Sunday, November 29, 2009

Parma Eldalamberon 18

I recently got word from editor Christopher Gilson that the latest issue (#18) of the journal Parma Eldalamberon has now been published. Actually, I heard from him before it was published, but I’ve been sadly remiss about sharing the goodies. The 150-page issue is called “Tengwesta Qenderinwa and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets, Part 2”. Funny how these issues sneak up on us, isn’t it? I think we were all surprised by #17, and even though I’ve known something of the contents of this issue for some time, the news of its publication was still unanticipated (but very welcome).

For a detailed description of the issues, allow me to pass along the description that Chris gave me (which includes some details not mentioned on the website):
This issue of the journal is divided into two sections. The chronologically earlier is “Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets, Part 2,” presenting the rest of the group of invented scripts from about 1924 to 1929, the first part of which was published in Parma Eldalamberon, no. 16. The scripts include a couple of versions of Qenyatic that are designed for writing English, and some variations fairly similar to one of the versions of Qenyatic, which are called Angloquenya or Andyoqenya.

As in earlier editions of various other Tolkienian scripts, “Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets, Part 2” has tables of letter values, and samples of poems, prayers, and story fragments in the various alphabets. Those portions of the texts that are written in the invented scripts themselves are reproduced from copies of Tolkien’s manuscripts. The samples have been transcribed by the editor, Arden R. Smith, who has provided his usual careful commentary on the documents, and a detailed analysis of the phonetic intent of the various letters and symbols used by Tolkien in the documents.

The other section of this issue of the journal is the Tengwesta Qenderinwa or ‘Quendian Grammar’. You will recall that in Christopher Tolkien’s introduction to the Etymologies he said that Tolkien “wrote a good deal on the theory of sundokarme or ‘base-structure’,” and that it “was frequently elaborated and altered” (Lost Road, p. 343). This theory is the central part of the Tengwesta Qenderinwa, which also gives a description of the sounds of Primitive Quendian, and of patterns such as the combinations of sounds produced in the derivation of primitive words or word-stems by prefixion, infixion or suffixion.

Primitive Quendian is conceived of as a language that was never recorded, the knowledge of which could only be “guessed or discovered” by comparison of the various later Elvish languages that were written down. Thus there is an introductory survey of all these languages, called Lambion Ontale or ‘Descent of Tongues’, and there is a “Tree of the Descent of Tongues,” drawn by Tolkien, reproduced from the manuscripts.

Tolkien worked on the Tengwesta Qenderinwa in the late 1930s and again in the early 1950s; and the text underwent many minor and some major revisions in both the internal details of the conception and the manner in which Tolkien chose to convey his ideas. All of the textual history is presented in this issue, and the editors, Christopher Gilson and Patrick H. Wynne, have noted the relations between the linguistic data in the Tengwesta Qenderinwa and the Etymologies, and the historical connections with the contemporary texts of the Quenta Silmarillion and the Annals.
This sounds like another terrific issue. I know I’ll be picking up my copy soon. I recommend those of you interested in Tolkien’s invented languages do likewise!


  1. Did you know that Professor Tolkien took a great interest in the international language movement.

    He supported Esperanto which can be seen at

    Your readers may be interested in

  2. Hi, Brian. Yes, Tolkien had some interest in it; however, he did feel that Esperanto and other ex nihilo languages were deader than the so-called dead languages, e.g. Latin or Old English, because there were no Esperanto myths. But he supported the general idea behind them, and the movement to learn them. A couple of my Tolkien friends are big proponents of Esperanto and Volapük. :)