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- Frodo: "It's some form of Elvish. I can't read it."
Gandalf: "There are few who can. The language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here."
- —Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, on the inscription on the One Ring, The Fellowship of the Ring (film)
The Black Speech, also known as the Dark Tongue of Mordor, was the official language of Mordor. Sauron created the Black Speech to be the unifying language of all the servants of Mordor, used along with different varieties of Orkish and other languages used by his servants.
Tolkien describes the language as existing in two forms, the ancient "pure" forms used by Sauron himself, the Nazgûl, and the Olog-hai, and the more "debased" form used by the soldiery of the Barad-dûr at the end of the Third Age. The only example given of "pure" Black Speech is the inscription upon the One Ring:
- Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
- ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
When translated into English, these words form the lines:
- One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
- One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
These are the first two lines from the end of a verse about the Rings of Power.
Many Orkish dialects had adopted words from the Black Speech. One Orc from the band that took Merry and Pippin prisoners utters a tirade of curses at one point that is presumably Orkish, but apparently contains at least some elements of Black Speech.
In real life, J. R. R. Tolkien created this language with the intention of making it harsh and ugly. The Black Speech is unfortunately one of the more incomplete languages in Tolkien's novels, as the forces of good are reluctant to utter it. Unlike Elvish, there are no poems or songs written in it (apart from the Ring's inscription), and because Tolkien designed it to be unpleasant in his own mind, he did not enjoy writing in it; according to Tolkien, he once received a goblet from a fan with the Ring inscription on it in Black Speech, and Tolkien, finding it distasteful, never drank from it and used it only as an ashtray. The result is a random collection of words that are hard to actually use in day-to-day conversation. We learn from the text in the ring and its translation that the Black Speech is a strongly agglutinating language.
Black speech could be understood by anyone who wore the One Ring. Samwise wore the ring in the tower of Cirith Ungol to be invisible from orcs of Sauron, and in the process heard many of the orcs' plans.
Russian historian Alexander Nemirovski identified an ergative case in durbatuluk and thrakatuluk according to a common suffix -tuluk meaning "them all", relating to the verb's object rather than to its subject. This was found as a similarity to other ergative(-absolutive) languages such as an ancient Mesopotamian language, Hurrian.
- -a - to (Debased Black Speech)
- alba - elf
- agh -and (for conjoining sentences)
- ash - one
- burz - dark
- burzum - darkness
- durb - rule
- carnish - ambush
- gazat - dwarf
- ghâsh - fire
- gimb - find
- glob - filth
- gûl - wraith
- hai - folk
- -ishi - in
- krimp - bind
- lug - tower
- mas - mine
- nazg - ring
- nugu - nine
- olog - troll
- ombi - seven
- ronk - pit/pool (bagronk, as muttered by an Orc in The Two Towers, means "dung-pit")
- sha -and (for binding nouns)
- shara - man
- sharkû - old / old man (Debased Black Speech)
- shre - three
- snaga- slave
- thrak - bring
- -tul -them
- ûk - all
- -um -ness
- uruk - orc
- zagh - mountain pass/ mountains
Portrayal in adaptations
For Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, the linguist David Salo used what little is known of the Black Speech to create enough of a language for use in the movies. This is usually referred to by Tolkienists as "Neo-Black Speech". In the The Hobbit films, Gundabad Orkish is spoken by Orc characters amongst each other, unlike in the prior trilogy The Lord of the Rings, in which Orcs speak primarily the Common Tongue. At one point in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Azog speaks to the Necromancer in the Black Speech.
One substantial neo-Black Speech lexicon, referred to as "Shadowlandian Black Speech", was invented by fans at the website thelandofshadow.com(now defunct) sometime before 2014.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Albanian||Fjala e zezë|
|Belarussian Cyrillic||Чорная мова|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Черна реч|
|Cebuano||Itom nga Sinultihan|
|Filipino||Itim na pananalita|
|French||Noir parler/Langue noire|
|Haitian Creole||Nwa Lapawòl|
|Hmong||Hais lus dub|
|Irish Gaelic||Teanga dhubh|
|Kazakh||Қара тіл (Cyrillic) Qara til (Latin)|
|Kurdish||Axaftina Reş (Kurmanji)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||кара сөз|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Црна говор|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Хар хэлсэн үг|
|Scottish Gaelic||Dubh Òraid|
|Serbian||Црни Говор (Cyrillic) Crni Govor (Latin)|
|Tajik Cyrillic||Суханронии сиёҳ|
|Thai||แบล็กสปีช / ภาษามืด|
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Чорна говірка|
|Uzbek||Қора Нутқ (Cyrillic) Qora Nutq (Latin)|