more about Elvish

Shelley at Burningbird wrote this about a Guide to Elvish**: “If you’re a Tolkien fan, or interested in linguistics, David Salo’s new book on the linguistics of Elvish, Gateway to Sindarin, A Grammar of an Elvish Language from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is out now.”

“From the 1910s to the 1970s, author and linguist J. R. R. Tolkien worked at creating plausibly realistic languages to be used by the creatures and characters in his novels. Like his other languages, Sindarin was a new invention, not based on any existing or artificial language. By the time of his death, he had established fairly complete descriptions of two languages, the “elvish” tongues called Quenya and Sindarin.”

I’m tickled pink about this, having posted some time ago about Elvish study in a UK school, and about the surprising connection to the Finnish language.

In fact, a Finnish IT student (probably graduated by now) Harri Perälä did very extensive research (in English) into Quenya, the other language created by Tolkien that resembles Finnish. Fascinating stuff!

More about Tolkien’s languages.

Addendum March 21.05: Tolkien’s Elvish prayers** – This site reveals some Elvish words and text. Found via mirabilis**

Edited March 12th, 2012: Sadly many links marked ** no longer exist and have been removed. However here is an interesting wikipedia page on author David Salo with information about his research and book. The name “Salo” is a very common Finnish name so I wonder if he has Finnish roots?

World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples

“Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, will host the Fourth World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples from 15-19 August 2004. The theme of the congress is “The Youth Is Our Future” and it will bring together approximately seven hundred delegates, observers and guests from Russia, Scandinavia, and Central and Eastern Europe. The Congress aims at developing and protecting the ethnic identities, cultures and languages of the Finno-Ugric peoples; promoting the co-operation between Finno-Ugric peoples; discussing and finding solutions to their most urgent problems; and promoting the implementation of their right to self-determination in accordance with the norms and principles of the international law.”

This Congress is convened every fourth year. Previously it was held in 1992 in Syktyvkar (Komi Republic, Russia), in 1996 in Budapest (Hungary), and in 2000 in Helsinki (Finland). This event is currently underway with Finnish President Ms. Tarja Halonen attending along with other heads of states, guests from UNESCO, ECOSOC, the European Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers and so on.

This is interesting news for my Finnish, Estonian and possibly Russian readers, and anyone interested in linguistics and ethnology, and for me in that I did not know such important and extensive meetings have been and are taking place.

Some related links:

  • Official site of the IV World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples and the association pages.
  • A chart of Uralic languages showing the numbers of speakers, note how many are endangered.
  • More about Finno-Ugric people especially of Russia.
  • My archived articles under the category of ethnology, such as this on preserving languages and about Fenno-Ugrian people.

    UPDATE: Current news on this event, such as the opening address by Prof. Janos Pusztay
    UPDATE Sept.13.04: Speech by President of Finland Tarja Halonen – This is excellent – well worth reading!

  • preserving languages

    Recently NewScientist published an interview of linguist Alexandra Aikhenvald. Here are some excerpts :

    “Imagine how different politics would be if debates were conducted in Tariana, an Amazonian language in which it is a grammatical error to report something without saying how you found it out – as Alexandra Aikhenvald tells us its speakers tell her. Tariana is in danger of dying. With each such disappearance we risk losing insights into different ways of thinking.”

    “Why is it important to preserve these languages? First, to learn about how people communicate and how the human mind works.

    What are the categories that are important enough for people to express them in their languages?

    If these so-called “exotic” languages die, we’ll be left with just one world view. This won’t be very interesting, and we’ll have lost a vast amount of information about human nature and how people perceive the world.

    Second, without their language and its structure, people are rootless. In recording it you are also getting down the stories and folklore. If those are lost a huge part of a people’s history goes. These stories often have a common root that speaks of a real event, not just a myth. For example, every Amazonian society ever studied has a legend about a great flood.”

    “And there are so many languages to work on. A dictionary means that the language is not completely lost and it empowers those who speak the language to preserve their cultural identity.”

    Aikhenvald also thinks Finnish may be the most difficult language she had come across!


    The Lord of the Rings mania has hit the schools!

    BBC has an amusing article “Do you speak Elf?”, about Birmingham schoolboys who have volunteered for lessons in Sindarin, the “conversational” form of Elvish, invented by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien.

    Tolkien, an Oxford academic who was expert in ancient languages, developed two forms of Elvish: Sindarin – based on the sounds of Welsh – is the more commonly used, and Quenya – related to Finnish – is largely a ceremonial language. To me, the word “Elvish” sounds like a cross of Welsh and Finnish – what fun!

    In another post, I wrote about the Finnish connection to Tolkien:

    “In the National Geographic News, we learn that a native of British Columbia, Canada, anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis traveled to a remote corner of Finland to uncover Tolkien influences among the ancient rune-singers of the Kalevala. It’s a fascinating story, worth reading!”

    Later: More about Elvish

    The Telling of Tales

    At Pericat, a blog that I enjoy looking at as well as reading, I noticed a link for the Kalevala. My curiosity made me write in and inquire “how come?”

    Pericat wrote a beautiful and moving response as an entry on her blog: Of the Folk about how she loves story – “That is folk song, and folk tale. The story born of fancy and memory blended, with the rhythm of the triad, the journey, the discovery, the rebirth…”

    Do read the whole entry for yourself as she has captured the mood and spirit of the ancient singing of the runes, as described in my entry on the Kalevala and the Lord of the Rings.

    KALEVALA and The Lord of the Rings

    As a Finnish-Canadian artist, I am drawn to learning more about the very ancient roots of my family in the Old World. In writing about these discoveries on this weblog, I hope to share some of these with other expatriate Finns, artists and everyone interested in this multicultural world. Maybe even my children will learn more about their heritage. For me, it is fascinating to find the connections in our cultures and history.

    The KALEVALA is Finland’s national epic. The first edition appeared in 1835, compiled and edited by Elias Lönnröt, who devoted many years travelling around Finland and Karelia collecting the ancient sung runes or poems. The Kalevala had a great impact in a growing Finnish nationalism, long suppressed by Swedish and Russian rule. It influenced many artists in Finland and abroad, such as Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha and J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

    In the National Geographic News, we learn that a native of British Columbia, Canada, anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis traveled to a remote corner of Finland to uncover Tolkien influences among the ancient rune-singers of the Kalevala. It’s a fascinating story, worth reading!

    ADDED March 4, 2004: about Elvish

    and Nov.23, 2004: more about Elvish