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Old 04-21-2006, 09:29 AM   #1
Eomer of the Rohirrim
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Shield Yeah, but ... it's fake

This was a while ago but still relevant. My mother was lecturing me about how Tolkien's languages are not proper languages. They are pseudo-languages more than anything else. I informed her that people all over the world can speak Quenya. She was unimpressed.

What do you think? What's stopping them from being 'real'?
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Old 04-21-2006, 09:46 AM   #2
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A particularly interesting question when we look at what is making them real. This has to be seen in the light of Tolkien's own comment:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Prof
Volapük, Esperanto, Ido, Novial, &c &c are dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends.
And your Sindar and Noldor languages, Professor, by contrast, do have legends, songs. We can be told of undying love, misery, tragedy, merriment and heroism in the Elvish tongues. Presumably that's what you're implying? Righty-ho.

The weakness of Elvish is in fact the strength of Esperanto. Elvish cannot deal with the ghastly old practical world. We can hear of the Noldolante, but we can't book a hotel room. It's not unlike my supremely rushed Italian AS level course; I can discuss Dante for hours but struggle with ordering a cioccolata calda.

Elvish is unlike all other artificial languages. Most of those are objectionable because, like New Labour as opposed to the House of Lords which they destroyed, to grab a political analogy, they're factory-made not evolved. These languages are like some poisonous strain of cannabis grown under a lamp.

But due to the extraordinary nature of Tolkien's mind, Elvish somehow is evolved. Archaeologists in 6000 AD might assume it was as historical as Frisian, Sardinian or Gaelic.

The problem is that it's narrow, specific, inflexible. It cannot leave its style, "high, purged of the gross" as it is. We physically cannot construct Feanor pinching Nerdanel with a lewd joke, or some irritating courtier recalling Elrond belching. Yet even this is perfectly suitable to the nature of Elves as Tolkien portrays them, unable to change, breaking not bending.

It's no coincidence, surely, that the Elves were given a character that made a rather one-sided language perfectly justifiable.
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Old 04-22-2006, 03:10 PM   #3
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Why is Esperanto dead ? What menas this DEAD in "dead language" ?
it means that this language is far too unused !
so, besides mithology, the language must be used and spread to let other people know that it exists and can be used.
Of course we cannot reconstruct Fëanor sarcastic words or any other daily words, but this was probably not tolkien's intent.
I here, will defend at first, Quenya, because its the most complete language he made.
So, , quenya is a language not to speak, but to sing. Probably not to speak daily but to write poems.
If people get more interested in these languages and start composing short poems of quality and share them in the internet, maybe Quenya could be considered a living language.

Namárië.
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Old 04-22-2006, 03:24 PM   #4
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Great topic, Eomer, especially since I have this argument with my friend Bryan all the time. He claims it's not a real language because it's not used in "the real world". Let us, however, cite the great Dictionary.com:

Quote:
lan·guage n.

1.

a. Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.
b. Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.
c. Such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.


2.

a. A system of signs, symbols, gestures, or rules used in communicating: the language of algebra.
b. Computer Science. A system of symbols and rules used for communication with or between computers.

3. Body language; kinesics.

4. The special vocabulary and usages of a scientific, professional, or other group: “his total mastery of screen languagecamera placement, editingand his handling of actors” (Jack Kroll).

5. A characteristic style of speech or writing: Shakespearean language.

6. A particular manner of expression: profane language; persuasive language.

7. The manner or means of communication between living creatures other than humans: the language of dolphins.

8. Verbal communication as a subject of study.

9. The wording of a legal document or statute as distinct from the spirit.
Okay, so maybe elves and dolphins are a little different...

But if language is really just a means of communication, then Quenya is a language. It can be used for communication -- perhaps not complete communication to express every idea, but lots of "real world" languages have to steal words from other languages in order to make up for a lack of a word to define a particular thing or idea. I say again: if language is really just a means of communication, then Quenya is a language. End of story.

Take that, Bryan.
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Old 04-22-2006, 03:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuukale
So, , quenya is a language not to speak, but to sing. Probably not to speak daily but to write poems.
If people get more interested in these languages and start composing short poems of quality and share them in the internet, maybe Quenya could be considered a living language.
That's a beautiful thought. Unfortunately the success and spreading of a language has little to do with how many people speak it. It's more about who the people are who speak it. The people who succeed internationally promote their language and thus give it better chances to spread. If we take a look at politics and countries military power, for example, it's clear why English and French are such widely-spread languages. As beautiful language as Quenya is, it lacks an appropriate base to become more used. If it had a wide economical vocabulary, for instance, I bet it could be much more popular.
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Old 04-22-2006, 03:57 PM   #6
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I always reckoned that "real" languages were those which were not created by any one person. Languages spoken daily by people everywhere mostly evolved on their own, over time, have roots somewhere in the unknowable past, and are either dying out or continuing to evolve. Quenya, Esperanto, and others didn't evolve naturally this way, some person, somewhere, sat down and said "I feel like creating a language today".

The other thing I've always assumed made a language "real" was if people, somewhere, learn it as their mother tongue. I grew up in a house that speaks English, so before I'm really aware of the world around me and able to reason things out I am able to speak English. Others are born to Spanish, or French or what-have-you this way. But to my knoweldge no one's mother tongue is Quenya, people have to learn Quenya and don't grow up speaking it. As with any language you learn later in life it, therefore, is not as natural for you -- true after years and years of speaking Spanish it would become naturaler for me but it would never be as natural as English. It's because the section of our brains which learns languages is most malleable when we're really young, by the time we're really old enough to sit down and study a language that part of our brain has become fairly set in its ways and we have to force it to learn something new. A language which no one knows naturally (grew up speaking) can never be quite as "real" as a language people have learned naturally. Spanish isn't as real to me as English, it's real to natural Spanish speakers though...but there are no natural Quenya speakers (yet) and so it's not really "real" to anyone.
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Old 04-22-2006, 04:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dancing spawn of ungoliant
That's a beautiful thought. Unfortunately the success and spreading of a language has little to do with how many people speak it. It's more about who the people are who speak it. The people who succeed internationally promote their language and thus give it better chances to spread. If we take a look at politics and countries military power, for example, it's clear why English and French are such widely-spread languages. As beautiful language as Quenya is, it lacks an appropriate base to become more used. If it had a wide economical vocabulary, for instance, I bet it could be much more popular.

Well, what i meant by spreading it via internet, isn't to more people learn it (ok, that would be good ) but to people know.
You know that if a REALLY huge mass of people get to know that Quenya exists and the basic of it's history, i'm sure the serious linguists will include it as a living language, given that another huge mass is capable of writing a poem or two and proves it ! As i said before, quenya isn't to be spoken as a daily language, but as a language of lore and beauty.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Shelob
The other thing I've always assumed made a language "real" was if people, somewhere, learn it as their mother tongue. I grew up in a house that speaks English, so before I'm really aware of the world around me and able to reason things out I am able to speak English. Others are born to Spanish, or French or what-have-you this way. But to my knoweldge no one's mother tongue is Quenya, people have to learn Quenya and don't grow up speaking it.
Ok, you've got quite a point, but what i intended to say is that although we cannot grow speaking quenya, ony learn it, it's a language of beauty.
Although it lacks vocabulary, i believe that this was to be a language capable of expressing highly poetical feelings as the soul of the elves are.

Quenya has been through a complicated evolution, inside Tolkien's mind of course, but has ! He created words, modified them, changed his mind but whenever he did this, he looked a way to etimologically justify his change (take in account his ability and knowledge on words etimology).

Also, Middle-Earth Quenya is quite different from Valinor quenya, spoken by the Valinorean noldor.
Noldor in middle-earth due to constant battles and little time to dedicate to the arts of language and lore and due to Sindarin use, the language changed a lot of things.

Sorry if anyhow i looked harsh on my words. I await replies. Thanks.

Namárië.
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Old 04-22-2006, 05:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Quenya has been through a complicated evolution, inside Tolkien's mind of course
Yet still there's a difference between an evolution that is in one person's mind and one that takes place between people. A person, in their mind, can work through the steps of evolution, can justify things, whatever, but there's something fundamentally different to it than something which has evolved through, basically, trial and error. Not everything in a language makes sense, and things change which don't look like they ought to have changed. It's an issue of what's needed to communicate at the time. Take the Pirahã language, it has no number words, they're not needed to communicate what needs to be communicated.

Let me demonstrate it this way, consider Frankenstein's Monster. Life has existed for thousands of years, it has changed to meet needs and, eventually, has created one Vicktor Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a fairly normal person, he's you're average example of mankind. Frankenstein sits down one day and says "I feel like creating Life today". He would have had an easier time of it if he ended up creating the Game of Life, as it is Frankenstein went through evolution quickly in his mind, he looked at things that were already and worked from what he saw as well as what he figured ought to be. Hey Presto! The creature is created! Is this creature any less alive than Vicktor? Than any of the people and animals around him? No. Yet it is, somehow, different. It is the result of thousands of years of evolution only through the one person who created it.

Not to say Quenya is hideous and will go around terrorizing it's creator and reading Paradise Lost, if it does that we've bigger things to worry about. I also wasn't trying to say that Quenya hasn't evolved, simply it hasn't evolved in a way which makes it "real". The same way Frankenstein's creature was evolved, but not in a way to make it "human".

And anyway, who's to say that we can't grow up speaking Quenya? If someone had studied and learned Quenya well enough to riase their child speaking it then surely to that child Quenya would be as real as its (I'm hoping) other mother tongue. I can't say I see that as being highly likely, but it is possible.


Also, I'm rather intrigued by, firstly, the idea of a language being considered "living" simply because lots of people know about it and, secondly, how "living"/"dead" languages differ from "real"/"not-real" languages. This second espically becuase you, Yuukale Narmo, seem to suggest that if enough people simply know of the existance of a language it can qualify as "living", as compared to the more conventinal destinction by how many people know/use the language.

"School Children everywhere know of the existance of Latin, therefore it is a "living" language"

versus

"No one actually uses Latin to communicate day by day, ergo it is a "dead" language"


...Ironcially enough, both "versus" and "ergo" are derived from Latin...but I'm sure you see what I'm getting at. Also, to quallify a language as "living" or "dead" do you have to first grant that it is "real"? Could Quenya be, then, a "living", yet "not-real" language? Or perhaps it is a "real" but "dead" language?
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Old 04-22-2006, 06:13 PM   #9
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Sure Quenya will never be as natural as any other "real" language, but i'm sure it is better built in it's " pseudo-evolution " than Esperanto does XD~~~~ .

and, as i said:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuukale
given that another huge mass is capable of writing a poem or two and prove it !
before you say " a poem or two is not enough " . Please, bear in mind it was just a way to express the idea, don't get so strict ....

To finish this.....
Maybe Quenya will never be considered a REAL language and even worst, nor even a LIVING language, but there's only one thing i am sure.

Quenya will always be real and alive in the heart of poets and bards, that, like we, has a love for the doings of Tolkien and the beauty that elves could see in the things.

Namárië.
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Old 04-23-2006, 09:37 AM   #10
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It seems there are two ways of looking at whether Quenya is 'fake'.

Firstly, was the language artificially created? Yes, it was. Just the same as Esperanto was created. But also in the same way that Binary code or Maths are created laguages, necessary ways of either explaining complex theories or enabling computers to work. Then again, Tolkien developed his languages from a basis of other languages and liguistic play. English is full of created words, do we say that it is artificial just because the OED has new words we have made up in its pages?

Secondly, we might say it's 'fake' because its not widely used and cannot deal with the practicalities of everyday life. Thinking about that, there are not many speakers of Cornish, but tell a Cornish nationalist that their language is 'fake' because it is not widely used and they'd probably have a few strong words of Anglo-saxon to use to tell you where to get off. Likewise, the French language has adopted a lot of English terms (e.g. Le Weekend) as French does not always have the right words to convey new ideas. I'm sure a French person would also tell you where to get off if you said their modern day French was 'fake'!

As for everyday use, I seriously doubt Quenya would ever enter everyday use, though it might become more popular with online communities, which themseves are becoming just as important to us as traditional communities. But it would be centred around hardcore Quenya fans only, just as Klingon is around certain Trekkies but not all by any means. I'm a hardcore Tolkien fan but I know I'll never learn Quenya, even if it is to meet Anguirel's challenge below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anguirel
We physically cannot construct Feanor pinching Nerdanel with a lewd joke, or some irritating courtier recalling Elrond belching.
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Old 04-23-2006, 11:54 AM   #11
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I think "adopting" new terms is simply a form of evolution, the same as creating them. English has for the most part got it's roots in other languages and yet it's "realness" isn't be questioned because of it, just like we don't question it's "realness" just because someone coins a new phrase...if that were the case most languages would have ceased to be real around the same time the internet became common.

Also, and this just came to me so the idea's still rather messy, if Quenya were adopted as the common language of Tolkien fans wouldn't it then, by any definition, be forced into realness? Consider "real determined by use", if enough Tolkien fans were using it to communicate between themselves it would be as valid as many a language because it would be being used, perhaps not for everyday things like running down to the store, but for enough things. Also consider the "real determined by evolution" track, if it were being used (esp. online) would Quenya not have to adapt and change the same way other languages do to meet the needs it's speakers have? In that case Quenya would have started out the product of one person's mind, and would have been as full and real as such a language could have been, but by being used it would have become a new-quenya which was the result of the same processes our commonly accepted "real" languages are. That new-quenya wouldn't be exactly the same as Quenya as it is now, but then Old-English isn't the same as Moddern-English. By this then "not being used" and "not evolved/evolving" are really the same thing. If a language must be evolved/evolving to be "real" then it must be being used, if a language is being used it must be evolving. Quenya as it is may never quite be "real" but the moment it is changed to meet the need of speakers it would be.

That may not address the issue of "Tolkien evolved it in his mind", but then that wasn't between speakers so the language still wasn't being used...and so it still doesn't quite fit under anything I've said...
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Old 04-26-2006, 10:32 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shelob
But to my knoweldge no one's mother tongue is Quenya, people have to learn Quenya and don't grow up speaking it. As with any language you learn later in life it, therefore, is not as natural for you -- true after years and years of speaking Spanish it would become naturaler for me but it would never be as natural as English. It's because the section of our brains which learns languages is most malleable when we're really young, by the time we're really old enough to sit down and study a language that part of our brain has become fairly set in its ways and we have to force it to learn something new. A language which no one knows naturally (grew up speaking) can never be quite as "real" as a language people have learned naturally.
The new Barrow-Downs challenge: Every 'downer has to master quenya. When/if they get children, they must teach the language to them first before any other language. Slowly, but firmly, we'd have a small population whose mother tongue is quenya. Is anyone in?
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Old 04-26-2006, 02:54 PM   #13
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Shield

In reply to Anguirel's point about the limits of any language:

I was reminded of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Syme excitedly realised that the old language was being replaced. The manipulation of the language meant that certain concepts would be abolished. The proles would not be able to talk about freedom because there was no language to talk about it in.

Just made me think, is all. Is it right to say that a language must encompass all? Perhaps not; but are there areas it necessarily must encompass — the real and solid world, for example? Maybe.

What about the language of the Angels, then? Or of the Platonic Forms? ( ) Maybe our language does not touch on the more important things in the Universe at all.

Maybe it's all relative? Like, English is definitely a proper language down here, and Quenya is not here. And what of all other possible worlds? The world of the Elves — does it exist?

What am I talking about?
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Old 05-04-2006, 01:43 AM   #14
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The fact that the language is fake, or unreal, is not important, I do not think. Certainly Tolkien didn't think that it was an important factor. When regarding his mythology as a whole, anyway, one can always make the argument, "Its fake! Ye fakey fakes!" but I think the good professor can speak for himself. As he says in his essay 'On Fairy Tales'...

Quote:
Originally Posted by THE PROFESSOR!
But at no time can I remember that the enjoyment of a story was dependant on the belief that such things happen, or had happened in 'real life'. Fairy stories are plainly not primarily concerned with possibility, but with desirability. If they awaken desire, satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably, they succeeded.
I think the same is true of the Elvish language. If Tolkien has awoken a desire to learn the language of the Elves, he has succeeded. A round of applause is in order, I think.
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Old 05-04-2006, 01:15 PM   #15
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I have no desire to learn Esperanto; but it would be cool to be fluent in elvish-- any elvish-- just because I like the elves. It would be cool to be one. I think there's another dimension to all this than "just the language". If you don't like the story, chances are you'll be unimpressed with the language. But if you like the story, then you just might go beyond saying "lembas" to trying your hand at baking some. And then it's a little less fakey-fakey-fake; at least to the person eating the "lembas".

And "Celebrimbor" is such fun to say.
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Old 05-19-2006, 11:07 AM   #16
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Nothing is stopping it. It is a language. It was made by a human being, just like every other language was. A language is a language!
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