Origins and family
Adûnaic was derived from the Hadorian tongue, related to the Bëorian—collectively called Taliska. It was more distantly related to the languages of the Middle Men of the east, such as the Men of Eriador and the Northmen. During the First Age these languages were much influenced by Khuzdul, Avarin, but also by the languages of the Eldar, as the Elf-friends spoke Sindarin.
Despite it being a millennium or more after their separation, the Númenórean mariners who returned to Middle-earth in the Second Age could find common roots and words with the Middle Men of Eriador (related to the Folks of Beor and Hador), and talk about simple matters. This is also partly due to the Númenórean longevity, and the slow change of their language.
In the western districts of Númenor, the rustic folk still used another dialect, a last remnant of the Bëorian language.
Adûnaic was generally considered to be a language of less prestige than the Elven tongues. Most locations of Númenor, and most of the lords and ladies of the Dúnedain, had also Quenya or Sindarin names beside their native ones. Even most commoners knew Sindarin to some degree.
Most of the House of Bëor had been killed after the Dagor Bragollach, but even during the Second Age a Bëorian accent of Adûnaic still survived in parts of Númenor, most notably in Emerië and around the harbour of Andúnië.
Days of pride
About 2,000 years into the Second Age, the Númenóreans began to envy the immortality of the Firstborn, which extended to the languages of the Elves; the Kings and their followers used the Elven tongues less and less. Though the Kings and Queens had all taken their names in Quenya, after some time their supporters used their Adûnaic names to refer to them.
Eventually Ar-Adûnakhôr took his name in Adûnaic and forbade anyone to speak the Elven tongues in his presence. Adûnaic was now the language of the royal court. Its supremacy was most strongly enforced by Ar-Gimilzôr: he outlawed the use of Elvish anywhere in Númenor, which antagonized the few Faithful Númenóreans still living in the land.
However, his son Inziladûn took a Quenya name again, Tar-Palantir, and repealed the ban on the Elven tongues and gave peace to the Faithful. His daughter Míriel would probably have continued his reforms, but her cousin Pharazôn seized power and, in addition, gave her an Adûnaic name (Ar-Zimraphel).
In Middle-earth, the Faithful settlers (who controlled the shorelands of the Westlands from Lune to Pelargir), neglected their native tongue and favored Sindarin and devised names in it; no doubt as a reaction against the rebel Kings who banned the Elvish tongues. This was the case among the Faithful of high lineage who used Sindarin as their native tongue, and became a mark of Númenórean descent, while Adûnaic was left as the daily language of the illiterate, neglected to unheeded change. However some Númenóreans who had Sindarin as their mother tongue, learned this "vulgar" language when it was needed.
In Belfalas, the Númenóreans didn't stop to use Adûnaic names, as for them the language didn't have the political connection to the King's Men and the rebellion against the Valar; their ancestors had settled there before the division of their people (c. S.A. 2221).
With the Downfall of Númenor came the end of classical Adûnaic. The study and preservation of the language was neglected by the Exiles of Númenor, because they associated it with the rebellious and repressive Númenórean Kings.
However, this debased tongue, spread from the early Númenórean sailors and colonists, continued to spread as their settlements increased in size and influence and met more peoples, who came under their rule. Those Men of different kinds used this language as a lingua franca among them. This process became of general importance after the Realms in Exile; from Eriador to Gondor the tongue became widely current, being adopted both by inhabitants and incomers, eventually becoming their native language, which they called Westron, widely spoken during the Third Age.
Adûnaic continued to survive, at least in names in Belfalas and Dol Amroth. Some members of the House of Dol Amroth were named in Adûnaic instead of Sindarin. It is probable that Prince Imrazôr, also known as "the Númenórean", has an Adûnaic name.[note 1] The names of his descendants in the late Third Age, Adrahil and Imrahil, were also Adûnaic.
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Adûnaic has a faintly Semitic flavour. The triconsonantal structure of the majority of the word-bases of Adûnaic is reminiscent of Semitic. However, the vocalic arrangements in the word-bases do not resemble Semitic much. Tolkien said the Númenórean language is based on Hebrew.
- Paul Strack suggests that his name contains the same initial element Imra as in the name of Imrahil and the same final element zôr as in the name of Gimilzôr, which both have Adûnaic names. In addition records of the House of Dol Amroth mention that Galador, the son of Imrazôr and Mithrellas, one of the elven companions of Nimrodel, is an elven name, implying that Imrazôr was not an elven name.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of Men"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", p. 317
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of Men into the West"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner's Wife"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "The Atani and their Languages"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "Notes", #71
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "Notes", #72
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part Two. Body, Mind and Spirit: V. Beards", p. 189
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", p. 315
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Amroth and Nimrodel"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VII. The Heirs of Elendil", The House of Dol Amroth
- Paul Strack, "Ad. Imrazôr m.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 27 April 2022)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, "Pronunciation of Words and Names", "Consonants", entry CH, p. 1113 and entry K, p. 1114
- 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, paragraph §19 footnote
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part Three. The World, its Lands, and its Inhabitants: XI. Lives of the Númenóreans", p. 323
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "The Atani and their Languages", p. 316
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part Two: The Notion Club Papers Part Two: Night 66", p. 241
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part Three: The Drowning of Anadûnê: (vi) Lowdham's Report on the Adunaic Language: General Structure", p. 415
- Clyde S. Kilby, Tolkien and The Silmarillion, "2. Summer with Tolkien", p. 24
- Article on Adûnaic at Ardalambion
- Lalaith's Guide to Adûnaic Grammar
- Ni-bitha Adûnâyê - an Adûnâic course
- Adûnaic texts and sound samples at Glǽmscrafu
- Wordlists at Eldamo
|Languages in Tolkien's works|
|Elvish languages||Avarin · Common Eldarin · Mátengwië · Nandorin · Primitive Quendian · Quenya (Exilic · Valinorean · Vanyarin) · Silvan · Sindarin (Doriathrin · Falathrin · Númenórean · Mithrimin · Old) · Telerin|
|Mannish languages||Adûnaic · Dalish · Drúadan · Dunlendish · Northern Mannish · Pre-Númenórean · Rohirric · Taliska · Westron (Hobbitish)|
|Dwarvish languages||Iglishmêk · Khuzdul|
|Other languages||Black Speech · Entish · Orkish · Valarin · Warg-language|
|Earlier legendarium||Gnomish · Ilkorin · Noldorin (Kornoldorin) · Qenya|
|Outside the legendarium||Animalic · Arktik · Mágol · Naffarin · Nevbosh|
|Real-world||AB language · Celtic · English (Old, Middle) · Finnish · Germanic · Gothic · Hebrew · Welsh|
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|"A Secret Vice" (book) · "The Lhammas" · "The Tree of Tongues" · Sub-creation|