10

I read the glossaries of the Lord of the Rings books and it said that the language spoken by the Dwarves was not spoken to others except for a few words. That got me wondering if Tolkien had ever even invented that language as a whole. Did he invent Dwarvish far enough to carry a conversation or not?

  • If he did, he never wrote it down nor told anyone about it. How can we possibly answer differently? – OrangeDog Apr 14 '16 at 12:41
  • @SMSvonderTann The answer to that question, and the linked page on the Dwarvish language, give you as much detail as is known about Tolkien's development of that language. – Rand al'Thor Apr 14 '16 at 12:59
  • That depends on what you mean by "inventing the language as a whole". Do you mean that he was able to, e.g., conjugate a verb in it? Write coherent sentences? Carry on a conversation? Teach a class? How much invention needs to go on before he's "invented the language as a whole"? – Matt Gutting Apr 14 '16 at 13:13
  • @MattGutting I mean by carrying on a conversation. – SMS von der Tann Apr 14 '16 at 13:14
  • 3
    When I get stuck whilst conversing in dwarvish with my dwarf buddies, I just fill in the gaps with some Klingon mumbo jumbo. Nobody is one the wiser. – iMerchant Apr 14 '16 at 17:49
17

No

There simply aren't enough words in Tolkien's Khuzdûl to carry on a conversation. This is noted by Christopher Tolkien in History of Middle-earth, when remarking on the use of the language in the inscription on Balin's tomb:

The use of the Dwarf-tongue (Khuzdul) is possible in so short an inscription, since this tongue has been sketched in some detail of structure, if with a very small vocabulary.

History of Middle-earth XII The Peoples of Middle-earth Chapter X: "Of Dwarves and Men"

What little we know of the language is covered in Nerrolken's answer to How much Dwarvish appears in Tolkien's work?, and more generally on Ardalambion.

It's worth noting that the Khuzdûl we hear in The Hobbit film trilogy was constructed by David Salo, a professional linguist with a passionate interest in Tolkien's languages. He discusses some of the challenges of this task on his blog, which is worth a read if you're interested in this sort of thing:

When I was asked to come up with some Dwarvish-language lines and lyrics for The Lord of the Rings, I initially balked. It wasn't my first experience with constructing Khuzdul — I had invented some names for the Middle-earth Role Playing Game several years earlier — but that had been with the understanding that I was, in a sense, contributing to a new world, related to Tolkien's but not quite the same. This felt a bit different. I pointed out that the amount of written Khuzdul could fit on a couple of pages (this is still basically true) and that almost nothing was known about its structure. I said that whatever I wrote in it would be largely a new invention, and that I wasn't going to pass it off as Tolkien's own work. I got the go-ahead anyway, and plunged in.

  • It should also be noted that this answer applies to all of Tolkien's other languages as well. – ibid Apr 15 '16 at 0:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.