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Abstract

In the course of his life Tolkien explored his thoughts and feelings on the role of language-invention in fiction in two key manifestos – his November 1931 talk 'A Secret Vice' and his 1954 O'Donnell lecture 'English and Welsh'. But Tolkien not only used his mythology to illustrate how these theories and the four key characteristics he felt invented languages should have (sound-sense, structure, link to history/myth) but also embedded in the very narrative and discourse of his mythic texts examples of Elves using and being practitioners of his own theories on language. In this paper I will explore the text 'Dangweth Pengolod' (The Answer of Pengolod)' to explore how Tolkien embedded his theories on language into the fabric of his world-building and showed how the Elves both practiced and enjoyed the same aesthetic pleasure in language invention that Tolkien did. I will also suggest that this text was meant by Tolkien to be part of the Elvish tradition that the mariner Aelfwine would read and transmit back to his own people to be the lost tradition of the English. Therefore by including this linguistically focused document in his enduring transmission framework Tolkien was embedding into the lost tradition of the English the very ideas of language invention that his own Elvish languages would come to reflect and practice.

Comments

This is an extended version of a conference paper I first gave in 2017 at the Tolkien sessions at Kalamazoo and then a revised version I gave at the 2017 Tolkien Society Oxonmoot. It forms one thread of a larger research project I am currently working on.

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