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"A fair jaw-cracker dwarf-language must be!"
Samwise Gamgee[1]

Khuzdul, or Dwarvish, was the secret language of the Dwarves.


[edit] History

Aulë, the creator of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, taught them "the language he had devised for them". Not much is known of the language, as the Dwarves kept it to themselves. Being of secretive nature, they seldomly let aliens to hear it, and they didn't even reveal their true names to them.

Khuzdul is therefore unrelated in origin and different from the languages of the Elves. Few of other race have ever succeeded in learning it.[2][3] The Dwarves weren't unwilling to teach Khuzdeul to their close friends, but Men found difficult to learn more than a few words, some of which loaned.[4]

As such, there are many similarities between Khuzdul and the native tongues of men, such as the language of the first and third houses of the Edain. This is because in the First Age, before their ancestors crossed into Beleriand, they had contact with the Dwarves in Rhovanion and later in the Blue Mountains. That language was the ancestor of Adûnaic, the tongue of Númenor and the direct ancestor of the Common Speech. These Mannish languages displayed Khuzdul influences.

By their own will the Dwarves resisted its change[4] and the language diversified and changed so slowly, 'like the weathering of hard rock compared with the melting of snow'[5] considering the languages even of the Elves. As a result, it remained similar to the original form taught by Aulë, and even if the sundered clans developed their own dialects, even in the Third Age, the clans could communicate easily, serving as a lingua franca between them.[6]

During the Third Age the Dwarves of the Westlands had mostly adopted Westron and Khuzdul was a learned language, being taught to their children at an early age. They used it among themselves and as a language of books and lore, and for records not intended for outsiders.[6]

One of the only major phrases known to outsiders is their battle-cry: Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu! meaning Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!

[edit] Naming

The Dwarves were secretive by nature and their native names were considered too intimate to reveal to outsiders. In public life they took external names in the language of their surroundings. It is not known if these "outer" names are translations of their inner names, or whether they had any relation, or not. The Longbeards for example adopted Northern Mannish names.[7] Even Balin's Tomb displays these "outer" names of Balin and Fundin, since there was always a possibility that the inscription would be read by strangers. Eventually they would make use of their "outer" names even among themselves.[6]

The Dwarves would re-adopt a name in consequence of some event, like a migration.[6]

[edit] Writing

It is said that the Dwarves had developed an ideographic or pictographic writing, until they came close to the Eldar and realized the usefulness of the alphabetic tengwar and cirth systems; this influence came especially the Noldor of Eregion during the Second Age. The Dwarves didn't use written communication much but were fond of inscriptions cut in stone, and thus (even though the Gwaith-i-Mirdain used runes only as a "matter of lore" mainly for formal writings) they found the cirth more practical.[6]

The Dwarves adopted and modified the cirth at various stages. By the Third Age the cirth were largely forgotten but by the Dwarves, so there was the misconception that the Dwarves invented them, known as "dwarf-letters".[6]

[edit] Etymology

The word Khuzdul (also spelled Khuzdûl in late manuscripts[8][9]) is composed of the stem KH-Z-D, and the adjectival or genitival ending -ul.[10]

[edit] Other names

Other names used by Tolkien for the language of the Dwarves include:

[edit] Influences

Khuzdul appears to be structured, like the Semitic languages, around triconsonantal roots, such as kh-z-d, b-n-d, and z-g-l.

The Dwarvish language sounds much like Hebrew, and indeed Tolkien noted some similarities between the Dwarves and the Jews: both were "at once natives and aliens in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue…".[15]

[edit] Portrayal in adaptations

[edit] Neo-Khuzdul

See also: Neo-Elvish

For The Lord of the Rings film series and The Hobbit film series, the linguist David Salo used what little is known of Khuzdul to create enough of a language for use in the movies. This is usually referred to as neo-Khuzdul by Tolkienists. Gimli says the Neo-Khuzdul insult, Ishkhaqwi ai durugnul, (commonly translated "I spit on your grave!") to Haldir in the extended edition of Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring. Salo did not provide this phrase, and it didn't fit easily into his neo-Khuzdul. When the scriptwriter for The Hobbit film series asked him about it with the idea of having Thorin use the same curse, Salo reverse-engineered Gimli's line into a neo-Khuzdul phrase îsh kakhfê ai-‘d-dûr-rugnul meaning "May my excrement be poured upon the naked-jawed (ones)".[16]

[edit] External links


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Sindar"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of Other Races"
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", "Relations of the Longbeard Dwarves and Men"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", "Notes", note 26
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", p. 321 (footnote 19)
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Eldarin Hands, Fingers & Numerals and Related Writings — Part Two" (edited by Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 48, December 2005, pp. 6, 24
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 47
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part Three: The Drowning of Anadûnê, with the Third Version of The Fall of Númenor, and Lowdham's Report on the Adunaic Language", p. 414
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, pp. 179, 197
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, pp. 197, 277
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Tengwesta Qenderinwa and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets Part 2", in Parma Eldalamberon XVIII (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), pp. 28-9, 81
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 176, (dated 8 December 1955)
  16. David Salo, "Gimla ok Þorins bǫlvan" dated 20 June 2014, Midgardsmal (accessed 23 January 2017)
Languages in Tolkien's works
Elvish languages Avarin · Common Eldarin · Gnomish · Nandorin · Noldorin · Primitive Quendian · Quenya (Exilic · Qenya · Telerin · Valinorean · Vanyarin) · Silvan · Sindarin (Doriathrin · Falathrin · Gondor · Ilkorin · Mithrim · Old)
Mannish languages Adûnaic · Dalish · Drúedainic · Dunlendish · Pre-Númenórean · Rohirric · Taliska · Westron (Hobbitish)
Dwarvish languages Iglishmêk · Khuzdul
Other languages Black Speech · Entish · Orkish · Valarin · Warg-language
Outside the legendarium Animalic · Arktik · Mágol · Naffarin · Nevbosh
Scripts Angerthas/Cirth (Daeron · Erebor · Moria) · Goblin Alphabet · Moon-letters · Tengwar · Sarati · Valmaric script
"A Secret Vice" (book) · "The Lhammas" · "The Tree of Tongues" · Sub-creation