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Were the languages presented in "The Lord of the Rings" real languages?

From: The Tolkien FAQ by William D.B. Loos

Most certainly they were, especially the Elven languages Sindarin and Quenya. "[These were] no arbitrary gibberish but really possible tongues with consistent roots, sound laws, and inflexions, into which he poured all his imaginative and philological powers..." (Obituary, in Scholar, p. 12). Furthermore, they were both derived from a "proto-Elvish" language, again in a linguistically realistic manner. [Sindarin was the "everyday" elvish language while Quenya was a kind of "elf-latin"; therefore, most Elvish words in LotR were Sindarin. Examples: most "non-English" (see FAQ, Tolkien, 4) place-names on the map (e.g. Minas Tirith, Emyn Beriad) were Sindarin, as was the song to Elbereth sung in Rivendell; Galadriel's lament was in Quenya.]

The language of the Rohirrim *was* a real language: Anglo-Saxon (Old English), just as their culture (except for the horses) was that of the Anglo-Saxons. (It was, however, not the "standard" West Saxon Old English but rather the Mercian equivalent (RtMe, 94).) Most of the other languages in LotR were much less fully developed: Entish, Khudzul (Dwarvish) and the Black Speech (the language of Mordor, e.g. the Ring inscription). Adunaic, the language of Numenor, developed in 1946 while he was finishing up LotR, was said to be his fifteenth invented language.

  • J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, 35-37 (II,3), 93-95 (III,1), 195 (V,2)
  • The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 175-176 (#144), 219 (footnote) (#165), 380 (#297)
  • The Road to Middle-earth, 93 (4, "The horses of the Mark")
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays in Memoriam, 12 (Obituary)


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