The Black Speech, also known as the Dark Tongue of Mordor, was the official language of Mordor. Sauron created the Black Speech to be the unifying language of all the servants of Mordor, used along with different varieties of Orkish and other languages used by his servants.
The Black Speech was likely based entirely on Valarin, as Morgoth and his Maiar (all of whom would have spoken Valarin) minions did not possess the Secret Fire, but were only able to corrupt things to their service. It may have also been based on Quenya.
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. The only example given of "pure" Black Speech is the inscription upon the One Ring:
- Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
- ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum ishi krimpatul.
When translated into English, these words form the lines:
- One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
- One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
These are the first two lines from the end of a verse about the Rings of Power.
It is notable that the letter "e" is totally absent from the Black Speech. It was omitted on purpose for being a favourite letter of the Elves, and for forming a smile when uttering it.
Many Orkish dialects had adopted words from the Black Speech. One Orc from the band that took Merry and Pippin prisoners utters a tirade of curses at one point that is presumably Orkish, but apparently contains at least some elements of Black Speech.
In real life, J. R. R. Tolkien created this language with the intention of making it harsh and ugly, although people who speak the European languages that he emulated may disagree with his methods. The Black Speech is unfortunately one of the more incomplete languages in Tolkien's novels, because the forces of good refuse to utter it, as it attracts the attention of the Eye of Sauron. Unlike Elvish, there are no poems or songs written in it (apart from the Ring's inscription), and because Tolkien designed it to be unpleasant in his own mind, he did not enjoy writing in it; according to Tolkien, he once received a goblet from a fan with the Ring inscription on it in Black Speech, and Tolkien, finding it distasteful, never drank from it and used it only as an ashtray. The result is a random collection of words that are hard to actually use in day-to-day conversation. We learn from the text in the ring and its translation that the Black Speech is a strongly agglutinating language.
Black speech could be understood by anyone who wore the One Ring. Samwise wore the ring in the tower of Cirith Ungol to be invisible from orcs of Sauron, and in the process heard many of the orcs' plans.
Russian historian Alexander Nemirovski identified an ergative case in durbatuluk and thrakatuluk according to a common suffix -tuluk meanning "them all", relating to the verb's object rather than to its subject. This was found as a similarity to other ergative(-absolutive) languages such as an ancient Mesopotamian language, Hurrian.
Translations; Black Speech to EnglishEdit
- ash - one
- krul - two
- gakh - three
- zag - four
- kraak - five
- rut - six
- udu - seven
- ski - eight
- krith - nine
- gal - ten
- mau - warrior
- -atul - them (as a direct object)
- hai - folk
- nazg - ring
- olog - troll
- ûk - all
- gûl - wraith
- uruk - orc
- burzum - darkness
- lug - tower
- gor - hard / tough
- bag - feces
- ronk - pit (bagronk, as muttered in the Uruk-hai chapter of the 2nd book, means a dung-pit, of Orthanc, in that case.)
- goth - lord
- ghash - fire
- mog - voice
- -izg - I
- -izish - me
- -izub - mine
- lat - you (plural: latu)
- lab - your (plural: latub)
- sharku - old / old man
- shara - human man
- golug - elf
- mokum - hatred
- ufum - fear
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
For The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, the linguist David Salo used what little is known of the Black Speech to create enough of a language for use in the movies. This is usually referred to by Tolkienists as neo-Black Speech. A vocabulary list of unattested neo-Black Speech could be found at the LOTR Fanatics Plaza. Another good source for Neo-Black Speech is The Land of Shadow .