82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2005
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.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2005
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 So for example the superseded 'Noldorin' which Tolkien renamed 'Sindarin' after certain regular sound changes is explained as a Noldor-influence *dialect* perhaps spoken in Gondolin.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.
96 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2008
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
on March 2, 2006
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
on May 8, 2012
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2012
I am rather surprised that this books gets such a bad rap in the Tolkienic linguistics community.
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2014
I've searched all over: books, websites, etc., to find something this dedicated to Tolkien's creation. An extremely in-depth text, it is truly the go-to manual for all things Sindarin. It has 'lesson' breakdowns, charts, dictionaries, and diagrams of select excerpts. Since David Salo was the linguistic consultant on the LoTR movies, I trust him and his works much more than most other Sindarin references. A bit on the pricey side, but completely worth it as it is really the *only* source you'll need for the language.
Just be mindful that is a true language immersion. It can be a bit difficult to try to teach yourself the language since so much of Sindarin is based on how words *sound* together. However, whatever you can pull from this will be much better than any 'gaming' or 'online Elven dictionary'. You know of what I speak, wink.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2006
This book is amazing, but be certain that you're the right audience. <strong>This is a college-level textbook, and make no mistake about that.</strong> It is a very academic and thoroughly researched treatment of Sindarin. If you're looking for "Conversational Sindarin for Fun and Profit", this book is not it. Only buy it if you really have a deep interest in Tolkien's constructed languages. Having said that, it's worth every penny. I haven't seen this much detailed information on Sindarin anywhere else.
17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2007
David Salo's humble attitude regarding his intensely thorough research has produced a work of profound and astounding scholarship. This book is exciting to the point of being breathtaking, for, again, it raises the expectation that Middle Earth was indeed peopled by speakers of i-lambi Eldaron and rich with a living, thriving culture in which the powers of Light finally overcame the forces of darkness. Elvish is aesthetically thrilling, but getting a handle on this tongue, i.e., actually allowing tangible use of Sindarin makes this "linguist" jump for joy. The organization of the book moves the reader through what might easily be one of the most interesting graduate courses in language that any elf-friend has ever taken in higher education. Hannon lle, David Salo!
24 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2006
This book presents an exhaustive synthesis and systematization of what is more accurately termed "Neo-Sindarin": that is, an altered, synthetic form of Sindarin not as Tolkien ever conceived of it but instead as cobbled together by Salo himself through selective re-use and modification of attested Noldorin forms (which in fact form the vast bulk of the evidence for Salo's "Sindarin") in admixture with actual Sindarin forms and with forms wholly invented by the author. As such, the book misrepresents itself (throughout, and even in its very title) to anyone looking for a reliable examination and presentation of Tolkien's own Sindarin, but if the actual nature of Salo's "Sindarin" is borne in mind throughout, and if the reader assiduously checks the sources against all of Salo's claims and (supposed) data (that is, where the data are not fabricated by Salo, and to the extent allowed by Salo's sparse and often misleading citation of sources), this book can be useful for the student as an introduction to a more accurate and detailed study of Tolkien's own Sindarin.