TIW: [Letter discussing the attempts to represent the Tengwar language with English letters and exploring the intricacies of Tolkien's language system, with message in Tolkien Tengwar script, and in-line commentary by Greg Shaw]

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[page 20] _JOHN CLOSSEN_, 179 East Houston St., New York, NY 10002 I am somewhat puzzled by the controversy current over how best to adapt the characters of the Tengwar to the writing of English. Everyone whose comments I have read seems to favor some more or less phonetic version, ranging from various makeshifts to the fairly rigorous and [page 21] and consistent (but also complex) systems devised by some whose knowledge of linguistics is fairly exact. Even those who deplore this trend have failed to offer what seems to me the obvious solution. To begin with, there are two major and somewhat interlocked objections to a highly phonetic solution. One, since pronounciation of English varies from place to place in the U.S. and U.K., it follows that usage in phonetic spelling will vary similarly. The solutlon to this would be to devise a @linguisticly@ exact uniform spelling convention. At least two such systems have been published that I know of; there are doubtless many more. Which brings me to objection number two: to begin with, students of linguistics learn to distinguish explictly between sounds, with a subtlety somewnat beyod the concern of many, and [UNREADABLE] the ability of some to acquire. The difficulty of having to be able to spell everything accurately in the international phonetic alphabet or the like before essaying to write the same in phonetic Elvish should be obvious enough. In addition, does fan X of Littleville Georgia render a phonetic equivalent of his own local dialect (objection One again) or of the King's English, with which he is perhaps not accurately familiar or in some mythical American Standard known only to speech department faculties in Northeastern U.S.? Finally: ever try to teach anyone Tengwar? There are a hell of a lot of people who would love to learn it but balk at the idea of having to take a short course (for some, not so short!) on linguistics first. There is, however, at least one aspect of English with which every literate user of the language is familiar- or should be, and will readily admit it -and that of course is the spelling. True, spelling variations exist especially between US and UK, but these are minor and moreover are tabulated in most dictionaries. Now the spelling of English is wildly unphonetic - a linguistic nightmare. _BUT_ IT IS WIDELY KNOW AND ACCEPTED!! Therefore, why not spell the Feanorian version as nearly like written English as possible? This is no more difficult than devising an elaborate phonetic system, @.@ If a phonetic system must be devised, why not adopt one for writing something like a generalized international phonetic alphabet, applicable to any modern language? After all, what is to happen when Tolkien is eventually translated? Arabic Tengwar maybe? Japanese Tengwar? Urdu or Hindi or Telugu Tengwar? I foresee much delightful work for the scholars. Another problem comes to mind, however, which may prove far more serious than divergent spellings, and this is the use of contractions, abbreviations, atypical ligatures and other incunabula. I have devised some of these, but have kept my inventive urges in check somewhat, since I did not wish to become illegible to my correspondents. Theend @The end@ result of this trend might easily be a script with few or no phonetic equivalents, or at least no strict phonetic equivalents - and not in the original sense in which Tolkien says the Tengwar was devised either. As an illustration, let us take the conjugation of a verb. In Tengwar, the verb run =<tengwar script>. By devising a set of signs (we might call them 'radicals' - sound familiar?) to indicate various tenses, these could be written without bothering about the spelled endings at all. They would have no definite phonetic value, the silent reader simply recognizing them as tense radicals, and the reader aloud speaking the appropriate sounds for the spoken tenses. Since there would be only one such set, the written conjugation of all verbs would be perfectly regular, regardless of the variety of the spoken forms. Similarly for comparison [page 22] of adjectives, and so on. Some point of balance would have to be arrived at between the spoken and written forms that would be up to the writer. Surprisingly few symbols would be needed, and they would be of use for any languages whose structures might more or less correspond. The advantages of such an international syncretic script are interesting to consider. There might exist a single _written_ language, whose symbols would be pronounced, if at all, in the reader's own speech, whatever it was, the symbols having no unique phonetic value. Of course, arbitrary values might be assigned, producing a spoken language which could be written in any script, as long as variant writings (like Tengwar--) survived. Meanwhile we all go on devising and defending our own particular preferences in crypto-feänorian... Yes I would like further issues of Entmoot, and by all means publish this letter if you have a mind. /-I think I do/- I would like to hear the response. -/I think you will--quite deafeningly/- P.S. Comment on Don Simpson's system E.2 - I might suggest that <Tengwar letter> and <Tengwar letter> be used for rd and ld instead of RH and LH, since RD and LD are common endings in English, and RH and LH are relatively rare. LD especially occurs in phonetically reduced form in could, would, etc. <Seven lines of Tengwar script follow the text.> -I trust I have somewhat illustrated my point- John Clossen

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