UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ónë tengwelë : Elvish and English sound symbolism and ethnocentrism in J.R.R Tolkien’s constructed languages Farrugia, Lindsay Michelle


J.R.R. Tolkien is most famous for the fantasy series The Lord of the Rings, but long before he began writing the trilogy and its many counterparts, Tolkien constructed a number of languages for the inhabitants of Middle-earth. Phonosemanticism is the idea that phonemes carry meaning, irrespective of their lexical value. This thesis examines the constructed languages in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and uses philological sources contemporary to Tolkien to describe the impact of phonosemantics and “phonetic fitness” in his languages. While the emotional or expressive quality of language is relevant to any author, for conlangers the phonosemantic affective quality is given even more attention. This thesis deals with the ethnocentrism present in language construction, and particularly how Tolkien’s ideas of phonetic fitness are influenced by his subjective perception of beauty in sound and language.

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