compiled by Arthur Austin Boccaccio
The following is divided into three sections. Section I shows the statistics as to who responded, their gender, age, educational background and geographical location. Section II shows the individual responses to the questions, while Section III is an analysis of the data.
I. THE STATISTICS: who responded
* includes those who are still working towards their 4-year degree
69% of respondents have at least some college education; 50 % of the men are college graduates while 65% of the women are.
*Includes both Western and Eastern Europe. Some respondents listed an actual country or region. Countries or regions that were represented are: Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, and Scandinavia
** One man listed Asia (possibly meaning China as this person has a background in Chinese language); one woman listed Australia.
II. THE QUESTIONS: what people had to say
NOTE: Numbers related to male respondents are in blue; women are in red and totals are green. For those without color printers, the first number is the total of male respondents, the second is the total of female respondents and the last number is the total of all respondents for that category unless otherwise noted. Some percentages do not add up to 100%.
1. What attracts you to the Elvish languages? Typical answers were: The beauty of the language (both in written form and in their sounds); their role in expressing Tolkien's vision of his worlds, adding depth and 'reality' to his secondary world; and the fact that you don't need a degree in linguistics to study Tolkien's languages
2. Which language(s) do you prefer studying?
3. Do you
4. If you only study the languages would you prefer that others NOT create original works in these languages?
*This includes those who answered N/A, based on their response to question 3. In some cases, respondents qualified their answer with provisos against those who do not document reconstructed words or do not correctly reconstruct words based on known linguistic principles as they apply to the Eldarin languages.
5. If you create original works in these languages check the activity in which you engage while creating these original works:
*Three respondents added C: 2 indicated N/A, while the third stated that they always search for mature Tolkien, i.e. post-LOTR, but will resort to option B when necessary, but they try to avoid a patch-work construction.
6. How do you view the earlier (pre-LOTR) conceptions of these languages?
*Three respondents added C: all three stated that they moved between options A and B, employing option B very sparingly, if at all.
7. Do you speak either Sindarin or Quenya with others?
Two people qualified their "Yes" answer by redefining "speaking" as meaning "conversing", even though one is conversing through written rather than through oral language.
8. Do you write in these languages?
9. If you write in Sindarin tengwar, do you prefer using
10. Do you also write in Cirth Angerthas?
Some circumstances under which people have used the runes are: fan fiction, wood inscriptions, linguistic games with their children, and one poor soul gave 'duress'. Oddly enough, no one ever mentioned the best use of these runes I've ever found - for writing on postcards! You can cram more words on a postcard using Cirth runes than you can using any other alphabet.
11. With what kind(s) of writing do you use the Elvish languages. Typical answers were:
12. How do you study these languages?
13. Do you consider yourself a member of a subculture/community comprising of others who utilize Tolkien's Elvish languages?
14. How would you characterize this subculture/community?
-It is almost a nation of people fiery for the beautiful and amazing work that one great man once created.
-We are people of all ages whose interests range from that of Tolkien fans to Tolkien linguists...we have found delight in the study of these constructed tongues, and most of us desire to use them, not simply to read them.
-It's like a unique, and very minor, language community that spans over the regular boundaries of geography and culture. But it's one that exists for the most part online - in a written world rather than speaking. And it's a community that has perhaps a greater respect for Tolkien's work.
-I like composing in Neo-Sindarin and I like to see the development the language takes, just as if it were a normal language. It is sometimes like watching evolution in small and much faster. So we are on the one hand serious, but with a very creative background.
-A group of people who don't look after color of skin, political views, or social 'rank'. We have a common vector that many people can't understand: pleasure in a beautiful "sub-creation", in something that makes us better in some way.
-Sadly, I find the Tolkien community divided between those who want to use the languages and those who seem to look at such usage as some sort of sacrilege.
-I characterize the subculture and community [as] factionalized, antagonistic, and wildly varying in skill, willingness to assist others, and non-compromising. There are different agenda that though conflicting with the agenda of other subgroups, ought not to cause the deep schism that serves to stifle the continuing evolution of these languages. The two primary philosophies, evolve the language and dead-language scholarship, could be synergistic or at least tolerant of each other.
-Why subculture? I do not consider myself part of anything - I am just interested in learning a language very much the same way as I am interested in other languages as well.
-Elvish is a hobby, not a raison d'etre!
15. Have you or do you plan to study: more than one answer could be given:
76% - have or plan to study these languages; 24% have no plans to do so
*Includes 1 Finnish native
16. I subscribe or have subscribed to Tolkien-related periodicals
17. I belong or have belonged to a Tolkien-related society
18. To which online Tolkien-related message boards do you belong?
The most frequently mentioned message boards were:
19. My favorite (or most used) Tolkien-related website(s) is/are:
The most frequently mentioned websites were:
Some of the lesser known websites that people mentioned were:
Amanye Tenceli, Arwen-Undómiel, Encyclopedia of Arda, I Lam Arth, LOTR Fanatics Plaza (LOTRPlaza.com), Parma Tyelpelassiva, Planet-Tolkien, StoriesofArda, theonering.net, Tolkiendil
III. ANALYSIS: what it might all mean
Obviously, 29 responses are not enough to make a definitive statement about anything, let alone something as complex as culture and language, so anything that we can say about this survey must be taken cum grano salis. However, perhaps we can look upon these responses as being representative of the Eldarin-speaking (or writing) community at large.
One can read the numbers and do the math without too much in-depth analysis and I will not belabor it here. I would like, however, to concentrate on questions 13 and 14 relating to whether one sees oneself as a member of a subculture or community of like-minded beings who are also interested in Tolkien's Elvish language and how people perceive that subculture or community.
First, let's define terms.
A subculture consists of a group of people drawn from the society at large who identify themselves as being separate from the main culture in some measure, usually by language, racial identity, personal history, or a combination of all of these, with language being a major factor.
Subcultures may be given "official" recognition - the Cajuns of the Louisiana Bayous, for instance - or "unofficial" recognition - teenagers - by the primary society from which the subculture is drawn.
tend to move in one of two directions, either towards infusion or towards
diffusion and usually at some point in their history they will have done
both. A classic example would be the American Catholic subculture.
After the Second World War, however, American Catholics, taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, began to slowly but surely enter into the mainstream of American culture by attending universities and moving out of blue-collar jobs and into white-collar jobs; moving out of the cities and into the suburbs. The move to the suburbs posed a particular problem for Catholics, because more often than not there was only one Catholic church in the area serving all Catholics, not just a particular ethnic brand of Catholicism. No longer could one identify oneself with a particular parish because there was only the one. Thus, parish identity became diffused to the point that loyalty to a particular parish began to erode, so that today it is not uncommon for Catholics to "shop" for a parish, even though, under canon law, they would be considered a member of another parish because of their home's proximity to that particular parish church.
Subcultures, therefore, are created when a need arises which that subculture addresses and may eventually dissolve or become less easily defined when that need no longer exists.
Communities, on the other hand, are not necessarily subcultures, although all subcultures are also communities. Communities tend to be more amorphous and fluid. One is a member of a particular community whether one full engages in the activities of that community, be it social, political or religious, by virtue of living within the purview of that community. For example, I am a member of the Village of Baldwinsville community by virtue of living within its boundaries and paying village taxes, but I couldn't tell you who the mayor of the village is if my life depended on it, nor do I care. Membership in a community is less strictly enforced and people tend not to identify themselves solely with a particular community but may be members of several different communities, such as schools, workplaces, places of worship, sports, etc.
Many of the respondents to this survey questioned the veracity of defining themselves as being part of a "Tolkienian" subculture, while still recognizing themselves as being part of community of like-minded beings with a passion, to one degree or another, for all things Tolkien, especially the Elvish languages and Tolkienian linguistics. In fact, one respondent acknowledged this negatively by stating that they did not see themselves as part of a community for the simple reason that they'd been excommunicated from the community, though they gave no further details.
So why did I phrase the question as I did? Primarily because perception is an important factor. How we perceive ourselves and our relationship with others is as important, if not more so, as how others perceive us. Whether non-Tolkiendili would ever acknowledge Tolkiendili as comprising a viable subculture or community is in the long-run immaterial. What matters is how we who are Tolkiendili perceive ourselves to be.
It is interesting that the women seemed to be more sure of the existence of a world-wide community or subculture comprising of Tolkiendili than the men were and that may mean nothing or be an indication of the feminine tendency towards community and connectedness that has been sociologically and anthropologically affirmed. And two people, one male and one female, both recognized that a hallmark of a subculture is language and that the Elvish languages are evolving beyond what Tolkien originally envisioned and that this evolution of language was helping to create the subculture of people utilizing these languages in their everyday lives, even if only peripherally or occasionally.
Certainly the amount of time and energy that can go into a discussion about the proper construction of the accusative in Sindarin, such as the recent debate over le hannon vs. hannon le and the legitimacy of the verb form itself, is indicative of the fact that people are struggling to define themselves through "proper" language, even if that language is invented. This shows that whether people know it or not, whether they recognize it or not, they are beginning to form a subculture, or at the very least a community, that defines itself by how they utilize proper linguistic structures and demanding, at least, on a small scale, some coherence and agreement among all those who "belong" to this community.
Whether a cohesive subculture or community is ever formed by those of us who are committed to the study and perpetuation of the Elvish languages remains to be seen.
I want to thank all those who took the time to respond to this questionnaire. Anyone with specific questions about the questionnaire or the results may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Elfling.