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Re: Tolkien's notion of biology

From:Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Date:Tuesday, December 16, 2003, 9:28
Quoting "Thomas R. Wier" <trwier@...>:

> From: Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...> > > A friend commented thus on the link > > that started this thjread: > > > > > I didn't quite see the linguistic element in > > > this critique of "ethnicity" in Middle-earth. > > > Given that we have Dunedain (and some Hobbits) > > > speaking Sindarin, while Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, > > > Hobbits and Rohirrim are speaking Common Speech, > > > and that neither "Elf" nor "Orc" maps neatly onto > > > a single language, and "Hobbit" doesn't map at all, > > > I have to wonder whether the author is confusing > > > Tolkien with Dungeons and Dragons. Hm. > > Far be it from me to speak for the author of the blog-entry, > but I would stop to point out two things: > > (1) It's quite possible that Mr. Liberman was unaware of > that any mixing of language and race existed at all in > Tolkien's world. > (2) Even if he is thus aware, it is surprising that there > is not significantly more mixing of races and language. > The so-called races that exist in this world are thoroughly > and completely mixed: the indigenous people of America can > be sorted into three distinct genetic grouping (cf. Cavalli > Sforza 1997?), and yet they are, pace Greenberg, divided into > no less than many dozens of completely unrelated language > families. The inverse can also be true: while Africa is > home IIRC to five of the six major genetic subgroupings of > _Homo sapiens sapiens_, it is home to no more than four > major language phyla (Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, Khoisan, > Nilo-Saharan). Given the length of time humans have inhabited > Africa, this is perhaps somewhat surprising. > > .. the point to take home being that Tolkien's world does not > have such a profound mismatch.
I don't see why we should expect it to have. I mean, the "races" of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs certainly are not "races" in the sense of Caucasoids, Mongoloids, etc. I rather doubt the concept of "species" in its biological sense is properly applicable to them either, given the possibility of human- elf interbreeding, and Orcs' being derived from Elves (or Men in other accounts). Simply, it's another world where other rules apply. Andreas