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A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Paperback – 30 Apr 2007
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"David Salo ... wrote A Gateway to Sindarin after his work on the films--it's the single best print resource for the language."--"Voya Voice of Youth Advocate"
"Puts to shame not a few published works on real-world languages." Mark Newbrook, Monash University
"Certainly, Gateway is likely to appeal to the truly serious fan of Tolkien's languages." "The Bulletin of The New York C.S. Lewis Society"
"An ambitious and helpful book. Entertaining and highly informative. Its potential audience is broad, and variably knowledgeable." "Tolkien Studies"
"David Salo wrote A Gateway to Sindarin after his work on the films it's the single best print resource for the language." "Voya Voice of Youth Advocate""
About the Author
David Salo is a doctoral candidate in linguistics at the University of Wisconsin. He was the primary linguistic consultant to film director Peter Jackson for the Lord of the Rings movie series.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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).
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.
Mr. Salo's book is not a presentation of "Sindarin as Tolkien defined it", because such a thing does not really exist. I don't think that Mr. Salo claims it is such. Rather, it is an attempt to synthesize the available evidence from Tolkien's writing into something resembling a complete language. Such an exercise necessarily requires extrapolation and guesswork from the (numerous) gaps in the existing information. I think the result is largely successful, though it is does not (and can not) agree in every detail with Tolkien's work.
The book isn't perfect, but it is thoroughly researched, and he does discuss the available evidence at length. Admittedly, Mr. Salo doesn't spend much time examining evidence contrary to his theories of the language, but I think that is due more to limitations of length rather than any kind of deliberate deception. I do wish he had included more bibliographical references, but he does generally cite his sources and explains his methods, contrary to what some of the reviews state. His examination of Sindarin phonetic development is, I think, unique in its level of detail.
One word of warning: this is not a beginner's book. If you are new to the study of Tolkien's languages, you would be better off starting with one of the simpler online descriptions of Sindarin. Once you have mastered the basics, though, Salo's book is a worthwhile guide for deepening your knowledge of one of Tolkien's elaborate and beautiful linguistic creations.