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Tolkien created many languages. Is there any list of all the languages he invented?

How many fictional languages did Tolkien create?

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Is fictional a necessary qualifier? Would it even be possible to create a non-fictional language? – corsiKa Jan 19 at 4:28
@corsiKa: Is Esperanto a fictional language? – Micah Jan 19 at 5:12
@Micah Given how well it took off, it might as well be! – corsiKa Jan 19 at 18:25
@corsiKa Technically, Quenya and Sindarin and all are real languages. A fictional language is one that doesn't exist, they are artistic languages. – CHEESE Mar 11 at 22:49
@CHEESE 1) Technically... 2) Your comment prompted me to research this. Heaven forbid I be wrong on the Internet! A language that doesn't exist is an "imaginary language". To wit, Fictional languages are constructed languages created as part of a fictional setting, for example in books or movies. Fictional languages are a type of artistic languages. – corsiKa Mar 11 at 23:38
up vote 50 down vote accepted

Ardalambion, a fansite dedicated to analyzing Tolkien's invented languages, has asked this very question; according to him the answer is somewhere between 2 and 20, depending on how permissive you are when defining a language (emphasis his):

If we consider the "historical" versions of the tongues that are relevant for the classical form of the Arda mythos, Tolkien developed 2 languages that are vaguely "usable" (in the sense that you can compose long texts by deliberately avoiding the gaps in our knowledge), named roughly 8-10 other languages that have a minimum of actual substance but are in no way usable, provided mere fragments of at least 4 other languages, and alluded to numerous other languages that are either entirely fictitious or have a known vocabulary of only one or a very few actual words.

The entire list given is:

Languages with real meat:

  1. Quenya
  2. Sindarin

Some substance, but not usable languages:

  1. Telerin
  2. Doriathrin
  3. Ikorin, which may or may not be just an extension of Doriathrin
  4. Nandorin
  5. Adûnaic
  6. Khuzdul. Although Tolkien only wrote a small number of words, he revealed in notes that he had planned it out somewhat more extensively
  7. Westron
  8. Taliska reportedly has a grammar, but it is as yet unpublished

Purely fragmentary

  1. Black Speech
  2. Valarin

Here, Ardalambion may or may not be counting Oromëan, Aulëan, and Melkian, the three known dialects of Valarin; assuming he does certainly makes the numbers more sensible.

Essentially absent:

  1. Rohirric
  2. Dunlendish
  3. Various dialects of Orcish
  4. Avarin
  5. the language of Harad
  6. Entish

This list evidently differs from the one discussed in the question; the discrepancy can be made up by incorporating "intermediate" forms of the Elvish languages, which Tolkien revised extensively on the way towards his "finished" Quenya and Sindarin, as well as some Mannish languages that never had a decent vocabulary or grammar, but just some rendered names. These include:

  • Primitive Quendian
  • Common Eldarin
  • Goldogrin (which would become Noldorin)
  • Oromëan
  • Aulëan
  • Melkian
  • The language of Dale, which had a few names rendered in it
  • The language of Rhovanion, which likewise had a few rendered names

And there are a few others that are mentioned, but exist only in name:

  • Falathrin
  • Mithrim, which largely survived in Ilkorin
  • The language of Haleth (which had a single word: drûg, their name for the Drúedain)

The list in the book may also be including some languages Tolkien invented as a boy, or which weren't connected to the legendarium:

  • Animalic
  • Nevbosh
  • Naffarin

Which language is the "fourteenth" by the measure of the writer of that excerpt will depend on precisely what definition is used, which is not remotely clear. I have contacted the Tolkien Literary Estate directly, and will update when/if I get a reply.

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Damn. Beat me to it. Well done. – Adele C Jan 18 at 2:34
I think the writer was Christopher Tolkien, but I have no way to confirm it. – ibid Jan 18 at 2:39
@ibid Even if he didn't write it, I would suspect he would have had some input over the number, but still; how he came up with "fifteen" is likely known to him alone – Jason Baker Jan 18 at 2:45
I was mainly asking the question to try find out what his definitive list was. – ibid Jan 18 at 2:54
@ibid Haven't a clue, but they do have a contact form. Nothing ventured, and all that – Jason Baker Jan 18 at 3:14

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