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As far as I can tell, none of his Elvish languages did, but is there any indication that, for example, Khuzdûl or Westron might have had gendered pronouns or grammatical gender?

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    Tolkien's earlier languages had gendered pronouns.
    – ibid
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 20:02
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    There's so little Khuzdul defined that it's not possible to know the answer. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 22:59
  • Following ibid's prompt, here's an Early Quenya example: elfdict.com/w/she/eq?include_old=1 Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 12:04
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    You can also dig backwards in time here (apologies for all the false positives) through various languages: elfdict.com/w/he?include_old=1. In particular Adûnaic has separate he/she: elfdict.com/w/he/ad?include_old=1, which suggests Westron might. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 12:10
  • Taliska might have grammatical gender, since it's said to be based on Germanic languages. We'll see when the grammar is out, as has been promised decades ago,
    – Eugene
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 9:03

1 Answer 1

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There are definite indications that Westron had gendered pronouns. The first indication is simply the lack of any comment from Tolkien that it did not. When a difference in grammar between Westron and modern English was relevant to the story, the author pointed it out for readers. Specifically, while the Hobbits' Shire dialect did did not have polite forms for second person pronouns, the archaizing version of Westron used in Gondor did. However, Tolkien never mentions anything else about the pronoun structure of Westron differing from modern-day English. In particular, there is no mention of Westron not having gendered third person singular pronouns, in spite of characters speaking Westron using them all throughout the narrative.

Secondly, there are instances where speakers are (according to the frame story, translated as) using gendered pronouns, when it wouldn't make as much sense if the word in the original Westron actually just meant "it." For example, Ghan states:

When Sun comes we feel her, even when she is hidden. Already she climbs over East-mountains. It is the opening of day in the sky-fields.

If the original pronoun, rendered in translation as "she" had been gender neutral, it would have made more sense to leave it that way. Of course, Ghan is not a native speaker, and the sun over Middle-Earth is literally female, so this example is still potentially ambiguous.

However, the following passage, involving only native speakers of Hobbitish Westron dialects, makes is absolutely clear that there are indeed gendered pronouns.

'He sees. He knows. He heard us make silly promises — against His orders, yes. Must take it. The Wraiths are searching. Must take it.'

'Not for Him!'

'No, sweet one. See, my precious: if we has it, then we can escape, even from Him, eh? Perhaps we grows very strong, stronger than Wraiths. Lord Smeagol? Gollum the Great? The Gollum! Eat fish every day, three times a day; fresh from the sea. Most Precious Gollum! Must have it. We wants it, we wants it, we wants it!'

'But there's two of them. They'll wake too quick and kill us,' whined Smeagol in a last effort. 'Not now. Not yet.'

'We wants it! But' — and here there was a long pause, as if a new thought had wakened. 'Not yet, eh? Perhaps not. She might help. She might, yes.'

'No, no! Not that way!' wailed Smeagol.

'Yes! We wants it! We wants it!'

Each time that the second thought spoke, Gollum's long hand crept out slowly, pawing towards Frodo, and then was drawn back with a jerk as Smeagol spoke again. Finally both arms, with long fingers flexed and twitching, clawed towards his neck.

Sam had lain still, fascinated by this debate, but watching every move that Gollum made from under his half-closed eye-lids. To his simple mind ordinary hunger, the desire to eat hobbits, had seemed the chief danger in Gollum. He realized now that it was not so: Gollum was feeling the terrible call of the Ring. The Dark Lord was He, of course; but Sam wondered who She was. One of the nasty friends the little wretch had made in his wanderings, he supposed.

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  • The Sméagol/Gollum debate is a very good example! Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 1:34

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