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A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings [Hardcover]

David Salo
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 550 pages
  • Publisher: University of Utah Press (Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874808006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874808001
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,736,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gateway to Sindarin 8 May 2005
Although there are several guides to JRR Tolkien's languages, these tend to be rather general and concise, designed more to give a taste of the work the Professor put into his epic tales. 'Gateway to Sindarin' has far more detail, and treats the Sindarin language in the same way as a French grammar reader would treat its subject matter. Personally, as someone who uses Sindarin frequently for contributions to a fan website, this made the book invaluable. It is well-written, clear, and with its appendices / word lists as well, this book finally gives all the information a student would need about Sindarin in one place.
The in-depth analysis of grammar, consonant mutation etc, might not be the best place for a beginner to start, but any serious student of Tolkien's languages should not be without this book. However, the opening section on the history of the Elvish languages in itself gives a great insight into the amount of time and labour Tolkien put into creating his world.
Finally, the linen binding has an almost ethereal, 'elvish' quality about it; just a small detail that struck me as adding to the book's desirability.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong ! 12 April 2011
This book lives up to neither its title nor its promise.

For anyone who knows anything about J.R.R. Tolkien's invented languages, this book is not a reliable 'Gateway to Sindarin'. Rather, it is an unacknowledged mishmash of Noldorin of the 1930s (from 'The Etymologies'), Sindarin of the 1950s (from 'The Lord of the Rings'), and numerous inventions of David Salo himself.

It is therefore misleading to call this book 'A Gateway to Sindarin'. It would have been more accurate to call it 'An Introduction to David Salo's Reinterpretation of Tolkien's Gnomish-Noldorin-Sindarin language'.

I urge all would-be purchasers to NOT to buy it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 2 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want to learn more about Sindarin then there is no better book.

BE WARNED that this isn't simply a book to learn Sindarin. It is a full grammar, morphology and lexicon of the Sindarin language. Some knowledge of linguistics is required.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
77 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Na vedui! At last! 20 Jan 2005
By Jessica Levai - Published on Amazon.com
I was so excited to hear that David Salo, one of the linguists who worked on the Elvish for the Lord of the Rings films, was publishing a book on Sindarin grammar. Since Tolkein never wrote such a thing, it had to be reconstructed, and many attempts to do so exist on the web, with varying degrees of accuracy.

I will not say that this is definitive, because no such thing can exist. But it is useful to have so much information in one place, well organised. My favorite part is the Appendices. These include glossaries of English and Sindarin, a list of Sindarin roots (very nifty!), a glossary of names and what they mean (if you insist on giving your child a Tolkein name, please read it first!) and, best of all, a compilation of extant texts in Sindarin, always the first place you should look for grammar and ideas. I also enjoyed the section on sentence construction. There is no index, though, which is a bit of a bummer, but the table of contents is fairly well organised.

While Mr. Salo does appreciate that people write their own texts in Sindarin, this book is not for beginners, because it is a reference grammar. There are no lessons or exercises, so it should not be the first place you go to teach yourself unless you are really dedicated or have some familiarity with dead and/or fictional languages, the kind most likely to be learned from a book. For others, especially those interested in the languages as heard in the movies, I recommend a stop by Gwaith-i-Phethdain, over at [...]

For anyone who knows something about this Elvish tongue and wishes to see a comprehensive grammar, this is it. It isn't perfect, and there is plenty to squabble over, but it is a very important start.
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars parf ammaer 'ni lam edhellen 6 July 2005
By M. A. Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Like Dr Johnson's dictionary, David Salo's book is a magnificent but curious and occasionally idiosyncratic achievement. It has the delicious feel of a slightly old-fashioned grammar, and it is most beautifully bound and presented.

Salo takes an interesting approach: he decides in the main body of the text to enter into the fictional world completely, so explanations for puzzling phenomena or inconsistencies in the texts and etymologies must be given in terms bounded by Tolkien's fictional forms. So for example the superseded 'Noldorin' which Tolkien renamed 'Sindarin' after certain regular sound changes is explained as a Noldor-influence *dialect* perhaps spoken in Gondolin. He reaches into Tolkien's world to find a suitable explanation for what was just an authorial change of mind. Well - er, maybe! Another equally interesting approach would have been to have looked at the development of the language in real-world terms, from the point of view of Tolkien's linguistic aesthetics. *Why* is 'aew' more lovely that 'oew'?!

Much of the book is very good simply by virtue of collecting a lot of information in one place in an elegant format. The sections on names and compounds are especially good, as it the dictionary - a great boon to anyone trying to compose texts in a language which is missing a significant number of ordinary words.

Salo's reconstructions are (usually) marked as such, but in the effort to present an overall description of the language, he (in my opinion) does not flag up where alternative explanations are available quite enough. The verb section and the bit on pronouns are probably in the long run going to prove the least reliable, through little fault of Salo's, except perhaps too great a desire for coherence.

I would, slightly guiltily, like to have seen a detailed explanation of his reasoning for the Sindarin dialogues he composed for the film trilogy: this is, as he fully admits, reconstructed Sindarin, but it was a lovely idea and had most beautiful effect. Perhaps the admirable conservatism he shows in 'A Gateway' prevented that. (For example he remains largely silent on the topic of 2nd person verb endings, which he reconstucted as *-ch in the films. This suggestion is modestly tucked away in brackets in 'A Gateway' and two alternatives, *-dh and *-l are also presented.) People seem to get very precious about Tolkien's languages, and there have been some quite aggressive reviews of this book on the net which, frankly, smack of jealousy. No doubt in the future more of Tolkien's writings will be published and parts of the book will be superseded, but for now: what a beautiful, fascinating read. A true tribute to a man who wrote that for him languages had a distinct 'taste'. This is very much to mine.
86 of 104 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Misleading Title, Unscholarly Contents 30 May 2008
By H. Grace - Published on Amazon.com
Unfortunately I don't seem to be able to give this item zero stars.

Sadly, this book lives up to neither its title nor its promise. For anyone who knows anything about J.R.R. Tolkien's invented languages, this book is not a reliable 'Gateway to Sindarin'. Rather, it is an unacknowledged mishmash of Noldorin of the 1930s (fr. 'The Etymologies'), Sindarin of the 1950s (fr. 'The Lord of the Rings'), and numerous inventions of David Salo himself. It is therefore misleading to call this book 'A Gateway to Sindarin'. It would have been more accurate to call it 'An Introduction to David Salo's Synthetic Reinterpretation of Tolkien's Gnomish-Noldorin-Sindarin language'.

(One might charitably suppose that this was in fact Salo's preferred title, but that there simply wasn't room on the stylized Moria Gate on the cover of his book to accommodate such a lengthy phrase. Perhaps the switch from a Beleriandic mode of vowel-representation to one accommodating vowel-pointing tehtar might have saved some room?)

In all seriousness: the unacknowledged, uncredited, and therefore (one presumes) copyright-violating use of Tolkien's 'Moria Gate' drawing on the cover of 'Gateway to Sindarin' is just the tip of the iceberg. While the book does have an "Annotated Bibliography" (pp.416-435), this is no substitute for a proper citation and referencing strategy. One searches in vain for any accreditation of earlier scholars of Tolkien's languages, not least the editors of Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon, whose publications and analyses of much original Tolkien linguistic material this book silently mines for forms without acknowledging any of their theoretical or methodological contributions. If this book isn't already tied up in court proceedings then it certainly should be.

There are several reviews of this deeply-flawed and pseudo-scholarly work online; I urge all would-be purchasers to consult them before supporting the publication of this book (and those like it).
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Sindarin study 2 Mar 2006
By ivorybrowneyes - Published on Amazon.com
This book is NOT for those who simply want to learn phrases and so on. Being a student of linguistics, and having a professor whose work is used as the official linguistic analysis in an area of Papua New Guinea, I can say with honesty that David Salo's work is the real deal. I showed this to my professor, and he was completely impressed (a feat in and of itself).

Reading Gateway is not casual; it takes some concentration. I suppose that, if one just wanted Elvish texts, it could be used. I was quite pleased to find him using the IPA in words, as I had wished for that since first finding Lord of the Rings.

The historical chart of the emergence of Sindarin better explains some of the material in The Silmarillion, and the overall historical prose explanation of the development of the different phases of Elvish was most helpful.

I would definitely recommend this to any Tolkien fans that happen to be linguists as well. A majority of fans would not understand, but it is a fascinating read nonetheless.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read 8 May 2012
By Nicholas Knudsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I haven't quite finished the book yet, it's not quite the thriller like the books it was based on, that you simply can't put down before reading "just one more chapter." However, for those interested in such things, it is rather well written (the sort of thing I would expect from an expert in both the language the reader is familiar with and the one he/she is attempting to learn about). The primary motivation for the review though, is to respond to some of the previous reviewers, who make some rather harsh accusations concerning David Salo's supposed lack of "proper citation," among other things.

Certainly I am no linguist myself (in fact, if I were, I would probably do the research myself) and lack the expertise to comment on some of the more technical aspects of the work, but I am more or less literate, and I was able to comprehend the preface to the book which clearly states, "This volume is not and cannot be the last or most accurate word on Sindarin... within the limits of the available source material, I believe this work to be accurate in general and in most points of detail... where gaps occur, they have been filled in by educated guesswork marked as such". That being so, those of us who have no formal education in linguistics, may find it very difficult to pick out the subtle nuances that experts such as Tolkien used in their creations.

It is, therefore, immensely helpful for those of us with an interest in learning a particular language, to have someone who is trained in such things do the research for us and fill in gaps more accurately than we might have ourselves. At the end of the day, Tolkien did not publish an all-encompassing guide to his works, so any reasonable interpretation of the missing pieces can hardly be called "unreliable."

As far as the citation comment, Tolkien's name appears on the front cover above the author's in the same size and style of print. This is effectively a textbook. I imagine most people don't randomly find this book with no foreknowledge of Tolkien's works and think to themselves, "what a great idea, I'll study an imaginary language for no particular reason!" One probably starts by reading the Lord of the Rings and desiring to learn more, and when you've run out of works written by the creator himself, what's the next step? Beyond that, the first 18 pages are actually a short recap of much of the history written in The Silmarillion and the other histories published by Christopher Tolkien. In this section, one can hardly two sentences without running into a cited reference, book and page number included.

Perhaps there are other works on the subject that Mr. Salo could have attributed his inspirations to, but seriously, he spent enough time researching and writing about the subject. One can hardly expect him to attempt to go back in time and make a note of every last detail in his life that led to the completion of this work. I am annoyed by the mere mention of legal proceedings.

Please try to find a book written about person A by person B that person C can't criticize for reasons D, E, or F. Good luck.
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