Jason (jcreed) wrote,

I read a book called "Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World". Kind of interesting, but it felt kind of totally bogus in some places. In the context of making up a mythology, it makes sense to talk about the "original meanings" or "true meanings" of words --- because, in this case, Tolkien made these words up himself, and assigned them, in the course of the internal history of his stories, a first meaning, for the language appeared all at once. However, the author of this nonfiction book, a literary analysis of Tolkien's fiction, described with a totally straight face that Tolkien was interested in tracing the etymological roots of real-world words back to their "original" "pure" meanings --- and, as an example, it gave the currently accepted reconstruction of some proto-indo-european roots for some present-day english word. Beyond that it waxed poetic about how this english word "really" included in its meaning all the other reflexes of that PIE root. This kind of reasoning makes fine poetry, but is total rubbish concerning the reality of language, I think.
Tags: linguistics, tolkien

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