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David Salo

David I. Salo
David Salo
David Salo giving a speech in Bloomington, Illinois, April 30, 2005
Nationality American
Education University of Wisconsin-Madison
Occupation Linguist
Known for Tocharian, Languages constructed by J. R. R. Tolkien

David I. Salo is a linguist who worked on the languages of J. R. R. Tolkien for the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, expanding the Elvish languages (particularly Sindarin) by building on vocabulary already known from published works, and defining some languages that previously had a very small published vocabulary. In 2003, he was a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[1]

His primary professional interest is Tocharian, an extinct Indo-European language spoken in the Tarim Basin and Turfan Depression during the Middle Ages.[1][2]

Salo on Tolkien's languages

David Salo's interest in Tolkien's languages arose when he read Tolkien's works as a boy. As an undergraduate at Macalester College he studied Latin, Greek, and linguistics, and used the knowledge gained to improve his understanding of Tolkien's languages.[2] In 1998 he was among the founders of the Elfling mailing list for Tolkienist language enthusiasts.[3] In 2004 he published a linguistic analysis of Sindarin: A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish language from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (ISBN 0-87480-800-6). This book was reviewed in 2006 in volume 3 of the journal Tolkien Studies,[4] and it was further reviewed in the context of Tolkienian linguistics as a whole in volume 4 of Tolkien Studies (2007).[5]

Salo was contracted for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy to write all the material in Elvish, Dwarvish, 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 translated the lyrics for the movie soundtracks.[6] Subsequently, Salo provided similar services as the Tolkien language consultant for The Hobbit film series.[7]


  1. ^ a b Smith, Susan Lampert (2003-01-19). "Linguist Is A Specialist In Elvish, The Uw Grad Student Provides Translations For Lord Of The Rings Movies.".   (also available here)
  2. ^ a b "Need an Elvish Translator? We've Got the Right Person for the Job" (PDF). Artes Liberales Today ( 
  3. ^ "Elfling FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) List". Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  4. ^ Straubhaar, Sandra Ballif (2006). "Gateway to Sindarin (review)".  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Wilonsky, Robert. "Talkin' Tolkien". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2007-11-14. 
  7. ^ "David Salo, Linguistic Consultant for The Hobbit, speaks at Geek Kon". Retrieved 2012-12-31. 

External links

  • at the
  • Interview with David Salo
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