and I am
> working on a number of projects using the former.
> > 
> >>> in Tolkien's terms.
> >> 
> >> In the terms by which Tolkien revived Gothic and
> old English?  If 'autenthicness' be the issue he
> shouldn't have done that!
> > 
> > I guess it is possible for us to get on the wrong track
> if we use the term "authentic" in different ways. I'll try
> to describe how I use it. Creating new texts in Gothic or
> Old English would certainly be inauthentic if one were
> inventing unattested *grammar*. Neologisms, though, if
> well-motivated and well-designed, need not be considered
> inauthentic. 
> > 
> > But the nature of Tolkien's linguistic work is really
> very different. We have good paradigms for Gothic and Old
> English and Cornish. In Tolkien's languages we have
> incomplete paradigms, conflicting paradigms, verbal systems
> with aorists and without them, and then we have root words
> which mean both one thing in one language (written in one
> decade) and its complete opposite in another language, or
> even in the same language (written in the same or different
> decade or even on the same page). 
> > 
> >> The product of a language revival is *never* 'the
> same thing' as the language it seeks to revive, be it
> Cornish, Gothic, Old English, Hebrew or (Neo-)Quenya, Novial
> or myself trying to revive my own conlang Sohlob from the
> remains of media loss and format lock in.
> > 
> > Well, the problem is that it's hardly possible to fully
> describe Quenya, much less to cobble together a Neo-Quenya
> out of all of the other bits and pieces in the œuvre which
> are *not* Quenya. Which is what those who have made
> Neo-Quenya have done. That is "inauthentic" in a way in
> which other reconstructions and neologisms of the other
> languages is really not. 
> > 
> >> And where there's many poeple involved there will
> always be that pointless bickering about 'the one true way'.
> As
> >> if this were hard science -- and even there you
> have the observer's paradox! Yet all creative endeavor is
> worthwhile in some way at least to those involved in it! 
> > 
> > Neo-Quenya is not a part of Middle-Earth. But those who
> use it want it to be. Or so it seems to me.
> > 
> > 
> >>> But it's making up stuff.
> >> 
> >> All creative work is, including what is done in
> departments of comparative linguistics, or by different
> stripes of 'theoretical linguists'. It may still be
> worthwhile, at least to those who pursue it, in ways
> unforseen by them or their detractors, even.
> > 
> > Sure. 
> > 
> >>> And may contradict the actual etymological data
> (inconsistent as that may be).
> >> 
> >> And that differs from the Cornish revival exactly
> how?
> > 
> > Well, in Kernowek Standard we try to use what attested
> words there are in the way Cornish people used them. Where
> there is a vocabulary gap we try to fill it in a sensitive
> and pleasing way; sometimes this is by using a word calqued
> on Welsh or Breton by Nance; sometimes it is by borrowing a
> word from Middle or Modern English. (I remember that for one
> of the maps in the Cornish Bible we took a name for Corfu
> from John Maundeville because it was far more "authentic" in
> a Cornish context than the ancient Latin or the modern
> Italian.) But in Cornish we don't have roots which have one
> definition in one document and quite another in another.
> It's not really comparable to the way Neo-Quenya has been
> "devised". It is, I think, a real qualitative
> difference.  
> > 
> >> As you surely know not all enthusiasts go about
> what they do with the same skill, understanding, care or
> respect for their models. Surely you also know that
> invention out of thin air is generally frowned upon in
> Neo-Eldarin circles.
> > 
> > I do, and I do.
> > 
> >>> I suppose I have no great objection to new
> works being written in these languages, so long as anything
> Neo- is
> >>> labelled as Neo-.
> >> 
> >> No argument there. The same goes for Tolkien's
> Neo-Gothic or Neo-Englisc, of for Neo-Cornish or Neo-Hebrew,
> or Neo-Icelandic (compare the 'modern' antiquarizing
> standard language to the written Icelandic of the 17th and
> 18th centuries -- it's highly instructive --, yet I'm a
> great lover and admirer even of the 'modern' version of the
> language. Given the calibre of literature written in it its
> neo-roots don't seem to invalidate it in any way!)
> > 
> > I would not insist that Tolkien's Gothic or Old English
> be so labelled because there is no danger of it being taken
> for what it is not. In fact one can evaluate it: "Is this
> *good* Old English?" And it is, or it isn't, but if it is,
> it is authentic regardless of it being written in the 20th
> century. But you can't do that with Neo-Quenya. All you can
> do is ask "Is this Tolkien's Quenya?" and the only answer is
> "No."
> > 
> >>> Personally, though, I think I would not publish
> an Alice in Neo-Quenya, because of the honour and respect I
> hold
> >>> for Tolkien, whose work, which I read at a
> formative time in my life, helped to make me the person I am
> today.
> >> 
> >> Tolkien's respect for the Beowulf poet or Cynewulf
> or Wulfila, or the great impact the acquaintance with their
> >> work had on him, didn't stop him from composing in
> Neo-Gothic and Neo-Anglo-Saxon!
> > 
> > His Gothic and Old English were devised as extensions
> to rich and well-established corpora. Neo-Quenya cannot by
> its nature be such an extension, because *none* of Tolkien's
> languages were *ever* in as "finished" a state as Volapük
> or Esperanto or Ido or Lingua Franca Nova are. Traditional
> Cornish is a good solid base upon which Revived Cornish has
> been build. There is no such base in Tolkien's languages. 
> > 
> >>> To me, a Neo-Quenya Alice would not be
> authentic.
> >> 
> >> Neither are Tolkien's 'Old English' and 'Gothic'
> poems, then!
> > 
> > I disagree with you. In fact this year I will be
> publishing an edition of Alice in Middle English verse, and
> it is a work of genius, and it is extraordinarily authentic.
> ("Is this *good* Middle English?" Oh my, yes, it is.)