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 Post subject: Re: Help! How can can I learn elvish?
PostPosted: May 5th, 2013, 9:13 am 
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Joined: 08 February 2010
Posts: 376

I would say you are learning Neo-Quenya Ruscowen. You have linked to Thorsten Renk's work, and [in English] Thorsten writes...

So you want to learn Elvish?

'(a little bit of philosophy)
So, you made up your mind to learn Elvish? I absolutely love the Elvish languages, so I can understand that perfectly, and I wish you plenty of joy!

But there's a question which you might want to ask yourself early on - and maybe later as well - what do you mean by 'learning'?

Do you wish to speak the language, write Elvish poetry and read Elvish stories, use it in roleplaying games and write Elvish letters to your friends? Because all that is actually possible - well, kind of, and that's why I am asking the question. Because all these things require a kind of final form of Elvish, they assume that Tolkien at some point finished Sindarin or Quenya and that this finished language can then be used.

But that is not how Tolkien ever thought about the languages. So, learning Tolkien's thoughts about the languages is a vastly different task than learning to 'speak' one of the languages.

Tolkien never viewed his creations as finished - he was always revising and altering things - even for published things (which he couldn't really alter) he re-invented the underlying explanation - a good example is Gil-Galad
- in Letters: ...

(edited example)

Vinyar Tengwar 43 features 6 different versions of the Lord's Prayer in Quenya which allow to trace how Tolkien, not satisfied with the previous versions, altered features of grammar and vocabulary to arrive at a version that would appeal more to him - till he decided to rewrite that one as well. Tolkien's own dictionaries usually contain several layers of entries - early pencilled ones, crossed out, replaced by ink entries, at times crossed out again and re-written, reflecting the constant alteration of the languages in vocabulary and derivation.

Why am I telling all this to you? Because, creating a speakable Sindarin or Quenya is not only about filling in the gaps with clever reconstructions - it involves at times heavy editorial decisions and throwing out Tolkien-made material on the basis of personal preferences.

You see, there's no way to have a language in which lá can be both 'yes' and 'no' - so if you want to speak Quenya, you have to decide for one of them. But there's no good guideline of doing so - should we go with Tolkien's latest decisions? Then lá means 'no' in Quenya, but then, a lot of the material in LOTR gets pretty awkward interpretations, as Tolkien's late ideas of the grammar are quite different from his ideas by the time he wrote Namárië. Or should we go with what's closest to LOTR? Then lá is 'yes' - but we know that Tolkien eventually dismissed that idea. So in the end, it boils down to an editor's choice which one to use.

I have written both a Sindarin and a Quenya course and hence made quite a few editorial decisions of that kind, just to offer an easier-to-learn version for beginners. That is, I feel, okay, because I clearly say so in the course and try to keep is as close as possible to Tolkien's ideas and only try to straighten out contradictions.

But you see, the problems start when you have leaned Sindarin from my or Helge Fauskanger's course and try to explain it to someone else. If you're not careful, that what Tolkien actually wrote gets lost in the process. Because there's something which may be called truth by repetition.

(edited example)

You see, the next difficulty when one 'standardizes' Sindarin is the following - I have a different idea about what is most likely correct than Ryszard Derdzinski or Helge Fauskanger - and for me it's easy to read their texts, because I know what Tolkien has written and what other possible conclusions can be drawn of that (because I rejected those when I made my editorial decisions - but I never forgot them) - but if you know Sindarin only from one secondary source you may wonder a lot about some unfamiliar grammar. So - eventually it pays off to know different interpretations even if you only want to use the language. (But here's a caveat - even if there are often different possible interpretations that does not imply 'anything goes' - we may often not know what is right, but we can boil it down to two or three possibilities, and anything else is still wrong).

What's the point of all this? I would like to ask you to be extremely careful how you present it when you're explaining Elvish to someone if you only know secondary sources yourself. In making statements like that is such and such you're very often twisting the truth in terms of what Tolkien actually had in mind - even if you have the best intentions of helping someone - just keep that distinction by arguing that Helge thinks that... and you're in much better shape, or throw in an occasional I think.... Look into what Tolkien has to say - and you're fine. But ultimately, you're not in a position to explain how Elvish grammar is unless you've studied Tolkien himself.

Just using the languages for fanfic is fine as well, and you can have a lot of fun doing so (I certainly had...) - and you don't have to study all the messy details and clashing interpretations for doing that. But if you really want to understand what Tolkien's thoughts are and how he viewed the Elvish grammar - then I'm afraid a secondary source will never be enough, and that is a lot more work.

So - it's up to you what you mean by learning Elvish - some people are happy just using the languages, others are content just to study them on a formal level without ever writing a bit of text - I have done and enjoyed both. But whatever you do, have fun (it's a hobby after all) and recognize the limits (I guess none of us really wants to spread all these false things).'

Thorsten Renk

Again I'm sorry to be so pedantic about this, but I think the popular misconception [that anyone can speak Quenya or Sindarin] is so popular that this message bears repeating.

Not that you yourself stated otherwise Ruscowen :) but for the thread in general, in any case.

 Post subject: Re: Help! How can can I learn elvish?
PostPosted: May 23rd, 2013, 10:45 am 
Rider of Rohan
Rider of Rohan

Joined: 04 May 2013
Posts: 128
Location: Nargothrond
Country: Germany (de)
Gender: Female

I know that this course uses neo-Quenya but he signed the "neo-words" with a *, so I think that´s allright

I found an english (neo-)Quenya-course. I only looked at the lessons 1-5 but it seems to be a good one. It´s very detailed and there are exercises.

Hail Gurthang! No lord or loyalty dost thou know, save the hand that wieldeth thee. From no blood wilt thou shrink. Wilt thou therefore take Túrin Turambar, wilt thou slay me swiftly?

The Silmarillion, Of Túrin Turambar

 Post subject: Re: Help! How can can I learn elvish?
PostPosted: June 13th, 2024, 4:03 am 
Movie Extra
Movie Extra

Joined: 13 June 2024
Posts: 1

Totally! Your requests are excellent and demonstrate a sincere desire to learn. It is inspiring to see someone actively seeking information and participating in a live discussion. This is a unique way to display your passion and knowledge. You can gain a better understanding of your life and yourself by presenting requests. Your outing will generate a lot of interest. Investigate continuously and use your advantage. By getting an explanation of a few big problems, you can advance a huge amount.

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