Adûnaic

Adûnaic
Created by J.R.R. Tolkien
Setting and usage Fantasy world of Middle-earth
Purpose
Sources a priori language, but related to other languages of Arda
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog None

Adûnaic (or Adunaic) ("language of the west") is one of the fictional languages devised by J. R. R. Tolkien for his fantasy works.

One of the languages of Arda in Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, Adûnaic was spoken by the Men of Númenor during the Second Age.

Fictional history

Adûnaic derived from the closely related Bëorian and Hadorian dialects of Taliska, the language spoken by the first and third houses of the Edain when they first entered Beleriand during the First Age (the language(s) of the second house, the Haladin, seems to have had little or no influence on Adûnaic whatsoever, despite the apparent presence of both the Haladin and the Drúedain in Númenor prior to its downfall). This language seems to have primarily been a creole of the Dwarvish Khuzdul and some Avarin dialects, and it is almost wholly unclear which parts (if any) of its vocabulary and structure were purely "Mannish" in origin, though the answer is probably very little. It is stated that Finrod Felagund was able to quickly master Taliska purely by determining the various changes undergone by its Avarin component from Primitive Quendian, and Faramir stated that all languages of Men are of Elvish descent, suggesting that Taliska and Adûnaic are in fact Quendian/Avarin with some Khuzdul influence (notwithstanding the possibility that Faramir was misinformed, much as how many people mistakenly think English is a Romance language). Once the Edain settled in Beleriand, they eagerly learned Sindarin from its Grey Elven inhabitants, but retained their own tongue, probably whilst borrowing and adapting many Sindarin words to it. By the end of the First Age, Taliska had developed into a language that served as the basis for Adûnaic, the vernacular tongue of the Númenóreans, as well as the languages of the Rohirrim and the Men of Dale.

In Númenor, Adûnaic was the language used in day-to-day affairs by the majority of the population (though Sindarin was probably spoken by many). Its corpus, already a varied mixture of Khuzdul, Avarin, and Sindarin, was probably now exposed more heavily to the influence of Quenya (which served a role much the same as Latin in Medieval Europe) and possibly even Valarin, both due to regular contact with Aman. When the Númenóreans began to establish trading ports (later colonies) on the western shores of Middle-earth, Adûnaic mingled with the languages of various groups of Edain who had not travelled to Númenor, and the resulting trade language quickly spread throughout Eriador and its neighbours, laying the foundation for the later Common Speech.

Following the Akallabêth, the surviving Elendili who established the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor shunned Adûnaic in favour of Sindarin due to the associations of the former with the tyrannical Ar-Pharazôn and his followers the King's Men. Neglected by the Faithful, Adûnaic (in various forms and dialects) remained the language of the common people throughout most of the west of Middle-earth, and by the time of the War of the Ring at the end of the Third Age, it had developed into the various dialects of Westron.

Although "classical" Adûnaic was not spoken after the Akallabêth, surviving groups of the King's Men (referred to as Black Númenóreans) who served and worshipped Sauron (notably in Umbar) continued to speak a debased form of the language (called Black Adûnaic) as recently as the War of the Ring at the end of the Third Age.

Very few words of Adûnaic are known, though those that are borrow heavily from various Elven languages. Adûnaic also seems to conform to a variant of the consonantal root system used in Khuzdul (as does its successor language, Westron). It is also one of perhaps only two or three of Tolkien's languages known to possess noun classes, which roughly correspond to four grammatical genders.

Concept and creation

Although Tolkien created very few original words in Adûnaic, mostly names, the language serves his concept of a lingua franca for Middle-earth, a shared language for many different people. This lingua franca is Westron, which developed out of Adûnaic, "the language of the culturally and politically influential Númenóreans."[1]

Tolkien devised Adûnaic (or Númenórean), the language spoken in Númenor, shortly after World War II, and thus at about the time he completed The Lord of the Rings, but before he wrote the linguistic background information of the Appendices. Adûnaic is intended as the language from which Westron (also called Adûni) is derived. This added a depth of historical development to the Mannish languages. Adûnaic was intended to have a "faintly Semitic flavour".[2] Its development began with The Notion Club Papers (written in 1945). It is there that the most extensive sample of the language is found, revealed to one of the (modern-day) protagonists, Lowdham, of that story in a visionary dream of Atlantis. Its grammar is sketched in the unfinished "Lowdham's Report on the Adunaic Language".

Tolkien remained undecided whether the language of the Men of Númenor should be derived from the original Mannish language (as in Adûnaic), or if it should be derived from "the Elvish Noldorin" (i.e. Quenya) instead.[3] In The Lost Road and Other Writings it is implied that the Númenóreans spoke Quenya, and that Sauron, hating all things Elvish, taught the Númenóreans the old Mannish tongue they themselves had forgotten.[4]

Phonology

  Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Occlusive p b t d k ɡ ʔ
Fricative f v θ s z ʃ x ɣ h
Affricate p͡f t͡θ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ k͡x
Nasal m n ŋ
Trill r
Approximant l j w
Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid
Open a

Adûnaic is fundamentally a three-vowel language, with a length distinction; the long and are derived from diphthongs aj and aw, as is the case in Hebrew and in most Arabic dialects, in line with the Semitic flavour that Tolkien intended for both Adûnaic and Khuzdul, which influenced it.

Sample Text

AdûnaicEnglish
Ê Avradî Ârî 'nAmân!
Yakalubim minal-inzîl,
Anâkhi aglar anGimil.
Adûnad êphalak tûdân
Ugrô arahhata batân.
'nAnâi thânîya dâurdalad
Îdôn Azrazê, Azranad.
Oh, Elbereth, Queen of Aman
Heavenly flowers are leaning over,
The glory of the Stars is at hand.
But darkness has broken the path
Into the far and watched West.
The lands of men lay under gloom
Now at the great Sea, behind the Ocean.

References

  1. Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p. 70, 84, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1
  2. Sauron Defeated, p. 240
  3. The Peoples of Middle-earth, p. 63.
  4. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1996), p. 68 and note p. 75.
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