Khuzdul, Entish and The Black Speech

The dwarven language Khuzdul, like the Semitic languages, is structured around triconsonantal roots, those being kh-z-d, b-n-d and z-g-l. When spoken, the language sounds similar to Hebrew. Tolkien said he used Hebrew as a bases for Khuzdul because it sounded suitably alien compared to the European languages he had used as the basis for his Elfish languages.

Like Hebrew and Arabic, Khuzdul also has a strong glottal stop in front of words that seem to begin in vowels. It also, like Hebrew, uses a construct state, meaning that possession is shown by changing the form of the word that is possessed, not the word that is possessing.

“It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”

– Treebeard on Entish

Tolkien described Entish, the language of the tree people, as “slow, sonorous, agglomerated, repetitive, indeed long-winded.” It was a tonal language, like Chinese. Instead of naming groups or things, Entish would instead give them long-winded descriptions. For instance, in The Two Towers, the Ent Treebeard describes Orcs in Entish fashion:  “those evileyed – blackhanded – bowlegged – flinthearted – clawfingered – foulbellied – bloodthirsty, morimaite – sincahonda, hoom, well, since you are hasty folk and their full name is as long as years of torment, those vermin of orcs.”

In the above video, Gandalf speaks in The Black Speech, a language created by Sauron for his servants in Mordor. Tolkien said he created it with the intention of making it harsh and ugly. Historian Alexandre Nemirovsky has suggested that it was based on Hittite, and uses the presence of similar morphemes and endings, such as ishi and nazg as evidence. He also points to the fact that both are heavily agglutinative languages.


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