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A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings 1st Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0874809121
ISBN-10: 0874809126
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  • A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: University of Utah Press; 1st Edition edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874809126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874809121
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jessica Levai on January 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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