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One Ring Inscription

The Black Speech text inscribed on the One Ring

Frodo: "It's some form of Elvish. I can't read it."
Gandalf: "There are few who can. The language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here."
Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, on the inscription on the One Ring, The Fellowship of the Ring (film)

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.

HistoryEdit

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.

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. The Black Speech is unfortunately one of the more incomplete languages in Tolkien's novels, because the forces of good refuse to utter it. 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 meaning "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.

Black Speech to EnglishEdit

  • agh -and (for conjoining sentences)
  • ash - one
  • burz - dark
  • burzum - darkness
  • durb - rule
  • ghâsh - fire
  • gimb - find
  • glob -filth (Debased Black Speech)
  • gûl - wraith
  • hai - folk
  • -ishi - in
  • krimp - bind
  • lug - tower
  • nazg - ring
  • olog - troll
  • ronk - pit/pool (bagronk, as muttered in the Uruk-hai chapter of the 2nd book, means a dung-pit, of Orthanc, in that case.)
  • sha -and (for binding nouns)
  • sharku - old / old man (Debased Black Speech)
  • snaga- slave
  • thrak - bring
  • u - to (Debased Black Speech)
  • ûk - all
  • -atul -them
  • -um -ness
  • uruk - orc
  • una - son (of)

Portrayal in adaptationsEdit

Neo-Black SpeechEdit

For Peter Jackson's 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. In the The Hobbit films, Orkish is spoken universally by Orcs characters amongst each other, unlike in the prior trilogy The Lord of the Rings, in which Orcs spoke primarily the Common Tongue, basically it would consist in the Orcs speaking three languages: Orkish, Black Speech and Westron. Other orcs know absolutely nothing about Black Speech, like Ratbag in Middle-earth: Shadow of War who does not understand his friend the Olog-hai Ranger.

One substantial neo-Black Speech lexicon, referred to as "Shadowlandian Black Speech", was invented by fans at thelandofshadow.com sometime before 2014.

Translations around the worldEdit

Foreign Language Translated name
Afrikaans Swart Spraak
Albanian Fjala e zezë
Amharic ጥቁር ንግግር
Arabic الكلام الأسود
Armenian Սեւ ելույթը
Azerbaijani Qara çıxış
Basque Hizkuntza beltza
Belarussian Cyrillic Чорная мова
Bengali ব্ল্যাক বাক
Bosnian Crni Govor
Bulgarian Cyrillic Черна реч
Burmese အနက်ရောင်မိန့်ခွန်း
Cambodian សុន្ទរកថាខ្មៅ
Catalan Llengua Negra
Cebuano Itom nga Sinultihan
Chinese 黑暗語
Cornish Kows Du
Croatian Crni Govor
Czech Černá řeč
Danish Sort Tale
Dutch Zwarte Taal
Esperanto Nigra lingvo
Estonian Must kõne
Faroese Svartur Mál
Fijian Vosa Loaloa
Filipino Itim na pananalita
Finnish Musta kieli
French Noir parler/Langue noire
Frisian Swarte Rede
Galician Lingua negra
Georgian შავი ენა
German Schwarze Sprache
Greek Μαύρη Ομιλία
Gujarati બ્લેક સ્પીચ
Haitian Creole Nwa Lapawòl
Hausa Baƙi Jawabin
Hebrew הלשון השחורה
Hindi काले भाषण
Hmong Hais lus dub
Hungarian Fekete Nyelv
Icelandic Svartur Tal
Indonesian Bicara Hitam
Irish Gaelic Teanga dhubh
Italian Linguaggio Nero
Japanese 暗黒語
Javanese Wicara Ireng
Kannada ಕಪ್ಪು ಭಾಷೆ Kappu bhāṣe (Latin)
Kazakh Қара тіл (Cyrillic) Qara til (Latin)
Korean 암흑어
Kurdish Axaftina Reş (Kurmanji Kurdish)
Kyrgyz Cyrillic кара сөз
Latvian Melns runa
Lithuanian Juodoji kalba
Luxembourgish Schwaarz Ried
Macedonian Cyrillic Црна говор
Malagasy Mainty Miteny
Malay Ucapan Hitam
Malayalam ബ്ലാക്ക് സ്പീച്ച്
Maltese Diskors Iswed
Maori Kōrero Pango
Marathi काळा भाषण
Mongolian Cyrillic Хар хэлсэн үг
Navajo Shash Saad
Nepalese काला भाषण
Norwegian Svart Tale
Pashto تور وینا
Persian زبان سیاه
Polish Czarna Mowa
Portuguese Língua Negra
Punjabi ਕਾਲੇ ਸਪੀਚ
Romanian Limba Neagră
Romansh Linguatg Naira
Russian Чёрное наречие
Sanskrit राजिका वाच्
Samoan Tautala Uliuli
Scottish Gaelic Dubh Òraid
Serbian Црни Говор (Cyrillic) Crni Govor (Latin)
Sindhi ڪارو تقرير
Sinhalese කළු කථාව
Slovak Temná reč
Slovenian Črni govor
Somalian Hadalka Madow
Spanish Lengua Negra
Sundanese Hideung Biantara
Swahili Nyeusi Hotuba
Swedish Svartspråk
Tahitian Parau Ereere
Tajik Cyrillic Суханронии сиёҳ
Tamil கறுப்பு பேச்சு
Telugu బ్లాక్ స్పీచ్
Thai ภาษามืด
Turkish Kara Lisan
Ukrainian Cyrillic Чорна говірка
Urdu سیاہ خطاب
Uzbek Қора Нутқ (Cyrillic) Qora Nutq (Latin)
Vietnamese Chữ Đen
Welsh Lleferydd Du
Xhosa Intetho Abamnyama
Yiddish שוואַרץ שפּראַך