Hyphens as sub-lexical morphemes in The Hobbit

— Sparrow Alden

21 December 2021 | Mallorn, Winter, 2021, 36

J.R.R. Tolkien uses 410 distinct hyphenated words in The Hobbit which appear a total of 669 times. They can be found along with some supporting discussion posts in Alden’s Hyphen Mini-Concordance.” These hyphenated words name things (such as Under-Hill and Bag-End), describe the landscape (Smaug licks the mountain-sides with flame, and leaves rock-shadows dancing), reveal the archaic and fantastic nature of the world (arrow-storm, wolf-guards), and communicate some details of unfamiliar cultures (goblincities, hobbit-girls, elf-prince). Sometimes, these hyphenated words even give readers a taste of foreshadowing (the only people described as grim’ are kings… and Bard of the Lakemen is grim-voiced” and grim-faced” well before he is crowned). Hyphenated words communicate more than semantics.…

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date recorded 📅2022-01-01
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