as a Second Language
by Spencer Walts
an increasingly diverse world, having a bilingual
education grows ever more important. It's fortunate,
then, that the UW-Madison community offers expertise
in a wide variety of languages - Spanish, Russian,
Japanese, Elvish . . .
right, Elvish - the language of elves, those magical
and mythical creatures from ancient folklore. David
Salo, a graduate student in linguistics, is one
of the world's leading experts on the elf languages
created by J.R.R. Tolkien for his Lord of the Rings
series of novels. Salo's encyclopedic knowledge of
Elvish led to an invitation to join the team that
made the 2001 hit film The Fellowship of the Ring.
Salo's English-to-Elvish translations appear in several
places throughout the picture.
worked on the movie for three years," says Salo,
"almost since the beginning of production."
In addition to providing translations between English
and Elvish, he gave pronunciation advice to the film's
language coaches, who taught the actors to speak with
proper elf accents.
long study of Tolkien's books, he says, is a natural
fit with his training in linguistics. "I suppose
my interest in Tolkien's languages and my interest
in real-world languages have a common origin in a
lifetime fascination with languages, scripts, words,
names, and their meanings and origins."
Fellowship of the Ring is the first of three films
based on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. The other
two will be released in December 2002 and December
2003, and Salo's work will appear in all of them.
His association with the movies has led to other requests
for help with Tolkien-related projects, but currently,
he's focusing on his own writing.
"I've written a very complete book manuscript
on the Elvish language Sindarin, for which I hope
to find a publisher," he says, noting that Sindarin
is one of the two basic elf tongues in Tolkien's fantasy
world. "It is not merely a dictionary, but includes
lexical materials among a considerable amount of other
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