The Lord of the Rings


Instructions: For each of the following queries, there are two (or sometimes three) choices for answering. For any given question, pick ONE option — and ONLY one option — and answer it in complete, concise, coherent sentences of connected prose (that is, not in outline form). Be sure to type (i.e., word-process) your responses in a common 12-point font like New Times Roman, with double spacing (or at least space-and-a half). Do not write less than half a page, or more than one full page, for any one question. Turn in a hard copy of your answers on cleanly-printed standard-size pages stapled together in the upper left-hand corner (without any enclosing folder or plasticized sheets). Make sure that your name is printed at the top of every page, and also that you have kept an electronic copy for yourself (plus, if you wish, a hard copy, as a back-up). Do NOT submit an electronic copy of your answers.

It is expected that many answers can be supported by effective examples from The Lord of the Rings (with exact citations according to Book & Chapter, as in “LOTR3.1”, etc.). Any other pas­sages quoted or paraphrased (other than notes on class-lectures) should also be attributed to their sources, among which Fauskanger’s website and the course-textbooks will be helpful. These may be cited [within brackets, but NOT wholly surrounded (as here) by quotation-marks] in the following way: “ Fauskanger,, ‘Tolkien’s Secret Vice’ ”, etc., or “ Carpenter, Biography, p. 1 ”, etc., or “ Shippey, Road, p. 3 ”, etc., or “ Shippey, Author, p. 4 ”, etc. Other class-readings, outside readings, and other websites may be cited (first in full, but, af­ter that, via appropriately short but intelligible abbreviations similar to those preceding) as long as they are truly relevant. [It is nearly always better to cite (i) something that looks highly rele­vant but is raggedly written in one’s own notes, rather than (ii) something that looks much less relevant but is nicely printed or tastefully displayed in some published or posted source….]

And now: Good luck! — Almien! (Quenya for ‘To good fortune!’).

Question 1: Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —

a. What circumstances of experience and/or belief were responsible for Tolkien’s approach­ing languages as if they were sacred entities, even holy things?

b. What evidence can be given to support the claim that Tolkien created Middle-Earth and its detailed history so as to provide a home for his invented languages, rather than inventing languages in order to add local color to both Middle-Earth and its detailed history?

Question 2: Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —

a. Most linguists avoid (a)esthetic judgments concerning languages and instead emphasize the extremely high degree to which the words of languages display an arbitrary connection be­tween sound and meaning. Was Tolkien a typical linguist, in this regard?

b. In what sense or senses can it justifiably be said that Tolkien used his knowledge of ancient and modern languages within his particular linguistic specialty in order to add reinforced cultural differentiation to the story — and greater forward drive to the plot — of The Lord of the Rings?

Question 3: Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —

a. Over the course of his life, Tolkien seems to have been an irrepressible tinkerer with the existing materials of various sorts that he encountered: e.g., historical, linguistic, and lit­erary materials. What language-related or other facts are available to support this view?

b. What kinds of evidence are appealed to by historical linguists (of whom Tolkien was one) when they confidently state that certain languages are related to one another and so form a linguistic group such as a language family (or a branch of a language family)?

Question 4: Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —

a. To indicate and highlight differences of age, status, ethnicity, social class, and personality type, what sorts of stylistic and other linguistic devices in English and/or other languages did Tolkien exploit?

b. It is evident that Tolkien really did believe 20th-century England to be lacking a mythology comparable to that of many other countries. What 2 main historical factors were responsi­ble for England’s (non-)mythology being in such a predicament?

Question 5: Choose either (but NOT both) of a. or b. —

a. What evidence is there to support the claim that Tolkien organized his two main writing-systems for the languages of Middle-Earth according to linguistic principles, rather than letting them appear to have been thrown together more or less as a hodgepodge, in the same way as many of the world’s current alphabets or other writing-systems?

b. Both Old English [OE] culture and OE language are often compared with those of the Ro­hirrim in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings [LotR], whereby it is sometimes even said that Ro­han is essentially Old England with horses added — or at least given a more central role. Briefly evaluate how close the cultural and linguistic parallels between an OE-speaker and a Rohir (‘horselord’) actually are, in two ways. First, compare the functioning of the CO­MITATUS — a social unit in which a leader and his retainers are bound together by ties of honor, loyalty, and interdependence — in Old England (pre-1066) and in Rohan. Do this by juxtaposing LotR’s historical-like account of the Rohirrim’s deeds in (or near) Edoras, Helm’s Deep, Dunharrow, and Minas Tirith with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s historical account of Cynewulf vs. Cyneheard (see for one Modern English translation; for a quite readable version of the OE original text, see Second, evaluate to what degree our class discussions of the devices of OE POETRY are reflected in Tolkien’s various inclusions of poetry or songs recited or otherwise performed by (or about) the Ro­hirrim and their leaders in LotR.

Question 6: Choose one (but NOT all, or even two) of a. or b. or c. —

a. With reference to our class discussions and handouts on the case system of Finnish, on the one hand, and to Fauskanger’s discussion of Quenya cases in “Ardalambion”, on the other hand, evaluate the degree to which it is accurate to say (as is often done) that the Quenya case-system is based on that of Finnish. In this regard, not only the number of cases in each language is relevant, but also the similarities and differences between and among their linguistic forms (i.e., the shapes of their suffixes), as well as their general meanings and functions. For Quenya, the latter (the meanings and functions) are discussed in their essentials by Fauskanger. For Finnish, the schematic meanings/functions laid out in tabu­lar form by class handouts and discussions can be treated as sufficient, though other sour­ces may, if desired, also be briefly cited.

b. There are some lexical (= vocabulary-related) similarities between Welsh and Sindarin, but their grammatical parallels are even more striking. What are the main grammatical simi­larities between these two languages as regards, first, possession-marking and, second, the changes that certain words undergo when they appear in particular word- and/or sentence-structures? For Sindarin, you may assume that Fauskanger’s discussion of the language in “Ardalambion” provides sufficient material for your answer. For Welsh, you may consult: (i) any of our Oncourse-posted course-resources that mention Welsh (some in passing, two in a directly focused [and titled] way), or (ii) any of the considerable number of introduc­tory books on Welsh in the Wells (Main) Library, and/or (3) any of various grammatically informal Online resources. The latter include such websites as Daphne Percival’s “Gwers [‘Lesson’] 1” on Welsh at (directed at complete beginners, but still useful for your entire answer) or Omniglot’s or­thographically-based discussion at (linguis­tically more sophisticated, but useful mainly for only part of your answer).

c. It is sometimes claimed that Esperanto is a maximally simple language. Discuss this claim on the basis of: (i) our class-discussions of Esperanto, (ii) our many other discussions of (other) language(s) and linguistics, (iii) useful Web-available information like the 16-rule “Fundamento” (‘Foundation’) of the Akademio de Esperanto (‘Academy of Esperanto’) [see], and (iv) common sense. In particular, take a specific position on whether or not Esperanto is in­deed a maximally simple language — also attempting, if possible, to back up your opinion with convincing evidence and arguments.

Question 7: Choose one (but NOT all, or even two) of a. or b. or c. —

a. In class, we discussed a classification which contrasts relatively analytic languages, like Mandarin Chinese or Vietnamese (and English), with relatively synthetic languages, like Latin or Spanish (and even with polysynthetic languages like West Greenlandic [Eskimo] or Turkish). Within the synthetic grouping, a further distinction is made between aggluti­native languages, in which morphemes with predominantly clear-cut boundaries are sim­ply glued together, as it were, in comparatively large numbers, and fusional (or inflection­al) languages, in which the combining of several meanings or grammatical functions in one morpheme is common (this resulting in fewer morphemes per word) and in which the boundaries between morphemes tend to become blurred. (Recall that morpheme is a cover term which includes not only roots but also prefixes or suffixes [and infixes]; morphemes are the building-blocks of word formation.) In terms of this classification scheme, what kind of language is Quenya, and what kind of language is Sindarin?

b. In a long 1955 letter to his publisher (which we discussed in class), Tolkien wrote that he would have “preferred to write in ‘Elvish’…[, b]ut, of course, such a work as The Lord of the Ring ha[d]… been edited…[,] and only as much ‘language’ ha[d]… been left in as … [he] thought would be stomached by readers”, though he later found that “many would have liked more”. To what extent do you think Tolkien was serious in suggesting (did he not?) that he would have preferred to write ALL of LotR in Elvish? And would Elvish (would it have been mainly Sindarin or Quenya?) have been enough, or might Westron have had to be the primary language of the book? What would have been the probable reaction of most publishers and readers if Tolkien had had his druthers, and had written the book entirely, largely, or even just substantially in Elvish (and/or in others of his in­vented languages)? To the maximum extent possible, back up your answer with con­vincing evidence and arguments.

c. In a withering attack on Neo-Quenya and Neo-Sindarin (hence also on the Tolkienian lin­guistics of Helge K. Fauskanger and David Salo, respectively), Carl F. Hostetter’s 2006 paper “‘Elvish as She Is Spoke’” argues that certain current attempts to systematize and expand Tolkien’s invented languages not only misanalyze the grammars and vocabularies of those language-systems but even misconstrue what Tolkien’s linguistic creativity was all about. Via our course-provided electronic access, reread Hostetter’s extended essay and evaluate his claims in light of everything that we have seen, read, and discussed in this class. In particular, does Hostetter [“CFH”] in fact go too far, or are Fauskanger and Salo [“HKF” and “DS”] more or less guilty as charged? And would Peter Jackson’s LotR trilo­gy have been an appreciably better filmic experience if Jackson had been inclined (and able) to listen more to Hostetter than to Salo?

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