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The Hobbits' language, also transcribed into Tengwar

The term Hobbitish was one given for the sub-dialect of Westron, a tongue spoken by Hobbits of the Shire.

History

Origin

The original language of the Hobbits was lost in history, but the earliest Hobbit-language was likely a northern Mannish tongue, which would have been learned from the Éothéod. This is because the earliest known location of the Hobbits was in the upper vales of the Anduin river; a place located in the same area as the Éothéod lived.

Regional oddities

Once, a number of Stoors moved briefly to Eriador. While there, they came in contact with the Dunlendings, and picked up a few Dunlendish words. When the Stoors later moved to the Shire, they quickly adopted Hobbitish. Because of their Dunlending background, however, several regional oddities came about in regions that the Stoors had settled in such as Buckland and The Marish.

Hobbitish and Rohirric

By the War of the Ring, Rohirric and Hobbitish had many similarities which were obvious; even to a non-speaker like Meriadoc Brandybuck. This was primarily due to the language's northern Mannish background. As a result of this, some of the more archaic elements that did not exist in Westron were retained, meaning that upon hearing Rohirric, Merry was able to recognize several words which clearly sounded like old words used in the Shire.

Grammar

Seeing as Hobbitish was a regional dialect spoken in rural farming regions, it was not as refined as the true form of the language which was spoken in locations such as Gondor or Rivendell. The language itself contained a number of simplifications and archaisms.

Formal pronoun

Farmers made up majority of the Hobbit society, and as a result there was a lack of formal pronouns. Hobbitish adopted only the familiar pronoun of Westron, but not the deferential pronoun.

The lack of formal pronouns was most obvious when Peregrin Took was speaking to Denethor II, the Steward and ruler of Gondor. Unintentionally, Pippin was addressing Denethor using highly informal language, the latter of which seemed to react with some puzzlement at this.

 Naming

Men

The name given to a Hobbit varies; some names are Hobbitish, but many are ancient, and may have an unknown meaning.

  • Peasants and tradesmen such as the Gamgees traditionally used short archaic names, similar to that of the Éothéod.

  • Old, aristocratic families like the Tooks took names from mostly from myths and legends of the past. Their names typically referred to weapons, battles, or bravery (such as Hildifons Took).

  • Bucklanders such as the Brandybucks wore peculiar names which were apparently derived from southern Stoorish.

  • Common names were predominantly worn by middle class Hobbits such as the Bagginses; they were generally short and often meaningless. Male names usually ended in an "-a."

Women

Hobbit women would often have names of flowers or jewels; although some may have been derived from a different source.

  • Respectable Hobbit women had names derived from exotic and mythical plants (such as Amaranth Brandybuck, or Belladonna Took).

  • Other, more ordinary families such as the Bagginses or Gamgees had names of more common species of plants (such as Marigold Gamgee, or Poppy Chubb-Baggins).

  • The use of a jewel name was rare in higher class families such as the Tooks, but in other families such as the Boffins, Bolgers, and Gardners it was not so uncommon (such as BeryllaRuby).

  • Common names were predominantly worn by middle class Hobbits such as the Bagginses; they were generally short and often meaningless. Females names usually ended in an "-o" or "-e."

Vocabulary

Hobbitish and more proper forms of Westron had one major difference which is the amount of archaic words present in the tongue. The following list showcases some examples of archaic Hobbitish terms:

  • Goblin, the term given to the evil race, also known as "Orcs." The term was a widely-used colloquialism among Hobbits, and was of uncertain origin.
  • Hobbit (kuduk), the word that the Hobbits called themselves. It is thought to have been derived from the name that the Northmen gave to them while the resided in the Vales of the Anduin. This name was the Rohirric term "Holbytla," which translates into Westron as "hole-builder."
  • Mathom (kast), translates into "old thing which you no longer have a use for but don't want to throw away" (such as the Mathom-house).
  • Oliphaunts, an archaic name of the gigantic beasts, also known as Mûmakil.
  • Smial (trân), translates into "large excavated hole used as a home" (such as Bag EndBrandy Hall, or the Great Smials).
  • Swertings, a word which refers to the Swarthy Men.
  • Thain, the title given to the ruler of the Shire after the loss of Arvedui.
  • Withywindle, a river name, uncommon in the language of the Shire.

Behind the scenes

  • It is known that Tolkien invented new words by "modernizing" out-dated Old English terms (such as Thain from þegnmathom from māþum, and smial from smygel).

Portrayal in adaptations

BBC Radio's The Lord of the Rings

It is known that Terence Tiller briefly talked with Tolkien about what accents should be used concerning Hobbitish.

The Lord of the Rings (1978 film)

There seems to be little contrast in style in terms of Hobbitish, other than the rural portrayal of Samwise Gamgee.

The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series)

Differences in Hobbitish dialect are not present; Samwise Gamgee speaks the same English as the other Hobbits.

BBC Radio's Tales from the Perilous Realm

In two episodes of "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil," Jonathan Adams' portrayal of Samwise Gamgee is extremely rustic; he speaks in a low, grumbling voice.

The Lord of the Rings (film)

During filming, considerable attention was paid to the dialects characters speak with, and cast members trained extensively with specific dialogue coaches. Hobbits in the films speak Hobbitish with an English Midlands accent, presumably because Tolkien had said that the Shire was based largely on his boyhood home in the Midlands. Main Hobbit characters' accents were portrayed as follows:

  • Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, speak with a more refined and less pronounced accent (because they are both educated, presumably).
  • Meriadoc Brandybuck is described as being the linguistic "oddball" of the group, as he was not from any of the four farthings of the Shire. Being a Brandybuck from Buckland, Merry came from a region apart from the rest. To reflect this, his accent was noticeably distinct from the other Hobbits seen on-screen.
  • The actor who played Peregrin Took is Scottish, and although he was originally supposed to speak like the others, it was adversely impacting his comic timing. So, the production team invented the justification that the Took region of the Shire was very hilly; so much so that when Saruman's ruffians took over the rest of the Shire, they were successfully driven back from the region primarily due to its rough terrain, and thus it was loosely analogous to Scotland. For this reason, it was decided that Tooks should speak with a Scottish accent as well, and Boyd was allowed to use his normal Scottish accent when portraying Pippin for the entire trilogy of films.
  • Samwise Gamgee speaks with a working-class rustic Midlands accent (which was also used as the standard accent for all of the other minor Hobbit characters).

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