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Things of Middle-earth

Language of the Rohirrim

Type: Languages & Writing Systems

Other Names: the tongue of the Riddermark

Description:

The Eorlings, or the Rohirrim as they were called in Gondor, still used their own northern tongue; for the Riders of Rohan had come out of Éothéod near the sources of Anduin only some five hundred years before the days here spoken of.

The Peoples of Middle-Earth, HoME Vol 12, Part 1, Ch 2, The Appendix on Languages

Most of the Men of the northern regions of the Westlands were descended from the Edain of the First Age, or from their close kin. Their languages were, therefore, related to the Adûnaic, and some still preserved a likeness to the Common Speech. Of this kind were the peoples of the upper vales of Anduin: the Beornings, and the Woodmen of Western Mirkwood; and further north and east the Men of the Long Lake and of Dale. From the lands between the Gladden and the Carrock came the folk that were known in Gondor as the Rohirrim, Masters of Horses. They still spoke their ancestral tongue, and gave new names in it to nearly all the places in their new country: and they called themselves the Eorlings, or the Men of the Riddermark. But the lords of that people used the Common Speech freely, and spoke it nobly after the manner of their allies in Gondor; for in Gondor whence it came the Westron kept still a more gracious and antique style.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: Of Men

'Now they call this land their home, their own, and their speech is sundered from their northern kin.' Then [Aragorn] began to chant softly in a slow tongue unknown to the Elf and Dwarf; yet they listened, for there was a strong music in it.

'That, I guess, is the language of the Rohirrim,' said Legolas; 'for it is like to this land itself; rich and rolling in part, and else hard and stern as the mountains. But I cannot guess what it means, save that it is laden with the sadness of Mortal Men.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 6, The King of the Golden Hall

But most of the time ... Merry had ridden by himself just behind the king, saying nothing, and trying to understand the slow sonorous speech of Rohan that he heard the men behind him using. It was a language in which there seemed to be many words that he knew, though spoken more richly and strongly than in the Shire, yet he could not piece the words together. At times some Rider would lift up his clear voice in stirring song, and Merry felt his heart leap, though he did not know what it was about.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 3, The Muster of Rohan

The language of the Rohirrim contained the sound here represented by ch (a back spirant as ch in Welsh), and, though it was infrequent in the middle of words between vowels, it presented them with no difficulty. But the Common Speech did not possess it....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: Notes, Note 49


Notes on Translation
The Mannish languages that were related to the Westron should, it seemed to me [Tolkien], be turned into forms related to English. The language of Rohan I have accordingly made to resemble ancient English, since it was related both (more distantly) to the Common Speech, and (very closely) to the former tongue of the northern Hobbits, and was in comparison with the Westron archaic. In the Red Book it is noted in several places that when Hobbits heard the speech of Rohan they recognized many words and felt the language to be akin to their own, so that it seemed absurd to leave the recorded names and words of the Rohirrim in a wholly alien style.

In several cases I have modernized the forms and spellings of place-names in Rohan: as in Dunharrow or Snowbourn; but I have not been consistent, for I have followed the Hobbits. They altered the names that they heard in the same way, if they were made of elements that they recognized, or if they resembled place-names in the Shire; but many they left alone, as I have done, for instance, in Edoras 'the courts'. For the same reasons a few personal names have also been modernized, as Shadowfax and Wormtongue.

This assimilation also provided a convenient way of representing the peculiar local hobbit-words that were of northern origin. They have been given the forms that lost English words might well have had, if they had come down to our day. Thus mathom is meant to recall ancient English máthm, and so to represent the relationship of the actual Hobbit kast to R. kastu. Similarly smial (or smile) 'burrow' is a likely form for a descendant of smygel, and represents well the relationship of Hobbit tran to R. trahan. Sméagol and Déagol are equivalents made up in the same way for the names Trahald 'burrowing, worming in', and Nahald 'secret' in the Northern tongues.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: On Translation


Examples
This was Orthanc, ... the name of which had (by design or chance) a twofold meaning; for in the Elvish speech orthanc signifies Mount Fang, but in the language of the Mark of old the Cunning Mind.

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 8, The Road to Isengard

The most ancient people surviving in the Third Age were the Onodrim or Enyd. Ent was the form of their name in the language of Rohan.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: Of Other Races

Hobbit is an invention. ... [The] folk of the Shire and of Bree used the word kuduk, which was not found elsewhere. Meriadoc, however, actually records that the King of Rohan used the word kûd-dûkan 'hole-dweller'. Since, as has been noted, the Hobbits had once spoken a language closely related to that of the Rohirrim, it seems likely that kuduk was a worn-down form of kûd-dûkan.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: On Translation

Contributors: Elena Tiriel 17Jan05, 28Jan05, 1Aug06

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