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Rohan language

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This article describes a concept which is mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's works, but was never given a definite name.

The Rohan language refers to the language spoken by the Rohirrim of Rohan.

Contents

[edit] History

"That, I guess, is the language of the Rohirrim, 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."
Legolas[1]

The Rohan language is derived from the language of the Éothéod, who were among the Northmen and was related to other Northmen languages, such as those of Rhovanion, Esgaroth, and Dale.

The Hobbits before their Wandering Days in the Vales of Anduin had contact with that people and their languages had many words in common. For example the Rohirrim had retained the legend of the being known as kûd-dûkan (translated as hol-bytla), a term which became kuduk by the Hobbits, the name they had for themselves.

Many archaic Hobbit names bear similarities to Rohan's, since the ancestors of The Shire hobbits lived on the upper reaches of the Anduin, close to the ancestors of the Rohirrim, and there was apparently a good deal of linguistic cross-fertilisation.

Despite its relation to Westron, the Rohan language was not intelligible to its speakers. Legolas was unable to understand the songs, however he noted that the language is like the land itself: rich and rolling in part, and else hard and stern as the mountains.

[edit] Structure

Rohan names often have the element lô-/loh-, which means "horse". Lōgrad means "Rohan" or "Horse-mark"; Lohtûr means "Horse-people".

The latter shows the element tûr also seen in the name Tûrac "People-king".

[edit] Name

J.R.R. Tolkien used the name Rohan for the name of the language of the Rohirrim in his notes on the Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings that he made to assist translators of the book into other languages.[2] In these notes he frequently used the name Rohan for the name of the language.[3] J.R.R. Tolkien also used the name Rohan for the name of the language of the Rohirrim in a manuscript for an earlier draft version of Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings.[4] Also Christopher Tolkien, in one instance, refers to the language of Rohan as "Rohan".[5]

J.R.R. Tolkien used the adjective Rohanese once in The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor,[6] but it is not clear by the context if the word is the name of a language, or simply an adjective. He also used the word Rohanese in The Nature of Middle-earth[7] and once in his Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings.[8]

Robert Foster in The Complete Guide to Middle-earth uses the name Rohirric, which has stuck among the students of Tolkien's languages. Perhaps it was modelled on "Rohirrim" and the ending -ic of "Adûnaic". Christopher Gilson uses "Rohirric" in the List of Abbreviations to "Words, Phrases & Passages in The Lord of the Rings",[9] as well as Helge Fauskanger in Ardalambion.[10]

[edit] Inspiration

Main article: Old English

Tolkien rendered the Rohan language as Old English,[11] but also included Scandinavian names, such as Westfold. Even modernized names show a strong Anglo-Saxon influence. Old English was supposed to render an archaic form of Westron, which was supposedly rendered by Modern English. This solution occurred to Tolkien in 1942, when he was searching for an explanation of the Eddaic name of the dwarves already published in The Hobbit.[source?]

Some words show the plural ending "-as", as were Old English nouns of the strong-masculine declension.

The Rohirrim used the Germanic patronymic "-ing". They called themselves the Eorlingas, and Beorn's people were the Beornings, Scyld's people were the Scyldingas in Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology.

Théoden was referred to as "Théoden King", rather than "King Théoden", just as Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon kings had the word "konungr"/"cyning" ("king") added after their names, e.g. Hervarðar konungr, rather than before.

Some Old English names that render Rohirric words include:

  • Éothéod: from "eoh" ("war-horse") and "þeod" ("folk", "people", "nation")
  • Gríma: possibly from "grima" ("mask", "helmet", "ghost")
  • Eorl: from "eorl" ("nobleman")
  • Théodred: from "þeod" ("folk", "people", "nation") and "ræd" ("counsel")
  • Elfwine: from Ælfwine ("Elf-friend")

[edit] Translation

As Westron is rendered in the novels with English, Rohan language is always translated through Old English. This is because Tolkien tried to reproduce for English readers its archaic flavour in relationship to the Common Speech. Westron is an amalgamated language which, although deriving from Adûnaic, was formed from the languages of the Middle Men, much like the English language with many influences from Celtic and Norman.[12]

However, the relationship between the two pairs of languages is not identical: Old English is the direct ancestor of modern English, but Rohan was not the direct ancestor of Westron, since the latter derives from Adûnaic.

In some cases, Tolkien did not provide genuine Old English words, but rather modernizations.[source?] Such names are:

The reason was that those names were said to be intelligible by speakers of Westron; Gondorians were familiar with the place-names of Rohan (like Entwade), while Hobbits recognized some common elements with their dialect.[19]

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The King of the Golden Hall"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, Abbreviations R. = Rohan: the language used in Rohan, p. 752
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, It represents Rohan dun(n)lending, p. 755; Rohan greg-hama, p. 758; Rohan (= OE) Sceadu-faex, p. 762; Rohan name, proper Rohan form, p. 763; Rohan wyrm-tunge, the Rohan word, genuine Rohan word, p. 764; Rohan dunhaerg, the genuine Rohan form, p. 769; Fenmarch. Rohan name:, as a Rohan name, Folde. A Rohan name, p. 770; Halifirien. Rohan [name]., p. 771; a Rohan word, p. 773; the actual Rohan (i.e. OE) snawburna and Rohan Staning-(land), p. 776; its proper Rohan form, p. 778; translation of Rohan simbelmyne, p. 780; a Rohan name, p. 782
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "II. The Appendix on Languages", manuscript F2 The Languages at the end of the Third Age, $48. Hobbit. [...] The primitive form represented by Rohan cugbagu; $49. Personal names. corresponded closely in meaning to Rohan maur; $54 corresponding to Rohan turac-; $56 relation of Rohan cugbagu [...] relation to Rohan (that is Old English) mathum [...] compared with Rohan castu; Rohan smygel [...] genuine Rohan trahan
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 153
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 42, July 2001, Adorn [...] not of Rohanese origin, p. 8
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part Three. The World, its Lands, and its Inhabitants: I. Dark and Light", Limlight, modernized from Rohanese Limliht
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, Greyhame. [...] Modernized 'Rohanese', p. 762
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 8 and p. 220
  10. Helge Fauskanger, "Various Mannish Tongues - the sadness of Mortal Men?", Ardalambion (accessed 10 February 2013)
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954), "I haved turned their names into forms like (but not identical with) Old English"
  12. "Middle English creole hypothesis" dated 29 October 2012, Wikipedia (accessed 10 February 2013)
  13. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 247
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 769 entry Dunharrow
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 776 entry Snowbourn
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 778 entry Ubourn
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 769 entry Entwade, Entwash, Entwood
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 764 entry Woses
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pp. 769
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