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Question on language

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Question on language

Postby a_hnau » 15 Dec 2008, 20:30

Hi, all. I have a question about the languages that Lewis describes in the Trilogy. I understand that the language Ransom learns on Malacandra as that of the hrossa turns out once to have been the common language of the Solar System; what I'm puzzled about is the relationship (if any) of this language to the one Dimble has apparently learned (and how did he learn it?). This other language is described as 'the language spoken before the Fall and beyond the Moon... this was Language herself, as she first sprang out of Viritrilbia'. So is this the same language? If so, when spoken on Earth it apparently has a very different effect and quality than when used on Malacandra.

Would be very interested to hear others' insights.
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Re: Question on language

Postby john » 24 Dec 2008, 16:34

I wish I had an answer for you. :undecided:
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Re: Question on language

Postby a_hnau » 28 Mar 2009, 08:11

I've re-read the various passages, and - from the contexts and references, e.g. to Atlantis - my tentative thinking is that these are all the same language, even though described slightly differently and operating in different ways depending on the speaker and the circumstance. I can't help thinking I am missing something still; it's not my experience of Lewis that loose ends like this appears to be, are common - perhaps there is something in one of the passages that would be obvious to someone with more knowledge of Lewis's referents (Atlantis, Mercury). It's also interesting to notice that although Merlin knows what Ransom means when he says 'Even in Numinor it was not heard in the streets', Merlin of himself does not know the language - only 'Blaise my master knew a few words of that speech'.
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Re: Question on language

Postby agingjb » 29 Mar 2009, 06:39

Presumably Ransom taught Dimble hressa-hlab. And presumably a secondary Intended effect of Ransom's return to Earth was that the knowledge of the language would be extended to Logres.

I'd say that the links with Tolkien's works don't quite add up; hressa-hlab certainly isn't Quenya. As for loose ends, there is a presumably deliberate loose end in that we are not told much about the continuation of Logres, or even, as far as I can see, the identity of the next Pendragon.
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Re: Question on language

Postby Dr. U » 06 Feb 2010, 17:59

Lewis has a sly little quote in the preface to That Hideous Strength:

Those who would like to learn further about Numinor and the True West must (alas!) await the publication of much that still exists only in the MSS of my friend, Professor J.R.R. Tolkien.

As two extremely linguistically gifted men, as well as being close friends who spent hours talking together and reading their MS drafts to each other, it's not hard to imagine them playfully inserting the same imaginary language into their novels' "backstory". Lewis' style was more to supply enough details to make a setting believable, and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest that's off-stage. Tolkien, much more obsessive about details, but also professionally interested in the origins and evolution of languages, sometimes spent years working on grammars and even the evolution of dialects within imaginary languages. Quenya and Old Solar sure seem like they might once have linked via discussions of CSL & JRRT, probably over a pint (or two or three), and Lewis later had some fun slipping this idea into his novel.

Considering all the trouble the Beatles went to, inserting odd little things into lyrics, album photos and even recordings only heard when the LP was played backwards, to set the stage for their spoof that Paul McCartney had died but it was being kept a secret, or the spectacular academic spoof, pulled off over decades, of the "Piltdown Man", which ultimately even included a supposed caveman cricket bat (made from a genuine mammoth tusk), I wonder as an American if all of these reflect a subtle level of humor that the British just are better at. (The US is more famous for comedy like the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges or Mel Brooks or Steve Martin - also funny, but definitely not so subtle that you could miss it.)

Of course, now "Professor Tolkien's MSS" are all published, and thanks to Peter Jackson, even in movie form!
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