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Doriathrin - the mothertongue of Lúthien

From: Helge K. Fauskanger

Also called (in LR:375): Doriathric

All that is known of the language of Doriath is some eighty words found in the Etymologies in LR:347-400, plus one or two words from the Silmarillion chapter 21. Yet this was once the language spoken at the court of King Thingol, who ruled Beleriand for four thousand years of the Sun and sired "the fairest of all the Children of Ilúvatar that was or shall ever be" (Silm. ch. 4). Doriathrin must have been the mothertongue of Lúthien Tinúviel. When she later learnt Beren's native Mannish tongue, he indeed asked her why she bothered, "since her own tongue was richer and more beautiful" (PM:369).
Is Doriathrin to be considered a separate Elvish tongue or a form of Sindarin? The Etymologies were written long before Tolkien finally realized that the Welsh-sounding language in his mythology was not the language the Noldor brought with them from Valinor, as he had thought for over thirty years, but the language of the Grey-elves in Middle-earth. So all of a sudden, Sindarin and Doriathrin were brought into far closer contact than before. Did Doriathrin as a distinct language survive this major revision? Later Tolkien speaks of "the Sindarin of Doriath" (PM:369). But in the Silmarillion, including the parts that were revised after Tolkien had completed LotR, Doriathrin names and phrases persist: Mablung, Nauglamîr, Dagnir Glaurunga, Dior. Thus, Doriathrin did make it into the mature form of the mythos. Perhaps the Doriathrin language glimpsed in the Etymologies can pass for an archaic form of Sindarin, though it seems to have some peculiarities all its own and is different from the "ON" (Old Noldorin, read Old Sindarin) of the Etymologies. Doriathrin definitely belongs to the same branch of Common Telerin that leads to Sindarin, but it seems to have established its own branch well before Classical Grey-elven was reached, and it is less changed from Common Telerin than Sindarin is. But what is considered a separate language and what is considered a dialect is often dictated by extra-linguistic factors. Perhaps by political decision, Doriathrin is a form of Sindarin, the language of Thingol's subjects - though the king despised the Northern dialect of Grey-elven (PM:369, 372). Lúthien's song in The Lays of Beleriand p. 354 seems to be pure Sindarin.
Doriathrin was generally archaic: "The speech of Doriath...was even in the days of Túrin more antique than that used elsewhere. One thing (as Mîm observed) of which Túrin never rid himself, despite his grievance against Doriath, was the speech he had acquired during his fostering. Though a Man, he spoke like an Elf of the Hidden Kingdom, which is as though a Man should now appear, whose speech and schooling until manhood had been that of some secluded country where the English had remained nearer that of the court of Elizabeth I than of Elizabeth II." (WJ:312)

The structure of Doriathrin

Concerning the structure of Doriathrin, the following may be noted: While Sindarin expresses genitival relationships by word order alone (Ennyn Durin "Doors [of] Durin"), Doriathrin still preserves a distinct genitive in -a. It is seen in the inscription some Elves from Doriath carved on the stone on Túrin's grave: Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga, "Túrin Turambar Glaurung's Bane" (translated in the Silmarillion index). According to Tolkien, the endingless Sindarin genitive probably represents inflected forms in the ancient language, so in this respect a speaker of normal Sindarin would indeed find Doriathrin archaic.
According to the Etymologies, stem NAUK, the "[Doriathrin] genitive in -a(n) preceeded" the word it governs. The word there discussed is Nauglamîr "the Necklace of the Dwarves", literally *"Dwarf's Necklace" (naugla + mîr ).Yet the word order described here cannot be the only one possible; cf. Dagnir Glaurunga.
The plural genitive ending was -ion, as in region "of holly-trees" (also name Region ). Cf. Quenya -(i)on as in Silmarillion "(story) of the Silmarils". But the ending -ion may have been reinterpreted as an ending meaning land or region; cf. Sindarin Eregion.
While Sindarin typically forms the plurals of nouns by changing the vowels in the style of English man /men or goose /geese, Doriathrin has a plural ending -in. The Sindarin (as well as the English) vowelchanges are originally umlaut phenomena triggered by an ancient plural ending that contained the vowel i, so once again Doriathrin can be called archaic compared to Sindarin:
Eld "Elf, Elda" pl. Eldin
orth "mountain", pl. orthin
roth "cave", pl. rodhin (the voiced quality of the final consonant in the stem ROD is preserved intervocalically - perhaps Doriathrin cannot have voiced spirants finally)
urch "orc", pl. urchin
There is also regorn"holly-tree", pl. regin (reg-orn is quite literally "holly-tree", and the plural ending is suffixed directly to the stem reg "holly"; cf. also genitive plural region ). This plural ending is not to be confused with the adjectival ending seen in ngorthin "horrible" from ngorth "horror" (-en in lóm "echo", lómen "echoing").
Doriathrin does not seem to have the umlauts characteristic of normal Sindarin. The i in the final syllable of urchin does not cause the u to change to y by assimilation; contrast Sindarin orch pl. yrch (representing archaic forms like *urkô pl. *urkî or *urkôi).
However, the Etymologies at least hints that Doriathrin was similar to Sindarin in one respect. Sometimes, double forms are listed in the Etymologies : Dolmed and Ndolmed (name of a mountain), gol and ngol "wise, magical", gold and ngold "Noldo", golo and ngolo "magic, lore". The stems are NDOL and NGOL, so the alternative forms preserve the original initial cluster. Perhaps, as in Sindarin, the original cluster reappears following certain particles, like the definite article: Sindarin golodh "Noldo", i ngolodh "the Noldo".
One Doriathrin word raises a peculiar question: Had the Elves of Doriath rejected the Quendian duodecimal counting (based on the number 12) in favour of a decimal system like our own? According to WJ:423, all Elves at all times reckoned in twelves; yet the name Menegroth is translated "the Thousand Caves" (according to LR:384 stem ROD the elements are meneg + roth, evidently = "thousand" + "cave[s]"). But in a duodecimal system, there is nothing special with the number 1000: It would be expressed as 6-11-4 (sc. 6 x 144 + 11 x 12 + 4 x 1). Thousand would not be a "round number" at all. The first four-digit number in a duodecimal system is 1728 (12 x 12 x 12). That would be proverbial "large number" to someone used to thinking in duodecimal terms, just like 1000 is to us. Could it be that the translation "Thousand Caves" is idiomatic and strictly inaccurate, and that Menegroth actually means "1728 caves"? If so, the correct translation simply would not do in English.

Doriathrin Wordlist

"outside the fence", the exterior, the outside. (In Doriath "the fence" of course refers to the Girdle of Melian.) -GAT(H)
evidently the Doriathrin name of the lands outside Doriath; cf. argad -GAT(H), cf. ELED
"narrator" -KWET (a doubtful word according to Tolkien's later conception; in the branch of Eldarin that Doriathrin belongs to, primitive KW became P far back in Elvish linguistic history [WJ:375 cf. 407 note 5]. Read *pindor ?)
*"slayer" -Silmarillion, end of chapter 21.
"shadow of trees" -DAY
Dairon (name
, = Sindarin Daeron) -DAY
Denithor "Denethor" -LR:188
"Successor" (name) -NDEW
"Wet Head" (name of mountain; also Ndolmed) -NDOL, MIZD
"back" (noun) -NDAN
"oak" -DORÓN
"wolf" -DARÁK
"black" -DUN, ÑGOROTH
"sorcery" -ÑGOL
Eglador "land of the Elves", the Doriathrin name of Doriath -GAT(H), ELED
"star" -EL
(name) -BORÓN (struck out)
Eld pl. Eldin "Elda, elf" -ELED
"fence" -GAT(H)
"tree" -GALAD
"male" (noun) -3AN
"wolf" -ÑGAR(A)M (and 3ARAM, struck out)
garth "realm" -3AR
"Fenced Realm" (a name of Doriath) -3AR
"sky" -3EL
"sky-blue" -3EL
"wise, magical" (also ngol ) -ÑGOL
"Noldo" (also ngold ) -ÑGOL
"Noldo-jewel" = Silmaril -ÑGOL
"magic, lore" (also ngolo ) -ÑGOL
"foggy, obscure, vague" -KHIS
, istil "silver light" ("probably a Q[uenya] form learnt from Melian") -SIL
"gold" -LÁWAR
"fish" -LIW
"echo", lómen "echoing" In Lómendor, Lómorthin (place-names) -LAM
"pale" -LUG2
lung "
heavy" -LUG1
"magic"? "spell"? (no gloss given, connected to the name Lúthien) -LUK
"enchantress", Lúthien (Doriathrin form changed by Tolkien from Luithien ) -LUK
"hand" -MAP
"Heavy-hand" (name) -LUG1
"Emptyhand" (name of Beren = Sindarin Camlost) -KAB
"wet" -MIZD
"thousand" (?) (isolated from Menegroth; cf. ROD)
"the thousand caves" (?) (meneg + roth ) -ROD
"moisture" -MIZD
morngul, morgul
"sorcery" -ÑGOL
"pool" -MBOTH
"twilight, shadow, vagueness" -MUY
Nan Dungorthin
, Nandungorthin "Vale of Black Horror" -DUN, NAD
"field, valley"
nass "web" -NAT
"The Necklace of the Dwarves" -NAUK
"Wet Head" (name of mountain; also Dolmed) -NDOL
"beech"; Neldoreth name of a forest. -NEL cf. BERÉTH
"wise, magical" (also gol ) -ÑGOL
"Noldo" (also gold ) -ÑGOL
"magic, lore" (also golo ) -ÑGOL
"horror" -ÑGOROTH
"horrible" -ÑGOROTH
"forward, west" -RAD
"nose" -NEÑ-WI
"high tree" (especially = beech, but as final element in compounds = any tree) -ORO (OR-NI)
pl. orthin "mountain" -ORO
"east" -RAD
"East-march" (part of Doriath) -RAD
"East-vale" -RAD, ROS2
pl. regin, gen. pl. region "holly-tree", also place-name Region. -ERÉK
"cold pool or lake (in mountains)" -RINGI
"plain, wide land between mountains" -ROS2
pl. rodhin "cave". Cf. Menegroth -ROD
"edge, hem, border" -RÎ
-THIN (but the etymology given here, "Grey-wise", is not valid according to Tolkien's later conception; Thingol finally came to mean "Greycloak")
(woman of) secret shadow -THUR
"large pool", Umboth Muilin "veiled pool" (placename) -MBOTH, MUY
pl. urchin "orc" -ÓROK

These articles have been reproduced, with permission from Helge K. Fauskanger, from his Ardalambion web page.
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