Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Fonwegian—a rejoinder

In my last post I nailed my colours to the mast: I don’t think Tolkien invented Fonwegian. I received the courtesy of a very full response from Nelson Goering, which can be read at that blog post. He counsels that the stylistics of Tolkien’s discussion of Fonwegian cannot be taken as conclusive, and I take that point, though the ‘feel’ I have for Tolkien, after reading him almost constantly for 54 years, still inclines me to the view I have expressed.

However, besides the stylistics there is the main point of content. The Fonwegian ‘interposition’ (to borrow from Tolkien’s wording) is prefaced by:

Here I will interpose some material—which will save this paper from being too autobiographical.

And concluded by:

From here onwards you must forgive pure egotism. Further examples must be drawn solely from isolated private experience. My little man, with his interest in the device for expression of synt word-relations, in syntactical devices, is too fleeting a glimpse to use.

To me, this conveys the message that the Fonwegian ‘interposition’ is non-autobiographical and non-egotistical. And the mention of the celebrated ‘little man’ implies that if Tolkien had managed to obtain more of the latter’s invented language, he could have provided us with a second bit of non-autobiographical, non-egotistical private language.

The stylistics, as Nelson suggests, might just be conveying an acceptable ‘conceit’ for Tolkien; but to my mind these framing passages, if not literally meant, would have been close to ‘deceit’ for a person of Tolkien’s character.

1 comment:

  1. This could well be. I still think a lot of the problem is that we just have a written text, divorced from its spoken delivery. If delivered with a nod and a wink, these comments might well have added to the humour: it's not a deceit if everyone's in on the joke. (But I've only got 23 years of reading Tolkien under my belt -- maybe in another 31 I'll think differently! [I mean this in good humour only.])

    At any rate, I agree it's hard to tell, and I somehow doubt we'll ever get a definitive answer on this one. I assume that if there ever was more material on Fonwegian (from Tolkien or anyone else), it no longer survives with Tolkien's other papers or the editors would have found it.