Parma Eldalamberon 18
Reviewed by Edward J. Kloczko
[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:2 (#343) in February 2011.]
If you have ever wondered why Primitive Quendian kwene “person” becomes kwēn in Common Eldarin, you will certainly love reading the first part of “Parma Eldalamberon” No. 18, published in 2009, and edited by Christopher Gilson and Patrick Wynne. In it you will get the answer to that question and to many others about these two Proto-languages of the Elves.
To fully grasp the content of the “Tengwesta Qenderinwa”, which is the Quenya title of the work published on pp. 23–58, and on pp. 69–107 (a later version of that grammar bearing the same title), together with a shorter document, “Element of Quendian Structure” (pp. 59–68), you will need to know something about historical linguistics. A reminder, if you don’t remember having ever read about the words kwene and kwēn, you’ll fnd these in “Quendi and Eldar”, root √KWENE (The War of the Jewels, p. 360). If you are the kind of reader to pass over such details, then I guess this issue won’t be of much interest to you, unless you go in for such technical Elvish stuff as: “The kalta-form became the favorite word-shape, for simple uncompounded words, in Eldarin languages, but very many words of this shape are not ‘4-root’ bases” (p. 89). I must admit that I do go in for such stuff. But then again I’m a linguist, and not all readers of Tolkien’s works are linguistically minded.
In 1987 Christopher Tolkien wrote in his introduction to the Etymologies: “My father wrote a good deal on the theory of sundokarme or ‘base-structure’.” (The Lost Road, p. 343). So at last, after twenty-three years, the Elvish sundokarme is presented in the “Tengwesta Qenderinwa”. With it Tolkien demonstrates that he did not make a “model”, something which looks like a language but is not. He created an “operative machine” capable of producing Elvish words with a set of simple rules.
The second part of PE:18, pp. 109–48, is entitled “Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets, Part 2”. In it, Arden Smith presents three alphabets devised by J.R.R. Tolkien in the late 1920s, several years before he conceived the magnificent tengwar: Qenyatic, Angloqenya, and Angloqenya Revised. The first part of this treatment was published several years ago in PE:16. It is interesting to note that many features of the tengwar were already present in these alphabets.
Arden Smith writes: “The corpus presented in this edition contains every known example of the alphabets of the Angloquenya group, as well as the only known document concerning Qenyatic 1929” (p. 110). I think that these alphabets were invented by Tolkien to be used in his unpublished personal diary. He did not invent a full alphabet, let alone three, to write in it only five or six lines of a poem. In his diary Tolkien wrote in English but used, most of the time, his invented alphabets. It all started with the Alphabet of Rúmil, back in 1919.
This issue of Parma Eldalamberon is a must have only if you care a lot about Elvish grammar and Elvish calligraphy. It does not have the broad and general appeal of PE:17, for example; but for those who share Tolkien’s private passion for languages, it is indeed well worth reading.