After a hiatus of a few months, finally a full length post on the Dwarrow Scholar blog.
Reason why I shamelessly abandoned the fabulous readers of this blog ?
I was utterly consumed by a present.
“A present?”, you say.
Yes, call it a very late Durin’s Day gift…
As a gift from me to all who have been extremely patient in the past months (and year).
I am referring to the Neo-Khuzdul dictionaries and documents, which I’ve made available to all that have requested it via email (check your mail if you are one of them).
Ever since I first read dwarvish words in Tolkien’s works I couldn’t help but attempt to figure out the secret language behind them. It took years before I eventually started (in 2008) to note down some of my thoughts on Khuzdul, which eventually lead to the upload of a first Neo-Khuzdul dictionary in late 2010. The day I uploaded this tiny online version I was actually already actively working on a revision. This revision ended up on scribd.com in 2012. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought these documents would receive over half a million views a year later. A fact that continues to humble and baffle me.
From today you’ll no longer find this version on Scribd, as I don’t like the fact that this site charges for documents I make available freely. If I had known that at the time, I would undoubtedly have posted them on another site. As I believe all should enjoy these files without any charge.
Much like the previous version, as soon as it was released I started working on an update.
What started out as a small update turned out to become the biggest dwarf-related project I have ever completed.
Not only has the size of the dictionary expanded, it grew to massive proportions including many additional support documents, in addition to quite a few related extras.
Before I go into the details of what has exactly changed,
I wanted to take a bit of time to answer an important question about this release.
Some have wondered why it has taken over a year to release this new version of the Neo-Khuzdul dictionaries.
Unfortunately I had to reschedule the release date of these documents no less than 5 times since my first announcement of this update. There have been a few reasons for this, the main one is that I underestimated the amount of work that needed doing. I didn’t want to publish a version with one or two updated words, I wanted to make a full fledged dictionary, with added material, nearly turning into a book of its own. Secondly, I had to rethink my Neo-Khuzdul version.
My initial Khuzdul version was based on Tolkien’s writings (obviously), the Neo-Khuzdul of David Salo, LotRO place-names and the little I knew of Semitic-languages. My own imagination filled in the many blanks I best I could.
The main challenge was to combine all these sources into a version that could stand on its own as an actual conlang. This was as difficult as trying to fit four large square pegs into one tiny round hole.
Obviously I could not and would not sacrifice any of Tolkien’s original ideas and those had to be preserved 100%, which wasn’t a problem at all, as all other sources had obviously started from Tolkien’s works as well. The issue was to make coherent the versions of Salo, LotRO and my own ideas on Khuzdul. This resulted in the version that was published in 2012, including many documents that detailed how words were constructed. The language had a root in Hebrew and Arabic, yet became a very artificial language – inspired by the fact that Aulë (Mahal – creator of the dwarves) “created” the language for the dwarves for them.
Though I was initially content with this version, the more I read and studied Semitic languages the more it screamed for a revision. In between two major computer crashes, a mail hack and new professional and personal endeavors I continued to work on this version relentlessly. In January 2013 I even enrolled in Arabic classes, followed by Hebrew classes in May 2013, lessons I took (and still take) to ensure the new version would have a more natural Semitic structure and feel.
Every time I came close to releasing a new version, I wasn’t completely content with it or wanted to add something else to it, which added another month and yet another month to the project. Until one day I said to myself… “you’ve kept people waiting long enough, just set a date and release it”. To be honest, the weight of the project was consuming me and for my own peace of mind I had to post this version. I say this version, as I will likely continue to update it as I see little errors or things I believe should be added.
Now what exactly has changed:
* Verbs and conjugation
* Word structures
* Semitic and Scandinavian influence
* Khuzdul for all
As I made the decision to turn the Neo-Khuzdul dictionary into a much larger project, I also had to make a decision of another sort. The previous version had been mainly based on David Salo’s old neo-Khuzdul version. With the Hobbit movies in full swing, I had to consider making it (even more) in line with Salo’s current neo-Khuzdul version. Mister Salo has been absolutely brilliant in letting me have a closer look at his neo-Khuzdul work, either via his website midgardsmal, mail or Skype – Thank you again for your time, effort and patience David. It was however never my intent to just copy his neo-Khuzdul version, as his interpretation of Tolkien’s dwarven tongue, though brilliant, is not always in line with mine. To clarify, there are elements of his neo-Khuzdul version that (I believe) do not fit with Tolkien’s writings on Khuzdul – an example of this is are the verb forms CaCaC+ / +aCCaC+, while some of Tolkien’s writings speak of other verb structures (Felek, gunud, etc..) clearly using other vowels. Yet at the same time I did not want RP-ers to have to make a choice between multiple Khuzdul versions. I remained convinced that in the version I needed to make everything should somehow “magically” fit together. I believe I’ve managed in that intent and eventually was able to blend various concepts I used as inspiration, while (which was always my aim) remaining true to every single letter of Tolkien’s one and only real Khuzdul version.
* Verbs and conjugations:
The previous verb structure (how verbs are formed) has been nearly completely abandoned. Reason for this is three-fold. Firstly, though it was my initial intent to make the language feel more constructed than other middle-earth languages, the rules for verbs made it over-complex, to the point that an outsider would have had tremendous challenges to understand them and use them. Secondly, it had to come much nearer to Tolkien’s intended Semitic-structure. And lastly, it needed to be more in line with Salo’s neo-Khuzdul version used in the Hobbit movies (see General). The end result, is something I’m particularly pleased with (if I may say so myself), as Khuzdul fanatics will see Tolkien’s verb structures (gunud, felak) return while remaining true to other existing concepts seen in Semitic languages.
* Word structures:
Likely the biggest change made. Unlike the previous versions, which was almost exclusively based on singular root forms, word structures are now based on the word types. A concept that is key to Semitic languages and something I believe was a must in this revision (and my main motivation for it). Meaning that I’ve gone from 15 rules to forming words, to 25 different word types. Sound more complicated, but in fact, it’s much more simple to understand and learn.
* Semitic and Scandinavian influence:
It cannot be denied that this version feels more like a natural Semitic language than the previous one, something I’m thankful for. My studies of Hebrew and Arabic have undoubtedly contributed to this, as many changes were made once I delved deeper into existing Semitic languages. The main difference between my previous Khuzdul version and this one, is that in the previous versions I mainly used Semitic roots to form new words, while in this version I have drawn from Semitic languages to create the word structures and used other languages to create the roots behind each word. One of those languages was Icelandic, likely the biggest non-Semitic linguistic influence in this revision. As Tolkien used the dwarven outer names from the Old Norse Poetic Edda, I found it a fitting tribute to do the same with many words. An example of this influence. The word for “permission” became êfâl – from Icelandic “leyfa”, transformed with the structure “aCCâC” (which we see in the Khuzdul word “aglâb” – a structure used for abstract type words), making it ayfâl. Like in Arabic the “ay” changes into “ê”, giving us our end result. As you can see the influence of Icelandic is there, yet very subtle, hidden underneath a few Semitic and Khuzdul layers.
“A fair jaw-cracker dwarf-language must be.” – Sam’s opinion of Khuzdul when he heard Gimli speak of the majestic Mountains of Moria. And I think my initial version of Neo-Khuzdul might have been a tad too heavy with the “jaw-crackers”, to the point is was extremely challenging to pronounce. It was based on the letters found in the Appendices of LoTR, which I later realized were not all required to form the actual language. Quite a few of these were only used by Tolkien in his other languages such as Quenya and Sindarin. In this version quite a few letters were killed off, that is to say not used to create Khuzdul native words. Another major change to the sound of this Neo-Khuzdul version is the loss of the harsh fricative sounds (represented in IPA by /θ/ and /x/). Appendix E’s pronunciation guide clearly states Khuzdul does not possess the sounds. So even though I mainly used these in the eastern pronunciations (not the Longbeards), I chose to remove them completely. You’ll also notice most of the Germanic sounding vowels (such as “ö”) have been removed for the same reason. I believe the result is a Khuzdul which is more natural sounding, more powerful and easier to pronounce.
Just too many to list here to be honest. The total size of the dictionary has gone far beyond what I ever intended (currently 10 times the size of the previous released version), including over 100.000 nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc…
To name a few of the important additions briefly: gerund form, adverb forms, intensifier, energetic nouns, intimate diminutive, etc…
* Khuzdul for all:
Though I have always loved languages, I’m not a linguist, and don’t pretend to be one either. Hence the documents I’ve created have always been meant for anyone with an interest in the language, not for your average linguist.
With this version I have however included the proper “linguistic labels” (at least where I found them of use). When I used linguistic terminology in this version I have however always tried to explain it in accompanying documents. To make my point, the Neo-Khuzdul lessons I made available for all via YouTube nearly two years ago are being updated – the first lesson of a whole series is available now HERE.
Lastly, those that really can’t get enough of Neo-Khuzdul (if you are as mad as me), I’m starting an interactive and free class (spanning several sessions) via Skype (on top of the interactive classes we are already having in LoTRO).
More news on dates and times later, but those that have an interest in signing up are free to let me know by replying to this post.
If you’ve enjoyed The Dwarrow Scholar Neo-Khuzdul dictionaries and accompanying documents and video content please take a moment and donate. By doing so you will be ensuring the site and documents remain add-free and future updates will be able to continue, in addition to new video lessons, free classes and much more.
Thank you and enjoy!