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Elthir
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Post Orc
on: May 25, 2010 05:52
I would argue that the word orc is Westron, based on Tolkien's noted added to The Hobbit (an edition published after The Lord of the Rings), and his note to translators.

The rest of this post is written with acceptance of this, though feel free to disagree, as I want to be corrected if wrong.


Am I reading this correctly? there is an interesting detail in Unfinished Tales regarding the sounds of the actual language of the Rohirrim and of Westron. According to note 49 to Cirion and Eorl the Common Speech did not possess the sound ch (a back spirant as ch in Welsh), and '... in pronouncing Sindarin (in which it was very frequent) the people of Gondor, unless learned, represented it by h in the middle of words and by k at the end of them (where it was most forcibly pronounced in correct Sindarin).'

So unless I'm off the path it seems to me that these speakers would pronounce Grey-elven orch as ork (orc)... in other words, they pronounce the Sindarin word the same as the Westron word.

I don't think Tolkien ever penned that Westron orc was a borrowing from Sindarin (statements in Quendi And Eldar at least, appear to negate such an idea). And in any case it's also noted (same note) that the language of Rohan did contain this ch sound, and '... though it was infrequent in the middle of words between vowels, it presented them with no difficulty.'

So if the Rohirrim said orch they would seemingly not alter it, yet according to The Return of the King Appendix F, the word the Rohirrim used was orc. Again, not that Tolkien wrote that any language borrowed orc from Sindarin... but is such a history possible? and perhaps the Rohirrim merely conformed to the Westron pronunciation (if we include note 49).


At least I'm wondering if I am interpreting the Unfinished Tales note correctly.



[Edited on 25/5/2010 by Elthir]
Charodian
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 25, 2010 08:49
Hi Elthir,

as I understand it, the "ch"-sound, that is not found in the Common Speech is not a back spirant as in "Welsh", but a back palatal like in German "Bach" (there's no such sound in English). It's quite close to a very rough spoken "h" or a soft spoken "k", so it's quite understandable that it was changed to "h" resp. "k". Once used to it it's not so difficult to speak "ch" following a vowel, but at the beginning of a word or following a consonant "ch" would make you feel like you should cough...

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Elthir
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 25, 2010 09:06
Hmm, that confuses me a bit.

In The Lord of the Rings Appendix E, ch is said to represent '... the sound heard in bach (in German and Welsh)' In RGEO 'CH represents the sound spelt ch in Welsh, German, Gaelic, and in Russian X.' And in The Children of Hurin 'ch in Scots loch or German buch'

... so isn't note 49 referring to this sound in Sindarin as not being found in the Common Speech?
Charodian
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 25, 2010 10:20
Ah, I understand.
I thought you meant "ch" is spoken like the sound "sh" of the word "Welsh", but obviously you meant: the sound "ch" as it is spoken in the language "Welsh" (and in German, Gaelic, Russian). That's quite different.

I don't know the Unfinished Tales, I just referred to the pronunciation and that the change from "ch" to "h"/"k" seemed quite logical to me knowing the "ch"-sound. In the Ardalambion by Helge Fauskanger it's said: "Westron did not possess ... ch as in German ach; see UT:319. Therefore, pure Sindarin Rochand, Rochan became Rohan in Gondorian pronunciation." Is that the note 49 you're referring to?

And: Do you know the "ch"-sound in German "ach", "Buch" etc.? It can't be described in English. It's not like "sh" and not like the "ch" in "which". It's some 'croaking' sound close to "kh"... And it exists neither in English nor in the Common Speech/Westron.

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Elthir
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 25, 2010 11:44
Ah ok, that much is cleared up. And I do know the sound in question as well.

Anyway, it seems to me that if orc is Westron (as I argue), and orch is Sindarin, it would be possible to explain orc as a borrowing, with the final sound becoming -k for Westron speakers (as it would be pronounced by certain Gondorians in any case, according to the note).

Then the question might be why the Rohirrim did not simply keep orch however, as the same note (which I'm guessing is the one Ardalambion refers to) seems to say this ch sound was found in the actual tongue of these people.

All within a theory! as I say, I don't think Tolkien ever explained orc as a borrowing from Sindarin, and he seems to be on an alternate course in Quendi And Eldar anyway, when touching upon the words for orc according to Men.

But that's part of why I'm wondering if I'm missing something else here, as JRRT doesn't seem to have considered this.
Teciltur
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 25, 2010 11:47
Presupposing that 'orc' is indeed the Westron form of the word, it might also be considered a loan from Quenya orco, though I don't know whether or not the final vowel would be lost when borrowing the word into Westron. A loan from Sindarin does seem more likely, given the UT quote; that etymology at least has the advantage of the sound shift being described by Tolkien.

However, 'orc' could also be an Erbwort, as the Germans name it (can't seem to find any English term for it), being descended from Adûnaic uruk rather than borrowed from a different language. Unfortunately, since 'orc' does not appear to have been defined as a specifically Westron word (for example as "*ork meaning 'orc'" to mirror "kuduk meaning 'hobbit'"), I don't any evidence for this hypothesis.

Regarding the Rohirric term: while the Rohirrim might have kept the pronunciation if they had borrowed the word from Sindarin, is there anything that speaks against their having borrowed it from Westron? If it was already pronounced K, they would have had no reason to change it to CH.

If the word for 'orc' is *orc/ork in Westron, however, then why did Tolkien specify 'orc' as being from Rohirric? Given that Westron is represented by English, I find it peculiar that it is a term from the language represented by Old English that is used as the source of the English 'loanword'. (I don't have access to the Appendices other than in translation, however, so I can't be entirely sure I read that paragraph correctly.) I must admit that I haven't read either that note in the Hobbit, nor the note to translators, so I do not know what Tolkien says about the word in those sources.

[Edited on 2010/5/26 by Teciltur]
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Elthir
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 26, 2010 01:29
I guess I should provide the citations I'm leaning on here, for orc as a Westron word.

This first one was added to a later edition of The Hobbit, and being put into print by JRRT himself (after The Lord of the Rings had been written), I feel it supersedes his note in Words, Phrases And Passages for example (and other 'unpublished' musings). The note reads in part, with my emphasis...

(...) Orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or two places but is usually translated goblin (or hobgoblin for the larger kinds). Orc is the hobbits' form of the name given at that time to these creatures, and it is not connected at all with orc, ork, applied to sea-animals of dolphin-kind.


JRRT also wrote a guide for translators of The Lord of the Rings, and there he again explained the relationship of orc to goblin:

Orc 'This is supposed to be the Common Speech name of these creatures at that time; it should therefore according to the system be translated to English, or the language of translation. It was translated 'goblin' in The Hobbit, except in one place; but this word, and other words of similar sense in other European languages (as far as I know), are not really suitable. The orc in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, though of course partly made out of traditional features, is not really comparable in supposed origin, functions, and relation to the Elves. In any case orc seemed to me, and seems, in sound a good name for these creatures. It should be retained.'


So here we have 'at that time' repeated, and Common Speech specifically noted; and this fits well with the conceit of translation too (largely translating Westron with English). Another passage to consider: 'Orc is the form of the name that other races had for this foul people as it was in the language of Rohan. In Sindarin it was orch.' Appendix F, Orcs and the Black Speech.


In light of the other texts especially, I take this as giving the reader the actual words used back in Frodo's day, noting that the other words along with orc in this section -- orch, uruk, snaga -- are not translations.

I agree that the matter is made somewhat confusing by the fact that externally Tolkien borrowed orc from Old English! but in my opinion JRRT ultimately decided, perhaps since it is not exactly common knowledge that orc hailed from Old English, to characterize the word as Westron rather.
Charodian
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 26, 2010 10:44
I looked up the words for "orc" in the ardalambion in the different languages that are described there. And there are just the following reliably reported words:

Adûnaic (supposed to be Westron later): uruk
Drúedainic: gorgûn
Nandorin: urc (plural: yrc), primitive form: órku
Old Sindarin: orko (plural: orkui), primitive form: órku
Doriathrin: urch (plural: urchin), primitive form: órku
Sindarin: orch (plural: yrch)
Quenya: urco (stem: urcu-, plural: urqui) or: orco (plural orqui or orcor)

There are no words for "orc" reported in Westron/Common Speech, Rohirric, Dunlending, the tongues of Harad and Khand, the Northern Tongues, Taliska and Telerin.

From these Informations I would guess, there was no change from "orch" to "orc" at all, but it might be the other way round (see: Old Sindarin - Sindarin). Perhaps the Sindarin changed from "-ko" to "-ch", and the other folks didn't borrow the word from ("new") Sindarin, but from Old Sindarin or Nandorin....

As "orc" doesn't appear on the ardalambion word-lists at all, except as an English translation of the other words, I suppose "orc" is simply English.
Elthir
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 26, 2010 11:28
As "orc" doesn't appear on the ardalambion word-lists at all, except as an English translation of the other words, I suppose "orc" is simply English.


Well, in any case Tolkien didn't author Ardalambion -- to state the obvious, but I mean why suppose something based on this web reference that goes against Tolkien's published statement -- see my quote from JRRT above, where the very first sentence is: 'Orc is not an English word.'

And if the lack of orc in Ardalambion's Westron list means the author of that website doesn't think the word is Westron...

... well then I must disagree
Charodian
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 26, 2010 01:53
My impression is, that the Ardalambion is a website, where the author worked very exactly, analyzing loads of Tolkien's books, notes and letters, and giving numerous references to those.

Of course I can't check if he did it all correctly, as I don't possess all these Tolkien's works and, if I did, I would hardly be able to read and analyze them all...

To your interpretation of "orc is not an English word": My understanding of this is, that Tolkien wanted to tell us, that "orc" should not been confused with the term "orc" or "ork" used for the water animal in "real" English. As in reality there are no Orcs as we know them from the Tolkien stories, naturally there can't be a "real" English word for those beasts. So I think, Tolkien had to invent a word.

Well, as we know, that Tolkien changed the words, their spelling or declination etc. of his languages quite often, I personally wouldn't rely on just one quote from one edition of one of his books. Some things are different in the same book, next edition.

It's of course just my point of view...
Elthir
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 26, 2010 05:36
To your interpretation of "orc is not an English word": My understanding of this is, that Tolkien wanted to tell us, that "orc" should not been confused with the term "orc" or "ork" used for the water animal in "real" English. As in reality there are no Orcs as we know them from the Tolkien stories, naturally there can't be a "real" English word for those beasts. So I think, Tolkien had to invent a word.


It appears you're interpreting this to say that Tolkien invented a Modern English word orc, not to be confused with the term for sea-animals (in general we know Tolkien's external source was Old English here).

But what about the very next sentence, where the information is that orc is the hobbit's form of the name given at that time. The hobbits spoke no kind of English of course, real or invented.

Tolkien invented the word hobbit for example, but at that time no hobbit said 'hobbit', but rather kuduk. And the second quote states that orc is supposed to be Common Speech, and has been translated (not in every instance) by English 'goblin'

Well, as we know, that Tolkien changed the words, their spelling or declination etc. of his languages quite often, I personally wouldn't rely on just one quote from one edition of one of his books. Some things are different in the same book, next edition.


But this did not change; and as I say this was added to a later edition of The Hobbit, and never revised by JRRT. With respect to relying on just one quote...

... I would very much rely on one Tolkien-published explanation over any competing quotes from private papers -- essentially draft texts in comparison to author-published work. Also, I provided more than just one citation in any case.

The second one wasn't published for a readership in general, but it was intended for translators of The Lord of the Rings, and IMO could still be generally used as a guide today.
Teciltur
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 26, 2010 09:46
To your interpretation of "orc is not an English word": My understanding of this is, that Tolkien wanted to tell us, that "orc" should not been confused with the term "orc" or "ork" used for the water animal in "real" English. As in reality there are no Orcs as we know them from the Tolkien stories, naturally there can't be a "real" English word for those beasts. So I think, Tolkien had to invent a word.


It appears you're interpreting this to say that Tolkien invented a Modern English word orc, not to be confused with the term for sea-animals (in general we know Tolkien's external source was Old English here).

But what about the very next sentence, where the information is that orc is the hobbit's form of the name given at that time. The hobbits spoke no kind of English of course, real or invented.


Of course Tolkien invented, if not the word, then at least the new definition of the word 'orc' in English, and he did this to make the word suit what he wanted his literary characters to be. He most likely drew on older usage of the word in English, where, in addition to being used of 'various ferocious sea creatures' it was also used of 'land-based', ogre-like creatures, and in a letter Tolkien explicitly says that 'the word is as far as I am concerned actually derived from Old English orc 'demon', but only because of its phonetic suitability'. (www.oed.com) So, yes, Tolkien did invent the word.

However, as with most things linguistical in relation to his writings, Tolkien provides a fictional explanation. In 'translating' the Red Book of Westmarch, as he claims to have done, Tolkien borrowed the Westron word *ork (of some spelling) and uses it instead of 'goblin' or 'hobgoblin'. In that fictional explanation there is no doubt that the word 'orc' is not of English origin, but rather a loanword from some language of Middle-earth, specifically Westron, on Tolkien's own account. (The note in Appendix F about it being from the language of Rohan is puzzling, but I will disregard it for now.) The fact that Tolkien invented the word (or its relevant meaning) in reality has no real bearing on the matter of the fictional origin of the word. In order to discuss the matter of the Middle-earth origin of the word, one cannot talk of the 'real' origin, as the two are entirely separate.

Looking then at the fictional origin of the word I think that, given the quotes you provided, Elthir, it does seem likely that the Westron form of the word is indeed *ork (with the k/c grapheme shift, which may go either way). It's unfortunate that Tolkien never explicitly said that this was the word's form in Westron, as he did with kuduk, but if it is indeed the same form, he may have felt it unnecessary to provide a translation for it. I can't say whether or not it is a loanword, but if it is, the evidence for it being a loan from Sindarin does seem convincing. My only 'objection', unsubstantiated though it might be, is that the word would probably not have dropped out of common usage from the Adûnaic stage to the Westron stage, but this conjecture does not rule out the possibility of a later loan. Also, since I don't know anything about Adûnaic and Westron phonology, I don't know whether or not there is any evidence of syncope to support or disprove my hypothesis of a development uruk>*ork.
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Elthir
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 27, 2010 03:56
(...) It's unfortunate that Tolkien never explicitly said that this was the word's form in Westron, as he did with kuduk, but if it is indeed the same form, he may have felt it unnecessary to provide a translation for it.


But is not this stated explicitly enough in the note to translators, by describing orc as Common Speech?

(...) In that fictional explanation there is no doubt that the word 'orc' is not of English origin, but rather a loanword from some language of Middle-earth, specifically Westron, on Tolkien's own account.



Yes, and that was my challenge above to Charodian, that Tolkien's note to The Hobbit dealt with the word orc in his fictional internal history. The whole note reads easily this way: Orc is not English. Why? It is the Hobbit's form of the name given at that time -- that is, in Frodo's day. Here's the longer version...

'This is a story of long ago. At that time the languages and letters were quite different from ours of today. English is used to represent the languages. But two points may be noted. (1) In English the only correct plural of dwarf is dwarfs, and the adjective is dwarfish. In this story dwarves and dwarvish are used*, but only when speaking of the ancient people to whom Thorin Oakenshield and his companions belonged. (2) Orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or two places but is usually translated goblin (or hobgoblin for the larger kinds). Orc is the hobbits' form of the name given at that time to these creatures, and is not connected at all with our orc, ork, applied to sea-animals of dolphin-kind.

Runes were old letters originally used for cutting (...)'

* the reason for this use is given in The Lord of the Rings, III 415.

JRRT, The Hobbit


I note that 'at that time' is repeated, the first instance directly following 'long ago'. Orc, whatever its external source, is not that far from other internal words used 'back then', so it's not a far jump to add it to the list of words actually spoken by Westron speakers.

Of course, Tolkien had other ideas. For example: ['Orc is adaptation of the form of the word occuring in Westron, orka.'] This is from Words, Phrases and Passages (WPP), entry uruk:

Here the Westron word is orka, and I'm not exactly sure what JRRT means here by an 'adaptation', but maybe he means adapted by the translator.

Or, from Quendi And Eldar:

'The form in Adunaic urku, urkhu may be direct from Quenya or Sindarin; and this form underlies the words for Orc in the languages of Men of the North-West in the Second and Third Ages. (...)'.

Note: The word used in translation of Q urko, S orch, is Orc. But that is becaue of the similarity of the ancient English word orc, 'evil spirit or bogey' to the Elvish words. There is possibly no connexion between them. The English word is now generally supposed to be derived from Latin Orcus.'


I think these two texts were written before Tolkien's 'hobbit note', as it seems to have first appeared in the 1966 'third edition'. I would suggest that JRRT ultimately thought that his WPP idea (if he remembered it later!) was too confusing, for then he would have orka (Westron), and 'orc' (adaptation -- by translator?) and 'goblin' (English translation).

And concerning the note to Q&E, 'orc' as a translation does not explain the many instances of English 'goblin' in The Hobbit (nor those instances in The Lord of the Rings as well), so again I think Tolkien ultimately landed on the easier solution: imagine orc itself as actual Westron, translated by 'goblin'.

This fits the system too, the only problem being that Tolkien preferred orc to 'goblin' for The Lord of the Rings so he doesn't want instances of orc in this book to be translated all into 'goblin' or into some word in the language of translation -- and so he tells translators to retain it rather.


For clarity on the loan aspect: it is not my argument that Tolkien saw Westron orc as a loan from Sindarin. I am rather wondering if it is possible, exactly because Tolkien never seems to have considered it on paper.

I get the feeling from the responses (so far), that it could have worked easily enough, and perhaps it just didn't occur to Tolkien -- or if it did, he never wrote it down.
Teciltur
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 27, 2010 06:49
But is not this stated explicitly enough in the note to translators, by describing orc as Common Speech?


Maybe... I can't quite decide whether or not I read it as an implicit or explicit statement to that effect. Though my ambivalence in itself does make that possibility more plausible...

Yes, and that was my challenge above to Charodian, that Tolkien's note to The Hobbit dealt with the word orc in his fictional internal history. The whole note reads easily this way: Orc is not English. Why? It is the Hobbit's form of the name given at that time -- that is, in Frodo's day.


Oh, I see. I didn't realise that that was what you meant, and read it as trying to reply to an external argument with an internal one, which is why I felt the need to point out the difference between the internal and external approach.

Of course, Tolkien had other ideas. For example: ['Orc is adaptation of the form of the word occuring in Westron, orka.'] This is from Words, Phrases and Passages (WPP), entry uruk:

Here the Westron word is orka, and I'm not exactly sure what JRRT means here by an 'adaptation', but maybe he means adapted by the translator.


Now that is a quite explicit statement as to what the Westron word is! The trouble is, of course, that it's not *ork, and that all Westron/Hobbit names ending in A, which haven't been translated, are simply transcribed as ending in O (such as Bilba>Bilbo). However, yes, then 'orc' would be an adaptation to English, perhaps to avoid a clash with 'orca' while also drawing on the similar meaning of older 'orc'. Another problem is that, unless I'm wrong, this is a hapax legomenon, and so outnumbered by more or less direct statements citing 'orc' as coming from a Westron/hobbit form of the word.

(...) I think these two texts were written before Tolkien's 'hobbit note', as it seems to have first appeared in the 1966 'third edition'. I would suggest that JRRT ultimately thought that his WPP idea (if he remembered it later!) was too confusing, for then he would have orka (Westron), and 'orc' (adaptation -- by translator?) and 'goblin' (English translation).


While he may have thought that it was too complex an explanation to put in a childrens' book, this does not mean he completely discounted the idea. Another interpretation could be that 'orc' is, indeed, 'the hobbits' form of the name', and orka is the 'standard' Westron form, used in the more archaic dialects. This, again, would be somewhat problematic, with Rohirric being described as a more archaic relative to the language spoken by the hobbits, since 'orc' is apparently also the form used by them. On the other hand, if the Westron word is orka and the Rohirric word is *orc, this might be why Rohirric, and not Westron, is defined as the source for the word in Appendix F.

And concerning the note to Q&E, 'orc' as a translation does not explain the many instances of English 'goblin' in The Hobbit (nor those instances in The Lord of the Rings as well), so again I think Tolkien ultimately landed on the easier solution: imagine orc itself as actual Westron, translated by 'goblin'.


I don't think the use of 'orc' as a translation of 'urco' and 'orch' is a problem in itself, as those sources would be from Quenya and Sindarin, respectively. Granted, his explanation for using 'orc' differs from the internal explanation given in the notes you've quoted, and in that I agree with you, that he most likely changed the reasoning given in Quenya and Eldar for choosing this particular word in the 'translation'.

Also, looking at it from an external perspective, goblins would have been well-known, and he was writing a childrens' book. Disliking the connotations of the word, he chose to use 'orc' (for the most part) in LotR, and rationalised this with various theories; and while it is difficult to rank them in order of importance, the note in The Hobbit has the added weight of being published during Tolkien's lifetime. I still maintain that this note doesn't completely do away with the word orka, however, and that this form of the word might (in my opinion) make the rather cryptic choice of Rohirric as a source language for the loan into English more understandable. (Though if this is so, I wonder why 'the hobbits' form' was not used...) Also, I'll admit that the note in the guide to translators does put some strain on the likelihood of the word being orka being 'kept' by Tolkien.

To summarize, I find the form orka really interesting, but I can't say I'm thoroughly convinced that it is valid, given the great quantity of more or less (to my mind) circumstantial evidence in favour of the form being 'orc' in Westron as well. That said, the very existence of orka, explicitly stated as being the Westron form, means that I'm not thoroughly convinced that the Westron word is *ork, either, at least not in all forms of the language.
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Elthir
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Post RE: Orc
on: May 27, 2010 11:29
Another interpretation could be that 'orc' is, indeed, 'the hobbits' form of the name', and orka is the 'standard' Westron form, used in the more archaic dialects.


And if so, maybe the adaptation referred to in WPP could be internal -- that is, the hobbits' adaptation (though I tend to lean toward thinking the meaning refers to the translator however).

This, again, would be somewhat problematic, with Rohirric being described as a more archaic relative to the language spoken by the hobbits, since 'orc' is apparently also the form used by them.


Good point.

I would have no quibble with both words being spoken in Frodo's day, but on the other hand, since Hobbits speak Westron in general (their version of it), and since I think the commentary for translators is quite direct enough with respect to characterizing orc as Common Speech...

Which brings me to giving weight to sources again: as noted, for me, and generally speaking, author-published text easily outweighs (even later) private papers. And I also weight the commentary for translators much heavier that WPP for example. According to Hammond and Scull:

Tolkien's 'commentary' for many years was photocopied by Allen & Unwin and sent to translators of The Lord of the Rings as an aid to their work.'

Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings, The Lord of the Rings A Reader's Companion


That makes a strong source in my opinion (one assumes Tolkien knew about this!). Of course I don't really want to turn this thread into a 'canon' discussion, but when we have such various sources, sometimes the matter of textual weight (at least) naturally seeps in.
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