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David Salo

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David Salo.jpg
David Salo
Biographical information
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison

David I. Salo (born February, 1969) is a linguist who worked on languages for The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy, translating songs, dialogue, and inscriptions into Quenya and Sindarin, and developing or expanding languages for Men, Dwarves and Orcs.

He runs Elfling, a mailing list of Tolkien-invented languages founded by his wife Dorothea Salo.

David Salo lives in Madison, Wisconsin.


Tolkien's languages

Salo's interest in Tolkien's languages arose when he read Tolkien's work as a boy, but press interviews date his extensive knowledge of the languages to the years after the completion of his undergraduate degree. In 1998 he founded the Elfling mailing list for Tolkienist language enthusiasts. In 2004 he published a linguistic analysis of Sindarin: A Gateway to Sindarin.

David Salo was contracted for The Lord of the Rings movies to write all the material in Elvish, Dwarven and other languages for the movies, as well as assist with other language-related items such as the Tengwar and Cirth inscriptions which appear in the movies. Salo also wrote Elvish lyrics for the movie soundtracks.

For the movies Salo had to create many 'missing' Sindarin and Quenya words, all of them based on existing words, and grammatically and semantically fitting in with the known material. Since the other languages used in the movies, Khuzdul and the Black Speech, were not really developed, Salo created entire new languages which fit in with the known words, often called neo-Khuzdul and neo-Black speech to set them apart from Tolkien's original languages.

From a post by Salo on the Elfling list:

Why is there Elvish in the movie? Why did Peter Jackson care enough to strive for some accuracy in the way language is presented? (…) The Elvish in the movie is addressed to the minority of viewers who know something about the languages. And what are they going to want to do when they hear the Elvish sentences? They're going to want to figure out what they mean, and *why* they mean what they mean. Part of *my* intention, my particular vision and contribution to this movie, was to create sentences which would be intelligible to the people who study the languages (…) I'm enormously happy to see some people saying based on their knowledge of Elvish, great or small, that they recognized and understood some of what they heard on the screen. That's great - that's *exactly* the kind of effect that I was looking for.
—Salo, Elfling message #8722




Other contributions


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