VIII. Angband Orcish

I have also called this Ur-Orcish (Swedish “urorkiska”), Proto-Orcish and First Age-Orcish but I think Angband-Orcish really is the most appropriate term.

One of the basic ideas of Zhâburi B (and one of the major things that differs from Zhâburi A)* is that Sauron based his Black Speech on Orcish and that Orcish really is part of the Elvish language family (see Elvish, Orcish and the Black Speech). Hence some kind of sketch of this Proto-Orcish is needed.

That Orcish was a base for Black Speech and that Orcish was an Elvish language was an idea I had when I worked on Zhâburi A but it did not have any impact on the actual development of the language.  

I imagine that the foundation of this Orcish is Primitive Elvish which was spoken by the Elves who were taken by Melkor. The Orcish of the First Age must have been different both in time and space, with one Orcish dialect of Utumno and another of Angband. These language developed with the Orcs as they were transformed from Elves. The dialect presented here is the Orcish of Angband which the Orcs spoke during the classical period of Silmarillion,. i.e. The War of the Jewels, The period from about the rise of the Moon and the Sun and the return of Noldor to Middle Earth, to the War of Wrath. It is the language that Tour understood, as mentioned in The Fall of Gondolin.

Orcish speech is probably the most varied of all the languages of Arda but the variant spoken in Angband during the last years of the First Age was probably the last – and only? – coherent Orcish Speech. I imagine Angband Orcish was quite stable as long as the Orcs were under Morgoth’s rule because of the need to organise the mass armies of Orcs. Later, after the War of Wrath the Orcs scattered and without a central authority a myriad of Orcish dialects emerged so that after a thousand years they could not understand each other. When Sauron wanted to gather the Orcs under his command, when he founded Mordor, he used the Angband Orcish, which he knew very well, as a natural base for his Black Speech.

This is an attempt to sketch this Angband Orcish as it was before it split up into several different dialects. The purpose for this sketch is to provide a basic vocabulary for the Zâburi dialect of the Black Speech. In addition it provides us with the means to systematically take Elvish roots and words from primitive Elvish and transform them to suitable words for Zhâburi. And it can be used to sketch and develop the other Orcish dialects that emerged in the first millennium of the Second Age.  

This sketch will be published in parts as I create it.

From Primitive Elvish to Angband Orcish 

The evolution of Primitive Elvish, really the urelvish* because it was really the very basic language of the first Elves captured by The Hunter – Pârn –  before Oromë found the newly awakened elves. I will here present some my ideas and rules of the this phonological evolution. I will here present an overview of this development. I am planning to publish a more detailed text on the principles of word creation for Zhâburi. 

* The prefix ur- indicates point of origin. 

The first rule is the loss of vowels so instead of word often ending a vowel most common pattern became CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) instead of CVCV. Another development was a syncope, or contraction, of the words, the loss of diphthongs and the vowel change of e to a and o to u. Many of the initial and medial consonants changed as well. 

Here are some examples:

The root MOR “black, dark, darkness” (Q. morë) becomes bur in AO which with the additional -z suffix can be seen in BS burz “dark” (burzum “darkness”, Lugbúrz “The dark tower/Barad-dûr).

The root TUR “power, control, mastery, victory” (Q. tur- “to master, conquer, dominate, win”) gives AO dur– “to master; to controle; to rule” seen in BS durbatulûk “to rule them all”. 

The root  LAB “lick, move the tongue” gives AO zhab “tongue” seen in Zhâburi zhâbur “language”. (This word was actually derived from Svartiska ‘jab’ (tongue) when I first developed Zhâburi as a variant of Svartiska). 

The root MASAG “knead, make soft by rubbing, kneading” givs AO bazg “hand”; masag > masg > mazg > bazg. (This one is really a nice coincident bazg is the Svartiska word for “hand”).

The PE word *morókō “bear” (Q. morco and S. brôg) gives AO bruk “bear”; morók > burúk > bruk.  

Note that it is clear that not all BS words comes from PE, e.g. the word for ‘one’ BS ash has nothing in common with the Elvish roots MIN or ER.

See also my post on “The Hunter“.

The Noun
The noun can be seen as the core of AO and often the naked stem can function as a noun just like in Zhâburi. 

The PE deictic article i has developed to an proper article placed last in the word but before other endings. There is no indefinite article like English a/an. Example: uruk “(an) orc > uruki “the orc”.

Primitive Elvish had a plural marker –î which has been lost in AO by the loss of final vowels and because of the development of the definite article into ending. But there seems to have been another plural ending –m in PE. This ending seems to have been used after case endings and enclitic particles. This –m ending shows up in some of the Quenya plural case endings such as -ssen for locative plural and -on for genitive plural. In Angband Orcish this is still present. This ending is lost in Zhâburi which has no plural markers. The primitive elvish dual –û has disappeared. 

If the noun ends in a consonant the last vowel (or the stem vowel)  is duplicated and inserted between the -m ending. The vowel duplication is a feature of the Hurrian language that I use as a template for Zhâburi.

 Singular: uruk “orc”

plural: urukum “orcs”; urukim “the orcs”

We don’t know much of the Primitive Elvish cases. Helge Fauskanger writes in his Primitive Elvish that the: “distinction between case endings and enclitic particles may have been vague or absent in the earliest forms of Elvish. Interestingly, Tolkien states that “prepositional” elements were normally “attached” (= suffixed?) to noun stems in PQ; this was their “usual place” (WJ:368).”  We know that the allative case was -da (-nna in Quenya) and that the locative probably some kind of guttural sound -3 and that the locative case ought to be something like -ze (I don’t remember the source of this last statement). The Quenya genitive -o ending descends from a PE independent particle 3o or ho.  

I imagine that the really early Elvish had no cases but postpositions. Either way Angband Orcish uses enclitic postpositions attached to the end of the word marked with a hyphen. 

Here is a table of some of these postpositions and their meaning in AO, their source and equivalent in Zhâburi. I’m working on a list of more postpositions. 

AO postposition  meaning Source Zhâburi
-za to, towards, against -da allative, PE -za, directive
-gha marks direct object -3, PE -gha, ergative
-ghu/-khu Marks association, membership and movements from something particle 3o/ho, PE -khu, genitive
-ba marks possessive *-wā, PE -bu, possessive 
-zhu from, out of Ety ; Q -llo, ablative  -khuzh, genitive+zh (from AO -zhu)
-da indirect object na, PE merged with -za, directive
-ban/baz with; together; marks means mē̆n, PE “instrumental, with (which) -zi, instrumentarl 

I imagine that Sauron found the postpositions too disorderly and created a system with case endings to which different additional suffixes were added to create postpositional endings. The Zhâburi equivalent of the -zhu ending is an example of this system.

Updated: 2020.05.16