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History Philological Style or the Myth of the 'True Language'
Dec 15th, 2015 at 9:36pm
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So according to Shippey, Tolkien's strongest belief, next to his Catholicism, was his belief that at one time language corresponded absolutely with the things it named; that at one time language was 'isomorphic with reality' as Shippey says.

"And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field"

We see this belief put forward strongly in the enigmatic character of Tom Bombadil.  When the tree 'Old Willow Man' is attacking the Hobbit's, Tom says "I know the song for him," which song stops the Old Tree in its tracks.  When Tom names something it sticks, and his songs are songs of power.

We can see something of this too in the language of the High Elves.  Though perhaps not as 'primordial' as Tom, the High Elves are still incomparably ancient and wise in comparison to Hobbit's; and when the Hobbit's first meet some elves as they journey through the Shire, though Frodo and companions cannot understand the language of the elves literally, just hearing it awakes in them images and longings.  There is some power within the words themselves.

So, what does this have to do with history?  Well, standard history considers documents and archaeological remains.

History from a philological perspective takes words themselves as evidence.

Tolkien would say, for instance that the evidence for the existence of elves is words like 'aelfe' and 'ylfe' and the tales and legends containing such words.  The existence of the words themselves is a type of proof, especially if one takes the theory that the farther back in time we go the closer languages were to being 'isomorphic with reality.'

To us skeptical and cynical post-moderns this does not seem like much to go on...we are generally people that want to have something we can hold in our hand before we will assent to 'belief' in a thing.

But as for Tolkien, the immense strength of his work is built to a large extent completely around the idea of languages being more or less isomorphic with reality, and the work produced certainly does not speak bad of the theory.

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Re: History Philological Style or the Myth of the 'True Language'
Reply #1 - Nov 2nd, 2017 at 12:31pm
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Easy, just lock a bunch of babies in a compound with no interaction with the outside. No only will you find the true original language, but original science, writing, farming and space travel.

Wiki says,
"Several centuries after Frederick II's experiment, James IV of Scotland was said to have sent two children to be raised by a mute woman isolated on the island of Inchkeith, to determine if language was learned or innate.[6] The children were reported to have spoken good Hebrew, but historians were skeptical of these claims soon after they were made.[7][8] This experiment was later repeated by the Mughal emperor Akbar, who held that speech arose from hearing,"


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