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Comparing Book of Mormon Names with Those Found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Works: An Exploratory Study

TitleComparing Book of Mormon Names with Those Found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Works: An Exploratory Study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsWilcox, Brad, Wendy Baker-Smemoe, Bruce L. Brown, and Sharon Black
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture
KeywordsAuthorship; Jaredite; Lamanite; Literature; Mulekite; Nephite; Onomastics

The works of Tolkien and the Book of Mormon have been compared in a variety of ways by multiple authors and researchers, but none have looked specifically at the unusual names found within both. Wordprint studies are one tool used in author attribution research, but do authors use specific sounds more than others — consciously or subconsciously — when selecting or inventing names? Some research suggests they may and that their patterns could create a “sound print” or phonoprint. This constitutes a fresh and unusual path of research that deserves more attention. The purpose of this exploratory study was to see if phonoprints surfaced when examining Dwarf, Elf, Hobbit, Man, and other names created by Tolkien and Jaredite, Nephite, Mulekite, and Lamanite names found in the Book of Mormon. Results suggest that Tolkien had a phonoprint he was unable to entirely escape when creating character names, even when he claimed he based them on distinct languages. In contrast, in Book of Mormon names, a single author’s phonoprint did not emerge. Names varied by group in the way one would expect authentic names from different cultures to vary. Although much more research needs to be done to establish the validity and reliability of using phonoprints for author identification, this study opens a door for future research.