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Old 01-31-2020, 08:56 AM   #1
R.R.J Tolkien
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The Common Tongue and Latin

I am not a student of Latin, but is there any similarity to the "common tongue" used in LOTR and Latin in the medieval west?
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Old 01-31-2020, 11:01 AM   #2
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Or maybe more like modern English?

Certainly, it's a language that unites communication of many diverse groups. My question is what kind of people spoke each language. Judging by Gandalf's comments in Rohan, one would expect people even in low ranks to speak Common if their job has any interaction with foreigners. A village with no external trade and no road with travellers nearby might not have Common speech though. How widespread or restricted was Latin in the Middle Ages? Was ot a language of the well educated, or would other classes master it as well?
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Old 01-31-2020, 08:36 PM   #3
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turns out it is english. This was pointed out on another forum.

http://www.thehalloffire.net/forum/v...php?f=5&t=4109
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Old 02-01-2020, 10:42 AM   #4
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If you mean Westron is English, then no . . . but if you mean Tolkien has, in theory, translated Westron with English, then yes!




In any case, we have very few examples of actual Westron. Some linguists will count the somethings that appear in drafts for Appendix F . . . but yet were not ultimately published in Appendix F however, for "whatever reason".

Anyway, a few examples from Appendix F.

Hobbitish Westron kuduk English (invented English) "Hobbit"

Westron banakil "Halfling"

And note the similarity between the word for "Halfling" and -- as a certain kuduk was called in Westron -- Banazīr "Half-wise"

Or Ban for short, for "Sam"
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:12 AM   #5
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If you mean Westron is English, then no . . . but if you mean Tolkien has, in theory, translated Westron with English, then yes!
I actually did mean English - specifically English in the current time. A language that many people learn as a second language, that aids in communication between people from different places (like the Downs!), that is the go-to for any large scale communication. I would argue that the Common Tongue is the functional equivalent of modern English - not because of anything Tolkien "translated", but because of its usage by the characters.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:30 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
I actually did mean English - specifically English in the current time. A language that many people learn as a second language, that aids in communication between people from different places (like the Downs!), that is the go-to for any large scale communication. I would argue that the Common Tongue is the functional equivalent of modern English - not because of anything Tolkien "translated", but because of its usage by the characters.
Sorry for the ambiguity. I was "talking to" R.R. J Tolkien. I knew what you were getting at.

And that said, a linguist named Elhath has just added a very interesting post (elsewhere) which looks at a number of actual Westron forms compared to Catalan.

And as not-a-linguist, I'll shaddap for now
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:45 AM   #7
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I am not a student of Latin, but is there any similarity to the "common tongue" used in LOTR and Latin in the medieval west?
Actually, no. Westron is more of a lingua Franca, a bridge language used in commerce, or as Galadriel55 inferred, the modern use of English as a second language that is pervasive in many areas of the world. Latin, as it was employed, was the language of the learned, in which ecclesiastical works, scientific treatises, poetry and ambassadorial/governmental edicts were written. Latin was not meant for the masses, as Westron was used.

One doesn't see a literary work of Westron until the Hobbits employed it in writing the Redbook of Westmarch. Previous to that, all the great epics were written in Elvish, with Quenyan perhaps the more direct link to Latin.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:52 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Or maybe more like modern English?

Certainly, it's a language that unites communication of many diverse groups. My question is what kind of people spoke each language. Judging by Gandalf's comments in Rohan, one would expect people even in low ranks to speak Common if their job has any interaction with foreigners. A village with no external trade and no road with travellers nearby might not have Common speech though. How widespread or restricted was Latin in the Middle Ages? Was ot a language of the well educated, or would other classes master it as well?

Define "Middle Ages". In the early centuries practically every place in the West recently ruled by the Roman Empire spoke Latin, except for Britain. Already, though, demotic vulgar Latin differed quite a bit from book-Latin, so that by 618 a synod instructed Gallo-Roman priests to give sermons in "the rustic Roman tongue," which had evolved away from Classical/Church Latin to the point the "Latin-speaking" commoners couldn't understand the latter. Give it another century and a half, the "rustic Roman tongue" would become Old French. Similar processes were happening in Spain, Romania and everywhere else that Latin had bulldozed away the pre-Roman languages. (In Italy, as late as Dante's day they thought they were speaking Latin!)

So in that sense, Westron does resemble Latin, especially in its relationship to Adunaic: a worn-down and hybridized form of the former Ruling Empire's language. OTOH, in some ways Latin's role in Middle-earth is taken by Sindarin. Note that in early drafts, Tolkien posited that the Common Speech was of Eldarin derivation, and thus akin to Latin's historical role on both sides.

But T may also have been thinking of the actual "lingua Franca" of the Middle Ages, which wasn't actually proper langue d'oil French but rater a Provencal/Catalan creole, spread mostly by sailors.
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Old 02-03-2020, 01:28 PM   #9
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The "common tongue" is Adūnaic, or more precisely, "Westron" is quite obviously what "Adūnaic" means in Adūnaic, with the element "Adūn" meaning "West". The name "Westron" is just a translation.

It's history and place in the world can therefore be easily deduced: it was brought over from Nśmenor during the Second Age, and became a "common tongue" in areas under control of the North and South Kingdoms in the early Third Age.

A parallel to Latin might be that similar happened to areas in our world under control of the Roman Empire, but Latin obviously more quickly devolved to the Romance Languages, whereas the only observation made about Westron is that some speak in a more archaic manner.
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