A new page

Traversetravis wrote to me to suggest that I might use this blog to post some of my past writings related to the languages of Middle-earth. I’m grateful for the suggestion, which I think is a good idea, though at the moment I don’t know how much of what I’ve written has stood the test of time.

The first page that I’m creating, therefore, is a relatively recent essay called On Telerin which I wrote two years ago and posted as a sort of serial (because it’s quite long) on the Elfling mailing list. It’s about the Elvish language of the Teleri, which for reasons that I explain in the essay, can be considered Tolkien’s real “Elven-Latin.”

Because of the relatively scanty remains of Telerin, it’s actually possible to cover the entire development of language over time. This essay omits the earliest phases of this language, and covers a period from the late 1930s down to 1972; but I think it deals with a number of interesting points about the development of the Elvish languages in general.

It is almost the same text as that which appeared on Elfling, with only a few very minor changes in wording, none of which substantially affect the content. However, I have worked to enhance the appearance of the text so that it is hopefully more readable, and more in line with my intentions in writing it. I’m afraid that it is, in parts, rather technical (indeed, it’s possibly the most technical thing I’ve ever written about Elvish, including A Gateway to Sindarin) but even so there are some parts that should be readable for the non-technically minded.

Readers’ eagle eyes will no doubt discover some problems or inconsistencies in formatting; these are probably unintentional and will be fixed as they come to my notice.

Readers are also invited to try translating the section headers, all of which are in reconstructed Telerin, and can generally be figured out with the aid of the essay itself. Most are pretty obvious, but one or two may be a little tricky.

2 Responses to “A new page”

  1. Andrew Higgins


    I really enjoyed and was intrigued by your essay on Telerin, which I have read through once and will need to several more times to get all the points. My question is about how you approach linguistic analysis of Tolkien’s language work. As part of the current PhD I am working on around The Genesis of Tolkien’s Mythology, I am attempting a similar project with c. 1915 Qenya and c. 1917 Goldogrin (and other languages mentioned in the early works – Tel(e)akta for example). One of these projects is to reconstruct — from the Qenya Lexicon, the published poem Narqelion and notes from comparative points in the Goldogrin grammar, as well as Si Qente Feanor and fragments — what the earliest grammar of Qenya was (Tolkien would not write this grammar down to his time at Leeds in the 20’s) and then draw some comparisons with what primary languages may have influenced Tolkien (e.g. the original structure for the Qenya verb, based on several pages Tolkien included in the Qenya Lexicon, seems to resemble the Ancient Greek verb system with an active, middle, and passive and an aorist past tense – (Parma Eldalamberon 14 ‘Qenya Verb Forms’).
    Be interested to hear you approach your work, the process you use, notes kept, etc.

    Many thanks, please keep the essays coming, and I think a re-read of my very well thumbed and underlined Gateway to Sindarin is in order!


    • David Salo

      Thanks, Andy!
      I’m not sure that my processes can or should be imitated, since I am extremely disorganized. Mostly I just read all the primary material, and then when I come to write something, I go back to where I remember seeing the relevant citations and write them down. Over time, however, I have improved the references to my Elvish-language glossaries, which helps when I want to look something up. And although I do a fair amount of comparative work in pencil on note pads, I try to keep any notes that I think have long-term value in computer documents — mostly spreadsheets and word processing documents — which are easier to sort and search than paper is.


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