I noticed how Nazgûl always has a circumflex (“^”) over the u. Does that mean anything about how I pronounce the word? Or is it just decoration?

Or, in other words:
What does the circumflex mean in Tolkien’s languages?

  • why all this negativeness? – MadTux May 3 '13 at 12:31
  • Does your copy of the book have the appendices? I can't be positive but I thought they covered pronunciation. – Anthony Grist May 3 '13 at 12:36
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    It says that it means a long vowel in elvish, but id decoration in Adunaic and Dwarvish. So now we need to know what language 'Nagûl' is ;-) – MadTux May 3 '13 at 12:40
  • I've always read it as meaning the pronounciation is something like naz-goul rather than naz-gul – TheMathemagician May 4 '13 at 0:01
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    Same as the "ö" in "Motörhead" :) – user8719 Mar 30 '15 at 21:11

From Appendix E, "Writing and Spelling":

In Sindarin long vowels in stressed monosyllables are marked with the circumflex, since they tended in such cases to be specially prolonged; so in dûn compared with Dúnadan. The use of the circumflex in other languages such as Adûnaic or Dwarvish has no special significance, and is used merely to mark these out as alien tongues (as with the use of k).

Presumably Black Speech is included in the "other languages" here.

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    Oh, it probably is since Nazg is Ring :-) – MadTux May 3 '13 at 12:42
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    @MadTux From Wikipedia, The Nazgûl (from Black Speech nazg, "ring", and gûl, "wraith, spirit") – Izkata May 3 '13 at 12:44
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    I seem to remember that the Black Speech doesn't have a written form. The Ring is inscribed in Tengwar, so is it possible that the rules used to translate Tengwar also apply to the Black Speech? – TGnat May 3 '13 at 13:21
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    So it's like a heavy metal umlaut then. Cool. Interestingly, BS is stated to have taken on influences from various Elvish tongues, so the -gûl in Nazgûl possibly has a relationship to the same element we see in Dol Guldur and Noldor. – user8719 May 17 '14 at 12:04
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    Unless I'm misremembering, this quote is specifically talking about circumflex vs. acute. It does not say that the accents have no meaning at all (‘heavy metal umlaut’), only that the form of the accent is unimportant in languages other than Sindarin. So Nazgûl has a circumflex rather than an acute (Nazgúl) simply to mark it as foreign, but the presence of the accent itself is not unimportant: the accent denotes a long vowel, whatever its shape. Nazgul would be pronounced differently. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 24 '16 at 2:50

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