While many readers have enjoyed J.R.R. Tolkien's epic novels, or the films based on them, few are aware of the fundamentally linguistic nature of Tolkien's work. As a professor of Anglo-Saxon and contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary, Tolkien was intimately familiar with the Germanic languages, their history, and their epic literatures. In writing his books, he often assumed the fictional role of translator of ancient sources, employing English archaisms and dialects, Old English, and even Old Norse to reflect the varying backgrounds of his characters, their disparate cultures, and complex interrelationships. In this course, we study Tolkien's fiction from the perspective of linguistic anthropology, shedding light on Tolkien's methods, purpose, and achievement as the translator of Middle-earth.
Prerequisite: prior exposure to a linguistics course or introductory reading in this area is recommended. (4 credits)