How do the characters talk?

MithLuin

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My main reason was that you can actually create entire conversations in those languages, which I am not aware of being possible in Quenya or Sindarin since we simply don't have enough vocabulary. I would be very happy to be proven wrong, however!
AH. This depends on how opposed you are to supplementing what we do know with some conjecture, and how willing you are to invent new words within the framework, etc. Salo was quite liberal with his Sindarin invention for Peter Jackson's films, of course. [All of the Khuzdul/Dwarvish is invented except for the inscription on Balin's tomb and the battle cry, 'Barak Khazad! Khazad ai-menû!']

Quenya is easier and more extensive than Sindarin, but even so, yes, not all ideas can be expressed easily.

However...people have translated the entire New Testament into Quenya, so I think we can manage a bit of dialogue (again, if we're willing to coin words as needed).
http://folk.uib.no/hnohf/nqnt.htm
 
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ouzaru

Well-Known Member
Since this week is still a planning session, I'm thinking to maybe bring up Marie's list and see if we can get them to hash it out a little more, I want to hear what Professor Olsen has to say about it in particular. They podcast came out today, but I can't had time to listen to it, I'll spend my evening listening and seeing what I can come up with. Since this is a language question, I'm keen to really get it right and have it both look/feel good to watch on TV and at least be referential and reverent of the work Tolkien actually did in this area.
 

Atanvarno

Member
AH. This depends on how opposed you are to supplementing what we do know with some conjecture, and how willing you are to invent new words within the framework, etc. Salo was quite liberal with his Sindarin invention for Peter Jackson's films, of course. [All of the Khuzdul/Dwarvish is invented except for the inscription on Balin's tomb.]

Quenya is easier and more extensive than Sindarin, but even so, yes, not all ideas can be expressed easily.

However...people have translated the entire New Testament into Quenya, so I think we can manage a bit of dialogue (again, if we're willing to coin words as needed).
http://folk.uib.no/hnohf/nqnt.htm
We can do a lot with Quenya. It's worth pointing out that coining new words isn't inventing them from scratch: Tolkien left us the Etymologies which contain the primitive Elvish roots. Combine this with our understanding of Quenya grammar, which is almost completely understood,* and we can translate most things. (Just don't ask for a theoretical physics paper, or anything too technical.)

Sindarin, we can do a lot, but less than with Quenya. We've still got access to the roots, we can do all sorts of tricks to make it workable.

Both these assume a certain amount of conservative coinage is acceptable. If we accept only words from the corpus... Quenya is just about workable and Sindarin probably isn't, except for occasional fragments.

Other languages (pertinent for later seasons), e.g. Adûnaic, Westron, Khuzdul, Entish, Orcish, Black Speech, we simply are unable to represent on screen with any degree of faithfulness, except by repeating the corpus. For some, we've got a decent enough idea of the phonetics to produce babbling with the right sound of the language, for others we don't even have that.

I vote for option 4. However, when it comes to non-Elvish languages, I think 2 is as far as it is possible to go. I'm also sticking my protagonist suggestion, since they're not mutually exclusive.

Also... I'm assuming we're going to just fudge the other Elvish languages, i.e. lump Telerin in as part of Quenya, and call Doriathrin and Nandorin both Sindarin.

* Well there's a few bits which we know we don't understand, and one or two things conspicuous by their absence, plus there's bound to be some unknown unknowns. But, by and large, we can get round the issues. Sometimes the phrasing will come out awkward, but nothing is insurmountable.
 

NotACat

Active Member
I'm looking forward to seeing which accents people think are appropriate for which race/species…
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
We can do a lot with Quenya.
AGREED.

Sindarin, we can do a lot, but less than with Quenya. We've still got access to the roots, we can do all sorts of tricks to make it workable.
Yes, I don't think these limitations are insurmountable, but I do acknowledge that they are there and more challenging than Quenya.

Both these assume a certain amount of conservative coinage is acceptable. If we accept only words from the corpus... Quenya is just about workable and Sindarin probably isn't, except for occasional fragments.
I am comfortable with coinage based on the etymologies, yes.

Other languages (pertinent for later seasons), e.g. Adûnaic, Westron, Khuzdul, Entish, Orcish, Black Speech, we simply are unable to represent on screen with any degree of faithfulness, except by repeating the corpus. For some, we've got a decent enough idea of the phonetics to produce babbling with the right sound of the language, for others we don't even have that.
These will have to be used very sparingly, if at all, because they are essentially made up. But perhaps including them will be seen as important at some point...and making something up may not be the end of the world.

I vote for option 4. However, when it comes to non-Elvish languages, I think 2 is as far as it is possible to go. I'm also sticking my protagonist suggestion, since they're not mutually exclusive.
Not only not mutually exclusive, but gets to the limitations of this list. I was only listing possible variations on degree of language usage, not how or why we would be using it. There is a lot more to talk about than just 'how much elvish?', though I wanted to make sure people were on somewhat the same page as a starting point.

Also... I'm assuming we're going to just fudge the other Elvish languages, i.e. lump Telerin in as part of Quenya, and call Doriathrin and Nandorin both Sindarin.
That was my assumption as well. The only exceptions might be if there were a particular word that is only used by one group, and we choose to use that there...but we're not going to teach the audience the distinction. Two elvish languages is enough to keep track of!
 

dietlbomb

Member
To depict the evolution of the two languages, it would probably suffice to show only the evolution of Quenya in Valinor. As this is important to the story, it should be made a focus of the plot and the characters.

Here's one suggestion for how to accomplish this. We know the Fëanor invents a writing system, so why not have Fëanor also take the lead in the "improvement" of the language. Fëanor and his followers could lead a genuine and largely successful effort to make the Elvish language more poetic/logical/expressive/whatever during the noontide of Valinor.

To depict this will require some subtlety. At the start of the season, all the Elves should speak in a simple but formal English on screen. This will continue until the Quenya episode. Elves working on developing and learning Quenya will lapse into Quenya words on screen; they can be shown teaching and learning the language, and this can be controlled through the frame narrative. At the end, Valinorean elves will be shown speaking a more elaborate and formal English, perhaps with a "higher" accent.

When Quenya speakers encounter Sindarin speakers, the scene must establish which characters have the scene's point of view. If the scene is from a Sindarin speaker's perspective, have the Quenya speakers speak Quenya on screen with the Sindarin speakers speaking "simple" English. If the scene is from the Quenya speaker's perspective, have the Sindarin speakers speak Sindarin on screen and the Quenya speakers speak the "fancy" English. If the scene is from a third person perspective (perhaps for a single scene that relates to the Frame narrative for a Frame character who doesn't speak either Sindarin or Quenya, perhaps with a quick cut from the scene to the Frame with the bemused listener interrupting the narrator, but that could be a little too cute), have all the characters speak Sindarin and Quenya.

If the character with the scene's perspective understands the foreign language, show subtitles. If the character doesn't, don't show the subtitles. If it is a plot point that characters speak Quenya to avoid being understood by Sindarin speakers, show the subtitles, but have the Sindarin speakers react on screen in some way to show they didn't get what was said.
 

dietlbomb

Member
There are some well made scenes in Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country that play on the languages and characters' perspectives. The trial scene is a good example of this problem resolved well.

The Hunt for Red October does this pretty well too. The movie starts with the Russian characters speaking Russian, but they switch to English after it is well established they are indeed Russians. Later on, when the Americans encounter the Russians, the Russians all speak English, but with Russian accents, but there is a scene when one American speaks in Russian to remind the viewers that they are indeed separate cultures.
 

MithLuin

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Staff member
I am not sure that Sean Connery's Russian accent in Hunt for Red October is a good example (any more than Armand Assante's highland Scotsman in 'Kidnapped'), but I do think you have a point of what it looks like to transition from characters speaking a foreign language to characters speaking accented English. It should comfort us that American audiences will believe that any sort of accent is more or less appropriate as long as it isn't overdone.
Famously bad accents on film:

This does remind me of one option for 'unintelligible but sounds like English' - Brad Pitt's Pikey accent in 'Snatch', though of course that was played for laughs. You have to be careful with random made-up accents, though...they tend to sound weird.

In the deleted scenes from the first X-men film, you can see that they were considering giving Storm (Halle Berry) some sort of odd accent. This did not make it into the final cut:

You also get to the crux of what our discussion needs to deal with - how to portray this in the story onscreen? After all, it's not enough just to have characters occasionally speaking Quenya....we have to know where Quenya came from and why the elves of Doriath don't speak it. The language question has to be pulled into the generational and cultural clashes that are going on.
 
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MithLuin

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Okay, here is my first thought on how to show the 'evolution' of elvish language. This is just one detail - we'd need a lot more than this to show the audience what is happening. But have to start somewhere....

'A star shines on the hour of our meeting' is an elvish greeting, as we all know. But it is not a greeting from VALINOR, where everyone lives in the light of the Trees and almost never sees the stars. It is clearly a greeting first developed in Middle Earth, but before the Sun and Moon. Let's make it the greeting at Cuivienen. It is polite, poetic...not really a greeting from the road (the Journey), and so fundamental to elvish culture that ALL elves could have a memory of it.

So, sometime during Season 2 episodes 1-3, we hear this greeting (maybe even multiple times). When the elves meet Oromë, is this how they greet him? When the Ambassadors return from Valinor, is this how they are greeted by their people (or their wives)? Anyway, we can certainly work it in once or twice. And we can use PROTO-ELVISH* (with subtitles) to do it.

Then, we show the Journey. When people greet each other on the journey across Middle Earth, we can introduce 'Well met!' instead as a faster, more casual greeting. A scout goes ahead and comes back, and is greeted in this fashion. When Elwë returns to the Teleri, his brother Olwë can greet him this way. And this greeting is in SINDARIN. We can save this for after more time has gone by if we like, but sometime between Season 2 Episode 4 and early in Season 3 this can happen. Preferably multiple times, so the audience is used to hearing it. Hopefully, we can use it enough times that it doesn't even require subtitles any more, but since TV shows are broken into episodes...I imagine we'd use the subtitles anyway, just to help out the viewers.

Now, moving ahead to Season 3, we have the meeting of the Noldor and the Sindar in Middle Earth for the first time after the return of Morgoth. The Sindar start out by greeting 'Mae govannen!'** (Well met, but without subtitles this one time), while the Noldor say 'Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo!'

We will have language confusion and misunderstanding in that scene, but the astute observer will realize that the Noldor are *not* saying the same thing that was said back at Cuivienen, even though the subtitles are the same! So...we will be able to actually show the language evolution on film in this way. We cannot rely upon the audience noticing that, but it will be there, to reinforce whatever else we are telling them about the changed language. And what better sentence could we use to sum up elvish culture than this?

We will of course have the opportunity for hobbits to learn this traditional greeting in Quenya many seasons down the road - perhaps we see Bilbo learn it, and then Frodo use it.


* I am not sure how easy that would be to reconstruct. I know that we have the primitive elvish words for star and shine, but I'm not sure about hour or meeting. [Day, year, twilight, and morning are all available, though.] Presumably, someone somewhere has already thought of this. In Sindarin, it might be: "Êl síla erin lû e-govaned vîn." I don't know how much primitive elvish we want to use (if any), but they *did* have a name for Melkor (the Hunter): Mbelekôro. Other than that - probably just the work kwendi?
Here is some background on primitive elvish: http://folk.uib.no/hnohf/primelv.htm

** Technically, that is a familiar greeting, for friends who already know one another. It should probably be a more formal form here, for a meeting with strangers...as these are likely 3rd generation elves who don't know each other, rather than a reunion of old friends. Someone who is better at these languages than I am may finalize the forms used....but perhaps mae lovannen?
 

MithLuin

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Staff member
As far as I can tell, this thread did not make it into today's discussion, even though languages came up. Option 6 (everything in elvish with subtitles!) was firmly vetoed, as expected. The idea of using greetings and single elvish words peppered into the vocabulary (a la Watership Down) was well received. That seems more like...option 2. But nothing between those was really discussed, except for mentioning the LotR films (which are 3-4).

Sooooo....I'm not really sure what's wanted, but I think they want 'sparing' use of the languages, rather than 'copious'. But if we can make good arguments for including the elvish languages in particular instances, that may be well received.
 

MithLuin

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So....this accent exists. Fairly nearby to me, too.

Tangier Island, VA

Smith Island, MD

The 2nd video does look like it was taken covertly (w/o their permission), unfortunately.

Both of these are islands in the Chesapeake Bay, and most people who live there grew up there and their families have lived there for generations. Both islands are in danger of sinking/eroding into the Bay.

And a bit further south:

Ocracoke, NC
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I somehow like both ideas... representing the Elvish languages by different dialects and by using loanwords... for example simple words like father or Mother (Adar/Atar and Emel/Amille) other possible terms and figures of speech could be found i guess.

But I agree that the Elves should talk in a high elglish or archaic english... though i somehow like the Idea that the Sindar have a vaguely welsh accent and the Noldor a vaguely finnish accent.
 

MithLuin

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An example of a Finnish accent when speaking English:

An example of a Welsh accent while speaking English (3:28):
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
that's funny! thinking about finnish accent i've seen apocalyptica in interviews and their intonation made it sound really dark. in the lotr movies dom monaghan spoke with a welsh accent if i remember correctly.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
i was wrong... dom mon uses a west country dialect and billy boyd uses his native scots.the elves speak a posh english and gimli is a welshman who tries to sound scottish. so far what i learned from a british discussion board... still intrresting!
 

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
Well, I don’t think anybody will read this thread ever again, but to me it actually seems relevant to all the Seasons since the questions are from Season 0. For fun I wrote down my thoughts while listening to episode 0-3, so I might as well post them on the off chance anybody wants to revisit this topic (or, my real hope, actually write real scripts and dialogue). Maybe I'm dumb to post here instead of starting a thread in Script General... I dunno.

Concerning the registers of language when characters speak dialogue in English:

I think that there are enough texts with dialogue which are supposed to have been passed down by Mortals – particularly the Athrabeth and the Children of Húrin which is the prose English ‘translation’ of the Narn, possibly the Wanderings of Húrin, and the Lord of the Rings and Akallabêth as well – that we can have actually a good idea of the register that characters in the First Age used. I think that the script-writers should look to those texts to see whether Men would use contractions, how archaic their syntax and vocabulary was, etc. For Elf dialogue (if in English) I think the dialogue in the Silmarillion, etc. should be used as-is, or as a guide to the Elves’ speaking registers.


Two other points:

It’s been said that First Age Beleriand did not have a common tongue, unlike the Third Age, but in fact Sindarin did, over time, become the common language after Thingol banned Quenya. Not everybody knew the language, it’s true, but those who didn’t understand Sinarin at all were either newcomers to Beleriand, or were Mortals or Dwarves or Ents who lived entirely among their own folk and just didn’t interact with other cultures at all. Sindarin became the lingua franca and most people understood it at least passingly and could use it for inter-cultural (inter-national?) converse, though only the Sindar and the Noldor born in exile learned it as their birth-tongue.


The second point is that Tolkien did twice specify the dialect or register in which a Mortal character spoke: Túrin spoke “like an elf of Doriath,” a dialect and accent of which he never managed to rid himself, despite wanting to change his speech after he went into exile. And Doriathrin/Iathrin was a somewhat archaic form of Sindarin and not the dialect used by the Noldor or Edain, so he actually sounded somewhat strange and almost Shakespearean to the ears of Edain and the folk of Nargothrond. He (and the Elves of Doriath, and of the Falas who spoke an even more archaic dialect) actually had a more archaic register than the Noldor themselves when speaking Sindarin!

Beren spoke Sindarin somewhat poorly, and “his halting and dialectical use” “offended the ears” of Thingol, especially because he used the northern Mithrin dialect. Mithrin was the least archaic First Age dialect of Sindarin, and was the one adopted by the Noldor and Edain, which of course made Thingol and the other Doriathrim dislike it and its speakers. The Noldor adopted, essentially, the low-prestige country bumpkin dialect of Elvish! (lowering its prestige further by association with the Exiles) I would guess that not many ever learned the Iathrin dialect at all – probably only Finarfin’s children, and linguists such as Curufin and Pengolodh.

Ironically, the difference between dialects and registers of Sindarin can be represented in English translation, but not in Sindarin itself – my understanding is that most of the Sindarin corpus apparently represents the late (Second and Third Age) dialects, some as used by Dunedain instead of Elves. Mithrin was the dialect closest to Late Sindarin, and might itself have had sub-dialects, but differed in at least some ways from the Sindarin usually attested in the narrative texts – Fëanor and Curufin were called Faenor and Curufim, for example.
 

MithLuin

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Staff member
No, no, please keep conversations together! Responding to older threads is helpful rather than restarting them in multiple places.

I agree that we put this aside. It is relevant to script writing, and so if anyone wants to write some scripts, we can renew this discussion.

I certainly hope that people will want to write some scripts!
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
So, I've been watching "The 100," a TV show about post-apocalyptic earth. The setting is the Eastern US 100 years after a nuclear war disaster that made earth virtually uninhabitable. (I'm only in Season 2, so I don't know the whole story yet.)

Anyway, there are several different groups of humans who interact with each other, some of whom have had no contact with each other in the intervening century. One group seems to have developed their own language in that time. Which is...interesting. Everyone on the show speaks English, but the 'native' language of one of the groups is...not English. So, there are occasional conversations in this language with subtitles.

However...it sounds a lot like English. I think a handful of the words are just other English words, distorted a bit. It's different enough that you would not be able to guess the meaning without the subtitles, but not as different as a foreign language would typically sound. Reminded me of what Brian had suggested for the level of difference between Quenya and Sindarin sounding 'almost' intelligible to the speakers of the other language.

But more importantly, it is yet-another-example of a film using subtitles with a made-up language. I think we could certainly use their levels of nonEnglish with subtitles on our TV show as well. Because...the main characters hold all important conversations in English. The other language is used for showing private (secret) conversations within that group, as well as showing when outsiders start picking up their culture, by being able to use their greetings/significant phrases appropriately. And battlecries. It doesn't take the audience too long to pick up on the meaning/significance of all of this, because...subtitles.

As an example, it seems pretty clear that the word for "tunnels" is...subway.



(Oh, and I can't move this thread into the 'General Discussion' forum, because for whatever reason, no one's allowed to post there at the moment. So it can just hang out here until that changes.)
 
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