This email journal is written as one who has just joined the class, and thus without the aid of any particular study of the course excepting the syllabus and a browsing through the course packet. I'll be obtaining the novels by the next class meeting and caught up on my reading by then. The Blackboard readings are being kept up with of course, too.
My general impression of the course so far is relatively promising. I have some familiarity with linguistics already (have read Mallory's "In search of the Indo-Europeans" and one can't get through a course in Classics by Cook or Palaima, especially with an Indo-European focused TA, without some exposure.) Plus it makes an interesting plot element in S.M Stirling's Nantucket series books. However, I am concerned as to the evaluation and progress expectations in this course.
To begin with, we're looking at what appears to me to be a lot of content. Beyond the linguistics topics we're covering, which appear to me to be aimed at more or less fulfilling a basic LIN course, there's the extra demands of the Tolkien content and readings, which I consider to be equally considerable. Therefore, the reasonable evaluation of this work seems to be something of an extensive task, and one I fear may prove to be beyond what students expect or are prepared for.
International Phonetic Alphabet:
I've already come across the IPA cursorially in my study of Greek this summer (Intensive Summer Greek program, is taking some recovery from to get back to normal). I have come to the conclusion that it is possibly the worst example of jargon forced on a non-academic audience in my experience, worse even than epistimology. This is to say, it takes things people expect to be nice are familiar, like letters they have grown up with, and give them totally different sounds/meanings. It's rather like the loathing I have for the greek letter eta, which is represented by either 'H' or 'n', both familiar Roman letters that mean something totally different in Greek. I recognize they're different, but they're close enough to fool me if I'm not thinking in Greek. Now back to the IPA. The IPA takes this flaw of using familiar signs to mean unfamiliar sounds, and commits the practically unpardonable sin of doing it knowingly. I understand that it's easier to print things this way than to make up new ideographs, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I'd rather learn a whole new alphabet/set of symbols than try to train myself to view the same symbol as two or three different sounds, depending on who wrote it.