the-languages-of-tolkien's-middle-earth

Pippin: Prince of the Halflings

(A response to this post, if interested.)

So, when Pippin arrives in Minas Tirith with Gandalf, both Denethor and Beregond make some sort of comment about the strangeness of hobbit-speech. They don’t really specify what about Pippin’s speech is so strange, just vaguely referring to accent. And that could just have been a regular comment on whatever regional accent the hobbits probably had compared to the men of Gondor. But in Appendix F Tolkien comments on the issue, saying:

The Westron tongue made in the pronouns of the second person (and often also in those of the third) a distinction, independent of number, between ‘familiar’ and 'deferential’ forms. It was, however, one of the peculiarities of Shire-usage that the deferential forms had gone out of colloquial use. They lingered only among the villagers, especially of the West-farthing, who used them as endearments. This was one of the things referred to when people of Gondor spoke of the strangeness of Hobbit-speech. Peregrin Took, for instance, in his first few days in Minas Tirith used the familiar forms to people of all ranks, including the Lord Denethor himself. This may have amused the aged Steward, but it must have astonished his servants.

Since this pronoun use doesn’t really translate into English (does anyone who’s read the books in another language know if they reflected this?), the whole issue would go unnoticed by readers unless they read Appendix F. Which is a pity, since it has a sort of humorous result. After being in Minas Tirith for a while, Pippin notices that he’s getting a lot of attention from the people of the city. In fact, Tolkien tell us:

People stared much as he passed. To his face men were gravely courteous, saluting him after the manner of Gondor with bowed head and hands upon the breast; but behind him he heard many calls, as those out of doors cried to others within to come and see the Prince of the Halflings, the companion of Mithrandir. Many used some other tongue than the Common Speech, but it was not long before he learned at least what was meant by Ernil i Pheriannath and knew that his title had gone down before him into the City.

Now, if you didn’t know about the grammar issue, you’d think that people were just making this assumption because Pippin arrived with Gandalf. But Tolkien fully explains the joke in the appendix, saying “No doubt this free use of the familiar forms helped to spread the popular rumor that Peregrin was a person of very high rank in his own country.”

SOURCES: LotR, LotR Appendix F

Fun fact: the hobbit and the lord of the rings are written as translations of the stories written by bilbo and frodo that they wrote in Tolkien’s created language of Adûni (westron/common speech) in Bilbo’s red book. Westron is the universal language of middle earth, much the same as english is a universal language in our world. And like english is derived from the extinct anglo saxon language, westron is derived from the adûnaic tongue of númenor, and originated as a creole language on the western coastlands of the continent of middle earth, when the númenorians established trade outposts and forts there in the second age. Tolkien went as far as to not only translate names of places to english like ‘rivendell’ but names of people, too. For example, meriadoc brandybuck’s actual name in his own language is supposed to have been Kalimac Brandagamba, ‘Kali’ meaning jolly/merry , so 'Meriadoc’, and for short, 'merry’, was designed to maintain the reference to merriness contained in the original name. Similarly peregrin took’s actual name was razanur tûc, for short: Razar, the name of a small apple. 'Peregrin’, and for short 'Pippin’ contained both the actual meaning of the full name (traveller, stranger) and the reference to an apple, which i like to think was beautifully and subtly referenced in the fellowship of the ring film when aragorn throws an apple at Pippin after he mentions second breakfast, though that was likely just a coincidence, as of course peter jackson’s researchers may not have been as obsessed and absurdly sad as myself.

Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings: Frodo Baggins, derived from the Old English fród, meaning “wise by experience.” His name is Maura Labingi in Westron and Iorhael in Sindarin, a combination of the root words ior, meaning “old,” and hale, meaning “wise.”

Tolkien in The Hobbit: their names were Balin and Dwalin and Oin and Gloin and Dori and Nori and Ori and Fili and Kili and Bifur and Bombur and Bofur

Real languages change over time. There’s no such thing as a language that’s the same today as it was a thousand years ago. Things change in conlangs, too. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien charted out ancient and newer versions of Elvish. 

The first Elvish word for people was kwendi. But in the language of one of the groups that moved away (the Teleri), over time, kwendi became pendi. Among the Avari, who spread throughout Middle Earth, kwendi became kindi when the w dropped out.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Are Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki and Na’vi real languages? - John McWhorter

Animation by Enjoyanimation

5

Anon asked: “Apparently, there are many Elvish languages and I can’t really get them straight. What languages are there, and where (and when) are they spoken?

So, here you you! A little disclaimer: I didn’t put as much careful research into this as I might have, and it relies more heavily on secondary sources than I generally prefer. But Tolkien wrote so much on language that I could have been in the research stage of this post for weeks and still have tons of work to do. So consider this a sort of quick, casual guide to the realm of elvish linguistics. 

PS: The maps are excerpts from Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle Earth

PPS: I didn’t include any of the Sindarin-speaking men in these maps. Technically, the men of Gondor spoke Sindarin, but in their own dialect. But since they aren’t elves, I decided not to include them.

7

Thranduil and the Woodland Realm

An explanation of why the Sindar live with the wood-elves and the mingling of their cultures. 

Pictures: Ered Luin, Misty Mountains, The Anduin, Greenwood the Great, Mirkwood, Old Forest Road, and the Bridge to the Elvenking’s Halls.

Oropher’s house crossed the Ered Luin and then the Misty Mountains to live among the Silvan folk of the forests along the Anduin (the Great River).  

Keep reading

Nerdy Fact #1500: The forest moon setting of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was named “Endor,“ which is one of the elvish language translations of "Middle-earth”, as a tribute to the influence that The Lord of the Rings series had on Star Wars.

(Source.)

Sign Languages in Middle Earth

While sign languages really don’t play a part in any of Tolkien’s stories, we learn from his more academic essays on Middle Earth that they did exist. Tolkien’s sign languages are basically split into two main types: elvish and dwarvish.

Elvish Sign Language (Hwerme)

Tolkien didn’t name this language, but since he explains since he uses the Quenya word “hwerme” to refer to gesture-codes, we’ll use that to refer to the elvish sign language.

Tolkien described Hwerme as “a fairly elaborate system containing a large number of conventional gesture-signs.” He says that the elves mainly used Hwerme if they were out of hearing range from each other (while elves had excellent hearing, their eyesight was even better, so they could clearly see each other’s gestures even when they could no longer hear each other.) Tolkien also mentions that the gestures used in Hwerme were obviously different from the more natural gestures used during everyday speech (which, by the way, he notes that elves were very fond of using as well.)

Dwarvish Sign Language (Iglishmek)

Iglishmek was the name given to the dwarvish sign language.  Tolkien said that Iglishmek was far more elaborate and organized than the elvish sign language was. It was actually just as well-developed as Khuzdul, their spoken language, and was taught to children as soon as they started learning to speak.

Interestingly, Tolkien goes on to say that, while Khuzdul was very uniformly spoken across different dwarvish communities, Iglishmek tended to see a lot more regional diversity. So some dwarves might even “speak” different dialects of Iglishmek. And the dwarves were just as secretive about Iglishmek as they were about Khuzdul, generally refusing to teach it to outsiders. But, understanding how much the Noldor loved languages, a few Noldorin loremasters were taught the language, for academic purposes.

Finally, Tolkien says that Iglishmek was used for a very different purpose than Hwerme was. Dwarves were actually pretty short-sighted, so it wasn’t useful for long-distance communication. Rather, the dwarves used Iglishmek for the sake of secrecy when among outsiders (non-dwarves.) The gestures were very slight and subtle, so that (unless you were looking for it), others wouldn’t even recognize it as a sign language. This way, dwarves could communicate with each other while in public without anyone else knowing. Tolkien says “they could speak with their voices but at the same time by ‘gesture’ convey to their own folk modifications of what was being said. Or they could stand silent considering some proposition, and yet confer among themselves meanwhile.” (For anyone who’s read any of David Eddings’ Belgariad books, I imagine it’s the same as the Drasnian secret finger language.) ((EDIT: In “real world” mines, sign languages are commonly used to communicate when it’s too loud for vocal communication. It’s possible that the dwarves also used Iglishmek in these situations as well.))

We (probably) know of at least two Iglishmek gestures. According to Tolkien Gateway, in Vinyar Tengwar no. 39 (which I don’t have access to - if anybody else does, could you check this for me?), there are two signs described: to say “Listen!” you slightly raise both index fingers at the same time. And to say “I am listening”, you slightly raise your right index finger, followed by slightly raising the left index finger.

SOURCES: The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11 (“Quendi and Eldar”); “From Quendi and Eldar, Appenix D” in Vinyar Tengwar no. 39

5

Black Speech in Tengwar (Elvish or Fëanorian Letters)

Why didn’t Sauron make up his own form of writing while making up his own language? 

According to ame (X), the only writing systems in Middle-earth, before the Ages of Man, were made by Elves who wanted to be able to write things down.  I found a reference that stated there are alleged Uruk Runes, possibly modified from Cirth by hybrid orcs, but I have found no supporting evidence of that writing system in Tolkien’s work. So, the three viable writing systems available in the 2nd Age, when Sauron created Black Speech, are: Sarati by Rúmil, the Tengwar of Fëanor, and Cirth by Daeron. 

Keep reading

The Importance of Names

I could add to your list, even: dwarves won’t tell outsiders their true names, the Noldorin elves were given multiple names, Melkor was called Morgoth after stealing the silmarils, plus dozens of examples of characters taking on symbolic names. Names are so incredibly important in Middle Earth.

I think the reason why is simultaneously simpler and deeper than you might think: Middle Earth was created by a linguist. Tolkien spoke about a dozen “real world” languages and created over a dozen fictional languages for his stories. He was, without a doubt, someone who loved names, and words in general. More than that, though, he was someone who understood the power of words. I mean, look at Middle Earth - look at what it means to today’s culture. Half a dozen movies, millions and millions of dollars, university classes, books translated all over this world, countless blogs and forums, games, music, jewelry, not to mention the important place Middle Earth has in many of our hearts. And it’s all just words.

Tolkien understood, probably better than most, the importance of language, words, and names. Language is culture (look at the divide between Quenya and Sindarin, or the dwarves’ protection of Khuzdul), words are power (the universe was created with a word, you know), and names are identities (Smeagol became Gollum, speaking Sauron’s name implied familiarity with him, and the nazgul’s identities have been totally lost in their servitude.)

If interested, here are a few other posts pertaining to the importance of language and names in Middle Earth:

SOURCES: All of it, really

3
fake writers' got houses

            └ house tolkien [x]

► coat of arms: the founder’s talisman on a field of white | ► region: the riverlands | ► words: not all those who wander are lost | sigil: the founder’s talisman | religion: the old gods

jrr tolkien:

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. After his father’s death, Tolkien’s son Christopher published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda, and Middle Earth within it. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings. While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature. [x]

suggestion? [x]

Why Call It "Middle Earth"?

Fans have all sorts of interpretations for the name “Middle Earth.” Some say it got its name because it’s the location of the fight between Good and Evil. Others say it got its name because it’s between the ocean and the eastern lands (so, referring specifically to the central region of Middle Earth.) And I like your theory about it being where the “middle” of the stories take place.

In fact, readers have come up with so many interesting reasons for “Middle Earth” that Tolkien’s actual explanation might seem like a bit of a let-down. In one of his letters, he explains that “Middle Earth” is simply a modern version of the Old English “midden-erd”, more commonly known in its Norse version, “Midgard.” He says:

I am historically minded. Middle-earth is not an imaginary world. The name is the modern form (appearing in the 13th century and still in use) of midden-erd > middel-erd, the abiding place of Men, the objectively real world, in use specifically opposed to imaginary worlds (as Fairyland) or unseen worlds (as Heaven or Hell). The theatre of my tale is this earth, the one in which we now live, but the historical period is imaginary. 

Meaning, basically, that Tolkien called it “Middle Earth” because it’s meant to be our world, which in northern European history was called “Middle Earth” (just in a different language.)

And so, in the end, the “middle” part of Middle Earth isn’t even all that significant, since it was borrowed from the “real world” anyway. But, if interested, in another letter Tolkien explains that, in northern European culture, the “middle” was because the world was “thought of vaguely as set amidst the encircling Seas and (in the northern-imagination) between ice of the North and the fire of the South.”

SOURCES: Tolkien’s letters #183 and #211

Telpënár 1 by David DelaGardelle
Via Flickr:
“And over Middle-Earth he passed and heard at last the weeping sore of women and of elven-maids in Elder Days, in years of yore. But on him mighty doom was laid, till Moon should fade, an orbed star to pass, and tarry never more on Hither Shores where Mortals are; or ever still a herald on an errand that should never rest to bear his shining lamp afar, to Flammifer of Westernesse.” - J.R.R. Tolkien last lines from his poem “Eärendil” Telpënár, literal meaning “Silver Fire” in Tolkien’s “Quenya” language, is a High-Elven leaf-bladed longsword crafted by myself, David DelaGardelle. I forged and ground the blade out of a piece of “feather” pattern-welded steel that came from my friends at HHH knives, talented smiths who produce near mythic-looking “damascus” patterns in steel. A long and keen, balanced and swift blade, it was carefully crafted to evoke the dark and brooding feel of Tolkien’s noble “First Age” Elves, as well as being inspired by some historically rooted myths about Elves from Irish folklore. With carvings that tell stories of half moon music, and wind from the North, with seedlings sprouting in the good earths soil. This sword is a deadly defender in the hands of its owner, and it speaks just as loudly on the battlefield as any Elven king would to his men in the face of doom. Stats: OAL: 40” Blade Length: 30” Blade Width: 1 and 3/4” Balance Point: Exactly 2” from Guard Steel: 1075 L6 Grip and Scabbard wood: Ebonized Walnut Guard Pommel and Scabbard Chape: Antiqued & Carved Steel Grip Rings and Scabbard Bridge/Bead: Cast Silver

Untranslatable Words from Middle-Earth

world building meme + 2/2 languages

I love unique words, words for which there is no simple translation in other tongues. They give such character to a language, and of course, Tolkien made some for his created languages. My favorite is the Hobbitish mathom, a thing that has no immediate use but you are unwilling to throw away (Museums were called Mathom-houses). Here is a list of words from real languages that I imagine must exist in the languages of Middle-earth:

Elvish Words

     Waldeinsamkeit – German, n. A feeling of solitude, of being alone in the woods, and a connectedness to nature. (Nandorin)

     Komorebi  – Japanese, n. This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees - the interplay between the light and the leaves. (Sindarin)

     Mångata  – Swedish, n. The word for the glimmering, roadlike reflection that the moon creates on water.  (Telarin)

     Cafuné — Brazilian Portuguese, n. The act of tenderly running your fingers through the hair of somebody you love. (Common Eldarin)

     Kalpa — Sanskrit, n. The passing of time on a grand, cosmological scale. (Vanyarin Quenya)

     Hiraeth — Welsh, n. A homesickness for somewhere you cannot return to, the nostalgia and the grief for the lost places of your past, places that never were. (Noldorin Quenya)

Dwarvish words

     Jayus – Indonesian, n. Someone who tells a joke so badly, that is so unfunny you cannot help but laugh out loud.

     Dépaysement –  French, n. The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country - of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.  

     Meraki — Greek, adj. Pouring yourself wholeheartedly into something, such as cooking, and doing so with soul, creativity and love.

     Tíma — Icelandic, v. Not being ready to spend time or money on a specific thing, despite being able to afford it.

    Fika — Swedish, v. Gathering together to talk and take a break from everyday routines, usually drinking coffee and eating pastries - either at a café or at home - often for hours on end.

    Schlimazel — Yiddish, n. Someone who seems to have nothing but bad luck.

Hobbitish words

    Drachenfutter — German, n. Literally ‘dragon fodder’. The gift a husband gives his wife when he’s trying to make up for bad behaviour.

    Sobremesa – Spanish, n. The period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with.  

    Pochemuchka – Russian, n. A person who asks a lot of questions.

    Pålegg — Norwegian, n. Anything and everything you can put on a slice of bread.

    Luftmensch — Yiddish, n. Refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer and literally means ‘air person’.

    Kummerspeck — German, n. Literally meaning ‘grief-bacon’, this word refers to the excess weight we can gain from emotional overeating.

Source:  Lost in Translation by Ella Sanders

3

thesauria 3: Eressea

thesauria is a compendium of imaginary creatures based on words from various languages. Learn about how you can participate here.

Tol Eressëa, often shortened as Eressëa, is an island referenced in The Silmarillion. It is used to transport elves from Middle-earth to the continent of Aman. To contrast with two other creatures I’ve done, I planned to do a colossal aquatic beast since the beginning. Naturally, it had to be a shastasaur, the group which spawned the largest marine reptiles ever. I don’t think pelagic pterosaurs really existed alongside shastasaurs, but it’s nice to have some smaller creatures living on top of it to show the scale. Or maybe I just wanted to draw pterosaurs.

- - -

Will Art for Science · Shop · Patreon

Khuzdul Influences in Mannish Languages

Okay, so for starters here’s some links to Khuzdul posts for those who want the background info: this is a nice general post about Khuzdul, this one gives a very very brief outline of where everyone’s languages came from, and this is a link to my Khuzdul tag, in case you’d like to read more about it. Moving on:

When discussing the influence of Khuzdul on mannish languages, we’re dealing with early early history. First Age, early Second Age at the latest. Records of that time (unless you’re an elf) are few and far between, and everything we know about elves has a significant Longbeard bias, so just keep in mind that the information on this topic is a little spotty. That said, there are a few quotes to help us out. 

First, from “The Later Quenta Silmarillion” (a draft of the Silmarillion), Tolkien says:

The Dwarves do not gladly teach their tongue to those of alien race; and in use they have made it harsh and intricate, so that of those few whom they have received in full friendship fewer still have learned it well… In ancient days the Naugrim dwelt in many mountains of Middle-earth, and there they met mortal Men (they say) long ere the Eldar knew them; whence it comes that of the tongues of the Easterlings many show kinship with Dwarf-speech rather than with the speeches of the Elves.

(Naugrim=dwarves, Eldar=elves) Whether Tolkien was aware of the contradiction he laid out in this description or not is unknown, but he definitely says at the beginning of the paragraph that the dwarves taught their language to very very few people, and at the end claims that dwarvish language had a significant impact on mannish language. So our goal is to find out what happened between those two points. This brings us to “Of Dwarves and Men”, one of Tolkien’s linguistic essays. Within this essay we find confirmation that Adunaic, the language of Numenor, shared several common features with Khuzdul, and that the theory was in fact that during the early days of Men’s existence their languages were influenced by Khuzdul. But there’s another passage that’s even more interesting:

It was at that time, when the Dwarves were associated with Men both in war and in the ordering of the lands that they had secured, that the Longbeards adopted the speech of Men for communication with them. They were not unwilling to teach their own tongue to Men with whom they had special friendship, but Men found it difficult and were slow to learn more than isolated words, many of which they adapted and took into their own language.

This was the most detailed explanation I could find, and likely the best we’re going to get, for all that it still leaves several unanswered questions. For one, this passage refers specifically to the Longbeards (the dwarves of Moria), yet the passage from the Quenta Silmarillion emphasized the Easterling men who would have had little to no contact with the Longbeards, so there’s the question of how the eastern dwarvish clans differed from their western cousins on this issue. For another, to say that Adunaic shares common features to Khuzdul (and it’s worth mentioning that the earlier part of that passage was discussing structure and grammar, not vocabulary) implies that we’re talking about more than a few isolated words. 

In the end, as is so common with Tolkien, it’s up to you to fill the blanks yourself. But, for what it’s worth, I think it’s significant that all these earlier/linguistic sources state that Khuzdul was rarely learned because of a combination of secrecy and difficulty. I believe that in the early days the dwarves weren’t as secretive about their language, and so the majority of the linguistic influence would have originated in the First Age. As time went on, and Middle Earth became a more unpleasant place (what with Morgoth’s return to Middle Earth, and then later Sauron’s rise to power), the dwarves became more secretive, and Khuzdul was taught less and less, which is why by the Third Age we’re told that non-dwarves rarely, if ever, learn it.


SOURCES: The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11 (“The Later Quenta Silmarillion”), vol. 12 (“Of Dwarves and Men”)