Monday, January 7, 2013

Problem of Language

As an avid Tolkienite I've suffered through an issue which bats me back and forth each time I consider it, and that issue is: Names and language, specifically place-names. I've striven on occasion to turn English region-names into their Varan equivalent on all my maps. Seareach became Mermarche, Goldhook Auruxol, etc. But what if it makes more sense to leave them as translated names? Should Casselflor be left as it is, or should the town be known as the Castle of Flowers? Should the Portam Regis be forever known that way, or is it really the Gate of Kings?

Tolkien would have us leave it in the native tongue of the world, but he was also a philologist and linguist. George R. R. Martin would translate it (Maidenpool, Bitterbridge, King's Landing, Casterly Rock, The Eyrie, etc.) though there is clearly some alternate linguistic scheme at work in Westeros. Which way is right? Is Giant's Arch or Gigantarch a better name? Should Couer County truly be known as County Heart? I cannot seem to land on a decision one way or the other.

1 comment:

  1. Well, you have to just decide how you want to come off to readers. The first way, keeping it in the conlang, will be very immersive to a few and opaque or impenetrable to others. The second way is more of a middle ground, and will make a lot of the somewhat less linguistically curious feel more in their element. You might achieve a middle ground by hinting that there are other names for things while largely keeping them in their translated forms?