In «A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages,»
edited by myself [Dimitra Fimi] and Andrew Higgins,
we present Tolkien’s own reflections on his language invention.
In particular, the full publication of «A Secret Vice»,
a paper Tolkien gave in 1931 at Pembroke College, Oxford,
where he talked about his engagement with Esperanto
and his contribution to nursery languages
(codes children use, often for playful communication).
Tolkien went on to unveil his many experiments
in inventing new languages that would be aesthetically pleasing,
including a sketch of a previously unknown imaginary language,
published for the first time in the new book.
He also commented on the “coeval and congenital” art of
creating a world and characters that would speak these languages –
the first seeds of the vast secondary world of Middle-earth.
The book also includes a hitherto unpublished new essay on phonetic symbolism,
in which Tolkien muses on the idea that the sounds of words may fit their meanings.
Tolkien’s drafts and notes for both essays are also included.
Some of these notes make mention of James Joyce and Gertrude Stein –
hardly the literary company one expects Tolkien to be seen alongside.
Contemporary popular culture has witnessed a renewed interest in fictional languages.
Perhaps the best-known recent examples are Dothraki and High Valyrian,
the languages invented by linguist David J. Petterson for HBO’s «Game of Thrones.»