dialect in novels

Mark A. Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Fri Mar 2 16:23:32 UTC 2001

"Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> writes:

[And why did my astrophysics professor correct my paper, replacing "white
dwarves" with "white dwarfs"? Specialized usage, I guess.]

Yes, "dwarves" is specialized. It was coined by J.R.R.Tolkien as an
alternative to "dwarfs", the only plural in Modern English at the time,
"since we no longer speak of dwarves as often as we do of men, or even of
geese-- although, if the earlier word *dwarwes* or *dwerwes* had survived
until modern times, 'dwarrows' or 'dwerrows' would be its form today. But I
have used that only in the name *Dwarrowdelf* 'Dwarf-delving' translating
*Phurunargian*, which was archaic in form in the Third Age of
Middle-earth." I am paraphrasing from memory, and badly, from appendix D or
E of _Lord of the Rings_, but I'm confident of the content.

But since LotR has been so enormously influential on fantasy literature
(and most readers skip the appendices), and since "dwarf" is rarely
encountered in any other context, "dwarves" and "dwarvish" are probably the
forms most often used outside medical writing, and many people are unaware
of the genuine traditional forms that retain the singular "f".

   Mark A. Mandel : Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
          Mark_Mandel at dragonsys.com : Senior Linguist
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA : http://www.dragonsys.com
                     (speaking for myself)

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