For today’s Friday Feature, I am delighted to share with you one of the nerdiest Tolkien projects I know about. The Tolkien Concordance is Sparrow Alden’s brainchild, where she uses lexinomic data analysis to look for trends within Tolkien’s usage of words in The Hobbit. In particular, she has created 1,534 entries of uncommon words in The Hobbit–specifically, words outside the 10,000 most common words on Project Gutenberg. I know! That’s an amazing number of entries! I have been interested in how to play with Tolkien’s legendarium for a while, and am excited to see where this will go in the future. I will leave you to explore the hundreds of entries, and find little treasures like graphs, games, contests, and onomatopoetic findings.
Sparrow did this project as part of her MA Thesis at Signum University, and has created a powerful tool that can be used by researchers, but can also be expanded and taken in new directions in the spirit of Digital Humanities scholarship. She presented some of her research in the 2015 Signum marathon fundraising day, which I’ve included here.
In comparing the hyphenated words, I have reached the elf compounds. OED attests all of the words below. Only “elf-fire” and “elf-friend” overlap with the elf compounds of The Hobbit!
I am particularly intrigued by words of elven persons. OED has the compound with folk, girl, kingdom, lady, queen, and woman, while The Hobbit has guard, host, king, lord, maiden, and prince.
Now… you know me, Word Fans. I dug a little deeper. “Elven” is a noun, obviously, meaning a female elf, like fox/fixin and monk/minchin. In its second meanning, however, it is a combining appositive or attributive form:
2. Comb. (referring to a kind of imaginary being in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien).
and Elf-king is attested therein.
To be thorough, “elvish” is the OED’s adjective for elf, also spelled “elfish”. Not “elven”. That’s pure JRRT.
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