Black Speech

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The Black Speech is a constructed language devised by J. R. R. Tolkien.

One of the languages of Arda in Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, it was spoken in the realm of Mordor. Tolkien describes the language as being created by Sauron as an artificial language to be the sole language of all the servants of Mordor, thereby replacing the many different varieties of Orkish and other languages used by his servants. Tolkien describes the language as existing in two forms, the ancient "pure" forms used by Sauron himself, the Nazgûl, and the Olog-hai, and the more "debased" form used by the soldiery of the Barad-dûr at the end of the Third Age.


Two timelines

For Black Speech, like for all the languages invented by Tolkien, we must distinguish two timelines of evolution:

  • the external one, concern the evolving conceptions of the language, its actual development done by Tolkien;
  • the internal one, deals with the fictional historical evolution of the language inside the imaginary world of "Middle-earth".

External story

Tolkien received one day a goblet from a fan with the Ring inscription on it in Black Speech, and he used it only as an ashtray).[2] Tthe Black Speech is one of the more fragmentary languages in the novels. Unlike Elvish, Tolkien did not write songs or poems in Black Speech, apart from the One Ring inscription.

Internal story

Sauron attempted to impose Black Speech as the official language of the lands he dominated (ultimately, to include all of Middle-earth) and all his servants, but he was only partially successful. The Nazgul, the Olog-hai (the elite Battle Trolls of Mordor), and several of Sauron's major lieutenants and officers (i.e. the Mouth of Sauron) learned and used the Black Speech, but it never really caught on with the Orcs, or the various groups of Men from the east and south that Sauron conquered. The Orcs tended to corrupt and debase any language they were exposed to, so while Black Speech strongly influenced their vocabulary and perhaps grammar, it soon mutated into the myriad Orcish dialects, which are not mutually intelligible. By the end of the Third Age, while Orc vocabulary was peppered with certain terms from Black Speech, even they generally communicated using Westron, albeit heavily debased. The Elves refuse to utter Black Speech, as it attracts the attention of the Eye of Sauron.

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