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Author Topic: Real-life Relation between Quenya and Sindarin
Roll of Honor Athene
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I am currently reading HoMe V, and have got to the Quenta Silmarillion. Now obviously there are many versions of this story, but I was particularly struck by the difference between Quenya and Sindarin names.

I noticed that Sindarin sounds a lot like Welsh (try saying Dagor-nuin-giliath not in a Welsh accent, it's impossible!). Wikipedia indeed states that Sindarin was based phonetically on Welsh, and Quenya on Finnish, although the sources seem somewhat vague.

My question is: does anyone know why? Of course, Tolkien was a master of linguistics and spoke Finnish, although I can't find a record of him speaking Welsh. Grammatically and etymologically, Quenya and Sindarin are related. Finnish and Welsh are not very closely related languages, however. Do you think he chose them simply because he liked the sound of them? We know he knew a lot of Old English, and was an expert in Germanic languages, so he should have had other options to choose from.

Thoughts?

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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The Professor's languages are the one thing I haven't studied much. However, I have noticed that Quenya (?) and Finnish seem to build up compound words in similar ways. When I read Quenya it sure doesn't look like Finnish to me, except for the word structures.

But I think he just loved Welsh and Finnish, being the word-lover that he was. We have this from Letter # 163:

quote:
A fascination that Welsh names had for me, even if only seen on coal-trucks, from childhood is another; though people only gave me books that were incomprehensible to a child when I asked for information. I did not learn any Welsh till I was an undergraduate, and found in it an abiding linguistic-aesthetic satisfaction. Spanish was another: my guardian was half Spanish, and in my early teens I used to pinch his books and try to learn it : the only Romance language that gives me the particular pleasure of which I am speaking-it is not quite the same as the mere perception of beauty: I feel the beauty of say Italian or for that matter of modern English (which is very remote from my personal taste): it is more like the appetite for a needed food. Most important, perhaps, after Gothic was the discovery in Exeter College library, when I was supposed to be reading for Honour Mods, of a Finnish Grammar. It was like discovering a complete wine-cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me; and I gave up the attempt to invent an 'unrecorded' Germanic language, and my 'own language' – or series of invented languages – became heavily Finnicized in phonetic pattern and structure.

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Thingol of Doriath
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quote:
Finnish and Welsh are not very closely related languages
Not at all... if I'm not mistaken. []
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Roll of Honor Athene
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That was my thought, but Quenya and Sindarin are related, albeit over a long period of time. Is it more that the Welsh and Finnish sound of the languages is kind of like an accent that diverged?
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Galin
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This might be interesting (a post from a thread titled: Welsh and Finnish from one root?)

quote:
Phonetic mutations can be pretty dramatic over time. For example, Hungarian and Finnish sound very different; Hungarian having lots of consonants that don't exist in Finnish and Finnish having diphthongs that don't exist in Hungarian. Yet both languages stem from the same root (a hypothetical Fenno-Ugric root-language), although they are rather widely separated. Or take, say, Portuguese and French -- structurally very close together (at least compared to Finnish and Hungarian!) but that sound very different. Going by Tolkien's _Letters_, the reason for the "feels" of the two Elven languages is indeed because of JRRT's personal preference for the two languages in question. (And, yes, Finnish and Welsh are just about as unrelated as two languages can be.)

-- Petteri Sulonen Tolkien Language List, 1996

This met with one 'objection' on the list incidentally...

quote:
Unless, of course, you buy the Indo-Uralic hypothesis, in which case Finnish and Welsh are certainly more closely related than, say, Welsh and Cantonese. (Just one of those days; I generally agree with M. Sulonen's explanation.) -- John W. Braue, III
Anyway, Tolkien also explained in his letters:

quote:
'This [Sindarin] is derived from an origin common to it and Quenya; but the changes have been deliberately devised to give it a linguistic character very like (though not identical with) British Welsh...' Letter 144

'The Sindarin, a Grey-elven language, is in fact constructed deliberately to resemble Welsh phonologically and to have a relation to High-elven similar to that existing between British (properly so called, sc. the Celtic languages spoken in this island at the time of the Roman invasion) and Latin.' Footnote to letter 165

The invention starts with the idea of a primitive Quendian source and its various branches through history. Quenya remains archaic, due to that history, but has reached a stage (the Quenya of the Exiles let's say), where it serves to reflect in ways Tolkien's love of Finnish, Latin, and Greek. Deliberate changes (in the sense that the inventor is choosing them) are made so that the internal history of the Sindarin branch will ultimately lead to a language that resembles the phonology of Welsh.

CJRT explained:

quote:
'He did not, after all, 'invent' new words and names arbitrarily: in principle, he devised from within the historical structure, proceeding from the 'bases' or primitive stems, adding suffix or prefix or forming compounds, deciding (or, as he would have said, 'finding out') when the word came into the language, following it through the regular changes in form that it would thus have undergone, and observing the possibilities of formal or semantic influence from other words in the course of its history." The result: "Such a word would then exist for him, and he would know it."' Christopher Tolkien


[ 07-17-2008, 05:50 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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Halion
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And the CJRT quote is of course from ‘The Etymologies’ in The Lost Road and Other Writings. []
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Denton
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I cant remember where but i know i read that he used to love welsh. It was in some biography.
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Roll of Honor Silmahtar
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Tolkien on Quenya inspirations:
quote:
"The archaic language of lore is meant to be a kind of 'Elven-latin', and by transcribing it into a spelling closely resembling that of Latin...the similarity to Latin has been increased ocularly. Actually it might be said to be composed on a Latin basis with two other (main) ingredients that happen to give me 'phonaesthetic' pleasure: Finnish and Greek. It is however less consonantal than any of the three. This language is High-elven or in its own terms Quenya (Elvish)" (Letters:176)
And on Sindarin, which Galin referred to earlier in the thread:
quote:
"the living language of the Western Elves (Sindarin or Grey-elven) is the one usually met [in LotR], especially in names. This is derived from an origin common to it and Quenya, but the changes have been deliberately devised to give it a linguistic character very like (though not identical with) British-Welsh: because that character is one I find, in some linguistic moods, very attractive; and because it seems to fit the rather 'Celtic' type of legends and stories told of its speakers". Later, he found that "this element in the tale has given perhaps more pleasure to more readers than anything else in it" (MC:197)

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