It doesn't seem to be related to any other documented languages. Being endemic to Sauron's realm, with him persisting through the Ages, it would not likely have diverged naturally from another language anyway.

There is this related question, which deals with how Tolkien the author arrived at the Black Speech. The answer includes this quote:

The Black Speech was not intentionally modeled on any style, but was meant to be self consistent, very different from Elvish, yet organized and expressive, as would be expected of a device of Sauron before his complete corruption.

(emphasis added)

That answer doesn't address how the language came to be; but the emphasized portion implies Sauron developed it himself. That's certainly reasonable though I'd be curious when and why. Did Tolkien expound on that anywhere else?

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    possible duplicate of What do we know about the Black Speech of Mordor?
    – TGnat
    Jun 30, 2014 at 21:38
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    That question seems to deal specifically with the "out-of-universe" origin (how Tolkien developed it); this question asks about the "in-universe origin". I think they're related, but not duplicates. Jun 30, 2014 at 21:59
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    Indeed, I want to know how it fits into the history of Middle-earth Jun 30, 2014 at 22:14
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    I think it's reasonable to leave this one open. This question actually quotes from the only answer given to the other, so it's evident that that answer doesn't fully satisfy this question (editing to reflect this would however seem advisable).
    – user8719
    Jun 30, 2014 at 22:14
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    Sauron and the Orcs were probably unsatisfied at the 37 ways to say 'fluffy' in Elvish.
    – Oldcat
    Jun 30, 2014 at 22:38

2 Answers 2


Appendix F of The Lord Of The Rings ("The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age") has this to say:

It is said that the Black Speech was devised by Sauron in the Dark Years, and that he had desired to make it the language of all those that served him, but he failed in that purpose. From the Black Speech, however, were derived many of the words that were in the Third Age wide-spread among the Orcs, such as ghâsh 'fire', but after the first overthrow of Sauron this language in its ancient form was forgotten by all but the Nazgûl. When Sauron arose again, it became once more the language of Barad-dûr and of the captains of Mordor. The inscription on the Ring was in the ancient Black Speech, while the curse of the Mordor-orc in II, 53. was in the more debased form used by the soldiers of the Dark Tower, of whom Grishnâkh was the captain. Sharku in that tongue means old man.

That's the answer, then; Sauron developed it towards the end of the Second Age, when he was achieving domination over much of Middle-earth. He didn't succeed in enforcing its use among all his creatures, but (especially toward the end of the Third Age) his more powerful minions spoke it as their primary if not their exclusive language.

  • Sharku in that tongue means old man. - is this the origin of the alias "Sharkey" that Saruman later takes?
    – Mike
    Jul 1, 2014 at 18:30
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    Exactly so. In The Return Of The King Book 6, chapter 8, "The Scouring of the Shire", Saruman says "All my people used to call me that in Isengard, I believe. A sign of affection, possibly"; and there's a note to the text: "It was probably Orkish in origin: sharku, 'old man'." Jul 1, 2014 at 18:39
  • so it was the lingua franca of baddies Jul 2, 2014 at 14:40

Note: This answer is speculation on my part rather than an authoritative statement by Tolkien.

If your main question is why Sauron would bother making his own language, it seems to be in his personality, if you consider his "scientific" experience from his life as Aulë's Maia, and his desire for order and disdain for what he would consider "irrational" disorder and waste. Consider also his admiration for Melkor, whose ideal it was to be self-sufficient in his power and stand equal to Eru the Creator. It would seem reasonable that he would then look upon the natural languages of Middle-Earth with the same kind of disdain as an industrial engineer might feel for a product which sets form before function, and doubly so if their origin is Eru, against whom Melkor his master tried to rebel. Replacing the natural languages with his own creation might be seen as him imitating Melkor in trying to reshape the world in his own image, then (the irony, of course, being that both Melkor and Sauron were created by Eru, and the Black Speech is therefore also made in his image).

I'm not too fond of trying the psycho-analyze Tolkien after his death, but I would guess this is similar to what Tolkien himself saw in the attempt to create Esperanto.

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    Tolkien was actually rather fond of Esperanto, wasn't he? What he didn't like was languages constructed only with practical, not æsthetic considerations in mind; but Esperanto does borrow a lot of æsthetic features from various natural languages. Jul 1, 2014 at 11:16
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    @leftaroundabout: From what I understand, the creation of the Middle-Earth languages and the surrounding lore was pretty much a reaction against Esperanto. One Tolkien quote on the matter: "Volapuk, Esperanto, Ido, Novial, &c &c are dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends...". I have no citation, but I think he was at first impressed by Esperanto, but grew to appreciate its "deadness" as he studied it.
    – Dolda2000
    Jul 1, 2014 at 15:02

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