Thursday, October 15, 2015

Linguistics and Community

One of the topics that came up in discussion last class was community and the ways Middle-Earth would suffer for the loss of any community that makes it up. Somebody mentioned that this was similar to linguistics in that the greatest loss when a language dies is the knowledge of it. Therefore linguists work hard to learn and preserve languages that are close to extinction so that they may never be lost.

I find this interesting because Tolkien was so interested in linguistics and philology, and it shows in his works. He created his own languages. He drew off of existing languages. He understood the importance of language to a people, their culture, and their history. How do you think his understanding of language in relation to a community lent to the way he created his communities and their importance?


Aulë said...

The connection between a language and its community or culture was huge for Tolkien, and he himself said (though it was a contradiction of his younger self...) that the world of Middle-earth was created because he needed a home for his created languages, because they could not be true, "real", living languages until they had a people (namely the Elves), a culture, and a history to accompany them.
As far as the loss of different cultures of Middle-earth, I found our in-class discussion about Hobbit culture interesting because, even though their culture isn't well-known in the "grand scheme" of the world, hobbits themselves are extremely important to the events of Middle-earth. This also made me think about Gandalf, and his study of hobbit culture. Chances are he is the only being out in the wide world that cares that much about and invests in Halflings, and as we discussed today, Gandalf is the one who sets the hobbits into motion. I'm interested in other people's thoughts about this connection between Gandalf and the hobbits, as well as what would happen with the loss of other Middle-earth cultures such as maybe the Ents or the Easterlings?

Ossë said...

The languages Tolkien created add an element of realism to his cultures. The fact that each culture has its own language gives a sense of authenticity to the people in his stories. Obviously, his extensive understanding of so many different languages helped him create the languages of Middle-earth. Grounding his languages in reality helped Tolkien ground his stories in reality, which is a necessary characteristic for almost any fantasy story.

I've read a few fantasies that have invented languages that feel like they were pulled out of thin air. I love the Inheritance Cycle, but the languages the author creates seem to be collections of his favorite words from various languages (Old English, Norse, etc.). Tolkien's languages are much more functional and realistic.