pronunciation of some rohirric names

Tolkien's worlds were birthed out of his love of language and his work at creating new ones. Enter into discussions surrounding Tolkien's languages.

pronunciation of some rohirric names

Postby jgress » Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:09 am

In his appendix where he discusses how he renders personal and place names in the Rohirric tongue, Tolkien admits that he was inconsistent in the way he adapted those names to English. Some names, like Shadowfax, are clearly transposed into Modern English, albeit using an archaic root "fax", meaning "mane", which is no longer current in the language; the actual Old English form would be "Sceadufæx". Other names, like Edoras, are not transposed into Modern English, but are left in their Old English form, which supposedly corresponds directly to the Rohirric language. The distinction is relevant when reading the story aloud, since Modern English and Old English have rather different pronunciation systems, e.g. the first vowel in Shadowfax is somewhat different from the first vowel in Sceadufæx, but given the spelling I assume I am meant to use the modern pronunciation.

There are some names, however, where I am not certain if I should be pronouncing them as if they were Modern or Old English, in particular Thrihyrne, Hornburg and Mundburg. For Thrihyrne, it looks fairly archaic so I am tempted to give an OE pronunciation, e.g. rendering the "y" as a high front rounded vowel and pronouncing the final "e" as a separate, short vowel. But I note that Tolkien does not use a diaeresis over the final "e", which he usually does if he intends us to pronounce it, e.g. in Gúthwinë, and not leave it silent as is usual when pronouncing Modern English spelling. So is Thrihyrne perhaps meant to be pronounced as a Modern English name, maybe something like "thri-HERN" [θrɪˈhɝn], as opposed to [ˈθriːˌhyrnɛ] or something like that?

For the names ending in "-burg", I initially assumed these should be pronounced as Old English, with a final fricative [x], since the Modern English form of the same root is "-borough" e.g. Tuckborough. But then he started using "burg" as a word on its own, to refer to the tower of the Hornburg, which surprised me, since I didn't know that "burg" was a word in Modern English, except in American English where it means "town" and is clearly derived from the many American towns that end in the German element -burg, e.g. Gettysburg. This element is etymologically related to the OE word, but has clearly come to mean something different from what Tolkien means by "burg". What do people make of this and how it should determine how we pronounce those names?
jgress
Citizen of Imladris
 
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 10:44 am
Top

Re: pronunciation of some rohirric names

Postby Xandarien » Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:06 pm

jgress wrote:In his appendix where he discusses how he renders personal and place names in the Rohirric tongue, Tolkien admits that he was inconsistent in the way he adapted those names to English. Some names, like Shadowfax, are clearly transposed into Modern English, albeit using an archaic root "fax", meaning "mane", which is no longer current in the language; the actual Old English form would be "Sceadufæx". Other names, like Edoras, are not transposed into Modern English, but are left in their Old English form, which supposedly corresponds directly to the Rohirric language. The distinction is relevant when reading the story aloud, since Modern English and Old English have rather different pronunciation systems, e.g. the first vowel in Shadowfax is somewhat different from the first vowel in Sceadufæx, but given the spelling I assume I am meant to use the modern pronunciation.

There are some names, however, where I am not certain if I should be pronouncing them as if they were Modern or Old English, in particular Thrihyrne, Hornburg and Mundburg. For Thrihyrne, it looks fairly archaic so I am tempted to give an OE pronunciation, e.g. rendering the "y" as a high front rounded vowel and pronouncing the final "e" as a separate, short vowel. But I note that Tolkien does not use a diaeresis over the final "e", which he usually does if he intends us to pronounce it, e.g. in Gúthwinë, and not leave it silent as is usual when pronouncing Modern English spelling. So is Thrihyrne perhaps meant to be pronounced as a Modern English name, maybe something like "thri-HERN" [θrɪˈhɝn], as opposed to [ˈθriːˌhyrnɛ] or something like that?

For the names ending in "-burg", I initially assumed these should be pronounced as Old English, with a final fricative [x], since the Modern English form of the same root is "-borough" e.g. Tuckborough. But then he started using "burg" as a word on its own, to refer to the tower of the Hornburg, which surprised me, since I didn't know that "burg" was a word in Modern English, except in American English where it means "town" and is clearly derived from the many American towns that end in the German element -burg, e.g. Gettysburg. This element is etymologically related to the OE word, but has clearly come to mean something different from what Tolkien means by "burg". What do people make of this and how it should determine how we pronounce those names?


Regarding 'burg' for the moment: it's not a word in modern English, it's just an ending found in many place names, though do note that 'burgh' does survive in Scots (and not just in the name of the city of Edinburgh!) although it does have a very different pronunciation.
I would certainly not think of pronouncing the word 'burg' as in 'the Hornburg' with a fricative as that simply doesn't exist with the modern usage of 'burg'; I would always use the modern hard g pronunciation to match Tolkien's statement of 'modernising' the Old English in The Lord of the Rings for reader accessibility.

Correct pronunciation aside I also rather doubt that the vast majority of readers pronounce Eomer's sword's name as anything other than 'Guthwine' with the 'wine' matching the drink...
User avatar
Xandarien
Rider of the Mark

 
Posts: 831
Joined: Sun May 22, 2011 3:30 am
Location: Scotland
Top

Re: pronunciation of some rohirric names

Postby jgress » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:02 pm

I suppose I'm a stickler for details like correct pronunciation and that probably puts me in a minority of Tolkien fans, but I figured there would be enough geeks in this part of the forum that might have wondered about this issue. And quite possibly there is no absolutely correct answer.

Pronouncing the second element of "Guthwine" as "wine" is just completely wrong, though! It should be something like GOOTH-wih-nuh.
jgress
Citizen of Imladris
 
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 10:44 am
Top

Re: pronunciation of some rohirric names

Postby jgress » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:04 pm

And I think I agree with you that the "burg" in Hornburg or Mundburg should have a hard [g] sound at the end, like in Gettysburg. But in Old English it would have had a fricative pronunciation similar to the "ch" in Bach or loch.
jgress
Citizen of Imladris
 
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 10:44 am
Top

Re: pronunciation of some rohirric names

Postby Xandarien » Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:39 am

jgress wrote:I suppose I'm a stickler for details like correct pronunciation and that probably puts me in a minority of Tolkien fans, but I figured there would be enough geeks in this part of the forum that might have wondered about this issue. And quite possibly there is no absolutely correct answer.

Pronouncing the second element of "Guthwine" as "wine" is just completely wrong, though! It should be something like GOOTH-wih-nuh.


Yes I realise that's wrong now (as a young child reading it I freely admit I read it as 'wine' the drink), I've studied Old English for years as an adult, but the vast, vast majority of English speakers have never touched it, was my point, so I can't imagine Tolkien would have expected us to know the OE pronunciations. :)
User avatar
Xandarien
Rider of the Mark

 
Posts: 831
Joined: Sun May 22, 2011 3:30 am
Location: Scotland
Top


Return to Language

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests