Languages of Arda

related topics
{language, word, form}
{work, book, publish}
{god, call, give}
{theory, work, human}
{son, year, death}
{system, computer, user}
{food, make, wine}

The Languages of Arda are constructed languagess created by J. R. R. Tolkien and used in his legendarium, including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. They are important as an inspiration for his imaginary world and as a method for lending verisimilitude and linguistic depth to names and special words, like placenames.


Two time-lines

In discussing the languages Tolkien invented, it is necessary to consider two aspects, and time-lines:

  • the external one, concerning the evolving conceptions of the languages, their actual developments done by Tolkien;
  • the internal one, dealing with the fictional historical evolution of the languages inside the imaginary world of Middle-earth.

External story

Tolkien was a professional philologist of ancient Germanic languages, specialising in Old English. He was also interested in many languages outside his field, and developed a particular love for the Finnish language (he described the finding of a Finnish grammar book as "entering a complete wine-cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before", The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, number 163).

Finnish morphology (particularly its rich system of inflection) in part gave rise to Quenya. Another of Tolkien's favourites was Welsh—and features of Welsh phonology found their way into Sindarin. Very few words were borrowed from existing languages, so that attempts to match a source to a particular Elvish word or name in works published during his lifetime are often very dubious. Tolkien worked with historical linguistics, making roots for a Proto-elvish language from which he coined the Elvish words in the daughter languages.

Language-making was Tolkien's hobby for most of his life. He is known to have help construct his first language (Nevbosh) at a little over thirteen and he continued to ponder upon his creations up until his death more than sixty-five years later. Language invention had always been tightly connected to the mythology that Tolkien developed, as he found that a language could not be complete without the history of the people who spoke it, just as these people could never be fully realistic if imagined only through the English language and as speaking English. Tolkien therefore took the stance of a translator and adaptor rather than that of the original author of his works.

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