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- "A fair jaw-cracker dwarf-language must be!"
- ― Samwise Gamgee in The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
Khuzdul, or Dwarvish, was the secret language of the Dwarves.
Aulë, the creator of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, taught them "the language he had devised for them". Therefore, unlike many other tounges, Khuzdul is therefore unrelated in origin and different from the languages of the Elves, due to descending not from an Elvish tongue but from Aulë himself. Few of other race have ever succeeded in learning it. The Dwarves were not unwilling to teach Khuzdul to their close friends, but Men found it difficult to learn more than a few words, some of which were loaned.
In the First Age, before the ancestors of the Edain crossed into Beleriand, they had contact with the Dwarves in Rhovanion and later in the Blue Mountains. As such, there are many similarities between Khuzdul and the native tongues of men, such as the language of the first and third houses of the Edain. That language was the ancestor of Adûnaic, the tongue of Númenor and the direct ancestor of the Common Speech. These Mannish languages displayed Khuzdul influences.
During the Third Age the Dwarves of the Westlands had mostly adopted Westron and Khuzdul was a learned language, being taught to their children at an early age. They used it among themselves and as a language of books and lore, and for records not intended for outsiders.
By their own will the Dwarves resisted the change of their language and the language diversified and changed so slowly, 'like the weathering of hard rock compared with the melting of snow' considering the languages even of the Elves. As a result, it remained similar to the original form taught by Aulë, and even if the sundered clans developed their own dialects, even in the Third Age, the clans could communicate easily, serving as a lingua franca between them.
One of the only major phrases known to outsiders is their battle-cry: Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu! meaning Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!
The Dwarves were secretive by nature and their native names were considered too intimate to reveal to outsiders. In public life they took external names in the language of their surroundings. It is not known if these "outer" names are translations of their inner names, or whether they had any relation, or not. The Longbeards for example adopted Northern Mannish names or made their own from N. Mannish elements, or even fabricated names that sounded like N. Mannish. Dwarves would not even reveal their inner names on their tombs, since there was always a possibility that the inscription would be read by strangers. For example, Balin's Tomb displayed the outer names of Balin and Fundin rather than their inner names. Eventually they would make use of their "outer" names even among themselves.
The Dwarves would re-adopt a name in consequence of some event, like a migration.
It is said that the Dwarves had developed an ideographic or pictographic writing, until they came close to the Eldar and realized the usefulness of the alphabetic tengwar and cirth systems; this influence came especially from the Noldor of Eregion during the Second Age. The Dwarves didn't use written communication much but were fond of inscriptions cut in stone, and thus (even though the Gwaith-i-Mirdain used runes only as a "matter of lore" mainly for formal writings) the Dwarves of Moria found the cirth more practical. The Longbeards would retain the use of these runes, as evidenced by Gandalf recognizing the runes of Daeron upon the tomb of Balin.
The Dwarves adopted and modified the cirth at various stages (see: Angerthas Moria, Angerthas Erebor). By the Third Age the cirth were largely forgotten but by the Dwarves, so there was the misconception that the Dwarves invented them, known as "dwarf-letters".
Other versions of the legendarium
Other names used by Tolkien for the language of the Dwarves include:
Khuzdul appears to be structured, like the Semitic languages, around triconsonantal roots, such as kh-z-d, b-n-d, and z-g-l.
The Dwarvish language sounds much like Hebrew, and indeed Tolkien noted some similarities between the Dwarves and the Jews: both were "at once natives and aliens in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue…".
Portrayal in adaptations
- See also: Neo-Elvish
For The Lord of the Rings film series and The Hobbit film series, the linguist David Salo used what little is known of Khuzdul to create enough of a language for use in the movies. This is usually referred to as neo-Khuzdul by Tolkienists. Gimli says the Neo-Khuzdul insult, Ishkhaqwi ai durugnul, (commonly translated "I spit on your grave!") to Haldir in the extended edition of Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring. Salo did not provide this phrase, and it didn't fit easily into his neo-Khuzdul. When the scriptwriter for The Hobbit film series asked him about it with the idea of having Thorin use the same curse, Salo reverse-engineered Gimli's line into a neo-Khuzdul phrase îsh kakhfê ai-‘d-dûr-rugnul meaning "May my excrement be poured upon the naked-jawed (ones)".
- Helge Fauskanger, Khuzdul, Ardalambion
- Magnus Åberg, An analysis of Dwarvish, Mellonath Daeron
- Jay Lawson, Quasi-Khuzdul
- Khuzdul sound samples at Glǽmscrafu
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Sindar"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of Other Races"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "Relations of the Longbeard Dwarves and Men"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "Notes", #4
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "Notes", #26
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "Notes", #32
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", p. 321 (footnote 19)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "Eldarin Hands, Fingers & Numerals and Related Writings — Part Two" (edited by Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 48, December 2005, pp. 6, 24
- 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. 47
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part Three: The Drowning of Anadûnê, with the Third Version of The Fall of Númenor, and Lowdham's Report on the Adunaic Language"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, V. The Lhammas"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, VI. Quenta Silmarillion"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "Tengwesta Qenderinwa and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets Part 2", in Parma Eldalamberon XVIII (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne)
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 176, (dated 8 December 1955)
- David Salo, "Gimla ok Þorins bǫlvan" dated 20 June 2014, Midgardsmal (accessed 23 January 2017)
|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|
|Scripts||Angerthas/Cirth (Daeron · Erebor · Moria) · Gnomic Letters · Goblin Alphabet · Gondolinic Runes · Moon-letters · New English Alphabet · Tengwar · Sarati · Valmaric script|
|"A Secret Vice" (book) · "The Lhammas" · "The Tree of Tongues" · Sub-creation|