- Paperback: 360 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; First Edition edition (May 29, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1546961259
- ISBN-13: 978-1546961253
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Fan's Guide to Neo-Sindarin: A Textbook for the Elvish of Middle-earth First Edition Edition
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About the Author
Fiona Jallings has a BA in English-Linguistics and a minor in Japanese. She’s been studying Tolkien’s languages since she was 15, when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. She uses her linguistic knowledge to teach free online classes about Neo-Sindarin and maintains the website Realelvish.net, which provides phrasebooks and name translations in a handful of Tolkien’s languages. She lives a quiet nerdy life in Northwestern Montana with her wife of many years, spending her free time taking photos of wildlife, sewing her own cosplay costumes, and talking to her cat Muior.
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But if you are a fan of language learning in general, I would still encourage you read through this book.
Pros: This is simply the most up-to-date work on Tolkien's Elvish currently in print. It also contains some extremely insightful observations on Sindarin that can be found nowhere else. It is written in a friendly, approachable tone, and even includes exercises so readers can test their knowledge at the end of each section. Jallings does a good job of distinguishing between reconstructed forms and those that are attested in Tolkien's works, and explains the reasoning behind her hypotheses and reconstructions in some detail.
Cons: This book can't seem to decide if it wants to be a rigorous reference grammar of the language, or a tutorial for beginners. It ends up filling neither role very well. Several attributes of the book make it less than ideal for novices:
- Jallings introduces Sindarin pronunciation by first teaching the International Phonetic Alphabet, which makes no sense to me because it's just as hard to learn IPA as it is to learn the sounds of Sindarin. Even if you master the IPA symbols for English as the book suggests, pronouncing Sindarin won't be effortless, because Sindarin has sounds that don't exist in English!
- The book doesn't teach Sindarin's notorious consonant mutations until quite late in the course, which I think does a disservice to the reader. Rather than learning mutations as needed while building up from simple phrases to complex sentences, you're forced to rely on pre-mutated vocabulary words for the early exercises. This means that if you read only the first half of the book, you'll know a lot of grammar, but you won't be able to form sentences of your own unless someone does the mutation for you. I have a feeling this will discourage beginners who may not be sure if they want to make a huge investment in learning the language.
- The book uses more technical terms than strictly necessary. This might appeal to people who want to learn some linguistics while they study Elvish, but for those who just want to use the language, it might be a bit of a slog.
The organization of the book also makes it hard for more advanced learners to look up a particular grammar rule. The table of contents includes only the broadest headings, so it isn't much help if you want to find, say, the section on prepositions.
There is no section on tengwar (the Elvish alphabet).
Overall, I'd recommend this book to all students of Sindarin with the caveat that they will probably want to learn from other resources first and use this book to supplement their knowledge.
The primary point I will make is that Jallings is a very clear writer, somehow she manages to distill explanations into a form as precisely as detailed as necessary. With a subject like this it would be easy to slip into overtly technical exposition or simplifications that remove interesting/necessary detail. Here every topic is explained as it is with no dressing up or dumbing down. It reads like talking informally to an expert, in that it is mostly everyday language with subject specific terms thrown in.
The language itself is difficult to a certain extent. The vocabulary is not as extensive as a true living language and there is less grammatical minutia. It can be learned quicker than most living languages by reason of being "smaller" in this sense. However the full details of mutations are complex to learn (I say this already being a speaker of an initial mutating Celtic language).
You're not going to get a clearer account of Sindarin anywhere. I hope the author someday tackles Quenya.