The End of Zhâburi B: New information on the Black Speech

by Björn Axén

The administrator of The Black Speech School has published some very interesting information on the Black Speech by Tolkien himself (published in Parma Eldalamberon #17, 2007). This obviously has quite a lot of impact on the Zhâburi project. The very name of Zhâburi should probably be changed to Zhâburum because we learn that the –um ending really is a definite article or particularizing suffix. What is interesting here is that Zhâburi has both a definite article –i and particularizing suffix –ashi. This seems to be the end of Zhâburi B but I think of Zhâburi B can be used in Zhâburum. I will probably start with a analysis on what must be changed.

Here is the whole text which was published on the forum of The Black Speech School.

The journal “Parma Eldalamberon” #17 published an analysis of “Ring Inscription” by J.R.R. Tolkien, made after the publication of “The Lord of the Rings”. And it contains important remarks which change a current widespread view on Black Speech! It was published in 2007 but for mysterious reasons they were not used in later analyses of Black Speech, while ‘orc-curse’ from the same journal was. (Shadowlandian was finished in 2004)

I will quote them here with important phrases emphasized with red color by me:

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

durb-at=ulûk: durb-, constrain, force, dominate; at, verb ending (like a participle) (durbat = constraining, of a sort to constrain)1); ulûk, verbal ending expressing objects (particles indicating ‘subject’ were usually prefixed2)) 3rd person pl. “them” (ul) in completive or total form “them-all”.

1) ending ‘-at’ is some form of participle which can be translated as infinitive (“to rule”) and gerund (“constraining”); so the combination of such characteristics resembles Latin’s gerundive (see Wikipedia), which can be translated the same ways, and was sometimes used instead of future participles. Gerundive will be very suitable for translation of Ring Inscription into Latin.

2) for many years authors of Neo Black Speech dialects were copying either English or Quenya grammar (as  the Shadowlandian dialect used here). wrote:

Cf. Aragorn’s exclamation when he found the sapling of the White Tree: Utúvienyes!, “I have found it!” (utúvie-nye-s “have found-I-it”; LotR3/VI ch. 5)

In Shadowlandian it will follow the similar pattern: “Gimbuzizgta” or “Gimbuzta-izg”
It’s not clear from Tolkien’s remark, if all verbs have prefix of person or only when the subject was a pronoun, if subject pronouns were sometimes suffixed, written standalone or both, but at least we now sure that Classical Black Speech had prefixes too.

also we now have a confirmation that “-ûk” may be translated as “completely, totally” and not just “all”

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

in the archaic ring-inscription burzumishi is evidently made up of this stem3) + a particularizing suffix or ‘article’ um4), and an enclitic ‘preposition’ ishi ‘in, inside’.

3) it’s about stem “bûrz”, in LOTR it was written “búrz” but here Tolkien use circumflex (^) instead of accent mark.

4) so ‘-um’ means not an abstract noun, but an article (“in the darkness”).