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The Lake-men were the people of Esgaroth upon the Long Lake, south of Erebor. They were a trading people and before Smaug's coming they dealt with Erebor and Dale, and with the Wood-elves of Mirkwood.
The civil leader of the Lake-men was The Master of Lake-town and he was chosen from among the old and wise.
As a trading people, the Lake-men knew the Common Speech, Westron. However, amongst themselves they spoke an ancient form of it, the Language of Dale, which was loosely related to but distinct from the Rohirric. Tolkien "translated" this language by substituting Old Norse (in personal and place names).