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Aragorn was taken to Rivendell by his mother when he was two years old; presumably he lived in Rivendell for some time, as in one of the Peter Jackson movies he mentions to, I believe, Éowyn that he was raised there.

Was Elvish Aragorn's first language? Or did he speak another language prior to living at Rivendell?

I have read FOTR and TTT and am just starting ROTK. I've seen the Peter Jackson movies a lot. I don't have full canon knowledge yet. The books don't easily hold my attention, so if this question is answered in FOTR or TTT, then I didn't retain it.

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Aragorn was indeed raised in Rivendell from the ages of two to twenty. He certainly knew Elvish, of the Sindarin dialect, and since he was raised in Rivendell, likely knew Quenya.

Aragorn of course could speak Westron, which was the most common language throughout Middle-Earth during the time of the War of the Ring. The Dúnedain certainly spoke Westron, though it is never said whether Westron was their primary language.

I have not found anything that would say when children learned to speak in Middle-earth, but since Middle-earth takes place in our world, it's probably safe to assume Aragorn learned the basics of speaking before he went to Rivendell. However, we are never told whether Aragorn:

  • Learned Westron before age 2, then was taught Elvish in Rivendell
  • Learned Elvish before age 2, and continued to refine it in Rivendell, eventually picking up Westron
  • Learned the basics of both before age 2, and continued to refine it in Rivendell

The only thing we can say with certainty is he was fluent in Westron, and knew a significant amount of Elvish, likely being fluent in that as well.

  • I would add that elves learn to speak very quickly. It may be the same for the dunedains, implying that Aragorn could be already fluent in Westron at age two. – user8252 Oct 7 '12 at 13:17
  • @ALS - can you provide a source? – The Fallen Oct 7 '12 at 22:10
  • No. :) I believe it's written somewhere in the latest writing of Tolkien about the life-cycle of the elves. I don't have them with me so I can't check. – user8252 Oct 7 '12 at 22:38
  • So in the History of Middle-Earth series? – The Fallen Oct 7 '12 at 23:31
  • 11
    Morgoth's Ring, volume 10 of the histories, contains a section called Laws and Customs among the Eldar. It says: "The Eldar grew in bodily form slower than Men, but in mind more swiftly. They learned to speak before they were one year old; and in the same time they learned to walk and to dance, for their wills came soon to the mastery of their bodies." – user9214 Oct 9 '12 at 20:27
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Human language acquisition begins before age 2. Most 2 year olds have an understood vocabulary of at least several dozen words, and a spoken vocabulary of typically a dozen words.

Further, by 12 months, sound set discrimination acquisition is near-complete. (It can be retrained later by use of neurolinguistic programming techniques, but such techniques are best done with computer delivery....)

So, being a 2 year old at arrival (between 24 and 36 months of age), if his mother hadn't already taught him Elvish, then he'd never be truly a native speaker of Elvish, though could become quite fluent in it.

The books seem to imply he speaks Westron natively, but never explicitly state whether he learned Quenya and Sindarin prior to moving to Rivendell, and the safest presumption is that the Elven languages are not native to him. It's clear as well that he is fluent in Westron, which means he had to fairly continuously find use for it in addition to Sindarin and Quenya.

Note that adoption at age 2 does develop near-native fluency, but still typically results in some minor phonemic deficiencies. Since we know Quenya and Sindarin share almost the same phonemic sets, it matters little which he learned first of these two; we don't know Westron in the same way, since the Professor never created Westron as a Conlang. We can not, therefore, determine if he'd have a major, minor, or no impediment from lack of phonemic awareness.

References

  1. http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/ss/early-childhood-development_4.htm
  2. http://children.webmd.com/guide/speech-and-language-development-age-1-to-3-years
  • 1
    This does assume that Dunedains have the same maturity as humans. They may not. – Sardathrion Oct 10 '12 at 13:33
  • I enjoyed reading your answer. One thing I noted, though, is the sources you link to have three-year-olds knowing 3000 and 300 words respectively. I wasn't sure which one was more accurate. :) – Slytherincess Oct 11 '12 at 0:54
  • Both match much less accessible (both intellectually and electronically) sources I read in my MAED program. They're literally included just to show I'm not making up the data, not as exhaustive literature reviews. Besides, I can't open my ECD text ebook anymore. (it expired.) – aramis Oct 11 '12 at 2:13
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    Quenya and Sindarin share the same phonemic sets? I don't think so, for instance there is no θ (th) in Quenya, it's replaced by s. – leftaroundabout Oct 13 '12 at 0:45
  • @leftaroundabout the two are close enough - they use the same written system from the notes I have. I'm not a ME Scholar. – aramis Dec 19 '12 at 7:04
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Could he not be just bilingual, he moved with his mother to Rivendell? So she spoke to him Westron and the elves spoke to him in Sindarin or Quenya. Then he would learn both languages fluently.

  • It is possible, as I noted in my answer. I don't know how much Elvish the Dunedain spoke in common usage. – The Fallen Oct 10 '12 at 14:51
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I can assure you that is easily possible to learn a second language after the age of two and become a native speaker of that second language. If Aragon has lived amongst elves from the age of two to the age of twenty then it is very likely that he spoke Elvish as a native language.

  • Hello and welcome to Scifi.SE! The question was not "How did Aragorn learn elvish language?" but "was it his first language?". Thus I think your answer does not fit here. – Kalissar Aug 15 '13 at 7:41
  • I do not agree at all, my answer fits here perfectly. I did indeed answer the question whether or not Aragorn's first language was Elvish. A native language is considered a first language. It is not so much the question of when someone has learnt a certain language but how well he/she speaks it. The language/the languages the person speaks best are considered native/first languages. Aragorn being two years old when he arrived in Rivendell it had already been established on this forum that he might have already been speaking other languages prior to him learning Elvish. – user16689 Aug 15 '13 at 22:22

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