Then they came to lands where people spoke strangely

I am following a little rabbit-trail, Word Fans, about dialogue and narration in the Shire.  What are the characteristics of these bits which distinguish it from all the other bits?  Won’t this be fun!

[02.028] At first they had passed through hobbit-lands, a wide respectable country inhabited by decent folk, with good roads, an inn or two, and now and then a dwarf or a farmer ambling by on business. Then they came to lands where people spoke strangely, and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before.

It would be luxurious to include all the prose about the Shire as well, but my current project has made me stare at a deadline and hmph at it.  For our purposes, then, I am counting “In the Shire” as from [01.001] to [02.028], up to but not including the words in the title of this post, plus [19.028] to the end, [19.048], inclusive.

To pass on a tantalizing bit of my thought, I’m calling “In Mirkwood” from [07.154] through [09.069], inclusive.

The plan is to use the Mirkwood text as the stopwords to look at the Shire text and vice-versa…  I wonder if I need to do this for all regions and chart their differences from the Shire?  I may have to.  If I don’t come up for air in a few days, please send chocolate.

The Shire text uses 11,119 words, of which 1484 do not appear in Mirkwood, this is counting every word used – “yes” counts as six words.  That’s 13.3% Shire words.  There are 562 words used in the Shire which are not used anywhere else in the book – 5%.  And yes, I see the logical error there and am going to – soon! – compare the Shire Text with a similarly sized sample.  If I’m lucky, Tech Support can create a “grab a random sample of text from here of size N” script.

The Mirkwood text uses 16,400 words, of which 2,400 do not appear in the Shire, and variations on “spider” account for about 60 of these.  14.6% . Nearly identical.  I do find it odd that the Mirkwood text numbers come out on an even “400” – I will chase that for a while with your indulgence, Word Fans.

A Secret Vice

Today I am enjoying the Fimi & Higgins edition of Tolkien’s A Secret Vice. Thrilling to hear in the professor’s own words his thoughts on sound-play.

For us departed are the unsophisticated days, when even Homer could pervert a word to suit sound-music; or such merry freedom as one sees in the Kalevala, when a line can be adorned by words phonetic trills – as in enkä lähe Inkerelle, Penkerelle, pänkerelle (Kal. xi 55), or Ihveniä ahvenia, tuimenia, taimenia (Kal. xlviii 100), where pänkerelle, ihveniä, taimenia are ‘non-significant’, mere notes in a phonetic tune struck to harmonize with penkerelle, or tuimenia which do ‘mean’ something.

Tolkien, J. R. R.. A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins. (Kindle Locations 1347-1352). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What shall we do with Mountain-king?

In my mission to identify which hyphenated words are Tolkien original compositions, I have use the Oxford English Dictionary’s word on whether something like “Moss-green” is only ever found as “mossgreen” or “moss green” and if the hyphenated form is not attested, I’ve given it the “JRRT” tag.

Further, if the hyphenated form is found in OED, but the only example is from Tolkien’s work, I’m giving him credit for putting together this form as his own intentional style.

Mountain-king“,   however, has three examples, one of which is Tolkien’s and one of which comes earlier.

I would love to hear from you, Word Fans!  This is the type of art-work that has crept into what I thought would be the cut-and-dry list-making of this project.

Thanks for your notes, Word Fans – I have reached clarity.  Since the other examples of “Mountain king” do not have the hyphen (unbehyphenated?), I am giving JRRT credit for an original-ish spelling.

First Pass for the Food Words!

Word Fans, I have done it!  All the way from “cellar” to “tobacco-jar“, I have scanned for all the food words, common and uncommon, and entered them into the concordance.  I’m certain to have missed some, and I am humbly ready to call this my First Pass.  Alert Readers who put me wise to food words I have missed will have a verse written in their honor in the style of the Tra-la-la-lalley Elves.

Let it be noted that I have already had a good argument with myself over “supplies”, and have decided that it’s not a food word.  It is used in “food-supplies”, which is counted separately, and in all other instances can indicate “bandages” as well as it stands for “food”.

Next I will make some lovely graphs of food words.  I’m interested in their frequency and location in the text; I also have an idea in the back of my mind to do a deeper analysis including a negative valence for those times that food words indicate a lack of food.

As I made this first pass, I also took the chance to improve my file of the text.  I’ve eliminated many of the phrase-breaks which left only one-word phrases, fussed with punctuation breaks, and started keeping an eye out for use or non-use of a marked subjunctive.